A pharmacist is more than a mere pill counter, just ask Beverly Salomon, an award-winning owner-pharmacist for over 14 years. Mother of three, she became the first black woman to own a Jean Coutu franchise, and also the youngest at the age of 24. The fact that she did this only a few months after her graduation testifies to her drive and her passion for her work. She managed 4 Jean Coutu branches for 6 years before focusing solely on her current branch, located in St-Leonard. After a few years under her management, the pharmacy’s laboratory received Jean Coutu’s highest reward for excellence. Successfully balancing her career as a pharmacist and entrepreneur with that of a mother, she seeks to advise others on how to find that perfect work/life balance.
“I’m like a conductor who makes sure everyone is working together to ensure that the patient gets the best care, all while experiencing great customer service.
How would you describe your job to someone who has no idea what you do?
I have a profession that marries my love for numbers and for health. People often think that pharmacists just count pills all day, but that’s really not the case. We analyze a patient’s files, advise them and monitor their therapy. The pharmacist is the most accessible healthcare professional, advising and guiding people through the healthcare system. The owner-pharmacist, in addition to counseling and ensuring that his patient receives effective and safe treatment, manages everything related to his or her pharmacy as an entrepreneur: employees, hiring, operations, inventory management and supervision. So I’m like a conductor who makes sure everyone is working together to ensure that the patient gets the best care, all while experiencing great customer service.
What milestone kickstarted your career?
I have been a pharmacist for 14 years and an owner for 14 years as well. I bought my first franchise 8 months after getting my license. But it’s really an internship that I did in a pharmacy affiliated with Jean Coutu in the neighborhood of St-Michel that made me take this path. I wanted to be a pediatrician or actuary while in CEGEP. Then at University, I wanted to be a pharmacist in a healthcare facility. But this internship made me forget about the hospital and take the path to the pharmacy. The closeness to patients and the opportunity to have an instant and direct impact on their health is what really got to me. Seeing the proximity of the owner to his patients, then sneaking away to hide his head behind a stack of bills really gave me the desire to be an owner-pharmacist.
How did you perceive your line of work before living the daily reality of your work today?
I think like most people, I thought that pharmacists were just “pill counters”. But I soon discovered that the pharmacist was really an accessible healthcare professional who should always be there to help and advise.
With experience now as a pharmacist and as an entrepreneur, I know there are many aspects of my profession that need to be mastered in order to succeed. I also know how to surround myself with a stable and skilled team that strives for excellence like me. My employees give me the energy necessary to continue to be the leader that I am today.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
In 10 years, I hope my pharmacy is still recognized for the quality of care offered. I also see myself creating other enterprises in other spheres of activity. I love to manage and I hope that by creating other companies I can build a legacy for my children and share my passion with them. Finally, I would love to bring my knowledge and skill-set to my mother’s homeland, in order contribute to the reconstruction of the healthcare system in Haiti.
“Many entrepreneurs will sacrifice their family life for the success of their business, and I really did not want to be like them.”
How do you juggle family life and your career?
My greatest accomplishment is being the mother of 3 beautiful and balanced children, all while managing a successful company recognized by my peers, and that is continuously growing. It really is not easy! Being well surrounded allows me to find my balance which is really the key to my success. Many entrepreneurs sacrifice their family life for the success of their business, and I really did not want to be like them. Luckily I have an understanding husband, who is the key to achieving my work/family balance. I also have built a network of dependable people to help remove the obstacles to achieving this balance – aunties, uncles, godparents, and close friends are always there to help me. They helped me realize that I do not need to be a supermom: I just have to be myself and ask for help when needed.
What is your greatest source of inspiration?
My greatest source of inspiration is my children. I tell myself that all I do is for them. They made me discover an inner strength that was completely unknown to me and when I feel like I can’t go on, they give me the strength to continue. They give meaning to all the hard work that is needed to strive for excellence. Everyday, I try to build a company that will be their legacy and their pride. Seeing their eyes shine when they walk into my pharmacy and hearing them shout “Mommy’s Jean Coutu!” is priceless.
“Never refuse an opportunity for fear of failure.”
What is the best advice you have ever been given?
When I was young, my mother often said to me: you have to work to shine. Success is a decision. You decide the steps to get there, so you control your success.
What would be the best advice you would give?
Never refuse an opportunity for fear of failure. Give yourself the right tools and give your 200% to take up the challenge …. Dare! Charge ahead! Excel!
Who was your biggest mentor?
My biggest mentor is my Aunt. She is the one who guided me whenever I had to go through a new stage in my career. With all her wisdom and experience as an entrepreneur, she advised me. Without giving me a direct path to follow, she offered me solutions, calmed me down and let me make my own decisions
Would you like to share an anecdote or a moment that has marked you career?
When I had just bought my first pharmacy at the Galeries d’Anjou, Mr. Coutu came to see me. It was my first week and I was in my office when my manager came running in, trying to catch her breath. She said: “Mr. Jean Coutu is in the shampoo aisle!!! He wants to see you!”. So it was my turn to rush over. Once I got there, he just surprised to see me and and said: “You are not Jewish? I came to see a Beverly Salomon, Salomon is Jewish name… I did not expect to see you”. As I explained to him that I was indeed not Jewish, he asked do a tour of the store together. He began to advise me on how to run my pharmacy. Finally he told me: “You must love your patients!” This meeting with Jean Coutu really marked the beginning of my career and I adopted his vision as my own: To do my best, to aim to excel and become the destination pharmacy for patients in the neighborhood.
Beverly Salomon is a passionate owner-pharmacist with over a decade of experience and is known for her organizational, customer service and management skills. She specializes in working with non-autonomous and elderly people as well as mother/child services. Her pharmacy’s laboratory has been recognized as the best in Jean Coutu’s network of franchises. She has sat on the board of the BCHM (Office of the Haitian Community of Montreal), and has made several regular guest appearances on television and radio, sharing her passion and advice for good health.