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Thinking outside the square

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How does a pharmacist attract a crowd of about 300 to the opening of his revamped chemist shop on a Monday night? This question becomes more intriguing when you realise that smattered among the crowd were many so called celebrities: ex-test cricketer and Channel 7 star Mike Whitney, rugby great Garry Ella, South Sydney legends Bobby McCarthy, the Mayor of Randwick and lastly the former Premier, Bob Carr.

Obviously the pharmacist must have had the best drugs in town or he must be one of the greatest networkers of all time. The truth is that Noel D'Souza, whose new and improved shop in Sydney’s Matraville, had this premier pulling power because he gives more than he takes and as a consequence, he gets.

That's right, the old saying, ‘It's better to give than to receive’ might actually work out to be more true than a lot of disappointed givers have found in their life time.

Clearly, in D’Souza’s case, I'm breaking a rule that I don't talk about local businesses specifically, lest I get a flood of requests from friends, family and my regular shopkeepers.

This is a special case. After winning a small business award a few years back, D’Souza approached me because he wanted to help his area and his local chamber of commerce to improve the general shopping environment of Matraville. At that time it was fair to say that the generosity of various governments towards this suburb was on the small side.

D’Souza believed his customers deserved better, but was worried that shaking the windows and rattling the walls of parliament can often have little impact on the average hearing-challenged politician.

I did not doubt that D’Souza, as a very professional businessman, wanted to help his suburb and his business, but what I liked about his marketing strategy was that it was a big picture strategy with potentially many winners. This shopping strip supports many small businesses and the way the area was looking was not drawing in customers.

One angle that D’Souza and I agreed on was that appealing to Bob Carr's roots was at least a good angle to capture the attention of the former premier. Through D’Souza's efforts Matraville received some long overdue support to beautify the shopping precinct. Small business owners and customers were able to see that determination can bring positive results.

My experience looking at small business award winners tells me that pharmacists are very highly regarded by their customers. Interestingly a survey of starting salaries for graduates showed that pharmacists had the lowest pay.

Obviously through their ability to serve the community in which they operate they are able to magnify their financial success over time.

While I might write the script for how to be successful in business, pharmacists such as Noel D’Souza certainly know how to fill it.

Published on: Tuesday, November 27, 2007

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