The Business of Pharmacy Podcast™
Oct. 17, 2022

An Evolving Startup | Shawn Bjorndal & Kevin Walker, PharmDs, RPhAlly

An Evolving Startup | Shawn Bjorndal & Kevin Walker, PharmDs, RPhAlly

Shawn Bjorndal & Kevin Walker, PharmDs, of RPhAlly discuss their evolving startup.

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(Speech to Text)

Mike Koelzer, Host: [00:00:00] Shawn and Kevin, for those that haven't come across you online, introduce yourself and tell our listeners what we're talking about today.

Shawn Bjorndal, PharmD: I'm Shawn Bjorndal, founded RRPhAlly three years ago this month actually. I would say a young startup. We're still maturing and growing. I'm, Kevin Walker,

Kevin Walker, PharmD: Joined our REAlly just about three, four months ago. Uh, and now I'm a CO of r pH ally. And what we're gonna be talking about today is how we went from startup to growing and evolving startup.

Mike Koelzer, Host: Shawn, last time we talked, it was just you and I in this little private conversation, and now we got a third in here. How did that come about?

Shawn Bjorndal, PharmD: That was, gosh. That was about a year and a half ago.

 Probably a year and a half. 

Yeah, I mean that I was fresh in the startup world with zero idea what I was doing. Like honestly, , 


it was, it was bad 

Mike Koelzer, Host: join the club. 

Shawn Bjorndal, PharmD: yeah, , it was just trying to take a vision and bring it to reality.

 Just trial [00:01:00] and error going on for a couple years, seeing where our p needs to fit in the profession. And recognizing that I needed help, but I hadn't met the right people yet. Well, now I've met the right people to really take our PHL to where it needs to go. 

Mike Koelzer, Host: What's your version of that, Kevin?

Kevin Walker, PharmD: I don't know about anything Shawn says sometimes Mike, but, uh, you know, honestly, he, 

Mike Koelzer, Host: That's what I figured. I saw your eyes rolling. 

Kevin Walker, PharmD: I know. No, he, he had a great vision, you know, and, uh, lots of execution kind of components he needed to come together for me, kind of looking at the career transitions and what was going to be best to, uh, really be able to put forth the effort and the impact that I wanted to have for the remainder of the career.

And then Shawn and I met through, uh, just circumstances with another company and just really hit it off

Mike Koelzer, Host: What's cool? Seeing you guys come together because Kevin, we know each other from being online. We haven't talked before, but I've seen your growth, your story, things like that. I see Shawn, your stuff, obviously, [00:02:00] and it's cool sitting back to see.

Marriages come together, you've got one of the handful of people that I would say, Oh, that makes sense. You come from the same cloth, 

Kevin Walker, PharmD: I had lots of things that outside of LinkedIn, uh, we just really connected on. Well, you know, I mean, both being fathers of two boys and going through a similar kind of life stage, both seeing the. Kind of ugly parts of what the pharmacy industry is doing to the pharmacy profession.

So lots to align on. And then a similar relationship and faith. And I think those things just all kind of helped us really connect on multiple levels and know that we're not only doing this as business partners, but as, forming new family relationships, you know, that we're caring for each other in this whole business world in a, in a much more familial way.

Mike Koelzer, Host: If I asked you guys in one word what our pH is selling, what would that word be?[00:03:00] 

Shawn Bjorndal, PharmD: Hope, 

 Hope if it's only one. But hope equals support, education, and opportunities.

Mike Koelzer, Host: You're given pharmacist hope, which a lot of that's been stolen.

 dunno if I stole the right word.

Kevin Walker, PharmD: Well, to a certain degree, Mike, I mean, I feel like you just, there's certain pathways that happen over time that allow for, you know, revenue models to form and different service and dispensing models to go forward. And the kind of the best for the profession and what we're capable of is lost in the shuffle.

And so unfortunately, all these incredible professionals, uh, end up getting pushed into maybe lifestyles or career pathways that they didn't see happening, uh, because of what the industry has kind of done. And I think it does take away some hope. I mean, not only from the current generation of practitioners, but also from the next generation of graduating pharmacists.

Mike Koelzer, Host: One time I was almost envious of somebody who did not have a pharmacy degree because I was like, you're out of this rat race, just because you can't be in the rat race, [00:04:00] you don't have to go through the decision of whether you should be in and out.

You're out already. But it's too bad that people, if they're like me, have that feeling like, they're stuck in a certain place and of course, you're not. It's always better to have the education, but it is like a sunk cost that you're not able to free yourself from sometimes.

Shawn Bjorndal, PharmD: I've thought about that a lot like what would I do if I wasn't a pharmacist? And 

now that I'm a pharmacist, I don't know, like what I would do outside of pharmacy

to actually earn 

a living. Right. And it's, and it's, and as pharmacist, you get stuck in that because it's like, there's so many things that we can actually do as PharmDs, you know, that we don't need to dispense.

Right. And that's what, that's kind of what we want to teach, help teach all of us, our fellow colleagues that, hey, you're not stuck. 

There is something for you. it might it might take some work on your part,

Kevin Walker, PharmD: I think for, for all the r ps that I've, I've kind of met over the years and I think mentored me, um, even before the pharm d was in place, like there were just so many fantastic practitioners that once had just these [00:05:00] incredible intimate patient relationships and, you know, for, for many of us, like that's what attracted us.

Like we saw the road that was being broken down and pushed toward, you're going to get to really make a difference in people's lives. Um, and then as Shawn mentioned, you, you get into the career, you recognize that, hey, I can make a decent living for myself and my family. Um, and then you recognize that what I thought I was getting into what I signed up for is not what I'm getting to do, you know, on a regular basis.

And I think that that piece is a real travesty. Um, just in general, and I know both Shawn and I have seen the golden handcuffs, you know, kind of phrase thrown around, but we've both experienced that, you know, we've both been part of organizations and, uh, kind of had backgrounds and companies and groups that.

We didn't feel like we're the best for what our profession could offer or necessarily keeping a patient's, you know, safety and clinical benefit first. So it's exciting to be on the other side of that.

Mike Koelzer, Host: When the road got tougher at the [00:06:00] pharmacy. You know, we had always made money over 70 years or something and a lot of negatives can be glossed over with hundred dollar bills, from payroll and stuff.

 But boy, when things got rocky, I gained a lot of enemies over the last handful of years 

Kevin Walker, PharmD: there is a honeymoon phase to any business, right? I mean there's a honeymoon phase to any individual that you kind of meet. And then you have to realize, do I really want to go in with a full meat and potatoes understanding of who this human being is and all the nuances and intricacies that they kind of bring about.

And unfortunately, as we develop, as we get to know each other as companies kind of evolve, um, I think there is that tendency to form negative kinds of relationships and impacts. Like you're not gonna be everybody's cup of tea. And, Shawn knows this about me, like I know I'm not like I'm, I am not everybody's cup of tea. So at least for me, I've just seen those silos formed in so many other companies and kinds of organizations that I think of you as an enemy and a friend. like the [00:07:00] difference between the two is one or two conversations,

Mike Koelzer, Host: Professionally, are you guys both past failure? Do you think that you could ever label anything of failure? Like in my life? It's like, I don't consider our down trend of pharmacy, of failure. I really look at it as my ships are in pretty good order still, and, and the ocean's just gotten more, volatile and so on.

 I don't look at that as a failure. Is there anything that you guys down the road you could consider being a failure for you? Or will you always have the, the wherewithal to, have the ship upright and you know, there's things coming along the way?

Shawn Bjorndal, PharmD: I'm more of a redirection guy. I'm not gonna think about that as a failure. I mean, look at Mike. Last time we talked, we talked about the prescriber review, and I wanted to help pharmacists in the [00:08:00] community setting help with, like vetting, you know, the prescribers that are involved with pill mills and things like that. And that was, that was a total flop. Well, I mean, we're gonna put that on the back shelf maybe in a few years with the right connections and the right data. We can do that again. I think that's still a cool idea. But, it's more of a learning faithing forward or however you want to say it.

Kevin Walker, PharmD: nonstop pivoting, I think is something that, um, it can get companies in trouble if they're pivoting, you know, too far off of like their main mission and goals. But for me, the only failures Mike, are like, are character failures, You know, for me to, to do something that is what, outside of my own character, in my own moral values and compass.

So if I'm saying I'm going to do this and not these things, and then I allow profit or something else to come along and dissuade me from doing those things that are central or core to who I am as a human being, then those are failures or lessons that I'm able to, to learn from. I mean, you know, failure is a, is a strong word, [00:09:00] but I do feel like those, those moments are a clear line in the sand that I, I've failed to be able to observe what I, what, who I truly am and what I'm really passionate.

Mike Koelzer, Host: I just talked to a pharmacist, who came in the pharmacy a week before and she was uncomfortable doing something in her pharmacy setting, and I told her that when I went through similar things with some moral choices about the industry.

A lot of it has to do with how close you are. Things I said, This computer in front of me, this is owned by Bill Gates, who does X, Y, and Z that I'm not happy with and you know, something else is owned by Dell that I might not be happy with.

Then I said, My 401k, whatever, has companies that I own and so on. But when I was in her position, I said, At that point I owned a pharmacy and I had the ability to do this, and it just seemed closer. But there's no such thing as being black and white really when it comes [00:10:00] to that.

Kevin Walker, PharmD: I think that distance is a really good call out. It is interesting when you actually get to impact it. Like when, when you are that quote unquote Bill Gates, um, in the situation, like, how much change can you make? Like how much change can Mike make in his own pharmacy if he feels like there is some problem that you can directly impact being a leader of your given purview.

So, you know, there's only so much responsibility, you know, put under our, our gaze and, and I think that's what we're subject to, uh, to be accountable for inside of our given business models and things. And I, I know Shawn and I have had lots of conversations about how we make sure that we're, we're very focused and very mission driven, which, you know, mission driven is maybe an overly used, um, statement kind of inside of.

But holding each other accountable, you know, to who we're partnering with, what we're developing, why we're developing it, when we're partnering with someone, staying true to them and making sure that we're elevating them as much as possible and not finding ways that would, if we [00:11:00] look from their perspective, it looks like Shawn and Kevin are doing them a disservice.

So those things, I think you, one, can't make everybody happy. And two, as you mentioned, there are some distance components that you don't have control over. But the one thing, if we can at least have the effort, you know, and have the character to be able to strive for those things. Uh, I, I don't think in the long run, I may have some enemies of Kevin or folks that aren't, aren't in the fan club, but that's okay.

You know, as long as I feel like I am trying to do what is right and I have somebody like Shawn that's there to keep me accountable, you know, to myself and to our colleagues.

Mike Koelzer, Host: I forget who it was, but they said that, and I, I've said it against some of the wholesalers and PBMs They said, Mike, someone on my staff said, The reason they're so big, the reason they're in the top three is because, you know, maybe not illegal, but if they have a choice between doing something for them obviously, or [00:12:00] something for someone else, they're certainly gonna take that road.

And I understand that as, you know, the stockholders at the boards in the position and that's what they're there to make money and so on. I get all that. But there's some areas where they say the reason they're that big is because they weren't too concerned about it . Some of the stuff that may not be out in the light.

And as long as it's in the dark for about five or 10 years until the next CEO comes along, they're okay too. Because then you just, you know, blaming them. The guy before you or the gal before you.

Shawn Bjorndal, PharmD: I like how you said not illegal, right? I mean, you can have a really awesome compliance department that makes sure you're within those legal limits, but when you start talking pharmacy practice and


you know, it's either pharmacy 


that takes care of the patient or just pharmacy practice that keeps you compliant. We want our pharmacists to go for that exceptional pharmacy [00:13:00] practice versus. Just being compliant and then raking everybody over the coals

Kevin Walker, PharmD: 

When we get relegated to pushing pills and uh, clicking buttons, I think that's, that's the tough thing, you know, for us to be able to battle with. Just, just that in, in general, when you're saying the legal like components and what we're skirting the lines of, I think that's our whole profession's kind of issue.

What we've been pushed to is not, not the legalities, just the capabilities, like the potential has been harnessed, strapped down and kicked to the side because that wasn't profitable within the fee for service model and within the current paradigms of what, you know, reimbursement looks like for a pharmacy.

Um, and, and that's unfortunate cuz you see a lot of, even pharmacy owners creating companies that are just targeting, how can I churn more money out of this rather than improve actual healthcare.

Mike Koelzer, Host: I wasn't sure I'd live for the day to see some of this, but we've got, I won't pick on 'em, but we've got a national chain that's, they're both the same company. One's like a [00:14:00] half mile from us, one's like a mile from us. It's one of the biggest pharmacy chains.

The pharmacy's been closed for four weeks. They say it's some computer issue, but I can't imagine it being a computer issue. But I, whatever, I'm not behind the scenes to see it. And then the other one next to us has been open off and on for two weeks. stuff's finally kind of hitting the fan somehow.

It might be because people see relatives, you know, working from home during the Covid thing or something like that. And they think there's something else out there. But I think that stuff is finally hitting the fan a little bit. When you treat employees so badly, like we've seen in Pharmac.

Shawn Bjorndal, PharmD: That was me, Mike. I mean, I got out of that in 2016. Yeah, it's not fun. That was before Covid. Right? I wasn't enjoying that before Covid. And it was like finally I just hit a wall and said, you know, that's, 


enough. I'm gonna try to find something else to do. Right. And, um, but it, yeah, it's gotten worse. And that's, that's, I mean, we hope that we can provide some [00:15:00] advocacy in that space though, that's really hard to do, to move in Target as well. It's really hard to figure out what exactly we need to do there. We do have blood on our team, which is awesome, you know, so it's, it's really trying to wrangle that and brainstorm, but it, it just takes a lot. It's gonna take a lot of effort, a lot of people just willing to stand up and, and get their stories out 

Mike Koelzer, Host: out there. 

Shawn Bjorndal, PharmD: But, but at the same time, like what is that gonna do as well? Like it's, it's, uh, I'm really looking forward to it. Would you like shots with that documentary? I saw you had ni eon like, like something on a national level to really show the nation on what pharmacists are supposed to do and, and how they're being treated and how it's affecting your 

healthcare. Like, that's gonna be so 

powerful. But 

I mean, I saw a post today. James talked a lot about robots coming out. Right. And obviously we all know that's coming anyways, but now it's like, it's here on our doorstep. 

Kevin Walker, PharmD: I think that in the profession of pharmacy, in five to 10 years, what we're doing now as a profession will no longer be available to a large number of pharmacists. Like we're [00:16:00] going to end up seeing a surplus of


In the dispensing environment. 

Mike Koelzer, Host: What happened in the flop

and what did we learn from it? And I know you learned a lot because you have a lot more cool things happening. It was a great idea, great vision and like, you know, hopefully we'll bring it back someday, but at the time, I didn't have the right connections and the second piece is like, I didn't know the NPI data was as ugly as it was.

Shawn Bjorndal, PharmD: It wasn't until I met a guy named Lucas who after this podcast, you and I talked Mike and we dropped 


podcast, had a friend reach out or a new friend say, I need to tell you about the NPI registry. He's like, It's a mess. Never. Don't use it. It's gross. Like you won't, you won't get the data you need cause you don't have to update, Like your providers don't need to update their address or update anything like that.

Like once you, once you register, it can be like that forever without ever updating it, 

Mike Koelzer, Host: I think the NPI came in because all the damn insurances were using the DEA number, like throwing around like it was candy and it [00:17:00] wasn't hidden anymore. So I think they came up with the NPI too. I dunno, be more secretive or something. All of a sudden you had like two numbers.

You had the DEA number and the npi. That's about all I know about it, but it seems like it was mushy from the start.

Shawn Bjorndal, PharmD: Now we're 

connected to companies that could help us with the data and they could plug that in really easily.

Um, you know, we're, I don't, we're not big enough as a network 


so we, you know, still maybe in a few 

years down 

the road, hopefully not that far, but, in time I think we can, we could bring it back to really help our community pharmacists in that role 

if they still need it then. 

Mike Koelzer, Host: So this doesn't go, where does the next idea come from then? What was your next idea? I 

Shawn Bjorndal, PharmD: knew 

There was a spot for our pH in the profession, so I just needed to figure it out. I was, you know, getting connected with all these other kinds of pharmacy entrepreneurs on LinkedIn and, and kind of, you know, hopping on calls and getting to know them. And then I just thought, you know what, I need to, you know, provide some sort of [00:18:00] content. Cause I, I'm terrible at content. Um, quite honestly, you know, that's why Kevin's here. He's, he's amazing. Um, I'm getting better. I'm still learning. It was about a year and a half ago 

that's when I met Jamie Wilke and I'm like, Jamie, like, can I 

throw you a webinar? 

I'm like, I have no idea how to throw a webinar. But I'm like, it looks fairly easy. I've watched plenty of them. And so, and now it's when she was launching her, um, Pjx Consulting Confidence Academy. And so 

we did through that webinar and that was, it was fun doing that with her learning, learning that with her, cuz that was her first as 


And then, fast forward a few months, now I have all these pharmacy entrepreneurs on the site. I met a lady named Timmy and she got on a call with me and, and kind of told me, she's like, Shawn, like I've seen your platform. You have all these cool people like you, you, 

you can like, be like a solutions hub for 

pharmacy and oh, 

That's a great idea. So then that's when I launched the solutions page, you 

Now, one step closer to where we are now. But you know, 

honestly, there, there still wasn't a lot of traffic, 

um, with the website, not a lot of members. Um, [00:19:00] so we really weren't providing those solutions to the people that needed them because they didn't know about us. but it's one of those things too, where it just kept on 

going along where it's like, I knew 

there was something here I knew that 

we like, not 

quite there yet. 

Um, but I needed help. And then last fall I 

actually started 

pitching a lot of our favorite people. Um, this idea 

about how to 

start doing this all together through our pH 

line. and 

I created 

a nice pitch deck and 

and everything looked great, had great conversations, but it wasn't really enough for anyone to say, Okay, 

wanna jump 

on board with Eon. Um, you know, and then that's where, 


where Kevin was talking about 

where we got connected. Last 

fall created PX 


because I wanted to also bring something else to the market that like, 

like all these pharmacy entrepreneurs brings, Like 

direct value to 

pharmacists and provides opportunity. But I'm not a PGX expert. 

Never launched anything PGX. 

And so I needed partners and then that's where 

I connect with with Bohan and then, and they like, we [00:20:00] needed one 


And then that's when we connected with Kevin and it wasn't long after working with Kevin. I'm like, Man, this guy is so good. He can talk to, Well, and especially with the strategy, I'm like, Kevin, let's 

get over to r p Ally and see what we can do 

here. This is what I 

tried to 

Mike Koelzer, Host: do

Shawn Bjorndal, PharmD: And 

it's like, what's next? How do we like, make 

all of this work and actually provide some 


value to the back, to our 

our colleagues, in pharmacy? 

And so 

then that's where we're at today talking about all these launches that 

we coming up, that we have 

coming up this 

month, which is truly exciting. 

Mike Koelzer, Host: couple things coming out on Rph Ally. What are those?

Shawn Bjorndal, PharmD: It's support programs, education programs, and then followed up here shortly in phase three with opportunities.

Kevin Walker, PharmD: With the support programs, you know, we're really looking for something that Shawn and I did not feel through our diversified kind of experiences of all the layoffs that are kind of hitting inside of the pharmacy space. Um, the dissatisfaction with careers, um, looking for pivots, all of those [00:21:00] other things that are kind of happening to the pharmacy world, and just a general space where we could all come together and be able to share our, our kind of common tribal knowledge with each other.

And so Shawn and I felt like that would be a wonderful spot to put on our pH ally. And we had. A gentleman that we were both put in contact with, not only bled, who is absolutely fantastic on, you know, driving certain components of what support looks like for our pharmacy world, but also, uh, Dr. Eric Speck, who shared his story with us.

And Shawn and I were both just moved on, you know, the kinds of things that happened to pharmacists that they feel so helpless and hopeless, um, without having any support network to fall back on. And it's interesting because we all operate in such silos, Mike, you know, everybody is, you know, working their shifts and pushing to make sure they're getting all of the prescriptions processed and everything else going on.

Oftentimes without another pharmacy colleague next to them, um, in, in those things happening. And it doesn't matter if you're in the basement, in the hospital, if you're in a clinic setting by [00:22:00] yourself, working with your provider groups or if you're in the retail setting, usually the, the pharmacist is a single pharmacist kind of working on their own things, not a whole lot of collaboration amongst pharmacists.

And so when things come up that don't go well, unfortunately, there's no one to turn to, you know, to really say, say, How did you handle the situation? How do you make it better, et cetera. We just felt like the advocacy and support kind of components were completely necessary, you know, for us and.

We've added a number of channels to there and channel leaders that are doing things like men's and women's health, like how do we stay healthy and active and keep our lifestyles where we need to be as pharmacists, You know, burnout kind of components and career coaching. And what Eric is putting together for us that we're both excited about is just, is a peer group, a peer support group.

So we can literally have open conversations amongst pharmacists that have, have been there, done that, and uh, potentially written a book about it. And now you can benefit from their experiences rather than having to go through that journey all by yourself. And that's really similar. I mean, I'll switch over to [00:23:00] education.

Same kind of thought process. You know, Mike, folks are looking for new things to do. Um, they're looking for new ways to impact patient care. And the one thing that I've always loved is the folks that both walk the walk and can talk the talk. And so, People that Shawn and I have brought in are ones that they're literally doing these things as a full-time job.

Um, and or a very large portion of their full-time job is within these given niches and so that's what we're doing inside of the education channel. Also, now, pharmacists can sign up inside of the education channel for these platforms, and they're going to be year long channels. And these channels you can subscribe to.

They'll be the ability for you to connect with these individual thought leaders. They'll host webinars, they'll provide additional content and help you really take your career from, you know, going down this pathway and letting you know if you'd like to shift. Um, great. You can have an expert help and guide you throughout that entire shift.

And then the last piece, the opportunities. [00:24:00] You know, really I'd be remiss if I didn't talk about our, our farm ba because sometimes the opportunity, like you don't know which opportunity you want to take, and so we created a mini, uh, business course, uh, for pharmacists to jump into and, and really find that out.

 One thing as pharmacists that we don't get a whole lot of exposure to is sales, marketing and understanding of addressable markets.

And so with that, now we have the ability for someone to go. Do all of those things and look at what they're really passionate about and see what the opportunity is for them, and then choose an educational pathway to help them really detail that out, how they're gonna execute. And then pretty soon, Shawn and I will bring in, you know, the job shadowing, the mentoring, the FTE and or gig economy opportunities.

And we have a couple software partners that we're talking with to be able to make it an easier match for pharmacists and pharmacy employers, you know, to find each other and, hopefully , connect. So there's, there's a rundown.

Mike Koelzer, Host: I had a time like p and i. [00:25:00] 15 years ago, I had someone coming after me legally and felt like my world was caving in. So I got professional help, got on some medicine, had some support. And it was great a few years after that because I knew the support was there.

I knew I could go on this medicine, it probably could talk to this person that kind of helped and so on. But the time to be doing that is not when it hits you for the first time. That's my complaint about funeral homes. It's like your spouse dies and they're trying to sell this and you're picking out a coffin and your grave spot and all that terrible time for that.

 A good thing would be like something that people already know. The support is there, that the safety net is there. But on that point, Employees don't trust their employers for that stuff either. It would have to be something like, we might help this, but you'd sign up on your own.

Nobody wants to go through the [00:26:00] employer. They don't trust them.

Kevin Walker, PharmD: Shawn and I have talked about that before about just kind of the employee, you know, overview and oversight of their individual employees and how to make sure we're protecting that within our platform, uh, in general. But I do feel like it's an important personal decision to make.

And you, you kind of hit it on the head when it was the prevention versus cure kind of thought process. And, and if there's ways that we can support them, like burnout, when you're going through burnout and you are burned out, it is more difficult to get on the other side of the fence. If you can catch those signs early and be able to help yourself out and move yourself along the right track at that pace, you can avoid a lot of the other, you know, mental health, um, components that you're going to deal with later on.

And that's, that's what the hope is too. You know, that we get more individuals on board. Is that gonna be the case though, Mike? I mean, most people don't ask for help until they need it. You know, that's what. What we usually know is, is the case, but I think that if you develop a community where you're offering more than just, [00:27:00] than just help, then someone could be exposed to it earlier and hopefully get connected with it earlier so they can make that difference before it's, uh, problematic.

Mike Koelzer, Host: Is this building, where do you see your biggest revenue source coming from? 

Shawn Bjorndal, PharmD: I would say with the educational programs, probably biggest at least right now, on the roadmap. just like Kevin was talking about earlier with just the future pharmacy and how, you know, there's gonna be a big, empty can of these jobs, right? That no longer exists for the majority of our pharmacists. You know, So teaching them how to transition and get into roles that help them take care of their patients and be profitable at the same time, that's gonna be a bread and butter for the foreseeable future until our opportunities programs take off. 

The educational programs are taught by pharmacists who walk the walk, and that's what we love about that. They're the pharmacists who have created successful consulting [00:28:00] programs in their niche, and then now they're gonna teach other pharmacists how to do that. Right? And then you can combine that with our phar ba like if you're that pharmacist who, like me prior to R had zero business s at all, you know that that can be a great, great tool, great like powerful tool for pharmacists to get to that next phase of their career, mike, quick, quick question for you. First, how much business did you learn in pharmacy school? How many business classes did you have in school? 

Mike Koelzer, Host: I'd say probably none. I talked to Tim LB brick here . We were talking behind the scenes about some of the services he may offer, coaching some personal finance to people. And I said, Tim, this doesn't have anything to do with me because I grew up with my dad as a business person, more business person than pharmacist.

 I just knew it my whole life, is learning like, Wow, you'll pick it up. But it's like where, you know, a lot of people don't know this and they don't pick it up anywhere.

Shawn Bjorndal, PharmD: That's the beautiful thing about these programs [00:29:00] from the pharmacists that have walked a walk, right? Learn from their mistakes, like getting you to launch your practice minimally. Steps as possible. Minimum failures as possible. Learning from other people's mistakes.

Kevin Walker, PharmD: The.

Dad's example is so perfect though. I'm gonna steal that for you, Mike, because I think that's what, what we feel like has been missed out of pharmacy school is that we've gotten some great didactic training and then we go into practice and you know, there's some guys like me that felt like I needed that residency.

Like I needed to be able to walk the walk with a dad-like figure to be able to show me this is what happens when you screw up. This is what happens when you're dealing with real human beings and you're not behind this glass wall, you know, of, uh, education and academia. And so I think that's the piece really necessary for each one of these niches, uh, for someone to really be able to grasp, you know, the, the true roots of what we're trying to do.

 It's, it's giving that dad experience, you just mentioned, that mentor experience, mom or dad, you know, doesn't matter there, but having a mentor to really be able to walk you.[00:30:00] 

Mike Koelzer, Host: When I was finishing up my last semester of school, I worked for this national chain, but a small national chain for like. Three weeks I was supposed to, and I probably should have kept my damn mouth shut.

But there was this old pharmacist back there. The younger pharmacist hated me for some reason. The older guy, he would just sit in the back and smoke the whole time. They had about a three foot overhang. So all the smoke would just be up top in the pharmacy, you know, And their system was, they would sell stuff at about $3 over cost, but senior citizens, they'd sell at $6 over cost and give it a $3 discount.

So it was a racket, you know, it wasn't fair. And the guy and I went out to have a drink that night. the old smoker guy. And I did , So I kind of thought we were. Buddying up a little bit. So we [00:31:00] get in the next day, and this is where I probably should have cut my mouth shut.

I said so and so. I don't think that's right, you know, of charging the old folks $3 more and then discounting. That doesn't seem fair to me. He threw out about 30 FBOs to me, you know, kind of get the hell outta here, how dare you, this and that. So the young brave person I was, I walked out of there kind of crying.

I called up Purdue, I called up the counselor and I was kind of crying. I wasn't kind of crying, I was crying and I was like, this guy did this and this, and I just did that. And so they pulled me out and put me into this other chain for a while. The point is, people that do get some business help or business

Shawn Bjorndal, PharmD:

Mike Koelzer, Host: they 

might be crappy.

Business owners that are giving them negative advice. So you gotta watch where you're getting your advice from.

Shawn Bjorndal, PharmD: I love that example, Mike. 

Kevin Walker, PharmD: That brutal experience you went through there, Mike, my condolences for a [00:32:00] young person trying to stand up for what they believe in, That's rough. I mean, it's rough getting into a mentor and then having them totally shut you down. And to be honest , I feel like that's a lot of people in the pharmacy.

You described the pharmacy world in a really interesting analogy of, hey, something is wrong here, and then we get FBOs and are told to, uh, go sit on the sidelines. So, uh, that's, that's a tough thing to grapple with.

Mike Koelzer, Host: Well, in retrospect, he was drunk, you know, so he probably doesn't remember the night before. And I probably should have kept my mouth shut. It was three weeks. What? I'm gonna change the world in three weeks. Three weeks, I should have just kept my mouth shut, but whatever.

Kevin Walker, PharmD: We can, like, we can always keep our mouth shut. Um, and that's how we get to exactly where we are today, right? I mean, so it's a beautiful thing to 

have a couple of guys willing to open up the app.

Mike Koelzer, Host: Yeah, I suppose. Shawn, how are you liking the infrastructure of our pH ally? I know that you may be teamed with, Service of some sort to do some of the computer stuff, of the, [00:33:00] group stuff and all that. Are you

happy with what you have and 

Will you grow with this or will you ever have to move? They seem to have 

Shawn Bjorndal, PharmD: Where it does 

Mike Koelzer, Host: you need.

Shawn Bjorndal, PharmD: They have all we need. Um, so I, I'm happy with what we've put together thus far. I mean, I've always had this vision. Of building our own 

at some point, right? exactly what we want it to. Cause I mean, anytime you work with a third party, um, you know, you're always limited in, in certain ways. Um, so there are, there are some limitations that, that we kind of need to, you know, not necessarily find workarounds, but just, you know, pivot and do it in a different way, really. So yes and no. I'm happy, but no, I'm not happy, right, because there's always room for improvement. 

Mike Koelzer, Host: Do you think there's a better company out there or do you think you would go from this if you ever did to build something?

Shawn Bjorndal, PharmD: there's so many new products out there, and that's one thing that I've, I have learned is why build you know, why, why recreate the wheel? Um, but I mean, I'm, I'm always having op, you know, we [00:34:00] always gonna have to keep our options open. 

Mike Koelzer, Host: Kevin and Shawn, where do both of you want to be in 10 years? Kevin, what's a cool day for you? Who are you working for? What do you own? What's your business day look like? And Shawn, the same question too.

Kevin Walker, PharmD: It's only working for myself. You know, Mike, I think I've learned that enough through. Failed Renez with, uh, other employers. Like I, I haven't enjoyed having other employers being the dictators of what's going on because I feel like it's their moral compasses and their ideas and getting pushed through no matter what position I have or title or seat.

And so that's, that's kind of the, the long and short there with terms of ownership and where I'd like to go in that space. But what I'm doing, I think, is what I'm even more excited about. It's trying to find ways to better patient care. Like that has always been what I wanted to do long term. And I think one of the avenues to do that, and I put it all the time I'm on LinkedIn, is, [00:35:00] you know, re reimagining healthcare, equaling reimagining pharmacy is not just a, some kind of garbage line, you know, that I'm plugging in.

Um, I think that the reason why I say that is I've seen so many environments where pharmacists could make such a substantial impact on patient care because of a ridiculous amount of knowledge and background and skill. Uh, the trouble with it is, They don't have the time to connect with patients and do what they really need to do to make sure those patients are able to be navigated to the next phase.

So if I can find any way to help the pharmacy world in doing more for individual patients, like that, that's something I'm quite passionate about. And the two businesses that, you know, I'm attached to now, especially R p h Ally, you know, that's our entire purview. So I envision that and, you know, a guy like Shawn isn't just a business partner.

He's a very close and dear friend, more like a brother. And so I would see us doing lots of, lots of things together. If our pH ally is running itself, um, I can see us doing something new

and exciting to be able to, you know, benefit folks that we love and care about.

Mike Koelzer, Host: [00:36:00] Shawn.

Shawn Bjorndal, PharmD: Coming from the corporate world, Mike, like the last month has been amazing, right? I mean, it was my first day where I did not have, have, or have an actual boss other than God himself.

Fast forward 10 years, I'm gonna be doing the same things, like trying to help more people. Help more people. I mean, I, I just love, I love what we're doing. Um, Yeah, I mean, it's, it's a loaded question though, too, in 10 years, I mean, and hopefully, hopefully it's, it's not, you know, counting on membership sales and hopefully it's not working on sponsorship sales, things like that.

Right. And hopefully, like Kevin said, our p is run itself, Pjx ally is run itself, and we can just keep thinking of new ways, how to provide more impacts and more benefits to, to our colleagues. I mean, that, that's truly what I kind of wanna do. I love what Kevin said. Kevin lives in a spot, I mean, I live in southern California.

It's in northern San Diego County. Obviously it's a great place to live, But out Kevin's backyard, he sees deer, elk, moose, I mean, so [00:37:00] sometime, I mean, we will be spending a lot of time at Kevin saw, so I can get that fixed in too.

Mike Koelzer, Host: Well, Shawn and Kevin, thanks for joining us today. And I think that the pharmacist's strength is in our unity with each other.

We've been through some hard times. There's a little value in sitting around and bitching about that with people, but that pitching gotta move forward, And I

Shawn Bjorndal, PharmD: it Thank Mike I like, how you said 

Mike Koelzer, Host: Helps the profession to bond but 

also move forward. So keep doing what you're doing.

Kevin Walker, PharmD: Thanks Mike. I think the, uh, the ability for us to sit around and talk about all the things that are going wrong, like there's some catharsis to it for sure. And I'm really excited for the next stage though. You know, there's some stages of grieving and I think there's some stages of professional development like evolution and development. Shawn and I are just trying to push that, you know, push a little bit [00:38:00] further, not, not as faces, not as front leaders.

Like we don't want to be pharmacy celebrities. Like we're, we want everybody else that's joining our team to be the face of the franchise, so to speak. And Shawn I just try to support them and kind of uplift the profession to do what we both know. It's quite capable of doing. So yeah. Thanks so much for having us.

Shawn Bjorndal, PharmD: It is talking about the problems and like you said, bitching 

about it. We do need to do that, but I, I love how we are just constantly trying to take action on seeing what we can do. 

Mike Koelzer, Host: All right guys, Pleasure talking to you,

Kevin Walker, PharmD: Thank you, 


Shawn Bjorndal, PharmD: Oh, I think you