The Business of Pharmacy Podcast™
July 18, 2022

Gaining National Distribution | Kris Rhea, MBA, Head of Pharmacy, BIOLYTE®

Gaining National Distribution | Kris Rhea, MBA, Head of Pharmacy, BIOLYTE®

Kris Rhea, MBA discusses how is achieving national distributions as the head of pharmacy at BIOLYTE®.


Speech to text:

Mike Koelzer, Host: [00:00:00] Chris for those that haven't come across you online, introduce yourself and tell our listeners what

Kris Rhea: My name's Chris Rhea. I am the head of pharmacy with a product called Biolyte. What we're gonna be talking about is some of the opportunities and challenges of taking a new and innovative product and getting it out into independent pharmacies.

Mike Koelzer, Host: we're talking about today in the company, bio light. You're the head of pharmacy. I'm thinking that means more in the sales terms and not so much in the research areas.

Kris Rhea: Right. I'm gonna be working with our independent pharmacy segment and trying to teach them the ways to apply this in, in a clinical manner, um, and connect it with their, their patients at the, at the stores.

Mike Koelzer, Host: You just got back from a national wholesale meeting.

Kris Rhea: Right. Yes. I was actually at McKesson idea share, and I'm gonna be on the road tomorrow, going to the Cardinal show and Amerisource show the following week. So it's gonna be, uh, July full of ideas and people networking and, and just trying to find what the latest, latest practices and opportunities are in independent pharmacy.

Mike Koelzer, Host: Do you like those shows?

Kris Rhea: I love them. I, I, I love them and we're a fun product. Uh, people are curious about us, you know, everybody's coming by because they've had a late night, the night before possibly, or, you know, they, uh, you know, a lot of these shows are out in the heat. So, um, it's, it's definitely a good opportunity for us to kind of get our name out there and meet with stores and some of the other stakeholders in the.

Mike Koelzer, Host: You see those weeks coming up on your calendar, we haven't done them for a couple years, but when you see those weeks, is it something that you get excited for or you say that's gonna make my life a little more tricky or is it just kind of neutral?

Kris Rhea: No, it's, it's definitely something that I've been antsy and excited about getting back into, uh, just because. We don't have a huge consumer marketing budget. We're a family owned company like these pharmacies, and it's a very innovative product. So, um, it gives me the opportunity to get in front of people when they're not, uh, stressed out, uh, behind their counter.

So they can actually absorb what I'm saying and really hear about the creative ways that they can apply it in their, in their businesses.

Mike Koelzer, Host: It seems like your product would be very apropo for those kinds of shows, you know, because I'm imagining you giving a sample. That's

Kris Rhea: Oh, most definitely. We gave away 108 cases at McKesson's show. So that's over 1500 bottles of.

Mike Koelzer, Host: a cool thing you can do, especially in the heat. Those functions are basically built for you.

Kris Rhea: The food and beverage guys saw me pushing around my cart to get ice. And he tried to kick us out of the resort, uh, because he said, Hey, there's no drinks here. And I had to spend about five, 10 minutes explaining to him. That this is a liquid supplement that we're trying to get the pharmacies to, uh, use in, in the stores and not something that we're trying to give away or, or cut into their beverage sales.

So a lot of its education. Right,

Mike Koelzer, Host: You're like the seeing eye dog of beverages, you know, it's like, no, we've gotta be here. We're medical.

Kris Rhea: right. Yes.

Mike Koelzer, Host: What kind of press back would you get in. Independent pharmacy. What kind of attitude would you get there versus how you mentioned people are a little bit more laid back at the shows. What is the difference in your mind?

And I think sometimes as pharmacists, sometimes we don't even know the beasts that we become in a store. So what are some of those differences in the same person, even different personalities you see in the store versus a.

Kris Rhea: Yes, Mike. So I've been on the road the last year and a half going around and leaving samples at independent pharmacies. I think I've seen about 2,500, uh, just walking in the door and, uh, seeing all sorts of stores, all sorts of owners, but you know, OB obviously when you're in your day to day, uh, You have 10 things on your mind, you have pharmacy techs, uh, trying to get your attention.

You have just a very, you know, reactive mindset. So when somebody walks through the door, they might have, um, you know, a great idea, great product. Uh, but you're not as receptive to hear about how. That product can be utilized because you're dealing with your stress at that moment. That's why these shows, you know, give people an opportunity to look at the bigger picture and maybe be a little bit more, uh, open minded to some solutions.

Mike Koelzer, Host: Your product, bio light, it's kind of an IV in a bottle of, uh, electrolytes and things like that. If you could only pick one method, when you go into an. Pharmacy. What's your method?

Kris Rhea: Since I've been in so many, I've gotten my, my little, um, elevator pitch [00:05:00] down pretty well. So basically, I say we have three segments that you can attach this to, that are your customers from a clinical perspective. This is good for everything from oncology and hospice. I lay down to stomach bugs. Uh, then what I called the active workers, active occupancy that's, uh, people working outside in the heat farmers, you know, landscaping, crews, contractors, factory workers.

And then sports and leisure. So, uh, a lot of pharmacies are connecting this to their high school football teams, runners, um, and then leisure, you know, people having a good time and, uh, dealing with the hangovers the next day we call it over indulgence though. So we, we, we make a little bit of the sound a little bit.


Mike Koelzer, Host: Yeah, that's good. Especially for all those, uh, drug reps from the wholesalers. We know that they like to do their thing when they're far away from their regular routes. I'm just joking.

Kris Rhea: you know, and me being one, I, I, I understand what they go through. So I've, I've given them plenty of samples to try to get them to give 'em to their stores. And I think that we have the most hydrated, uh, uh, wholesale workforce in the nation now. So.

Mike Koelzer, Host: Speaking of that, then you came from McKesson as a, can we call it a rep? Is that derogatory?

Kris Rhea: No.

Mike Koelzer, Host: You were a rep that visited stores for the general McKesson pharmacy stuff.

Kris Rhea: Right. Right. So I did that for a decade with an independent pharmacy and I considered myself, uh, a bartender about 20% of the time and a personal trainer about 80% of the time. So, you know, let's, let's hear about what's going on, you know, let's, let's deal with. Uh, some of the complaints and, and, um, you know, get it off your shoulder now, let's see what we can do to control the controllables and implement some of the best practices in the industry.

So we can make sure that you're sustainable moving forward.

Mike Koelzer, Host: I saw my wife that last week you were out to dinner somewhere, the waitress came up and she said, I could do that. And I'm like, you'd wanna be a waitress. She said, no, I'd be a bartender. And I said, well, I'm a bartender. And that's kind of, as far as that went, I like that though. 20% bartender, 80% personal trainer, I.

Kris Rhea: I think that, you know, this is such a complicated industry that, you know, pharmacy owners obviously have a lot of things outside their control, and they want to be able to, uh, speak to people that know the jargon and know what's going on. And that's really important to be able to authentically empathize with, uh, you know, people in that position, but then gain their trust.

And really you. Help them make better decisions? Uh, not from an ego standpoint, but from a well I've done the research. I've seen a lot in the industry. I've seen a lot of people do this well and some people do not do it well.

Mike Koelzer, Host: Were you responsible for getting new business when you were at McKesson or was it mainly servicing clients that you already had?

Kris Rhea: No, definitely that new business was a huge priority. You know, obviously, uh, you're taking care of your stores and your territory and, um, trying to make sure that, uh, if there's any opportunities out there, you try to develop relationships and, and always, uh, see if there you can transition 'em over to, to your side.

Mike Koelzer, Host: I tell my team this, I imagine that being a strong number two is a really good spot to be, to get stores as a strong number two, because the timing has to be right to become their number one, assuming they're already full-fledged business, but I think a lot of people too quickly give up on. Wanting to be at a strong number two.

You want to be that next person in their, uh, figurative Rolodex. When the number one pisses 'em off.

Kris Rhea: Oh, yeah, definitely. No, my, my approach is never to be aggressive or really even talk about that transition. Maybe for the first six months it was, you know, really to show value every time I walked through that door and bring information and, uh, be a true advocate and a consultant. So if that, uh, opportunity ever arises.

You know, they would, uh, think about me and, and see that there was mutual respect there. And, um, it probably was more of a long term game. And I had really close friends that never even worked with me at McKesson, but I was, uh, you know, I was always available to help them and, and try to bring, bring value.

And that's what led me to bio light. Buying light was a product that I, uh, ran into in the market, uh, visiting a pharmacy when they were a brand new company, uh, loved the story, tried the product. And thought that every independent pharmacy in the nation should carry it. So I took it into my stores and said, Hey, this is one of several items that, you know, it's not carried at most retailers.

It is the Swiss army knife of the front end, and it can be a great addition to the store and it really took off. And that, uh, helped me with the decision, uh, to transition when the CEO and the, the founder. Kept constantly asking me, Hey, when you ever get done with the corporate world, we would love to work with.

Mike Koelzer, Host: Were there [00:10:00] other reasons why it was a good time to jump negative reasons.

Kris Rhea: Well, I, I think that there are definitely some stressors that, uh, a lot of people in this industry don't see that, you know, some of these representatives have, especially if they really care about their customers and what's going on. And, you know, I was probably losing a lot of sleep at night, you know, worrying on vacations that things weren't getting taken care of.

So, um, you know, definitely it. Something that I thought, Hey, maybe I need a new challenge. And, and I know that by light's gonna turn into, um, something amazing and just the opportunity to grow it and the family that's behind it. Um, I really respect it. So it's been, uh, such a wonderful transition, uh, for me and.

Been a blessing. It's given me the opportunity to spend some time with my dad. He's been going out with me on the road. Uh, he's my will, man. Uh, when I'm going in and leaving samples. So I'm sure one day I'm gonna look back on that time and say, Hey, that was an amazing time to be able to spend with my dad.

Mike Koelzer, Host: Here's the two companies I would like to have Chris one, either a company where you have to grow because that's, that's kind of cool. That's an inner goal kind of thing. Another company, I wouldn't mind doing it. Coming in as a rescuer, you know, you come into a business that either just went bankrupt or whatever, and I know it's harder than I'm thinking here, but then it's already failed.

And if you fail, it's like, well, you know, that's all I could do. I think some of the hardest businesses are the ones that, and unfortunately pharmacies in this world, a lot of the independent pharmacists there were just in a steady decline. It'd almost be nicer. The world of pharmacy made us walk the plank right away and get it over with.

But some people have been in a steady decline for the last 20 years.

Kris Rhea: Yeah. And that's the thing. A lot of the owners would tell me, look, Chris Howden, a great pharmacist. I actually, I care about my community and care about, you know, the people that work for me. But I didn't learn anything in business school about all of this. So I'm having to, you know, do this as I go. It's scary.

Uh, I need help. And what I would, you know, find is, Hey, 30 years ago, 20 years ago, you could be a good pharmacist. You could be good with your community and the margin was there. So you, you, everything was taken care of now with all the, the. Reimbursement pressures and, and things that they're dealing with.

Uh, that's not the case. You have to look for operational efficiencies. You have to really know your P and L and, um, work with partners that are strong in the field. And, um, that's, that's really where people like me and you add value.

Mike Koelzer, Host: When I think of where you have come from with thousands of products, which is interesting, but there's thousands of products you had to have different sizes and you know, of all these OTCs and RX products. And then when you go to one product, basically I know you have different flavors and things, but you go to one product.

Was that a relief? Is that boring? Do you wish there was something different or is it kind of nice to have one product that you're able to do your marketing and sales with? Not worry about the minutiae of the thousand different manufacturers and NDC numbers and things like.

Kris Rhea: Well, I think, you know, it's been a real joy to be able to be creative with that one product. I think most people would look at it myopically and say, yeah, you're that same, uh, same pitch over and over again. What I see is. Well, here's an opportunity to teach pharmacies how to connect a product where the sky's limit and utilize it to drive relationships in their community.

So what I'm doing is I'm teaching pharmacies how to go to CLO, you know, long term care facilities and, and tell them how to help with wound care. Uh, Through hydration or UTIs or fall risk I'm helping stores go to urgent cares or hospice companies, uh, discharge planters at the, the, uh, hospital, uh, gastro docs.

So it's a way to, you know, continue to coach pharmacies on how to think outside the box to drive relationships and prescription volume back into their store.

Mike Koelzer, Host: innovative. Relationships and innovative paths of marketing and so on versus the energy spent worrying about if the thousand SKU behind you are gonna fulfill their mission after you already went and stuck your neck out for them.

Kris Rhea: Right. That's, you know, there's a lot more controllables in my life now. And, uh, the red tape has kind of been [00:15:00] taken away. I went from a company that had, you know, 80,000 employees and 200 billion in revenue to, I was, uh, the fifth person. On the bio light team. So it was a night and day difference from, from that bureaucracy standpoint.

And it's just been such a, a, a fun change to where, you know, I could use some of my creativity and, um, really be involved in the strategy day to day, as opposed to, you know, just a boot on the ground. Um, and I really do miss the value. That I added as a wholesale, uh, rep you know, in the relationships of strong relationships, but it's really, this has allowed me to broaden my network and, and meet, uh, I'm not the bad guy, the enemy, the competitor anymore.

I'm, uh, developing relationships with the other wholesalers buying groups, stores outside of east, Tennessee and North Carolina. And it's been just a relief to really, you know, broaden my, my network through, through bio.

Mike Koelzer, Host: You really now can become. Almost everybody's friend when you're at a meeting with the wholesalers. Sometimes they, I don't know if they do, but they can kind of badmouth the little people of the customers, you know? And then if you're in the pharmacy side, you know, the pharmacists are bad mouthing, you know, the wholesalers, oh, at least I was.

But, but being this you pretty much are everybody's best friend until eight or eight, or someone tries to do something medical. Yeah.

Kris Rhea: Right. So, uh, you know, the analogy I used with my wife there, here at the is I said, I feel like I'm the kid of two divorcing parents, you know, You know, McKesson say, go tell your, your mom that, you know, I think this about her and then, you know, you go and then the store's be like, well, you go tell your, your dad that you, so you be, you became like this ping pong that you're constantly getting whacked.

And, uh, I complain a lot less about electrolytes than I do cost goods and DIR fees and effective rates and all this, that other stuff.

Mike Koelzer, Host: When you mentioned you would lose sleep over something as a wholesale rep, what kind of things would non you do at night?

Kris Rhea: Well, yeah, sometimes I got very into the weeds of everything and looking at, you know, P uh, PS a O contracting versus what I know they were buying at and trying to make sure the numbers lined up and sometimes saying, well, that doesn't really line up for, uh, sustainable margin. Uh, that would definitely.

You know, throw me off a little bit or understanding the challenges of cash flow when people are waiting on rebates, but their drug bills are coming up, uh, understanding that, you know, Hey, I just got three hospice people at the end of the month, but now I'm over my threshold. And you're, you're, you're saying you're not gonna ship, uh, medicine that those people need.

And they're, they're, you know, sitting at home, uh, with cancer. So those are the types of things that if you're you're empath like me, that it really gets to you cuz you wanna make sure. Yeah, everybody's taken care of and that, uh, the stores feel like you're, you're going to bat for 'em

Mike Koelzer, Host: You're the black and white of whether this person's gonna get cared for. And that just, that just gets easier for your boss and your boss's boss and your boss's boss's boss.

Kris Rhea: When you're in a big organization like that, you know, sometimes it's not easy to just, you know, use common sense at times because there's processes in place and they're there for a reason.

Mike Koelzer, Host: Your secret solution. I don't even know if it's a secret. Is this like Colonel Sanders? Is this secret or is it, is it secret or are there numbers on the bottle? It

Kris Rhea: Yeah, there's definitely numbers. What, what Dr. Rawlins really tried to do is replicate the IV bag, uh, from, from a formula standpoint. And now he added some extra potassium to it cuz uh, intravenous potassium messes with heart rhythm. So with the oral, uh, rehydration solution, he could add the extra potassium and um, you know, the milk pistol, ginger root, uh, all that is on the bottle.

Mike Koelzer, Host: seems to me that this is not a hard sell. In other words, it's like, when I think about it, I'm like, Oh, I know people need this stuff. I know Gatorade is a bunch of sugar. I know they're sugar free and stuff, but my quick thoughts go to sugar. Kool-Aid ish. There seems like there'd be a place in the middle that is obviously helpful.

And it seems like you have a nice hole in the market too, to jump in there. If you're in a. Chiropractic offices and God bless chiropractors, but some of 'em are wacky and some pharmacists are wacky, but if you're in there, you know, this drink is gonna cure your, uh, stub toe, you know, that kind of stuff. But yours seems to be kind of like an easy sell; it's like we fall right into that market.

Kris Rhea: Well, I, I think it's wonderful. And I go in there with, with the impression, Hey, you, every pharmacy should be stalking this. It's a little bit more difficult than that. I think a lot of the stores are. Are very cynical and think it's just a marketing [00:20:00] gimmick. So it takes me really trying to show them all the ways they can apply it and say, " Hey, I'm gonna leave you some, I want you to try this when you need it.

Um, the best example is, uh, there's a store in Douglas, Georgia. He was cynical for about six months to the year and he finally tried it, though it worked. And he started telling his farmers about it in his community. Started giving it to the high school wrestlers and, uh, a couple of the doctors there in town and he's sold 7,000 cases of this stuff now.

Mike Koelzer, Host: You mentioned going into the pharmacies, you know, and some of them are hesitant. Do they bulk at the price? Do they bulk at how they're gonna have to sell? What are the top three and not necessarily focused on your product, but what are the top three issues you might come across with a product or a product like yours?

Kris Rhea: A lot of us, we want a, uh, an easy button, a, uh, a golden bullet, right. That's gonna fix our business. And a lot of the stores they see, Hey, this is a 40% marching product. But it's a drink it's, it's not gonna mitigate your DIR fees. You're gonna need, uh, uh, a dozen of these products or a dozen of these ideas to add up, to really make a difference in your business.

So it's not gonna be a golden B bullet to fix, fix things. Uh, I think that a lot of the stores. I have to explain, Hey, it's a functional beverage. It's not, it's not gonna taste like Gatorade. It's not gonna be sweet. It's salty. It's got a lot of electrolytes. So some of the, the folks they are, um, they B on the, at the taste a little bit, but I have to explain to 'em Hey, you know, broccoli is, it doesn't taste great, but it's good for you.

That would say the taste and it, uh, being, you know, from a margin perspective, uh, margin dollar perspective, those are the two biggest concerns.

Mike Koelzer, Host: Some pharmacies, some of us pharmacies have been slapped around so much. It's hard to see anything really helping all that much sometimes, but it probably got taken from us incrementally and well, I think you could argue DIR fees. Weren't incremental. That was just like a cliff, but in general in business things get taken gradually.

And so you gotta try to be better than you were yesterday.

Kris Rhea: Yeah, I think pharmacy is definitely, it's been years of the frog and the boiling pot. And every year it gets a little bit harder and harder. And I understand why, you know, there's so much anger because there's a lot of things that are not controllable. It's a very complex industry. And, you know, in most small businesses, a plus B equals C you buy.

At this, you sell at this, you give good service and, and you know, if you have a good, a good product or service, you're gonna be successful, you know, pharmacy is not that way. You have so many different factors that you're dealing with. And, you know, really, um, from a partner's perspective, I've always wanted to help them by doing the research that they don't have time to do and making sure they know what strong operators are doing in the field.

and, uh, that's, that's just the value I'm trying

Mike Koelzer, Host: You mentioned the taste of this thing. I just read something the other day about Listerine, you know, Listerine mouthwash. It tastes like you're, Garling like gasoline or something. It's just terrible, but that was its calling card because it tasted crappy. I think that was their tagline. You know, it tastes bad.

So your germs, I forget what it was, but something along those lines, they kind of made a thing out of it, but that's your thing. If your thing doesn't taste a little bit bitter or off, you know, not the sweetness of these other ones, people are like, ah, that's just Gatorade with a, a new label on it. Basically.

Kris Rhea: Yeah, so this is gonna be salty and, uh, you know, some, some people don't have a, uh, affinity for salt or sweet tooth. So I will try. Go into it explaining, uh, this is packed full of electrolytes. So that's why you're tasting that, that salty taste. But what I see is usually people will love one flavor. Tolerate two and hate one flavor and it's all over the board.

So when people say what's, what's gonna be my favorite, what's the, your favorite? And we might get 10 people and they're all gonna have a different lineup of what they like. And don't like, and, and that's what I try to explain to folks is, you know, get 'em cold and you'll find one that you really, really enjoy.

And there's gonna be one that you're, you're gonna wanna just throw out the back door.

Mike Koelzer, Host: We talk about salty. Have you seen that trend? There's two trends going around now with coffee. One is putting like a half a stick of butter in your coffee and twirling it up. That's one. I think it's for these people fasting, it's like the magic bullet or something like that. And the other one is people put salt into their coffee.

They just salted. It's like bitter coffee. Have you heard of both of those?

Kris Rhea: Uh, the first one. Yes, I've done that. Bulletproof, uh, coffee. That's Dave Asprey. I'm big, I love the functional health fields.

Mike Koelzer, Host: What'd you say Dave Asbury?

Kris Rhea: Dave Esper is the guy that started that and it's [00:25:00] called Bulletproof coffee. So yeah, either, uh, butter or, or coconut oil, some type of MCT oil, it definitely helps, uh, you know, balance out your blood sugar in the morning.

If you're fasting.

Mike Koelzer, Host: Why don't they just do it like a hamburger? I mean, you're taking a stick of butter. How did he, in quote, sell that to the world? That theory.

Kris Rhea: Uh, I think, you know, trying to explain, explain that not all fats are created equal, you know, saturated fat versus, you know, monos, saturated fats.

Mike Koelzer, Host: that's butter from a cow, all that kind of

Kris Rhea: Right, right.

Mike Koelzer, Host: Did you like it?

Kris Rhea: Oh, I loved it. It tastes like cream, you know, I don't like cream or sugar in my coffee, so just, uh, coconut oil and black coffee. Fantastic. The salt and coffee.

I think that's it.

Mike Koelzer, Host: No, wait a minute, Chris, I'm gonna disagree with you. You loved it. Then let me ask this. Are you still drinking it?

Kris Rhea: That's, I should be.

Mike Koelzer, Host: That means you didn't love it. You tolerated it because you were starving and it was something to hold onto. Did you love it? Only because you were starving.

Kris Rhea: I think it was, uh, you know, I, I think I cycle in my healthy eating based on my stress levels. So when I'm, I'm very, very, uh, cognizant of what I'm doing, I'll try those types of things like eating sardines for breakfast.

Mike Koelzer, Host: But sometimes you're just mindlessly putting a third bowl of, uh, honey bunches of oats down your mouth kind of thing. Oh,

Kris Rhea: Almost definitely, you know, being on the road as much as I am that, uh, uh, the healthy, healthy eating goes out the window. If you've seen, uh, 40 pharmacies in a week, you know, you're, you're, you're probably ready to, okay. I'm on the road, we're in New Orleans. We're gonna go out and eat some, uh, Creole with a lot of fat.

And, you know, we, it's gonna be good.

Mike Koelzer, Host: All right. So jump to the salt and the coffee. Have you heard of that

Kris Rhea: I haven't. That sounds, that sounds very, very weird to

Mike Koelzer, Host: And I've got a friend that won't eat watermelon without salt on it.

Kris Rhea: So we play off of that. One of our flavors is melon and that's what we were going for that watermelon cantaloupe, uh, salt combo. Oh yeah.

Mike Koelzer, Host: because you've heard that people put salt on that.

Kris Rhea: in, uh, the south we're in east Tennessee and come out from Georgia. So that is a huge Southern thing.

Mike Koelzer, Host: The one that I kind of invented as a kid, you remember orange Julius in the malls you ever hear of that?

Kris Rhea: Oh, yeah,

Mike Koelzer, Host: I've always enjoyed putting orange juice with ice cream. Have you done that before?

Kris Rhea: never done that.

Mike Koelzer, Host: It makes like this beautiful thicker orange Julius. It kind of tastes like it, but a little bit different. I'm thinking that might be your next flavor.

Orange juice and vanilla ice cream. Mark that one down.

Kris Rhea: Nice. Yeah. I want us to do a contest where everybody can kind of vote on what kind of crazy flavor they wanna see. Lace potato chips did that, and it was always a cool campaign.

Mike Koelzer, Host: You're like the Ben and Jerry's of electrolyte stuff.

Kris Rhea: We actually tried a mint flavor just to sample it. And it was like that mouthwash. It was the worst thing I've ever tasted. And thank God we didn't pull the trigger on that one.

Mike Koelzer, Host: Mince a funny one because there's too many things that have tasted like mint that are not food. I mean, there is mint food, but of course, mint chocolate chip ice cream is good. Haven't tried that with orange juice yet, but that's a possible one there too. How many flavors do you guys have? If

Kris Rhea: Right now we have four, uh, we're working on a, a. And a powder form. We get asked a lot about why we don't have a powder form yet. It's cuz we wanna keep the same formulation. This drink is equal to three of those powdered sticks that you know, you see. So a and also the nausea and the liver support. So we wanna make sure that we're not jeopardizing the formulation that we made.

So the chemistry is working on that.

Mike Koelzer, Host: I'm running your business, I kind of like the four. Because part of the problem we got, like when we would have, and I know pharmacists can appreciate this. Like when we had stockings, you know, I'm not gonna name the company, but we had stockings and there was. A hundred different styles. Some had compression stockings, some had toes, some were open, different colors, you know, black and tan and all this stuff.

And then when you were out of one of 'em, you felt incomplete. Like you didn't have everything, but then you had to have a $300 minimum order or something like that. And there's some things that almost didn't seem fair, that there were so many damn types of it. And, and. You know, you felt that sales people were, you know, if they can get you into a new flavor, they can up things 20% as far as their numbers and stuff.

So I like the four or five flavors right now.

Kris Rhea: Yeah. I agree. Keep it simple, stupid. If it works, if it works, you know, you know, that's what you want. You. Dealing with stores. A lot of times it's at McKesson. They'd be like, Hey, we need the great version of that Tylenol syrup. Cuz I had one person come in and ask for it and I would get the grape flavor added for 'em and then that person would never get back.

And that would just sit and expire on the shelf. You know? So, uh, I think when you [00:30:00] give two people, uh, too many decisions to make, it's overwhelming and they just go by the wayside and you have dead products on the shelf.

Mike Koelzer, Host: As I think back to some products that we had in the store. And I'm thinking of like this, this hand cream that we had and. We used to order some, maybe tape from some person , maybe a few products like that, they were very low key.

They'd come in and check the order. They'd have their little pad and say, Hey, we're gonna order this many of this is that okay? It's like, sure. You know, you come in once a month, we'll get a dozen more of this. And, and this and that. And what I realized is they were good products. We sold them. The sales guy was not overbearing, but then I looked now sometimes and I'm like, We don't have that product anymore.

If I'm looking at it from a sales standpoint, it's like, you mean the pharmacy's only gonna sell this. If they see my face and they're not gonna order it on their own, if I don't come in here and keep pressing it and we benefited from selling it, if I would order a dozen every month from the wholesaler, we'd benefit from it, I don't need to see that sales rep, but it was just kind of.

Sad. I can't think of a better word that things die out just because that face wasn't there.

Kris Rhea: sure outta sight it of mind, right? It's very relationship driven in this business. You have so many, you know, competing things for your, your mental space.

Mike Koelzer, Host: It's not a competing product. It's just competing for attention.

Kris Rhea: Right. Right. So, and you know, I think that's probably one of our biggest challenges as we grow, you know, right now we're at about 2,500. Independent pharmacies. And, uh, there's obviously limited bandwidth with me being the one person right now. So, uh, we have stores that really, really get behind it.

Their staff gets behind it and they love it. It's a fun brand fun story with the, the, the family and the reason it was created. But, you know, if, uh, it goes outta stock at the wholesaler and you go to a week or two, not ordering it outta, you know, you outta sight outta mind.

Mike Koelzer, Host: As far as the company goes, I'm assuming this stuff isn't made in China, but it's maybe not made at your shop. Do you have an outside source that makes it, and then how does that get distributed? And so. And where's

Kris Rhea: Right. So everything is made in Dallas, Texas, and we have a warehouse in, in Atlanta, Georgia, like I said, they started in their garage and, uh, we grew into a warehouse in Canton and we just pre recently moved to a. 30,000 square foot warehouse in Marietta that we're hoping to grow out of in a couple years.

Mike Koelzer, Host: Marietta,

Kris Rhea: Atlanta.

Mike Koelzer, Host: Atlanta. Gotcha.

Kris Rhea: The family is, uh, based there in Atlanta. We actually won an award. We are the fifth, uh, fastest growing company in Georgia. Uh, yeah, the university of Georgia, uh, gives out awards like that. So it's been, it's been a lot of fun watching it, it grows, and we're hoping that it's a product that continues to help people feel better, whether it.

You know, someone dealing with, uh, breast cancer or somebody that's a, uh, weekend warrior that runs a marathon.

Mike Koelzer, Host: How does that work out then with the decision to distribute it and so on or made, I guess, down in Texas.

Kris Rhea: The family owns it a hundred percent. Have it taken the first bit of investment or loan? So they partnered with a, a packager in, uh, Dallas that essentially gave the formula to, and they started. You know, packaging it, and now we're just trying to increase our distribution, uh, nationally. So we'll start having a couple warehouses in other regions, uh, and working with, you know, obviously phar, uh, the pharmacy wholesalers and some beverage distributors to make sure that, you know, we're able to get in other areas.

Mike Koelzer, Host: So right now it comes from Texas. And then it ends up at your main distribution house in Georgia.

Kris Rhea: Yes. Yeah, it does.

Mike Koelzer, Host: When the wholesalers have it, it'll go to the wholesalers or will you guys kind of drop ship it from your stuff? And the wholesalers just do the paperwork.

Kris Rhea: No. So that's been the, uh, biggest challenge so far in my time at buy light is getting the wholesalers to, you know, stock the product. And that's gonna be the thing that now that it's stocked everywhere, when we're going to these shows. Uh, I hope that it really helps us get into more pharmacies and really explode, but yeah, people can buy it direct from us and everybody asks, Hey, do you sell this direct?

Uh, but because of the weight and size of the product, the minimum order from us is eight cases. And I'm telling you psychologically, these pharmacies feel like. This is gonna sit in the back room for five years and gather us, even if I tell 'em, Hey, the average store does about 10, 12 cases a month. It's just, it's just something they don't wanna sit up at another account usually.

So having that wholesale partner, getting it the next day, [00:35:00] one case at a time, if they need it, it's really, really a good partnership.

Mike Koelzer, Host: How does that work? If somebody would order eight cases and I understand why they wouldn't want to, would you guys send that out or something or.

Kris Rhea: Right, right. So it's definitely, uh, it's a challenge, but we've gotten to the point where we have pharmacies that buy it by the pallet now, uh, every month. And they stick it in the corner of the store and put it on Facebook. Hey, we got, we got our shipment in, come get it. And that's just been really neat to see, but yeah, I think the biggest challenge so far is the distribution of it.

Mike Koelzer, Host: still is.

Kris Rhea: No, no. Once it gets to a pallet, uh, then we use those third party logistics companies, but it's been such a challenge with the wholesalers to explain to them that people you know, people will buy this, uh, in large quantities cuz they, they didn't want to commit to, to those pallet quantities as minimum orders.

And I would say that has been the one thing that's held us back at this point is trying to, uh, work through the wholesaler's, uh, ordering philosophies. Um, even when I show 'em data from a different, uh, wholesaler, it's definitely still a challenge. And they think that, Hey, this is gonna go outta stock. Uh, why this is an OTC item and we're, we're not gonna commit to this.

It's been a lot of. Lot of asking for favors and networking. working with stores to really, Hey, please push your rep, push your, the inventory folks to get this stuff in.

Mike Koelzer, Host: wholesaler, I. Sometimes people at the pharmacy they'll come in, Hey, we'll put a dozen here on consignment and you know, if you sell it, you pay us. I mean, does that fly with the wholesaler to say, we'll give you X pallets and don't worry about expiring, cause we'll take it back. Or is it just the space they don't want to deal with?

Kris Rhea: No. I think that just like the pharmacies, uh, cash flow is obviously on their mind and OTCs. Aren't where they make a ton of their profit margin. And. You would wanna think that, Hey, common sense would prevail. And even if we say, well, we will take you back a hundred percent. They just have their, uh, I guess their processes.

Right. And they're gonna apply that process no matter what. So it's, it's strange cuz it's like a chicken or the egg. The stores aren't gonna buy it if it's not there and, and they're wanting something already built in demand. So even when I was a, uh, you know, a wholesale rev, it was challenging to get small, uh, products, even if they were great products stocked into these warehouses, because you would ask.

And they would say, well, what, what is the store gonna buy a month? And you would say, they'll buy five of something. Okay. But they didn't aggregate how many stores said that they would buy five of something. So it never hits the minimum order of, of what it takes to get it in. So, you know, when independent pharmacies get upset with, uh, with vendors, About going to chains to talk to them about partnerships.

A lot of it's because of logistics and, uh, you know, not getting buy-in from the wholesaler from enough independent pharmacies to really get a viable product stock.

Mike Koelzer, Host: It would seem that you have your work cut out for you and congratulations on what you're setting up with them. Because, because of the size of that, and because a lot of people don't want the eight cases that first it's like, they're going from eight cases. They're like, all right, well, we're not gonna buy any, Chris.

We're not gonna get eight cases in, well, then you can't show the wholesaler. You have any demand because there might be a pen up demand. Nobody got it because of the eight cases, you know, you might have an easier time with toothpaste or something, cuz you can prove you have a market set up and things like that.

But I can imagine that would be hard with the type of product.

Kris Rhea: Yeah. And obviously we're still a mom and pop business, so we're not Abbot. We're not, you know, some of these, you know, Unilever, these big organizations, uh, that have a lot of clout with these wholesalers. So it's been a challenge, but I've had some amazing partners through the buying groups, uh, that have helped with endorsements.

I've had some amazing, uh, people that. Have tried, it used, it saw the benefit. You know, their mom might have, um, you know, cancer and I've been more than willing to send them some so they can see the benefits. And, you know, that's what really has been the Mo main motivation is knowing, Hey, this has been, uh, discouraging at times I've failed and been rejected a ton.

Uh, but. Hearing the stories of how people are applying it and how it's really helping them has been what keeps me going and keeps our organization going.

Mike Koelzer, Host: you could only spend your money, one place on things that would kind of close a sale, what would that be? Is that gonna. You with the handshake in the store? Is it gonna be a trade show? What's gonna close that sale usually.

Kris Rhea: It's definitely the relationship and, [00:40:00] and, uh, the information, but really it's the sampling of the product. You know, this is actually, this is a product that does what it says it's going to do. It works. So when we can get it in people's hands that either, uh, are going to influence, you know, store retail owners or that are the retail owners that are gonna influence the consumers.

That's what we want to do. Uh, you know, I, there's so many countless stories of, of wholesale representatives or pharmacies that I've sent, you know, cases to, to say, Hey, just try this out yourself, give some samples out and come back to me and let me know how it works and how you applied it. And just hearing the testimonials from those people.

That's what's really driving our business right now.

Mike Koelzer, Host: Are those all people that you have met in person, you don't call someone up or just send something out of the blue to them, right? I'm not saying you shouldn't. Cause I was gonna say that could be something you do, but are you meeting these people?

Kris Rhea: Yes, definitely. And you know, it's, it's been me in that truck with those cases in the back with dad, you know, at the wheel, that's been a lot of how this has worked. And then, you know, from my time at McKesson, building those partnerships, knowing who the major players from a wholesale and. Uh, the regional wholesalers and the buying groups, you know, trying to find you.

Who those people are that really are gonna help. And, you know, tho those folks aren't all created equal. Some of them have been amazing and really see the value in this product and value in taking ideas and products to the stores, others, you know, it's not a priority to them. So trying to filter through who are gonna be advocates and in what areas, it's been a fun, it's been a chess game to me of, you know, Never a dull moment, you know, how am I gonna get this on the west coast?

What organizations, uh, what associations are gonna help me, uh, get the exposure. So.

Mike Koelzer, Host: What kind of people bother you? Like you mentioned, like the, the. That won't touch it. What are some traits that you don't like in, let's say an organization or a wholesaler when you're dealing with somebody? Is it known at all? Is it a, uh, pessimist? What kind of people are like, ah, I gotta deal with that kind again.

Kris Rhea: Oh, I love that question. It's complacency and ego. And there's a lot of that out there, you know, from a, both a, a wholesaler and a store owner, uh, perspective.

Mike Koelzer, Host: I'm not gonna rock the ship on my Eagle. So I'm not gonna do anything. Or how do those two go together or do they.

Kris Rhea: No. I think that, you know, even though this is a challenging industry for the stores and for rep, you know, representatives that represent partners for the stores, uh, some people can get complacent and, uh, they can, you know, do just enough to keep going and they're not gonna make changes and they don't wanna really be open and receptive.

And they, you know, I've had plenty of people. um, when I go in and, or try to, you know, bring information to 'em from either a by light or. Uh, industry perspective, uh, have an ego around that and not really be willing to listen. And, you know, it's free information. I always told my owners when I worked in the field, Hey, listen to everybody.

They're gonna either give you what to do or what not to do, you know, be respectful and open. Um, you don't have to partner with them, work with them, but who knows what you can gain from that conversation?

Mike Koelzer, Host: I think you have going for you, Chris is you're in. Tennessee. Right. I think that a salesperson from Tennessee is gonna be more successful. We deal with these wholesalers, like pop up wholesalers that call us. And it's always like a, a. Out east, like I'm not gonna pick on a state, but it's always like an out east, like mafia voice.

You have a gentler tone from Tennessee than being one of these mafia. Guys. That's gotta help. You've got that friendly vibe to you. And so what I'm saying is I think the relationship's going better. 

Kris Rhea: I

appreciate that

Mike. It's been interesting.

Mike Koelzer, Host: Was that too derogatory?

Kris Rhea: No, I think it's dependent on your area because I've been in, um, the areas with pharmacies where my personality is slow to them.

Mike Koelzer, Host: Too slow.

Kris Rhea: Yeah. Someone told me this once and it really resonated. They said, you know, down in the south, if you don't, uh, chit chat and do some small talk, it's rude up north.

If you do small talk, it's rude because you're taking, taking up their


Mike Koelzer, Host: You've wasted my time. That's interesting. I guess I'm Midwest, you know, that's probably why. Do you speed

Kris Rhea: Yeah, it's just adapting your personality and, and really, you know, I've been to all these areas and each, each region, each state has a different personality and you know, certain areas, I really resonate with them in other areas. I come to the car, my dad's like, Hey, are you gonna be okay? Do we need to do what we need to stop [00:45:00] today?

Mike Koelzer, Host: when

Kris Rhea: Certain areas get certain vibes with me and it's been fun, kind of seeing the different cultures.

Mike Koelzer, Host: you're out on the east coast?

Kris Rhea: Oh, Mike, you don't understand walking through that door. I have to make snap judgments on the first thing I'm doing. When I'm walking through the door, I'm looking for what wholesaler this is so I can manage my pitch.

Mike Koelzer, Host: How are you?

Kris Rhea: Window signage, uh, OTC labels and totes. And then next I'm kind of seeing what the workflow's like, uh, based on how I walk in the door, you know, within, you know, 10 seconds, I kind of know how I'm gonna have to apply myself how much time I have. And looking at their front end, you know, Bruce Neland said this best to me.

He said, a front end is either a bridge or a moat. If it's, uh, warm and receptive, you know, you're going back. And, and a lot of times you it's gonna be, um, you know, a professional partnership. If it's a moat, Hey, you know, they, they're not really gonna care much about that, that OTC sale. And

Mike Koelzer, Host: From the look of it, even you can just tell if they have taken care of it and things like that.

Kris Rhea: Right. So there's so many pharmacies that, you know, are so diversified, they're doing so many things offering so many products and there are others that, you know, they feel like, Hey, this isn't, my focus in the shelves are empty. A little dusty. Uh, I've seen it all the good, the bad, the ugly, you know, so they know their market, but, you know, I would definitely think that you wanna look professional in your store and you wanna make sure that your consumer feels comfortable because what you're doing is you're taking care of people in a very, you know, high, responsible, uh, profession.

So my two sense is you wanna make sure that that store has credibility.

Mike Koelzer, Host: I shouldn't be so proud of myself when I think I can pick out drug addicts, you know, or people coming and asking for, you know, cough syrup or whatever, and they got like that. All of a sudden they're coughing because they come into your store or when it's a fake prescription, they're talking too much.

And so on. Most pharmacists think they're good at that. But. I always thought I was good at picking out two pays, but I don't think I am because if it's a good two pay, no one comes up to you and says, I got you. I am wearing two pieces and you didn't figure it out. But I imagine when you walk into a store with your skill and your history, you can probably smell the attitude of that store in like three seconds, even if it's friendly or.

Kris Rhea: Yes, definitely. You know, being in 2,500 of them, over the course of my career. I think, you know, certain patterns develop, you know, there are times I need to check my ego and, uh, not judge a book by its cover, uh, but for the most part. Know how a store presents itself. You can see, Hey, this is probably gonna be a successful operation.

Do you walk in, do they have the essential oils and the soaps that make the store that they're selling and makes the store smell good when you walk in the door or does it smell like mold? You know, there's plenty of stores I've been in that, you know, that smells moldy and you just can kind of tell the vibe of, of, of what the store is all about from, uh, that presentation.

And then, uh, you go back and. It's just how you're received a little bit. It's, it's always been fun to, to try to, to really relate in a short period of time to, to these owners and, and the people that would be pushing this product.

Mike Koelzer, Host: HIPAA changed. People's acceptance of you. I remember, like in the old days, the reps would come in and kind of come back and you'd chit chat and you know, you'd be working and they'd be talking to you. Have you noticed that people are less, uh, welcoming or has that not been a thing?

Kris Rhea: No, that I don't think that's necessarily been a thing. You know, I've always been trying to, I've always been respectful if, uh, customers come up trying to talk to the, to the staff, to, you know, make, make a walk away and, and let them have that, that private conversation. I would say that what, what has been a challenge and I'm the guy that left a fortune five company to go, uh, Call on pharmacies during a pandemic that a lot of 'em had to close front end.

So early on when I transitioned, uh, you know, COVID was still going. So trying to walk into stores that, you know, were masked up and, um, you know, about 20% of 'em still didn't have their front end open. So that would probably be the biggest thing is like, Hey man, why, why are you here? Uh, you know, bothering me when we're, we're dealing with this.

And really, uh, how I justified that was this stuff really works for, uh, a lot of these conditions that we're dealing with right now. And I had pharmacies that were at one time, we were given away free case samples to people doing COVID, uh, testing. So they could give people that had positive tests to try.

So, you know, we're trying to connect this, not only with, you know, summer and heat, but different clinical applications like immunizations and, and, and COVID.

Mike Koelzer, Host: So Chris, when you're on the road, how many nights are you on the road?

Kris Rhea: So usually I'll be on out a [00:50:00] week and then, uh, back home a week. So I'm probably on about 50% of the time. And we'll just, uh, pick an area that maybe I don't have, uh, uh, great relationships with a rep or, Hey, it's really hot down in, in, uh, Southeast Texas right now. They need this stuff.

Mike Koelzer, Host: Is that a decent pace for you? Or if you had your druthers, would you say, ah, you know, I mean, if I could be as successful, it'd be nice maybe to go one week a month or would you rather, is it exciting? You'd rather be gone every week. I think

Kris Rhea: Well, I think my wife would like me to be home a little bit more to be helping her around the house, but then there's times she wants me to be on the road. So, uh, no, I it's, it's been fun, especially to have my, my father with me, you know, so I'm not alone. And, um, I, I think that this is what it's taking to be successful as a mom and pop business.

When we get a certain tipping point of exposure in the stores and the wholesalers really bought in, I'm hoping to not be traveling as much. Uh, but for right now, this is what it takes and I'm gonna do whatever it takes to help these stores and help buy light.

Mike Koelzer, Host: This show isn't just directed to independent pharmacies, but I know we have a lot of listeners of independent pharmacy and that word independent. Is really quite important when we talk about independent pharmacy owners, because a lot of times, you know, we're stubborn independently. You know, we don't want to go along with this and we all have our different ideas as far as the store's gonna go.

You know, we're not part of a franchise, even that kind of thing. So that we're independent for better or for worse, covers a lot of different topics as who we are.

Kris Rhea: Yeah, it's, it's such. Amazing opportunity to see the passion that independent owners have. You know, I think that they chose this profession for a reason. They chose to be business owners in this profession for a reason. They wanted to have the opportunity to take care of their community. And that passion is a positive thing and it, and sometimes it's, it's it.

Mike Koelzer, Host: Chris,

Kris Rhea: Bleeds into stubbornness. I always kid around that. Uh, you know, the two things that'll be left on this planet when, uh, the apocalypse happens are cockroaches and independent pharmacies, cuz they just are not gonna be able to be stamped out. They have the grit that I just love. And uh, it's been a blessing to be able to spend my career, uh, working with him and connecting with.

Mike Koelzer, Host: if you wake up tomorrow and for some reason you. Outgrown, or you're not allowed to be in the medical field anymore. You cannot go be a drug sales rep. You can't work for bio light, you are not able to do anything. Medical. What would your next career be?

Kris Rhea: I really enjoy it. uh, archeology botany. So I would like to study plants. And I know that, you know, it's kind of a tangent off of the medical field because so many, so much medicine and, and true medicine came from, uh, plants. But, uh, you know, my wife and I have a little garden and our neighbors are microbiologists of the garden.

So I just love, um, you know, horticulture and plants and, uh, I love history and. The different cultures. So I would love the opportunity to learn and study and teach in that.

Mike Koelzer, Host: So to turn that into dollars, that would be teaching. Yeah,

Kris Rhea: yeah. Teaching and, and, exploring and writing. Uh, you know, I taught marketing briefly in, in, in college and I liked psychology and I picked marketing because I felt like, uh, marketing is business psychology. Right. But, you know, as I've gotten older, uh, you know, seeing different cultures and civilizations and seeing how plants worked within those cultures was always fascinating too.

Mike Koelzer, Host: we had a guy named. VE Tyler. And he was an old guy when I was there, but he was like some specialist, like in all the old plants. Yeah. Psychology's interesting. When I attempted that in college, I never seemed to get too far because my first semester class was psychology and then the second semester was reverse psychology.

Kris Rhea: yeah, that negates that a little bit. And, and I don't know, Mike, you gotta be a little crazy to be fascinated by psychology. And that's what got me. I think I, you know, I'm a little bit off, so.

Mike Koelzer, Host: When I was a kid, people would talk about, oh, he went crazy. You know, he went off the deep end. He had a nervous breakdown and all this kind of stuff. And as I get older, now I realize that there's really no such thing. I mean, it's just a continuum. We're all crazy. Maybe if you throw in something like.

Schizophrenia, you know, something hearing voices that might be like another level, but as far as everyday craziness, we're all there. And the definition really just jumps in. If it's something that really has taken a hold of your life and you can't function, but outside of that, we're all crazy. And I think until you realize that in life, and you can [00:55:00] appreciate that in yourself and appreciate that in others, you don't really know what's going on yet.

Kris Rhea: If you show me a family or a relationship that isn't dysfunctional, I'll show you something that's pin up. That's really gonna get dysfunctional one day.

Mike Koelzer, Host: There you go. There you go. Exactly. Well, Chris golly, nice meeting you.

Kris Rhea: Thank you, Mike, it's been such a fun time. I've really enjoyed talking to folks in the industry and getting to know more people. So if any of your listeners wanna talk shop or have any questions about bio light, please reach out. I'd be glad to help any way I can. Mike is a pleasure.

Mike Koelzer, Host: Chris. Thank you. Nice having you on. And I look forward to keeping in touch.

Kris Rhea: Thank you so much for the time.