Bukky George is the Founder and CEO of HealthPlus Limited and CasaBella International. She is a registered pharmacist with the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain and the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria.
In 1987, I enrolled at the School of Pharmacy, College of Medicine, now Faculty of Pharmacy, at the University of Lagos to study Pharmacy. In 1992, I graduated with five awards as the best student on completing my Pharmacy degree. I began my internship at Lagos University Teaching Hospital. In the evenings of my Internship year, I got my first hand experience on retail pharmacy, or community pharmacy as some like to call it, at Onyx Pharmacy, GRA, Ikeja. My national youth service was at Smithkline Beecham – now GSK. I enjoyed my time in production, quality control and sales departments. After service, I worked at May & Baker for a little while as a medical representative, and then returned to Smithkline Beecham, still as a med rep. The excellent training I received from these organisations helped me to hone my selling, exhibiting and presentation skills; transforming me into a confident young professional. I added value and often emerged the best representative of the month.
I worked for a total of four years with May & Baker and Smithkline Beecham, after which I got restless. I was aware of the need to find my true passion and fulfill my purpose in life. I had become a good salesman as a med representative. I loved organizing; I was enterprising, and always paid great attention to detail, which are some of the key success factors of a retailer. In 1999, I resigned as an assistant manager.
The highlights of my career would be starting HealthPlus; qualifying in the UK; building the pharmacy chain; birthing CasaBella; building middle team and top management team, and getting the first ever industry awards. I attribute my success to my a passion for learning, adopting the attributes of an entrepreneur, my association with Women in Management, Business & Public Service (WIMBIZ) and the Fortune/US State Department Mentoring Programme. I believe my drive came partly from my aversion to poverty. A good education, hard work and entrepreneurship are a panacea for poverty. I also believe entrepreneurship will transform an individual, her family, her industry, her community, her nation and ultimately her world!
The skills I have acquired that are necessary in business and at this level include strong leadership skills; excellent verbal and written communication skills; excellent interpersonal and people skills; strong strategy execution skills; technical (pharmacy) skills; business development skills; emotional intelligence; excellent networking skills; high standard of attention to detail; good negotiation and persuasion skills; good problem solving and decision making skills and mentoring and coaching skills.
The typical challenges I encounter in my business would include finding skilled and competent personnel with the energy, enthusiasm and the right attitude; maintaining standards i.e. ensuring that the mission and the vision is always foremost on people’s minds and in all that we do. Ensuring that the standard is the same regardless of location; shrinkage is a major challenge in retail, but we deal with this through the installation of retail security, CCTV, regular stock taking, security personnel support; and access to finance is a regular challenge for most companies, but we have been fortunate through hard work and proven business successes, we have been able to access the finance we need.
My advice for others is to find your passion and purpose, learn leadership management and business skills, be focused disciplined and determined, be the best at what you do, go the extra mile, seek knowledge and develop yourself, have high standards, get mentors, network and make great professional connections, nurture relationships, increase your professional visibility, join active and progressive networks and ensure work-life balance.