Kris Thorkelson has spent the last two decades as an entrepreneur, using his knowledge of sound business management principles, specifically in the pharmaceutical and real estate industries, and technology as the basis for successful concerns.
The owner of three retail pharmacies in Winnipeg, Thorkelson is also known for helping millions of patients from around the world gain access to competitively priced pharmaceuticals by launching the online dispensary, Canada Drugs. Today, much of his focus is on an entirely different business, My Place Realty (MPR), which is dedicated to providing quality rental properties to the larger Winnipeg community.
Through all these ventures, Thorkelson has been able to uphold his personal standards of community leadership, demonstrating the truth behind finding success by doing good. It’s become a shared priority for those in his business and personal life, and a model to live by, as he discusses in this interview.
How did you come to move from retail pharmaceuticals to real estate? There doesn’t seem to be a clear connection there.
Kris Thorkelson: Well, there is some common ground there, but, honestly, it was the fact that the two are so different that appealed to me. Real estate is a solid investment and one that tends to protect me from the instability of many other investment types. Plus, I love that the real estate business is so hands-on. I get to help people who need a place to live and show them what a good landlord/tenant relationship can look like.
And what is the common ground?
Kris Thorkelson: Technology, of course. All of my businesses have a growing reliance on technology to perform well. People think of the tech influence on real estate in terms of the consumer-facing things, like websites where you can search for listings by size or price. But it’s really made us more efficient in how we operate My Place Realty, and also more responsive to tenant needs. The digital and mobile capabilities are huge improvements, with maintenance requests made online, and smartphone apps letting us keep track of where our staff’s at in the work.
What do you see are the most important improvements that technology has created in the retail pharmacy business?
Kris Thorkelson: It’s given pharmacists a lot more access – available easily and fast – to information, and that’s elevated their role and value as trusted resources to consumers. That’s really important as the pharmaceutical marketplace gets more crowded and manufacturers market directly to consumers. They need to know more about drug choices and their risks and benefits, and often are reluctant to take up their doctors’ time getting answers.
There seems to be a common thread to your thinking that relates to the consistent care and nurturing of others’ needs – whether it’s housing or prescription drugs. How has that evolved?
Kris Thorkelson: You know, it isn’t like I consciously say to people in each of my businesses, “Hey, this is how we’re positioning ourselves, don’t forget, it’s a great differentiator.” This is a kind of thinking, a philosophy that guides how I approach life.
I believe you take care of your team before you take care of yourself. I believe you make meeting your customers’ needs your most important business reason. And I encourage my team to live that philosophy, too, not just at work but in contributing to the community at large. Taking care of others when we can and how we can is the right thing to do that just seems to get lost in today’s environment.