The CEO of One of The Nation’s Largest Retail Drug Chains Shares His Thoughts on Leadership.
If you converse with Juan M. Ortiz about the subject of leadership, you quickly realize this talented leader is adamant about the importance of choosing a good team. “It’s hard to expect extraordinary things from ordinary people so it’s best to hire extraordinary people,” he says. “Having an exceptional team eases the burden of leadership.” He may have extraordinary people but it’s Mr. Ortiz who is spearheading the successful growth of Navarro Discount Pharmacies, LLC, the nation’s largest Hispanic owned and focused retail drug chain, now with 32 stores in the United States. Mr. Ortiz came to Navarro in 2008 as the CFO and assumed the leadership role as CEO in July, 2011.
Heading up a team of 1,400 Navarro employees, Mr. Ortiz is leading the transformation of Navarro into a multi-chain retailer and pharmacy services provider beyond its South Florida home. Recent innovations at the company include launching its internet store; creating “Vida Mia,” the first bilingual, multiple category brand in the U.S.; and commencing the operations of Navarro Health Services, a specialty pharmacy focused on needs of patients across multiple disease states.
Prior to joining Miami-based Navarro, Mr. Ortiz was CEO of Atlantic Dental, Inc., a leading administrator of government detail programs. He also served as CFO of Bell Microproducts Latin America, after starting his career at Deloitte & Touche in 1987.
He serves on the Board of Directors for both the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and for the Chain Drug Consortium.
“Our focus at Navarro is on the customer, absolutely. That’s communicated by everyone within our organization?starting with me,” Mr. Ortiz says. “Customer focus is the subject of every meeting and is constantly communicated by every level of leadership.”
Having strong and skillful people on his team is one way Mr. Ortiz encourages creativity and innovation. His belief in progress is another prime mover.
“My philosophy is to move forward,” he says. “That’s the tone I set and it has allowed us to recognize and adopt innovation that’s been important to our company.”
Mr. Ortiz reports that he empowers this team to be quick about making decisions. “I’m willing to live with the occasional mistake they make ? as long as they don’t make it a second time,” he says. “But they need to know I want to move forward and that often means they sometimes must make decisions quickly.”
It’s no surprise that Mr. Ortiz identifies his leadership style as “collaborative.”
“Especially when you’re leading a complex organization, you must rely on the collective and individual talent in your organization to achieve the goals you’ve set,” he says.
He says that getting the right people for the job often comes from recruitment; many times it’s a result of “who you know.” But Mr. Ortiz points out that the organization itself is an excellent source of new leaders. “The people at your company must see that it’s possible to advance and that the company gives them this opportunity,” he comments.
But even with an excellent team, the impact of the leader cannot be minimized, Mr. Ortiz adds. “The longer that I have been a leader, the more I realize the importance of everything a leader does,” he points out. “People watch even the little things, to see what you’re communicating.”
Helping employees deal with change
Understand which parts of the organization are going to be affected by change. Make sure they realize how they will have to adapt their practices.
Realize the importance of internal selling. Communication must be top-notch so every employee affected by the change sees the benefits.
The leader must personally communicate the importance of the initiative. Everyone must know that the change is one in which the leader believes.