Lynch extends CVS’ stellar leadership tradition

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The chain drug industry has yet to meet Karen Lynch. But that’s about to change — for the better.

Karen Lynch

Karen Lynch

In an industry that has made its considerable reputation, at least in part, on the strength of its leaders, Lynch is both a logical extension of that reputation and a pleasant surprise for those who have become accustomed to a male-dominated leadership tier.

That’s saying a lot. CVS has been recognized, for quite some time, for the strength and personal attributes of its leaders, a group that includes the estimable Tom Ryan and, most recently, the redoubtable Larry Merlo.

Lynch is very much in keeping with that tradition. Since the announcement out of CVS that she would succeed Merlo at the top of the organization, she has sat down for an interview with Fortune magazine and sat still for a Wall Street Journal session to discuss her health care strategy and her plans for one of America’s premier drug chains. Most recently, she has been interviewed by Jeff Woldt, this publication’s editor-in-chief, the result of which appears on page 1 of this issue of Chain Drug Review.

What we’ve learned about Lynch thus far is that her style of addressing the public is very much in keeping with chain drug industry traditions: Simply put, she knows her way around a microphone, a camera, either or both. To add to that description, she doesn’t hesitate to express her opinions and her views — confident that those opinions are backed by knowledge.

While she is clearly a novice when it comes to mass retailing — she is just as clearly a professional when it comes to health care. Which, after all, is what CVS is really about. Before accepting the top job at CVS she ran Aetna, the insurance juggernaut that CVS acquired a little while ago. So she speaks easily and knowledgeably about the realities and the opportunities at CVS as they pertain to the drug chain’s increasingly active role in the health care community.

Most notably, she plans to broaden CVS’ reach in that community by seeking to bind the drug chain more closely — and more personally — with the citizens who live in that community — and shop at CVS.

Those who know or know of Lynch are confident that it won’t take her long to learn her way around the type of retailing that is practiced so effectively by CVS. Forget that old saw about outsiders struggling to grasp the intricacies of mass retailing. Lynch is a quick and confident student and, guided by those staffers around her, she is sure to become as facile with retailing as she clearly is with health care.

And one more thing. Lynch is comfortable in admitting what she does not yet know. Who else would subject herself to a (gently) gripping Fortune interview or a Wall Street Journal question-and-answer session?

So the table has been effectively set for Karen Lynch’s debut performance as CEO of one of America’s legendary retailers. As the curtain rises, both Karen Lynch and chain drug retailing are poised to welcome a newcomer who is really not new at all, a breath of fresh air to an industry that has thrived on its ability to pair the well-judged plan of things with the individual to turn that plan into reality.

So there’s only one thing left to say: Welcome, Karen (if we can call you Karen so early in the game). The industry is glad to include you at this very special time in this very special industry.



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