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2009 Wyeth Consumer Healthcare Bowl of Hygeia: Bob Sprague

Bob SpragueBob Sprague
Owner, Sprague Drug Inc.
Calgary, AB

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Bob Sprague is an example of nature and nurture working together at their best. He is a third-generation pharmacy owner (his grandfather, Walter Sprague, received the Bowl of Hygeia in 1970) and he comes from a long line of community volunteers. He was also raised in an environment that encouraged excellence, adaptability, and concern for others. This environment continued after his graduation with the support of his wife and children. All these elements have combined in Bob to produce an exceptional pharmacist, businessman, and community contributor.

Bob is quick to mention the important role his family plays. “My wonderful wife Liz and our two children, Nadine and Kurtis, are a huge support for me now. I couldn’t do it without them. The home support is what allows you to be a volunteer.”

Bob’s passion for people and his love of learning are the common threads running through his many activities. His volunteer work feeds both. “It’s absolutely amazing; when you volunteer, you learn so much. You learn to work with different individuals. You learn about teamwork. You learn how other organizations run. You can also learn from your mistakes, but you can’t let them hold you back.”

It seems that nothing holds Bob back. In fact, when Bob hears “no,” it alerts him to action. “I love it when people say ‘no’. I see it as a motivator. If they say, ‘No, it can’t be done,’ I say, ‘Let’s go!’ I take it as my starting point. I like taking on a complex problem and solving it.”

It is this “can do” attitude that has made Bob such an asset as a volunteer with the 1988 Winter Olympics, the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede, the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, the Young Entrepreneurs Organization International, Central United Church, the Junior Achievement Venture Program, and the Alberta Retail Advisory Board. And this is only a sampling of the organizations Bob has contributed to.

He has also contributed greatly to his profession over the years, holding the presidency of the Calgary Pharmaceutical Society, Pharma C Mart, Care Mart, and several positions with the Alberta Pharmaceutical Association, the Canadian Pharmaceutical Association, various pharmacy industry advisory panels, and the Alberta College of Pharmacy.

Bob has managed all this while running a successful chain of 14 stores, raising a family, and furthering his own education. And he has accomplished all this at a young age. How does he do it?

Bob credits several sources of support. “I was very fortunate in the way I was raised. I saw my grandfather’s enjoyment when interacting with people. I learned that the biggest factor we deal with as pharmacists is the psychology of people. I think that’s true in any situation.

“Volunteer work was also something that ran in my family. It started with my grandfather, continued with my father, and is carried on by me. I’ve always made it a priority. Now the challenge for Liz and me is to pass this tradition on to our fourth generation, Nadine and Kurtis.

“I’ve also been fortunate over the years with the company. I’ve had the opportunity to work with lots of great long-term people. They are another critical support group that allows a person to volunteer. I’ve always been interested in the business side of things. I enjoy science, business, and helping people, so pharmacy is the perfect mix of all those things for me.”

Bob also has two other “secret weapons” that help him juggle many roles successfully. “I have a general sense of optimism, so I think that helps me stay positive. I may have a bad day, but I don’t let it drag down the entire year.”

He also keeps his focus on the big picture. This is advice he passes on as a mentor to young entrepreneurs. “Look at the big picture and look far enough ahead when making decisions. Don’t make decisions on today alone.” He goes on to offer another piece of advice that has helped him through the years. “Don’t try to force yourself into a certain slot or category. First, define your unique talents. Then, don’t be afraid to grow them or develop them further. Keep learning. That’s how you grow and this, in turn, will lead to helping others.”

Growing and helping others—that’s Bob. “I love seeing others succeed. There is just so much potential in everyone.” His grandfather would be proud.