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  • Cannabis Staffing 101: Hiring Quality Employees

    Jan 13, 2022

    IBA, as the premier business brokerage firm in the Pacific Northwest, is firmly established as a respected professional service firm in the legal, accounting, banking, mergers & acquisitions, real estate, and financial planning communities.  Periodically, we will post guest blogs from professionals with knowledge to share for the good of owners of privately held companies & family owned businesses.  The following blog has been provided by Joan Samuels of HempStaff (www.hempstaff.com):

    Cannabis Staffing 101: Hiring Quality Employees

    The cannabis industry is booming as more and more states are legalizing cannabis for both medical and recreational purposes. Between medical and adult-use programs have given entrepreneurs, big and small, an opportunity to get involved in today’s fastest growing industry. From micro growers to mom-and-pop owned dispensaries, everyone has a chance to be successful with the right team and, of course, the right amount of capital.

    Most businesses start small, with just a handful of employees, but as the demand grows, so does the businesses need for help. The cannabis industry has its own unique demands on employees. Good help is hard to find, as they say. Luckily, if you are a cannabis business owner, we have put together a guide on staffing to help you with the hiring and managing process.

    Allow People to Work Remotely, Whenever the Job Permits it.

    Many employees got a taste of working remotely during the pandemic and loved it. According to a Gallup poll, nearly two-thirds of U.S workers who have been working remotely during the pandemic would like to continue to do so. If it’s not a hands-on job like a grower, extractor, or dispensary manager, employers are letting people work remotely It’s a huge advantage in retaining talent.

    Don’t Let Your Best Talent Slip Away.

    Filling open positions can be costly, so some employers save on recruiting costs by matching the salary offers employees receive from competitors. Counteroffers have always been common in some industries, sometimes an employee will say, ‘I know this place. I’ll accept a counteroffer and stay where I am.’

    Some employers reward attendance and work anniversaries with prizes or boosted pay, but money isn’t everything. Many employees come to work because their friends are there. Entry level employees are especially interested in an enjoyable work environment. Successful cannabis organizations create camaraderie with their patients and their employees.

    Employees want more than a workplace. They want a social environment. The best employers tend to showcase that by posting photos of their employees hanging out at the bowling alley, or goofing off together. The happiest employees are those who work with their friends or make friends with co-workers. Group events that bring people together socially can help retention. Who wants to leave all their friends to go work somewhere else where they don’t know anyone?

    Boost Company Benefits.

    Stock options after a designated period of employment can be an effective incentive for employee retention, and the same can be said for extra paid time off. People who work in the cannabis industry are often there because they are cannabis enthusiasts, so for cultivation businesses that are vertically integrated, employee discounts can be an attractive perk in states that allow discounts.

     Emphasize Growth Opportunities.

    Cannabis organizations have a distinct hiring advantage over employers in stagnant industries: They can promise quick promotions and pay increases because the industry is growing. While it might not be feasible in every case, we have seen people go from making $12 an hour to $50,000 a year, and that can turn into $80,000 over a couple of years. Employers can use that as a selling point to draw people from the larger market.

    Setting Your Company Culture

    The first and most important part of expanding your staff is to know what your company’s goals, work culture and other expectations are ahead of time.

    Having a clear vision of your company’s growth and its brand identity can act as your compass for the rest of your decision-making down the road and make cannabis staffing easier.

    Obviously, happy employees are good employees. Focusing on creating a positive and supportive environment can go a long way towards making your staff show up on time and are in a ready-to-work mood.

    Please keep in mind, setting your employee’s wages can be key to finding good candidates. You can note in recent years companies have increased their employee turnover due to poor work environments and wages being set too low. So, keep your employees happy by paying them what they deserve!

    Below are a few steps you can take towards creating a company culture that fosters good vibes and good service.

    Have A Mission Statement

    People work better when they have a purpose and meaning to their work. Think about why you got into the cannabis industry and the people that you want to serve with your business, then express this in a statement of one or two sentences.

    Set Clear Expectations

    Writing up an employee handbook will save you a lot of headaches down the road and take the stress from your employees. No one likes being in the dark, so having all your rules and standards in one place keeps everyone on the same page.

    Some states will also require on-board training for employees, this will go hand in hand with providing an employee workbook to help prepare your employees as much as you possibly can.

    Create A Friendly & Supportive Atmosphere

    Your employees will be much happier if they know you have their backs. Look into offering incentives and benefits such as paid time off, sick days, insurance and more. Healthy employees are happy employees.

    Do not neglect to treat your employees to other perks such as discounts, lunches, and staff parties for holidays and birthdays. These go a long way towards making your staff feel appreciated and building comradery!

    Cannabis Staffing: Who to Hire

    You have set your expectations, envisioned your company culture, and put employee benefits into place. Now it is time to bring people on to your staff.

    Knowing how to spot a future team player with good customer service and the right knowledge for the job is tough, especially when you have nothing but a resume to start with. When dealing with cannabis staffing, remember that this is an emerging industry. Not every potential star employee will have direct cannabis industry experience. Instead, you want to look for people who have transferrable skills. These skills can vary depending on the position, so let us dive into some potential jobs you will want to fill.

    General Manager

    If you have received a license to dispense cannabis, you will be looking for the perfect general manager to lead your company successfully. The GM will be your right-hand person. They will take the day-to-day responsibilities off your hands as an owner and will be invaluable for their on-the-ground management experience.

    A good general manager will be able to wear many hats. They will field consumer complaints, manage staff and schedules, and maintain all the necessary financial and legal requirements a dispensary has.

    When interviewing potential general managers, make sure to emphasize problem-solving skills and the ability to multi-task in high-stress situations. This is a position you want to fill with someone who has proven experience.  Advanced knowledge of cannabis, legal restrictions and experience handling large sums of money is also important, however cannabis training is available to catch an otherwise-experienced manager up to speed.

    Receptionist/Budtender

    These folks are the face of your business and your direct line to sales, so making the correct hire for your dispensary agents is crucial. Retail experience is the most important thing to look for when hiring a budtender. You want someone who can handle cash as well as work face-to-face with customers. A good budtender is outgoing, helpful, and friendly. Ideally, you will find someone with knowledge about cannabis products, but an eagerness to learn is also a plus!

    Compliance Officer

    This is an extremely important position and often overlooked. When businesses are getting off the ground, your compliance officer ensures that your business is navigating the tricky area of cannabis legality well.

    This position and the responsibilities included can be combined with other roles while your business is still growing. Your general manager or your director of operations may assume compliance officer responsibilities. Eventually, as you see a demand, inventory & foot-traffic, you might want to investigate having this be a standalone position.

    Compliance is KEY, you want to make sure your business is adhering to all federal, state, and local ordinances and that your employees are following the same guidelines as well. One mistake can cost you your business license!

    Inventory Manager

    Inventory managers are needed in all cannabis businesses, dispensaries, cultivation facilities and processing facilities. Your products need to be able to be traced all the way from seed to sale.

    As your business grows, so will your inventory. Multiple contracts with distributors can start to get overwhelming. The last thing you need is an unorganized stock room and a store full of waiting customers, or worse, an audit.

    An inventory manager is someone who has successfully managed inventory either in cannabis or in a different industry. They need to be familiar with physical steps necessary to complete a full inventory audit and is proficient in managing your point-of-sale systems to ensure everything is where it should be regarding your inventory.

    Accountant/Financial Officer

    This is another job that overlaps well with the inventory manager if you are looking to expand slowly (always a smart move).  Someone with experience in managing accounts payable, accounts receivable, that is proficient in accounting software, will be a lifesaver to your business. Cannabis experience can be helpful in keeping up with the ever-changing cannabis tax laws, but not necessary.

    Master Grower

    Hiring a cannabis cultivator can be tricky, while everyone believes they can grow the best cannabis – not everyone has the proper qualifications. You will want someone who has multiple years working in the LEGAL cannabis industry as a commercial cultivator.

    Hiring someone who has grown for personal use is NOT a qualified individual. This person will not know how to manage teams, cultivate on a large-scale level, adhere to regulations, create production schedules, and much more.

    Your may want your master grower to have earned a bachelors (or more) degree in botany, horticulture, or a related degree. This is not always required but it is definitely a bonus. You want your master grower as knowledgeable as possibly because there is ALWAYS a lot of troubleshooting and problem solving in a cultivation facility. Anything can go wrong that can ruin your crop, you need someone who is able to problem solve as quickly and efficiently as possible.

    Cultivation Technician

    Again, not everyone knows how to cultivate cannabis and for your entry level cultivation roles, you will receive candidates with no previous experience cultivating. So how do you find the perfect candidate for this role? Look for someone who has nursery experience or they may have production or manufacturing experience, they will possess the ability to do repetitive work, have patience, be able to lift heavy objects, and follow directions. These are also attributes that you will look for in individuals you are hiring for entry level production positions.

    Having passion to do a hard day’s work is going to be key, cultivation technicians usually have a passion for learning how to cultivate on a commercial level. Find those candidates because they may end up becoming your future master grower.

    Other Positions

    As your business grows, so will your cannabis staffing need. You might have housebound customers who are interested in having their orders delivered (if delivery is available in your state), so delivery drivers may be necessary.

    A Marketing/Social Media Content Manager is almost a requirement now days, as well. Advertising is extremely regulated and restricted in the cannabis industry. Each state has their own regulations so you will need someone familiar with marketing IN the cannabis. Website content and social media postings, interactions and response time are extremely important in providing the best service possible for your customers.

    Security is also extremely important. Dispensaries handle large amounts of cash and marijuana products, which makes you a potential target for criminal activities. Hiring trained security officers and utilizing multiple security systems to prevent diversion, theft and robberies is required in each state.

    Recruiting Good Staff

    Many owners and dispensary managers are just too busy to comb through the 100-300 resumes that currently come in for each cannabis job opening. Remember, the cannabis industry is an emerging field, and many people are looking for a way in.

    Cannabis Recruiters, like HempStaff, can save you time and money by narrowing down hundreds of candidates to a qualified handful. Not to mention employees placed by recruiting agencies tend to stay longer as they do not want to look bad to the recruitment firm, in case they are in search of future employment. Many recruiters, like HempStaff, offer no upfront cost or exclusivity, which means there is no risk to try their services!

    If you have questions relating to staffing in the cannabis industry or the content of this article, Joan Samuels would welcome the opportunity to talk with you.  Ms. Samuels can be reached at (855) 665-5627 Ext. 706 or  joan@hempstaff.com.

    IBA, the Pacific Northwest’s premier business brokerage firm since 1975, is available as an information resource to the media, business brokerage, mergers & acquisitions, and real estate communities on subjects relevant to the purchase & sale of privately held companies and family owned businesses.  IBA is recognized as one of the best business brokerage firms in the nation based on its long track record of successfully negotiating “win-win” business sale transactions in environments of full disclosure employing “best practices”.

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