Building the right team can be one of the most challenging parts of starting a new enterprise. However, a good team can save you thousands of dollars and help you retain your best customers and secure your best practices. While building the right team is a challenge in every industry, it is particularly so in the cannabis industry because of the stringent requirements for dispensary employees in North America.
Also, because the cannabis industry is a relatively new one, it is hard to find qualified and experienced employees who can help you survive the rough seas of starting up and plotting a path to success.
The first decision you need to make when building your team is what positions you plan to fill. We have prepared a breakdown of the 8 core roles you need to fill at your cannabis dispensary to start well and grow sustainably.
When hiring your first team to help you get your dispensary up and running, you should divide it into two—dispensary employees and consultants.
The consultants are those members on the team whose services you need periodically, but not regularly enough to make them full-time employees. These team members will usually be called in to perform specific functions like file taxes, carry out audits and assessments, and other specialized duties for the dispensary. You should check to verify that your consultants are appropriately licensed to carry out the duties they do for your dispensary.
Some of the roles that are usually filled by consultants include:
This is the most important role you need to fill before you open your cannabis dispensary. Because the cannabis industry is relatively young, there is still a lot of grey area regarding the industry's regulations and policies.
For instance, in the United States there is a gap between the positions taken by the federal government and many states over whether to legalize either medical or recreational cannabis consumption. Because of the grey area within the regulations, cannabis businesses should always be able to fall back on the services of a lawyer to help them navigate the complexities of the legal position.
There are two main reasons your dispensary will need a lawyer on retainer. The first is to navigate the registration and licensing process for the dispensary. The second is in case you need good representation should you ever have to go to court.
The second most important consultant you will have in your team will be a Chartered Public Accountant (CPA). The company accountant will help you sort out your payroll, pay your state and federal income taxes, and comply with any other IRS or CRA requirements.
Having a good accountant will help you comply with mandatory payments, deductions, and declarations and save you a lot of money in accounting errors and penalties. Therefore, you should make sure you hire the best accountant you can afford because a mistake from them could cost you a lot of money or, even worse, take you to jail.
Every state has created its system to regulate cannabis dispensaries. However, because of the lack of uniformity of regulation across the different states, compliance with the regulations looks different from one state to another. As a result, your dispensary needs a full-time compliance officer to help you manage and document all aspects of your business for compliance purposes.
Furthermore, the compliance officer handles any paperwork that needs to be filed and administrative reporting mandated by the state. Once the business is established, it is common for most employers to train their office managers to play the role of the compliance officer. However, you should get an experienced professional to help you set up the right processes during the startup phase of the dispensary.
This is another important role that you need to fill before you even open your doors to customers. In most states, you will not get a license before passing a security audit carried out by a licensed professional in the security industry. Many states have security and surveillance guidelines that you have to adhere to qualify for licensing, so having your own professional oversee the installation of your security system could help speed along the process of acquiring a license.
It should go without saying that, after getting your license, you will need to secure the valuable product in the store and your staff members. Therefore, as a bare minimum, you're going to need a 24/7/365 security presence, including live personnel, transport planning, alarms, cameras, and recording equipment.
Now that we are done with the key consulting positions you need to fill, let us move on to the key employee positions that will also need to be filled before receiving customers. These include:
This is perhaps the most important role you’ll need to fill early on. You will need a qualified and experienced retail store manager to run the dispensary. This person can assist you during the initial set-up of the store, advise on best practices, help evaluate suppliers, recommend potential employees, and provide a great deal of general assistance in running your storefront.
It is not uncommon to find business owners trying to operate as store managers and, while it is not illegal, it would not be recommended. Store managers in cannabis dispensaries have to be licensed to work in a cannabis business, which is not something the entrepreneur would ordinarily have. Furthermore, we mentioned in the previous chapter that a cannabis business is first-and-foremost a retail business. Having a qualified and experienced retail store manager could help implement those things you can only know after spending time in the retail industry.
Your budtenders are the first line of contact for your customers, so their performance can make or break you. In today's world, where everyone has a cell phone with internet access and is one click away from the global internet, an unprofessional or ill-tempered moment by a budtender can kill your brand—and with it, your time, effort, and resources.
Furthermore, a simple mistake like selling cannabis to an underage customer or unqualified patient (for medical cannabis dispensaries) could result in you losing your business license and being put under a states-wide lifetime ban from ever again applying for a cannabis license.. As a result, it is important that you find the right people and give them adequate training to be ambassadors for your brand. They should be the most informed people in the room on the quality of the product and the effects that are to be expected. Your budtenders play a crucial role in your customer experience, so make sure you get the right ones.
It’s critical to hire an experienced and dedicated inventory manager whose sole job is to conduct daily inventory audits and reconciliations and handle any inventory reports or inspections by the regulators. In addition, your inventory manager needs to monitor the product quantities in your stores and make sure top-selling items get restocked as efficiently as possible.
Your inventory manager needs to implement an effective inventory management system that helps you identify missing products easily and also catch defective products and execute recalls smoothly. This is another important hire that you will need to get right.
Cannabis dispensaries are attractive targets for both employee and outsider theft. For this reason, investing in qualified and trained full-time security personnel to complement your security system would be a great idea.
Another reason why security officers would be a good idea is because of how hard it is to get comprehensive insurance coverage, especially in the United States, where the cannabis business is still not legal at federal level. Therefore, you are better off beefing up your security than betting on insurance should something go wrong.
Now that you know the key roles you need to fill, let us take you through how to hire great employees. Most people think that employment is simply about offering key personnel favorable salaries to work for you—but it is much more than that.
We have prepared a guide of six steps for you to follow to hire and retain great team members. Those six steps are:
Cannabis is a niche industry that offers a unique product. Cannabis consumers are of a certain demographic and profile and can be found by identifying where they would 'hang out’. Given that cannabis appeals more to the young than it does to the old, you should investigate where the Millennial and Gen Z groups spend their time.
For most of them, you will find that their favorite hangout spot is the internet, so you will have to invest in social media ads and recruiting campaigns. You will also have to join online jobs platforms like weednextdoor.com, which specialize in helping cannabis businesses find employees interested in working for them.
In addition to recruiting online, you should source referrals from your best employees. who are great sources of references for target employees, since they know what you need from an employee, and will be able to spot who is going to be a good fit. It would help if you also considered recruiting on campuses because cannabis is popular among the younger generations.
A good job posting acts like a good hook to a story. With a good posting, you can be sure that the best available people will apply for the job, especially if you figured out where to find them. Several elements comprise a good job post:
If your job posting includes all the above, you will receive the best applicants available on that platform.
One of the best ways to identify a potential diamond in the rough is to design a thorough and smart interview process. Aim to use the interview process to get a sense of the candidate's background, past job experience, strengths, and weaknesses, as well as their dreams and ambitions. As a result, you will be better placed to identify who could best fit in your team and who can best represent the interests of your company going forward.
While many employers often skip this step, calling those listed as references on the applicant's resume can help you gain some insights and context on the candidate that you could not get from the candidate themselves—insights like what the candidate is like to work with, manage, and how they align with your value system.
Candidates often exaggerate their strengths and diminish their weaknesses. Calling the references and asking them to evaluate the candidate's strengths and weaknesses might be a more revealing experience than the interview with the candidate. You will be more likely to get meaningful feedback on the candidate's nature and work ethic—speaking as one manager/employer to another—than as an interviewer to a potential recruit.
The onboarding process also plays a big role in the performance of a recruit. It could make the difference between a recruit hitting the ground running and failing to adjust to the company culture and leaving prematurely. During the onboarding process, there are some steps you can take to make sure that your recruits adjust to your culture quickly and participate in the company's success. These steps include:
Hiring the best talent and offering them big paychecks won’t mean much if you can’t retain them. All a high staff turnover does is increase your costs of recruitment and destroy your organizational culture and morale.
Being able to retain employees is one of the markers of a successful business. Therefore implementing a talent retention strategy early on is key. Here are some of the ways to do that: