Cannabis Business Tips: Pre-Launch Strategy, Sales, and More (Cova)

Episode Description

In today's exciting episode of the Kaya Cast Podcast, we sit down with Chris Reid from Cova Software. Known for shaping and scaling businesses in the cannabis landscape, Chris takes us on an insightful journey revealing what it takes to truly grow your business. Sharing his wisdom on pre-launch strategies and vital aspects pertaining to sales, staff development, operations, and understanding customers, he offers a wealth of advice aimed at both newbie and seasoned cannabis business owners.

Diving into the importance of compliance in the cannabis industry, Chris takes us behind the scenes of Cova's phenomenal growth, explaining how they stepped into the arena as a mature player and put compliance at the forefront of their operations. We also get to explore the critical role played by tech stack selection and the determination to maintain market presence in the ever-changing compliance landscape.

As we continue our conversation, we delve into the art of fostering customer relationships in dispensaries, harnessing data and analytics for business development, and tackle issues such as dynamic discounting. Wrapping up, we take an in-depth look at the necessity of spending time in the retail locations, understanding your staff, their strengths, and weaknesses, and, most importantly, knowing your business inside out.

This episode offers a treasure trove of practical tools and tips to develop, launch, and scale a successful cannabis business. It's not to be missed!

Chris is Head of Sales for Cova Software, an award-winning cannabis POS & inventory management platform that simplifies compliance and streamlines complex dispensary operations. Chris and Cova are aligned in a mission of empowering cannabis retailers to achieve their vision of success.

Born and raised in Colorado, his passion for the industry is fueled not only by the incredible potential for growth he sees, but the profound impact of cannabis he has experienced as a medical patient, a caregiver, and an advocate. An entrepreneur at heart, Chris is inspired to help others succeed and push the industry forward—sharing his valuable expertise in retail POS and eCommerce.

Find out more about Cova Software at:

#CannabisBusiness #CovaSoftware #ChrisReid #KayaCast #CannabisIndustry #Compliance #TechStack #CustomerRelationships #DataAnalytics #DynamicDiscounting #RetailLocations #BusinessDevelopment #BusinessScaling

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Episode Transcript

Tom Mulhern: Chris Reed is head of sales at Cova Software, an award winning cannabis POS and inventory management platform that simplifies compliance and streamlines complex dispensary operations. Chris and Cova are aligned in a mission of empowering cannabis retailers To achieve their vision of success. So Chris, welcome to the KayaCast podcast.

It's amazing to have you on this show and it's just awesome to, you know, get together in this sort of forum. So it's, it's great to have you on the podcast.

Chris Reid: Well, I appreciate that Tom and yeah, likewise a big fan and big fan of Kaya and in the podcast and and big fan of you 

Tom Mulhern: So well, there you go. I'm a big fan of you and a big fan of Cova so Chris, why don't we just like jump into your background and quickly kind of? How did you end up in the cannabis industry and what's your background?

Chris Reid: I appreciate the question. So I was working in sales and tech, you know, at the end of the day, I didn't believe in, in the spaces that I was in to a point where if I had a bad day at work, I still believed it was worthwhile. You know, I found myself frequently going, this day wasn't enjoyable and I don't feel like I'm doing anything meaningful.

So I started my own company. I was having some fun doing that. I started a company with a couple of partners and then about eight months into that journey, my oldest daughter was born. Six weeks prematurely and with a litany of issues. She was flight for life at two hours old and spent her first hundred days in the NICU at Children's Hospital, Colorado.

And while I was there, I came up against an ultimatum to essentially either be bought out of the, the company I had started or, or buy out my partners because my detour was kind of distracting from the business, which was, was fair. So I stepped away from that and I focused on, on my daughter. And while I was in the hospital, I noticed that that gap I had, most of the professionals there in the hospital didn't have that.

At the end of the day, they believed in what they were doing. So even if they had a bad day, There was meaning, and I wanted that. Initially re entered the work world, or the professional world. I took jobs that I could get. Right? And they weren't in a space that I was passionate about, but ultimately I realized that cannabis was that space.

I had seen the positive impact that it had on my life, as well as those around me. And, and being part of the special needs community, you, you see stories like kids that have had seizures every day of their life. And, and, you know, cannabis is introduced and all of a sudden they don't. So my own personal experience partnered with that.

I knew I wanted to get into cannabis. I started reaching out to everyone I knew on LinkedIn who was part of the cannabis industry and offered to take them to lunch just to pick their brain about a good avenue into the space and one person I think took me out, maybe two, I think it was just one person and he connected me with the CEO of a company that eventually hired me and I worked my way up there starting as an account executive and you know by the time I left there I was I was doing a lot.

It was far more than an account man, or account executive, and really more than even a head of sales. And then I transitioned into the role here at COBA a couple years ago now. 

Tom Mulhern: That's an amazing story. And I know whenever I speak to anyone who cannabis has made their life better from like a health standpoint, and especially their family, you know, as a dad, it matters if we get better, but our kids like seeing the change and doing something we're passionate about.

That's so key.

Chris Reid: It hasn't been part of my daughter's journey, but my daughter's journey has led me next to some families where it has been part of the journey for their children and the impact it makes. I mean, there are people who have moved states just specifically for access to cannabis. You know, that's something that we've got to change, but we only get change by doing things the right way when we get freedom.

Tom Mulhern: Give me a brief overview of Cova and kind of what makes Cova unique. There's a lot of point of sale systems out there for dispensaries, inventory management systems. So what is Cova and what makes you guys the number one point of sale system?

Chris Reid: There are a number of things. One is We came into this space as the grownup in the room, right?

A lot of folks were building from scratch and scaling to demand, and that wasn't the journey for Cova, right? Cova was brainchild of our CEO as well as our parent company, and our parent company has been providing point of sale to the cellular space for over two decades, and provides point of sale for over 80 percent of the cellular space in North America.

So, clearly know what they're doing when it comes to point of sale, but then our CEO went out and met with operational... cannabis retailers prior to launching Cova and he asked them what keeps you up at night. And in the cannabis space, you know, we could have taken guesses at what that would be and we probably would have been wrong because the resounding answer was compliance.

And it's something that if you're coming into the cannabis space, you might not think of first and foremost, you know, from a tech stack perspective. But using that as the cornerstone of COVID and building our company around compliance in education, altruism for the retailer has put us in a position where...

You know, we're able to deliver value and we've been able to grow our market share very quickly. You know, we're certainly not the oldest point of sale on the market, but, you know, according to cannabis media last year, we were the most dominant in North America. 

Tom Mulhern: When a dispensary is looking to get a point of sale system and, you know, like you said, we'll, we'll try and stay unbiased here as, as a point of sale person, but what are some of the key features that dispensary owners should be looking for when choosing their point of sale system?

Chris Reid: Obviously we said compliance. But what else? No, it's a, it's a great question. And, uh, I am biased and I, I do have to admit that, but at the same point in time, the bigger bias I have is for the success of canvas retailers. You know, there is enough food on the table for all of us to eat, you know. It's about growing this industry and growing this industry in a manner that allows us to continue to do so.

But stepping off of that soapbox for a moment to answer your question. Yeah, when it comes to choosing a tech stack or, or point of sale for a dispensary, there are a number of things to take into consideration. But first, I would say is commitment to your market specifically. You know, it's easy to talk about compliance, but compliance changes.

So what kind of resources are devoted? What type of attention is being paid to those iterations? You know, and is your service provider committed not just to entering a market and grabbing up some share, but are they also going to continue to support that market? And are they going to continue to support you?

You know, if you're coming into cannabis from another retail space, it might be easy to think that it's going to be similar. And in a lot of ways it is, you know, but in a lot of ways it's not. And so there's often, often we found that even those operators with very, very high business acumen and experience, Need some support.

So how important is it to you that your point of sale company or your service providers provide that type of support? And what does that look like? You know, not all support is the same. Are you sending an email and waiting around for a response? Are you talking to a chat bot and hoping the AI is getting things right?

Or are you talking to a live person? And how quickly are they answering the phone and how efficient are they at solving your issues? You know, but beyond that, what's the workflow of your store? You know, if you want to do what we've grown to call the floating bud tender model or the concierge model where you've got staff walking around with your customers in the store, then, you know, a PC based point of sale is going to be kind of clunky and, Matt.

You know, so it, it kind of, it depends. And what I would say is that, you know, putting my bias aside and all jokes aside, There is not one provider that's right for every operator in the, in the space. And I do, I say that at my own cost, right? But we're young enough that anyone who claims to be everything to everyone is lying to someone.

Tom Mulhern: I think it really is, like you said, it's really unique in the cannabis space because your point of sale. Is your inventory. It's your compliance. You know, it can integrate with your HR platform and it's at a lot of businesses, they come into it and they're just like, Oh, it's just what we take money from.

But it's, it's so integral to the growth of your business. Now you are a expert in sales. You're the head of sales at a point of sale company. So you are like the, the top sales person. So do you have any strategies that you've seen work well in dispensaries for increasing customer sales? 

Chris Reid: First of all, I would say that, you know, at COVID I benefit from the people around me.

Yeah, I'm the head of sales. That's my title, but we're a team and. I would be nothing without the folks around me. And I think we all have different proficiencies that we're able to, to share with our counterparts. So I know you were speaking flatteringly, but I have to do the same for the people around me because truly just the, the cream of the crop.

And I'm very fortunate. What I would say in terms of increasing sales in, in a dispensary is, first of all, having a good understanding of who your customers are, right? And I say that because I think a lot of times we make assumptions that, hey, because it's a cannabis retailer, because it's a dispensary, that the people coming in are going to be motivated by the same things that we may be.

So the first thing would be challenge those assumptions like we were just talking. But the second thing is have conversations and also understand that some people might not want to, right? And some people might not want to have those conversations within earshot. Right? So especially if you have a shop where either all or the majority of your customers are medical patients, there might be cause to have an area of your store that's a bit more discreet.

You know, like, frankly, if I'm in there asking for a cannabis enema, I probably don't want... To have that be public knowledge, you know what I mean? I'm shameless, so I would really have no problem with it, but there are folks that might be turned off by that. You know, but really, it's about conversations. And I think the best place to start with that conversation is, what's your, what's your comfort level?

And can I do anything to make it better? Especially if there's somebody who's visibly kind of intimidated or put off. But past that, I mean, when I reflect on the best experiences I've had in a dispensary, they're asking me what I'm looking for. They're asking me, you know, what types of products are most exciting to me.

And then they're not stopping there. You know, it's not like, hey, do you like flour or edibles? And I say flour, and then they're like, great, we have flour. You know, they're asking me further questions about, like, what kind of flavor profile I'm looking for, or if I'm looking for, you know, specific cannabinoid, if I'm looking for...

Specific terpene profiles and, you know, and then recalibrate, I would say the best cannabis retail associates know how to pivot when the answer is something they weren't expecting, right? So if, if I were to tell you like, Oh, really, I don't care about any of what you just asked me about. I'm just, I just need something that's going to make arthritis feel.

Being able to then recalibrate and focus on. What that person has shared, as opposed to just trying to drive what you were wanting to say down their throat. If that makes sense. 

Tom Mulhern: That totally makes sense. Cause I've been in, you know, dispensary and I'm like, I'm looking for something to kind of help with sleep.

Like I can fall asleep, but I need to stay asleep. And I often get the response of the bud tender. Like, well, my mom uses this and they're like, I'm like, I'm not an old lady here, you know, like, but that's what I'm looking for. And I think it is like training your bud tenders to. be able to pivot and really work with people.

Like, you know, sometimes they get thrown out there because they know about Flower or whatever, but they don't know people. And so that's a huge thing in that Budtender training. That, almost that empathy of working with people. 

Chris Reid: Yeah, absolutely. That is and should be a different conversation than somebody who's coming in looking for You know, the best dab that they can possibly find that's gonna, you know, take the hair off their head, like, and both of those are valid customers.

Both of them deserve to be served on their level, not speaking ill on either of them. But, you know, certainly you want to train your staff to have different conversations with each of those personas. To that point, there is an advantage to owners and operators who spend time in their locations, right? Who aren't exclusively remote.

And if you are exclusively remote, making sure that you have a trusted point person who is spending time in the retail locations to observe and to offer that type of coaching. Because that stuff is impossible to spot just through the numbers.

Tom Mulhern: I'm curious, though, like how dispensary owners can utilize their data to increase sales.

Like what numbers should they be looking at? Like what analytics should they be paying attention to, to really improve sales in their business?

Chris Reid: Think you want to look at an end of day sales report or an end of day report to see how each of your staff is doing. And hopefully you're working with a point of sale where you can see it on that granular of a basis.

So it's not just the team as a whole and here's their numbers. It's here's how employee A, B and C each did today. Here's what their sales were. Here's what their discounts were. That's another area where, you know, it's become a problem in this space over discounting, especially, you know, you might want to run down that rabbit hole and see if the over discounting is paired with a lot of visits from friends and family.

You know, that type of thing can really help you get your revenue on track, but also just in general, looking at, you know, average sales across your reps and making sure that there aren't too many outliers on the low end and looking if there are outliers on the high end, what are they doing right? You know, and making sure that it's all in the up and up, but also looking to then that.

employee to see how are their sales so much higher and then leveraging that to help empower the rest of your team. Additionally, I think there's always an opportunity to, and I mentioned this before, so I apologize for the redundancy, but to spot slow moving products and see if there's an opportunity to train your team to move those products more effectively.

You know, and to empower your team by removing products that are not selling even with. 

Tom Mulhern: I want to dive into Cova and what's next for Cova. I get the, you know, the email marketing things and there's always like new payment in systems in Canada. So what's kind of the future developments or updates for Cova and what can we kind of expect in the next few months here?

Chris Reid: Well, I can't give things away, Tom. I would say that, you know, Cova's goal is always to provide the best experience for our customers. I think there are a lot of companies in this space who through no fault of their own are beholden to different interests, right? And so sometimes they look first at revenue generation and then try to reverse engineer a value proposition for their customers.

That's a hard path to take. What's next for Cova is continuing our path of increasing the value that we can deliver to our customers. And so, you know, you mentioned payments. That was something that came up. We had some pain points from our existing operators with the payment solutions that they had and we We look to introduce something where we could alleviate those concerns and where if they did have issues, they were still coming to one place to get service on.

So, you know, alongside payments, we also introduced e comm, uh, with the same philosophy driving that to provide a better experience for our customers. So we'll seek to continue providing improvements to both of those lines as well as continuing to develop our core product in order to deliver better value to our customers.

Our core product being the point of sale. And we look at both payments and e commerce as things that help improve that offering. You know, but at the heart of what we are, we're, we're retail software stack based around point of sale and inventory management. So we'll continue to make improvements in those areas as well.

And yeah, strive to just continuing to deliver a better experience and making sure our customers stay compliant while they're doing it. 

Tom Mulhern: So what is one tip that you would have for a cannabis business owner to launch, scale, or grow a business? 

Chris Reid: You know, it's a big one. It's a very broad one, but know your business, right?

Know your business and understand what that means. And if you don't, spend some more time at your dispensary or spend some more time with your consultants if you're pre launch, if you haven't opened yet. But know who you're targeting. Know who your ideal customer is. Know your menu. Know whether or not those two things align.

Know your staff, their strengths, know their weaknesses. Know where they can be coached and know where sometimes there are limits on that. You know, there's definitely times when, you know, there are employees that have a really good grasp on a certain area of the business and you want to use them in another area, but it's not a fit for them.

Understand that. Know that. Because if you keep forcing them into a box they don't belong in, eventually you're going to lose them. You know, but it all comes back to knowing your business and you can certainly utilize your tech stack to get a huge amount of that knowledge. But there is a lot that has to be gleaned by spending time with your people, with your products, with your store, with your operation.

You know, especially to identify inefficiencies and to, you know, also to provide the feedback, both negative and positive, right, to those folks in the dispensary who need it. 

Tom Mulhern: And that's awesome. That's the heart of any business is knowing, knowing your business, knowing your people, knowing your customers. And I love it. And that flows. And not again, just to like to Brown knows or whatever, but that really does flow from the top. I've seen it at Cova that Gary knows. He knows his people. He cares and overflows into what everyone's doing there. 

Chris Reid: Just to jump in there and pay it back. I think that one of the reasons why we enjoy working with Kaya so much is that that's so evident on your team as well.

Uh, Tommy, you know, I mean, every time I talk to them, they, they know things about. Staff at Kaya that have nothing to do with work and they're proud of, and that's so cool. They really have an investment in all of you. And I think that that's, it just speaks leagues about what y'all are doing and, and it's why we enjoy work.

One of the reasons why we enjoy working with y'all that much.

Tom Mulhern: So how can people connect with you and connect with Cova and, you know, find out more about what you guys are doing? 

Chris Reid: Great, great question. Yeah. So it's easy to connect with us. Our website definitely has. Number of areas where you can sign up for a demo or, or sign up to get more information.

We have a ton of resources that are available for download on our site. But beyond that, I can be reached at ChrisR at We're open and we love chatting with folks in the space and I'm happy to connect folks with my reps and respective markets as well.

Tom Mulhern: Yeah. Well, Chris, I can't believe you gave your phone number out, but that's all good. Thank you so much for being on the podcast for spending some time just talking about. Sales and, you know, POS and all that stuff. And I really appreciate this time. Yeah. There's nothing I'd rather be doing, Tom. It's been, been a great time.

Chris Reid: I'm happy to chat with you anytime.

Thanks for listening to the KayaCast podcast. We hope you found value in the insights and strategies shared by our guests. If you enjoyed this episode. Be sure to hit the subscribe button and leave a review, or visit our website for show notes and access the full archive of episodes. Join us next time as we continue to explore the world of cannabis retail and help you grow, launch, and scale your dispensary.

Thanks for tuning in, and we'll see you in the next episode.

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