Essential Security Tips to Scale Your Dispensary with Cal McDonald (Solink)

Episode Description

In this episode of the Kaya Cast Podcast, we sit down with Cal McDonald from Solink, who shares valuable insights on how cannabis business owners can maximize operational efficiency, maintain compliance and scale their dispensaries. McDonald highlights the need for businesses to focus on compliance due to the volume of transactions and staff management challenges typical in this blossoming industry.

We discuss how the passion of a business owner shapes the direction they steer their time and energy towards, making sure the business runs harmoniously. Cal insists that focusing on the foundational elements of running a successful business is crucial.

We also cover the importance of high-tier security considerations when setting up a cannabis business, walking you through the balance between compliance and operations, shedding light on the essential use of video cameras, control access, security systems, and battery backups.

If you're a business owner or manager considering expansion, Cal provides expert tips on how to effectively manage multiple locations by streamlining operational processes, maintaining a consistent customer experience, and monitoring employee behavior.

Lastly, Cal shares his top tip for business owners aiming to increase efficiency within their operation: automate as much as possible and value your time appropriately.

Whether you're a new business owner in the cannabis industry or looking for ways to enhance your existing operations, this episode is packed with practical information and expert advice to help you achieve success in this thriving market.

Cal McDonald is the Territory Manager for the Cannabis Industry at Solink, a video security company that empowers businesses to perform better through the use of smart technology and analytics.

Cal holds a Business degree in Marketing from the University of Ottawa. At Solink, Cal oversees the implementation of video surveillance in the cannabis industry and is utilizing his skills to make Solink the go-to solution for businesses requiring video surveillance and loss prevention services.

Find out more about Solink at:

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Episode Transcript

Tom Mulhern: Welcome to the Kaya Cast Podcast. I'm your host, Tom Mulhern. And today on the show, I have a conversation all about cannabis security with Cal McDonald, who is the territory manager for cannabis, for Solink. And Solink is a video security company that empowers businesses to perform better using technology and analytics to really get insights into their data.

And they're not just a security company. Their security system integrates with a point of sale system to really give cannabis businesses unbelievable access to data that otherwise they wouldn't know. It makes them more secure. It makes them a better, more effective business.

And so, Cal and I dove into a whole bunch of topics, including, prioritizing. And employee training and compliance and, you know, having efficient time management for owners, business owners, where are you spending your time? Where are you investing your time in your business to really grow it?

We also dove into, you know, streamlining operations and how businesses can be more secure. All of these different things. So I really, really hope you enjoy this conversation with Cal McDonald from Solink.

Tom Mulhern: Cal McDonald is the Territory Manager for the Cannabis Industry at Solink, a video security company that empowers businesses to perform better through the use of smart technology and analytics. Cal holds a business degree in marketing from the University of Ottawa.

At Solink, Cal oversees the implementation of video surveillance in the cannabis industry and is utilizing his skills to make Solink the go to solution for businesses requiring video surveillance and loss prevention services. So Cal, welcome to the Kaya Cast podcast, man. It's awesome to have you on the podcast!

Cal McDonald: Pumped to be here, Tom. Really excited. Thank you for having me on.

Tom Mulhern: I want to jump right into your background and how did you end up working, you know, in security and working in the cannabis industry?

Cal McDonald: About 15 years ago or so, I worked for a sort of a sister company to Solink. So it was tech industry, software, that sort of thing. I did that for a while and I met a lot of people in this space and I kept in touch with a lot of those people. I ended up jumping around and doing a whole lot of other things between then and now.

And I kept in touch with a lot of people in this industry and in, in software in general. And I spoke with them, you know, a couple of years ago about what Solink did. And I was really intrigued largely from the perspective of having experience as a business owner.

The value proposition was something that I didn't realize was actually happening. I didn't know people were essentially leveraging the security system as a business intelligence tool. So, you know, taking the hardware you have in place for security and then saying, Hey, how can we use these cameras, this data from the point of sales and help it benefit the business.

Give me a brief overview of Solink. What are some of the main focuses, because I know you're not just only in the cannabis industry, you're a big organization, so yeah, paint a picture of Solink for us.

We are in really any brick and mortar business can be using Solink.

The way I break this down is into three pieces.

Solink is your video surveillance, your video management system. So it means by which you can easily access video, you know, take a look at what's happening in your business, find, save, share video and then also put analytics on top of that video to allow you to automate certain processes within the business.Number two is security. So we use the cameras as a security system. It's actually quite interesting. It results in increased response time from police based on a video verification security system. So we use the cameras as the security rather than having a secondary system for security.

And then the final piece is an integration with point of sales. So we pull data from point of sales system.

What we call business intelligence in pulling data from the point of sales. And then pairing that with the video system and then making everything within the business searchable.

So I can search for transactions. I can search for products, employees, and so on. And again, it leverages the existing camera system and the point of sale system to streamline that process.

Tom Mulhern: What are some of the considerations a business owner has to come with when they're dealing in c@nn@b1s

Cal McDonald: Definitely comes down to compliance in cannabis. It also comes down to the volume of business that you're doing. A lot of customers that we talked to were doing 150 - 1,000 transactions a day, where you have

employees in an industry that's very young trying to manage those employees, trying to train those employees and so on, keeping track of their behavior, essentially, you know, what are they doing while they're working for your business, right? So. Really, compliance is at the forefront. You have to tick a lot of boxes, depending on the state that you're in, the local municipality, you need to make sure you're meeting a lot of different requirements.

But where Solink has strength is we provide everything you need for compliance, but there's that extra layer of essentially time savings, which I don't know if now's the appropriate time to delve into it, but that's a huge part of what we do.

Tom Mulhern: How does it help with that time savings?

Cal McDonald: As a business owner, really, it comes down to you and the passion that you have for your business. You're the one person who's always going to be making sure that everything's running the way that you want it to be ran, right? So you have a limited amount of time in a day and the decision as to where you place that time is extremely critical for the long term success of your business.

In cannabis, there tends to be this sort of gold rush mentality where you're in a new state. You establish yourself early on in the process of licensing. You're doing very well. The market's doing very well at the beginning, but over time it becomes more and more saturated.

People have more options. People start going to different shops and so on. And it's imperative that owners are focusing on those, those foundational elements of what it takes to keep a successful business and run a successful business. And I think as most people are aware, I mean, location plays a big role, but the customer experience is so critical. If I was the owner of a dispensary, I would be in there on a regular basis. I would be making sure that the way my employees are interacting with customers is meeting a standard that is just absolutely exceptional.

Now, if someone's brand new, they're, they're just opening up a dispensary what advice would you give to them? Where would you say to put their money, their time, their focus with, when it comes to security for a brand new dispensary?

It's a balance between compliance and operations. And what I mean by that is you absolutely have to do what's required for compliance. We're going to need video cameras. You need them everywhere, regardless of the state that you're in.

You need a security system, for sure. In many states, you need access control in some states, you need panic buttons. And in most states, you need some kind of a battery backup. Those are the main elements that you're going to encounter. So you're going to need some variety of each of those.

As you're evaluating where to put your resources, it's okay. I met compliance, but I don't, I don't want just a system that's I just paid for. And now I don't use it at all. Like it's going to be used maybe once in a decade.

I want to make sure that. I've set it up so when I encounter common scenarios as a business owner, I'm able to very easily use this system to my advantage, right? So a simple example, very, very simple example is you have a vault and you need to have one camera in your vault. But if you have one camera in your vault, it's very likely that it's unable to see all of the products within the vault.

And if you're going to be verifying when you lost product or when product you know, disappeared, essentially, you're going to have to go into your vault. You're going to have to access one of those cameras and take a look at what happened in that moment. So you don't want it just for compliance. You might want another camera angle there so that you can easily verify what happened in a particular moment.

These are the considerations. It's what's going to happen on a day to day in running your business. You want to be able to have visibility into, of course, the customer experience, what your employees are doing, making sure that during downtime, you know, your employees are following procedure. Are they organizing the storefront?

Are they making sure things are very presentable for customers and so on? That really comes down largely to being on site is one element, but if you're of the mind of try to expand your business. You want to have multiple businesses, multiple shops and so on. You want to really streamline this kind of stuff.

So you can hop on your phone really briefly and say, okay, let's make sure everything's going the way that it's supposed to go.

That's the camera side and really the camera side is where the majority of those decisions are made because access control, panic buttons, things like that, these really come down to compliance.

Now what about for those businesses that are scaling to multiple locations? What advice would you have for someone to scale to multiple locations and keep compliance and security?

It's pretty tough not to just say go with Solink, you know, because really the platform that we have, it allows you to just add more locations on the same platform, right? So you'll log in. To, you know, you click on one location, you can, you can search all locations. You can see traffic throughout all your stores.

You can search point of sales transactions throughout all locations. So in scaling, so for example, one thing that we do a lot, there are our customers in cannabis, but also in retail and restaurants where they have a recording device at every single one of their sites. So maybe they got three sites, 20 sites, 10, 000 sites, right?

And they have a recording device at every site. And each recording device, maybe different sites have different recording devices and they're logging with different apps to get into different devices. And none of those devices are connected to their point of sale system. None of them are in a position where they're easily connected to one another.

If you're planning on having multiple businesses, particularly, just making sure that you're able to use the same systems, that level of familiarity is going to save you a lot of time, you're going to know how to use those systems, that's going to, you know, result in, again, time savings, and if you use something like what Solink has,

you will have cameras at all your locations and it'll be as if it's one location, really, based on the data that you're bringing in and the cameras that you can view. And that is really critical. If you're planning on scaling, then that's something you want to think about in on day one.

And there's no reason to think that that means a bigger investment up front. It actually, it oftentimes doesn't. You can find you know, companies like ours who will set you up for a very competitive rate. And then as you scale it's just beneficial because they're all a part of that same system.

Tom Mulhern: I have one more question for you. What is one tip that you would have for a cannabis to launch, scale, or grow their business?

Cal McDonald: Automate as much as you can so that your time is spent on the highest value activities, right? It comes down to the fact that we are seeing through the various States rolling out their programs that there is a trend, the trend is a bunch of shops open, they find a lot of success early on, slowly over time, the markets become more saturated, certain businesses make it, and certain businesses don't.

I think that it's a phenomenal, like an, actually an unbelievable opportunity for the people who are getting in early in this space, but as you get rolling, and I'm sure most people know this, but you achieve a lot of success.

However, we know through experience that a lot of these businesses have greater challenges, three, five, 10 years down the road. So again, going back to how can I automate the things that are just not wasting my time, but I shouldn't have to spend my time on. What do you, where, how do you value your time?

You know, How many dollars is a minute worth to you, and if you can save a lot of time on a regular basis and then dedicate that time to making sure that the most critical elements of your business are functioning properly and, you know, enjoying life on top of that, I think that's, that's really where my head is at.

Tom Mulhern: Yeah, and that's such great advice because for people in, you know, tech and software, we're always trying to find ways to optimize and automate. And even in my role, I automate everything.And I think that's, that is such good advice for a business owner who may not be as familiar or comfortable with that. It's, there are tools out there to help with that automation.

Cal McDonald: In a lot of cases, there are definitely major benefits to having the service and the support of businesses who are taking care of a lot of different things for you and because they're experts in their niche they're going to be able to do it very efficiently, which means their costs won't be very high relative to what your costs would be if you tried to do that yourself.

So just keeping an open mind to the fact that you will likely have some recurring expenses and those recurring expenses can really pay you back.

If you really dig into it and you see the value that comes from it and the time savings, there is a ton of value there. So I would, I would just stay open minded to that

Tom Mulhern: So Cal, how can people connect with you guys, connect with Solink? What are the, some of the main markets that you work in and yeah, how can people get connected to what you're doing?

Cal McDonald: Solink, Definitely an easy way to check us out. And you can schedule a meeting with anybody through the website. You can come to, you know, you come to me directly. You know, That's me. You'll see us at a lot of different shows.

We're generally at as many shows as we can be. That's in, in restaurants, in retail, in, in cannabis particularly.

Well, we'll have all of the links to the, in the bio of this podcast episode for people to connect and find out more about you, but Cal, thank you so much for taking this time and sharing so much about it. Thank you. No, I really appreciate the opportunity. I really feel for the people who are running these businesses and I really know that you can be in a position where you're putting it on the line, you know, and you have to work very, very hard. And a lot of people don't understand the work that goes into running your own business, you know? And so I love working with people like that. I feel like there's a certain level of being willing to take that risk, take that step into running your own business.

I love that. So I love working with people like that.

That's right. Well, thanks again. It's been great.

Thanks a lot, Tom.

Tom Mulhern: Automation has saved me so much time in my role. And if you're a cannabis business owner, Who's thinking automation, what are you even talking about? Well, there are so many software tools out there in the cannabis space to help you automate different aspects of your business. At KayaPush we offer an all-in-one solution that really allows you to do HR payroll, all of your people management at the push of a button. This is going to save you time and money. And this is just an example of what Cal was talking about.

And so I really, really appreciate Cal's advice to automate as much as you can in your business. So you can focus on growing your business.

I want to encourage you to check out Solink, check out the links in the bio to find out more about what they're doing and how you can connect with them.

And I want to thank you for listening to the podcast today for being a subscriber to the podcast and for supporting what we're doing. We're so excited to connect with people. Coming up here soon at MJ biz con, if you're going to be there, let's hang out. And stay tuned for more interviews, just like this on the Kaya Cast podcast.

Thanks for listening to the KayaCast podcast. We hope you enjoyed the show. Don't forget to subscribe to our podcast in your favorite podcast app, or visit our website to learn more about our guests and to access the full archive of episodes from the show. Join us next time as we continue to explore the world of cannabis and help you grow, launch, and scale your business.

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