Tips & Tricks

Getting Started in the Cannabis Industry with Tommy Truong (KayaPush)

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Episode Description

Have you been dreaming of starting a career in the cannabis industry but you’re not sure where to begin? It can be overwhelming changing careers or starting something new, especially in the ever changing cannabiz!

In this conversation with Tommy Truong we give practical steps to begin your journey into the cannabis industry. It begins with knowing what you want and where you want to be. Investigating potential employers and receiving the required certifications.

If you would like to get started in your career with Kaya Push check out the Kaya Push Careers page for open positions.

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Episode Transcript

Tommy Truong: To everybody that's listening that already have defined careers that wanna get into the cannabis space. Space is growing at 30% a year, year over year. It's not stopping. There's only 20 states right now that are licensed recreationally and there's 30 states that are left right.

And we know that that's eventually gonna happen.

Tom Mulhern: Everybody has to get a start somewhere in any industry and any job. For someone wanting to get into the cannabis industry, the natural start to get your foot in the door in the industry is starting out as a budtender. And today on the show we're gonna talk to Tommy, one of the founders of our company, and he's gonna kind of share the insights into how to get started finding a role to get into the industry.

So we start with the obvious introduction of the budtender role and what to look for when you are looking for that first gig, that first job. You know, the advice that I've got when I've been looking for a job is you are interviewing your employer as much as your employer is interviewing you. So when you're out there looking for that first role in cannabis or, or maybe you've been in cannabis for a little while and you're looking for something new, you need to look for a company that's gonna fit the culture, the, the passions that you have, and is really gonna be the right fit for your career growth.

So let's jump right into this conversation with myself and Tommy Truong.

Tommy Truong: You know, I, I get, I get asked this a lot what should, people do when they're trying to get into this industry? The cannabis industry is growing at about 30% year over year, right?

The industry is still in infancy, but it's growing so much that so many people want to wanna get into it. And I get this ask probably every other day, is, I wanna get Tommy, I wanna get into the cannabis industry. Where do I start? What do I do? Right? So let's talk about this. I think the first thing that, that everybody should do, first off, is research on the role that you wanna get into.

Let's talk about, Budtenders for example, sales associates at dispensaries. And this is oftentimes the position that is the entry level position that everybody kind of starts with. There's a 55% turnover rate for the bud tender role, 30% within the first two months.

It's somewhat standard when you compare budtenders to other sales associate roles in retail, but it's still quite high. My hunch is part of the reasons why it's high is because one is entry level, but two people come in with the misconceptions of what the role really entails.

The novelty, uh, of it wears off very, very quick. In the beginning, Hey, I'm gonna be selling cannabis. I love cannabis, and that's something I wanna, I wanna get into, right? But that wears off very, very fast and quickly. What people need to realize is that this is a sales associate role.

It is a role in the industry, and there's a lot of benefits that come with it. But ultimately, at the end of the day, customer service. Very important. So if you are a person that does not generally like to talk to other people, and that's what you shy away from, then this roles not for you.

Maybe start off in the cultivation side. Right, that will fit kind of what you're looking for. So I think the first, the first thing for me is always do that research and make sure that, that role is for you because you know what's worse? You become one of those statistics where you start, it's not for you, you leave two months later and that doesn't help on your resume and in future placement. So you kind of have to work for a company for a year or more for, for you to see the benefits of working there.

Tom Mulhern: So for someone who has an interest in cannabis, you know? Has been going to, uh, their local dispensary and it's like, Hey, I want to make this a career. The best first step is really that role of a budtender, right? At the beginning, really that start is learning the product by being a bud tender.

Tommy Truong: So that's the first step is do some research on the role. Make sure that you're comfortable with that role. Entails there's gonna be a lot of customer service. It's, it's a customer service sales role. And make sure that that fits kind of what you're looking. Now granted customer service and sales, that skillset is so important for any role that you get into.

So that's why I'm a true believer that if you wanna get into this industry, the bud tender route is the best route. We can talk a little bit more about the career progressions and the doors that open once you get into this role. But the first step is, is this role for you and does it fit what you're looking for?

What's the next step? The next step for me is, positioning yourself to be able to work in the industry. So, get licensed, depending on where you live and where you work.

Every province or state will have a different, uh, rule set. And it's important that you go and you look online and see what type of background checks are required. So that's, that's the next step is, you know, tomorrow if somebody hires you, can you work.

And if you've done the necessary steps to ensure that you can work the next day, then you are a lot more attractive as an applicant than a person that that hasn't done that.

Tom Mulhern: Is that licensing and training and all of that require. Everywhere or is it different from state to state and province to province.

Tommy Truong: It's regulated by provinces in Canada and by state in the US. You know, We can't go through every single province or every single state. We don't have the time for that. But the first step is go online. Wherever you live, will have resources online and find out what is required for you to sell cannabis.

Tom Mulhern: So that's the first step. And then, then what's next in that journey of getting hired in your first cannabis role?

Tommy Truong: The next step really is, is applying. There's a ton of different companies that you can choose from. I think. Just really understanding what dispensaries are looking for and thinking about it from the other side.

This is entry level role, right? That has very high turnover. On average, budtenders will turn over 55% of the time within the first year. An owner that runs a dispensary, on average, when they hire 10 people to join their team, five to six people will leave within the first year, and three of those people will leave within the first two months.

As an owner, the one thing I'm looking for is what is, you know, what do you know about this role? Do you understand what you're getting into? And is this for you? Because it's very disruptive to hire somebody, train them, invest all these resources for them to leave within two months and decide, Hey, this isn't for me.

So if you can do your homework in the beginning, and really that during the interview process that, hey, you've done your homework and you want a career in this industry. You're excited about this role. You're excited to talk to customers, to improve your sales and customer service skills, as well as, understand the nuts and bolts of a dispensary.

You go into an interview with that attitude and to help the dispensary grow, I guarantee you that, you'll get the job.

Tom Mulhern: I think that investigation of the workplace that you're going to, whether it's a dispensary, Cultivation is so key because I've talked to lots of budtenders who have gotten their start and you know, listening to their story, they've landed at some dispensaries that are great, have a great culture, a culture that has a growth mindset and going into the role, they didn't know that unless they, you know, kind of researched it and found out about, cuz not every dispensary job is the same. Not every dispensary is the same. There's some that really invest in their people and there's some that just are looking for people to do the job and, and, and get it done.

And so I think, you know, you have to be so choosy about where you go, if you want to grow in this field.

Tommy Truong: If you are in a state that is just getting licensed and there are dispensaries that are opening, there's a lot of competition to get placement in these dispensaries cuz it's new, it's a novelty.

These locations are probably gonna get hundreds of applicants, right? So in that situation, make sure that you do your homework and that you come prepared, and that the potential employer just knows that you understand what you're getting yourself into, and that you're not gonna be a statistic, and that you're coachable and that you're a sponge and you wanna learn and improve.

On the flip side because you wanna learn, you wanna grow, you're coachable and you are, you're an A player. You should also vet the company that you're looking to join and make sure that the environment that you're stepping into has that growth mindset.

That they understand that this is career move for you and that you want to progress in your career with the company. They have an environment where it's fun, you're being challenged, right? And that you're growing, you're all constantly learning, and there's opportunities for you to take on new responsibilities in that dispensary.

Tom Mulhern: So what are some of those growth opportunities? Like say you've been a budtender for a couple years now you're ready for the next step in your career, but there's not a management position available. What, where would they go, you know, if they, if not to management, to, to what? What does that next step look like?

Tommy Truong: If you're in an environment that that has a, a growth mindset. They would expose you to skill sets that are beyond the role that you're in. Right? A really good employer will sit down with you and ask you, Hey, Tom, in five years, where do you want to be?

Where is it in this industry that you want to go? What are the skill sets that you need to be successful in your future? And how can we leverage the organization and create a path for you to acquire these skill sets. If you have an open dialogue with your employer and you show that you're willing to learn and that you're gonna significantly improve their operations, when you're coachable, they will give you opportunities to, to harness these skill sets.

And it could be being involved in, display, for example, running sales campaigns, right? Joining the interview process, leading training, taking charge of, of SOPs or standard operating procedures and updating standard operating procedures, things like that, like the nuts and bolts of how a dispensary is run.

Maybe in the beginning you don't know where you want to be or where you want your career to be cuz you're so new in this industry. Right? But over the course of a year, being in the industry, take part in online discussions, talks, and just understand kind of what the avenues of where you wanna go and communicate that with your employer.

Like the dispensary owners know that the bud tender roll is a stepping stone to kind of a future career, either within the dispensary itself because they're growing and there's opportunities available or you know, somewhere else. That leads to our next kind of talking point, is promotions.

What are the opportunities? When we talk about promotions, we don't talk about, I don't meet promotions within the store. I mean, within your career. What are the opportunities in this industry that can give you a fulfilling kind of career? Right. And there's a, There's a lot. An example would be our company.

Shameless plug, , we always, always prefer to hire, people that are in the industry that understand the industry. And oftentimes, you know, when we see a resume, we hire for sales, typically it's gonna be in our sales, team or in our customer service team, depending on, the career that you want.

Quite easily you start off as a sales development route A year later worked your way to a business development manager and into an account exec for them all the way to manager, director, and possibly a VP of of sales one day in tech company, right? And it all started because of your, your role as a bud tender and that you were curious and you wanted to grow and you were coachable.

Tom Mulhern: There's probably a lot of people that, you know on the other side they're well into their career, they're looking for a career change and they're in a different field, oil and gas or something like that, and they're like, I want to do something that matters. And so they switch into cannabis and that tech route or those non plant touching roles are actually a good way in because they're not gonna start over.

They may have a mortgage and kids. And, and I know for me, like I came out of a marketing role in a different industry into cannabis and I can't see any other industry I'd wanna be a part of, but I wasn't gonna start over and be a bud tender and work my way up.

As millennials, we're changing our careers all the time. And so, you know, like you say, Kaya, Push is a good example of a way to get into the industry. Even if you ha don't have that background.

Tommy Truong: You know, If we're hiring a like customer success manager, it's really hard to find a customer success manager that is in the cannabis industry already.

To everybody that's listening that already have defined careers that wanna get into the cannabis space. Space is growing at 30% a year, year over year. It's not stopping. There's only 20 states right now that are, that are licensed recreationally and there's 30 states that are left right.

And we know that that's eventually gonna happen.

Tom Mulhern: Then looking globally. You know, Germany is now legalizing. Europe will follow suit. Like it's just gonna get bigger and bigger.

Tommy Truong: Yeah, it's a, it's a really exciting time right now to plant your flag down, and grow with the industry.

Tom Mulhern: So what kind of wraps all of these thoughts about career and entering the industry? Like what would be your advice to get started to get moving for someone who is like, Yep, I'm, I'm ready. I'm ready to get, to get going.

Tommy Truong: So first is, where are you today? If you're just starting out your career, then really look into entry level positions and you don't necessarily have to start in a dispensary or, you know, you could, you could start in a tech company as well.

You know, a lot of tech companies have entry level roles that service industry, Right. So I, I think it's just really doing a deep dive on what is it that makes you excited and what is it that you wanna do? The industry is the cannabis industry, but the roles and occupations are just as versed and as wide as every other industry that you can think of.

What is it that makes you smile when you think about, you know, what you wanna do with your future

And after that is doing your research on putting yourself in the position of your hiring manager, for example, and what is it that they're looking for? Right? And it's, to be honest with you, at Kaya, it's all on, It's all on attitude. Attitude, willingness to learn, coachability, right? When we assess our candidates, it's actually quite easy, and it's quite simple.

We don't hire based on education. We do hire based on experience, depending on the role that you're applying for, right? But on entry level roles, it comes down to, you know, are you a sponge? What is your aptitude of learning, right?

That's, that's one. Are you coachable? Are you willing to learn different ways to do things? And do you fit into our culture.

So tho those are the three things, and none of it has anything to do with what you know.

Tom Mulhern: And then that knowledge can be such an asset if you do have that. There's that white whale that has the cannabis experience and the willingness to learn new platforms and has that right humility of just saying, Hey, I just wanna learn. I just wanna learn.

Tommy Truong: Honestly that that's what sets, candidates apart is, you know, when, when we look at resumes and cover letters and there is somebody that has experience in the cannabis industry that has all the traits that, that we talk about. That person stands out because they have that experience in the industry and they understand and speak and talk the language.

I hope this is insightful to everybody and I hope this kind of helps just start, you know, if, if you have an inkling of wanting to get into this industry, just start. Right. The industry is growing and there's ample opportunities to get in. Just make sure that, you pick the right company to join and you pick a company that has a growth mindset, and that, that's the number one thing for me.

Tom Mulhern: When I first got started in cannabis, there was so much to learn. There was so much to kind of find out about this industry that is more than just a bunch of pot heads. That was kind of the stigma, the kind of the idea that I initially thought when I thought about working in cannabis.

And it's so much more that it's such a rich, industry of amazing people who are really pushing the envelope in a lot of things, including tech, including customer experience. And my encouragement is just take that first step. Take that first step into finding a, a role that fits you, that fits your passions, that fits your experience.

And if you're just starting out, find a job that has that growth mindset of wanting to develop you in your career. You have been in a different career and you're stepping into the cannabis industry. I wanna encourage you, this is the best industry I've ever worked in, and I've worked in a lot of different industries and it's so fun.

There's, there's such amazing people here and really there's so many open roles. It's growing by 30% every year. It's gonna keep growing and we need talented people. So, so step into those roles and get started. Jump into it.

We're gonna be at a bunch of events this fall and winter, and we would love to connect with you. We're gonna be live on location at MJ Bizcon. Stop by the Kayak Cast booth because we're giving away some sweet headphones if you subscribe to the podcast. We have our team there. Uh, we're gonna be doing the Running Man, so if you wanna come and do the Running Man Challenge with us.

We're gonna have a lot of fun at, uh, this event and, and we're gonna be out at a few different events, so we want to connect with you as a listener. Also, just a reminder to share this podcast with your friends. We want more people listening to this because honestly, we're talking to some amazing people and we wanna share those stories with the people around us.

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