The CEO of BioTrackTHC discusses the importance of being transparent with employees and operating a multistate business
An accountant who planned to become an academic, Patrick Vo was about to begin studying for a Ph.D. when he met the founders of a small software company that tracked cannabis sales in Colorado.
In 2012, Vo joined what would become BioTrackTHC, one of the largest providers of seed-to-sale tracking software and business management software for the cannabis industry.
Seven years later, Vo is CEO of BioTrackTHC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Denver-based Helix TCS. BioTrackTHC has won government contracts to track cannabis in several states. In 2018,
Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based BioTrackTHC helped create MainStem Marketplace, which sells wholesale business supplies for the cannabis industry. Marijuana Business Magazine sat down with Vo to get his best management tips for this evolving industry.
How did you identify this business opportunity in the cannabis sector? What was your “aha” moment?
I realized academics was not for me. It was important for me to get back out and do something entrepreneurial. I’d always had that entrepreneurial itch.
For me, it was about applying myself to a product or to a service and building a company around that. And it was in Colorado where I met the two founders of BioTrack. At the time, they had just barely a dozen customers using the seed-to-sale software in Colorado.
My “aha” moment was seeing this product and knowing that it was the best one on the market, but there wasn’t a company built around it.
How did you identify the right talent to build that company?
Passion. I don’t want to sound cliché, but it is very true. … If you have somebody who is passionate about what they do, they’re self-motivated. They can teach themselves to do or be anything on the team that they need to.
There are many people right now who hold leadership positions in BioTrack that did not start there. It was about making sure they were the right fit culturally and then, from there, providing them opportunities to experiment and, honestly, to fail sometimes.
That way, you can really identify where is that intersection between what the company needs the most and what they have the talents for, what they have the motivations for.
Any tips on retaining talent?
Aligning an employee’s interests and their talents with the needs of the team is absolutely critical.
The other thing is transparency from the top down—especially in an industry that is moving as rapidly as cannabis. Let (employees) in early on what the game plan is. With the environment constantly changing, being transparent with your team is key.
Your company operates in many states. Any advice for taking a cannabis business national?
Scaling in cannabis is so challenging. How cannabis operates in, say, Colorado, is a lot different than how cannabis operates in New York.
So, to grow your business requires a tremendous amount of trust with the people you have brought onto your team, because you can’t do it on your own.
It is important as the entrepreneur to consistently share your vision.
It is important to document and create processes so that (employees) understand what has been successful for you … and how they can continue to propel your vision forward—but, at the same time, allow them to take the best of your approach and add their own individual contributions.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.