The Executive Page: Renee Gagnon

Renee Gagnon is the CEO of HollyWeed North Cannabis, a marijuana consulting firm that also sells MJ production technology and is based in Victoria, British Columbia.

What was your biggest business “aha” moment?

My first “aha” moment was in 1981, when my school got an Apple IIE computer. I was 13, and I was instantly trying to figure out how to grow marijuana with one. I’ve spent the rest of my life trying to make that work. I spent two decades in the tech industry, but it was all working toward this.

What does the tech industry have to teach the cannabis industry?

When we’re looking at the larger industry, we need more industrial technology. We’re not keeping up. All of our tech right now is meant to support compliance. What we need is scalable industrial technology.

For compliance needs, new entrepreneurs need to understand what paper compliance is. If you don’t like paperwork, or if you’re bad at paperwork, this is not your industry. It may look like marijuana, but it’s 90% paperwork and only 10% marijuana.

How can cannabis executives get the technology skills they need?

Everybody in the tech industry should find a local tech business incubator. Pretend you’re starting a software company. They’ll teach you how to do a slide deck presentation, how to write an executive summary, how to write a business plan, how to pitch investors. Steal as much free information as you can, because it’s out there.

What’s your best hiring tip?

If you’re not hiring people smarter than you, you’re not good at your job. Get ahold of your ego and identify what you’re not good at, then go identify someone who is. That’s what many entrepreneurs aren’t good at. Too many entrepreneurs believe that control equals success, and it’s not always true. You’ve simply got to hire people who are smarter than you.

What’s been your biggest mistake?

Wiping up people’s tears with stock certificates. What I mean by that is, giving too much of your founder’s stock away.

Be careful with your founder’s stock. You’ll only have it once. Give away less than you think you should, and you’ll always be happy. You can always give them more stock, but you can’t take it away. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.

– Kristen Nichols

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Editor’s note: Each month we ask a cannabis industry executive for business tips and advice, as well as insights from that person’s professional experiences.