First-person accounts from the front lines of the marijuana industry
Brian Caldwell, managing member of Triple C Collective
The process in which we hire, train and provide continued education for our talented staff is very important to us. However, finding the talent is not always as straightforward as some would think.
We use a variety of methods to find a skilled work force to serve our patients. As the first union shop in Washington State, we are able to partner with union representatives to recruit skilled labor. They have a variety of mechanisms that we utilize including bulletin boards, social media outlets and union meetings.
I find that individuals interested in the cannabis industry are very tech savvy. We deploy our hiring messages through social media and various cannabis industry websites.
We’ve also found that there is no greater source of referral than our staff itself. Our employees are proud of the environment they contribute to and are consistently sharing their experiences with friends, family members, patients and others who are interested. When staff members feel appreciated and valued, that shines through and entices others to want to be a part of something that is bigger than themselves, our team, or even our state.
As a business owner, I empower my staff to feel and be a part of the ownership. I not only enable that through living wages, health care, paid time off, sick leave, retirement and other benefits, but by listening to them and taking their suggestions for process improvement seriously. Loyalty is a two-way road that must be paved with mutual respect.
If I had one tip for others looking to hire talented and committed staff, I would suggest ensuring your current staff feels appreciated and valued. That is the best help-wanted ad you can have.
Alicia Darrow, chief operations manager of Blum Oakland
I have learned a lot about hiring and retaining great staff for our dispensaries from working in the industry for over 15 years.
A key quality I have learned to look for when interviewing potential staff is passion. It has served us well time and time again. “Loving what you do and doing what you love” is an important aspect of living a happy life and maintaining a happy work environment. Employees that have true passion for the cannabis industry, advancing the cannabis industry into mainstream, and using their individual experience with cannabis are key elements to giving our patients the best possible experience while maintaining employee gratification.
I ask multiple questions throughout our interview process. The most important question is “Why do you want to work in the cannabis industry?” Their answer to this question allows me to see where their motivation lies and if they have true passion for the cannabis industry.
I go above and beyond normal expectations to ensure that our employees are happy and enjoy their position. Some of the benefits I offer our employees include: a starting pay rate far above minimum wage, generous raises two times a year based on work performance, a great employee discount, health benefits, vacation pay, sick pay, holiday pay, promotion from within, multiple staff parties and extracurricular events for team- and morale-building.
Other ways I find staff include word of mouth, recommendations from current staff, email marketing to our current patient database, advertising through multiple media streams and working with Oaksterdam University to acquire new graduates.
Jake Salazar, CEO and founder of MMJ America
Hiring great staff is every bit as hard as raising money for a startup. Doing both at the same time is a massive challenge.
As active owners of a vertically integrated dispensary/cultivation company, my partners and I had to adapt and dive into the trade so we could properly advise and manage our staff. In the early days, we were teaching ourselves how to grow, market, sell, extract and track cannabis.
We all figured that we could never grow this business without having firsthand knowledge about every aspect of our facilities and the processes that run them. Through much trial and error we learned the skills and the processes to operate our company. By doing that, we started a chain reaction of new ideas and more efficient operations.
Once the processes and rules are put in place, it comes down to work ethic and incentives. How can you tell if someone is going to be a productive employee? Everyone is going to tell you that they are great during an interview, so giving them a trial period is what we do before we commit to a person. Once we make a new hire, it’s all about the incentives.
Everyone, whether they admit it or not, is in this line of business to make money, so making sure your employees are incentivized by money, gifts and insurance benefits is key. Make sure they always see growth, always see their managers striving to be better, and then compensate them for that. Such a formula inspires people to really take possession of their work.
Wes Burk, vice president of Emerald Scientific
We have done very well staffing the organization by leveraging relationships from prior career fields. For example, previously I was in real estate and had relationships with sales reps from title companies, newspapers and marketing firms. We staffed our sales department by recruiting the most entrepreneurial-spirited talent from those fields.
Because our industry is at the front end of a vertical growth phase it is easy to compel motivated, self-starting talent to make the shift. Once in the industry, the exciting pace and environment of opportunity helps keep everyone motivated, but in order to retain great employees you have to provide mobility, flexibility and autonomy.
The workplace has evolved to a very open-source concept that is nurtured by transparency and collaboration.
The risk is in the fact that so much opportunity exists in this industry. Temptations are constant for your most talented people to leave for other segments of the market or even to become your competition. If you are fair in your dealings with employees and work honestly to create an opportunity for them to grow, prosper and reap the benefits of the growth potential ahead, not only do you foster loyalty, but you also inspire performance.