How to mine your cannabis business’ meetings for cost control

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Despite occasional setbacks and hiccups, the cannabis industry and its workforce are growing, and various observers project the employee base to reach 475,000-500,000 by 2026.

While the largest share of employees now and in the future are budtenders, experts also predict growth in all areas, from executives to frontline workers.

At the same time, cannabis is navigating a delicate time in its evolution.

In some new markets, the economy is growing; in others, it’s experiencing the need to constrain expenses to ensure a healthy future, including reductions in workforce and retail location closures. Cost containment is, of course, vital to financial health.

From source to processing to sale, the cannabis industry is unique in many respects. At the same time, our industry no doubt shares one characteristic of all businesses: meetings.

Short meetings, long meetings, staff meetings, status meetings, team meetings, training meetings, daily update meetings, product-review meetings, planning meetings, pre-meeting meetings and the list goes on.

Not everyone agrees on what a meeting is.

In the Cambridge Dictionary, a meeting is “a planned occasion when people come together to discuss something.” Other definitions allude to “achieving a common goal.”

For our purpose, let’s define meetings as a business activity where select people gather to perform work that requires a team effort.

There are courses, seminars and other time- and cost-demanding ways to teach how to do meetings.

The Harvard Business Review suggests 7% to 15% of operating cost is spent on meetings. Could meetings offer an opportunity for cost control if meeting expenses could be reduced by 25%?

Here’s is a simple nine-step checklist, gleaned from experience in various firms, that’s been useful to help make meetings more productive:

  • Start (and end) on time: Late arrivals often cause a pause to catch up. Encouraging a “be on time” organizational norm will help guide attendee expectations. Late starts are a time-waster. Starting on time also helps limit the small talk that precedes the business at hand.
  • State the meeting “why”: This is the meeting goal. It might be stated in the meeting agenda or in an informal meeting (e.g., a short staff gathering before the doors open). “Why” is a statement of purpose – what we want to accomplish, work we want to perform, the outcome we want to achieve.
  • Limit the agenda: Remember the staff meeting agenda with 27 items, scheduled for an hour, dragging to two, and covering item Nos. 1-4? Better to limit the agenda to the work to be performed and plan for the time necessary to accomplish it. Most experts recommend no more than three agenda items.
  • Keep working meetings short: Aside from informal staff gatherings, research has shown 30 minutes is optimal and 60 is the recommended outside limit.
  • Limit the number of attendees: Limiting meeting attendees to people with a vested interest achieving the meeting goal/purpose/objective helps cover necessary ground more quickly. Some firms limit attendees to one per department or work group to streamline discussion at the meeting. Attendees are delegated to convey decisions, etc., to their department as needed. This will also help curtail long-winded presentations and “runaway” meetings
  • Avoid re-meets: If any attendees can’t be present, they should send a knowledgeable replacement who can represent their interests, speak on their behalf, cast votes, if necessary, and relay the essence and outcome of the meeting to their unit.
  • Identify one meeting leader: One rule of thumb is, who calls the meeting owns the meeting, maintains its focus and is responsible for the outcome. From time to time, the owner of the meeting might not be the senior person organizationally. Checking titles at the door is another organizational norm that helps ensure the best outcome.
  • Conclude with tasks and create a loop: Meetings are to perform work. As they end, be sure the attendees know the next steps for each of them to achieve the meeting goal. A follow-up review can be scheduled, as necessary. Meetings not concluded with a measurable goal including responsible parties and measurable deadlines can be avoided.
  • Keep track of cost: In the interest of calling attention to cost reduction, measure meeting costs the same as other operational expenses. Apps are available that make it easy to calculate the costs of meeting time. You might prototype one of the low-hanging fruit (staff meeting?) to see how they work as well as the direct cost of that meeting (keeping in mind loss of productivity isn’t accounted for). At least, the attention might sensitize your employees to the importance of efficient, well-planned meetings. At best, it could lead to a means to reduce an invisible cost that can help the bottom line in challenging times.

John Stearns can be reached at