Andy Joseph is President of Apeks Supercritical, an Ohio company that makes extraction equipment
Your company has been around since the early days of the cannabis industry. Is there anything you would do differently if you started over?
We grew extremely fast from 2012 to 2015. But looking back, I think we didn’t grow fast enough. When it was happening, it felt like we were growing so fast we could barely hang on. I didn’t take outside money. I took on no debt. I didn’t take partnership deals or collaboration deals, because I didn’t want to give up control.
But at some point, your personal bank account can’t accommodate going from $10 million a year of revenue to $20 million of revenue a year. Looking back on it, the signs were there that we needed investment and partners, that we weren’t growing fast enough. We were growing extremely fast, but it wasn’t fast enough.
That’s interesting, because usually cannabis entrepreneurs are told they need to grow slowly and not try to do too much all at once.
If your company can’t do it, some other company is going to come in and take the market from you. That’s just the way it is.
How do you find the right employees when you’re growing so quickly?
We’ve found a great partner in local vocational/technical schools. Skilled trades are in super high demand right now, and technical schools can be very helpful finding kids – and I mean kids as young as teenagers – who have technical skills and are very motivated to work.
For more experienced folks, I also look to other industries. Management books will tell you to hire slow and fire fast. I tend to do the opposite. I hire fast and fire slow. Get people in and invest in them to build your company. If I like someone, if I click with them, I don’t want to do weeks and weeks of multiple interviews and personality tests and all that.
Sounds like you get a lot of inspiration from other industries. Why is that?
People incorrectly assume the cannabis industry is somehow different than any other business in the world, but it’s not. There are peculiarities to cannabis, but at the end of the day, it’s a business.
My funniest inspiration: I met a guy in the porn business. This guy owns a chain of porn stores across the Midwest and has since the 1970s.
And you’d think porn and cannabis, they’re so different. But they’re both highly regulated. They’re both considered vice businesses, bad for the community. They’ve both been totally disrupted by technology. They’re both subject to laws and regulations that change overnight. Once you get past the fact that it’s porn, we have a lot in common. Whether it’s issues with zoning or just keeping up with retail trends, we have a lot of the same issues.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
– Kristen Nichols