Ways to shake up cannabis firms and keep as many workers as possible

Just Released! Get realistic market forecasts, state-by-state insights and benchmarks with the new 2024 MJBiz Factbook member program, now with quarterly updates. Make informed decisions.

The coronavirus pandemic has caused the cannabis industry to focus on operational efficiency rather than rapid growth, a shift that has resulted in layoffs in California and other locations across the country.

But panelists at the MJBizConNEXT Direct conference on Monday also talked about ways operational disruptions can be cushioned by the creative restructuring of staff roles, and being vigilant about all expenses.

A silver lining for cannabis companies that have the resources right now: It’s a good time to recruit talent from other industries.

Three experts shared those views and others in a panel called, “Overcoming Staffing and Operational Challenges Resulting from COVID-19.”

Here were some of their insights:

Michael Ray, founder and CEO of California-based Bloom Farms: He described the industry as going from “hypergrowth” to efficiency mode. “Oftentimes the path to profitability requires significant cuts and looking for savings wherever you can find them.” Bloom put in place some pay cuts, he said, but none for those making under $60,000 a year.

Peter Flint, partner of Pennsylvania-based executive recruitment firm JM Search: The cannabis industry needs executives today that can focus on cash management and operational efficiency. Providing equity in lieu of cash could be attractive to employees if they believe the company has a long-term future. For companies so positioned, it’s a good time to recruit talent from other industries, such as the consumer packaged goods industry.

Andrea Brooks, founder and CEO of California cannabis company Sava: Sava did a complete restructuring of its work force, with cross-training, to try to keep the staff as intact as possible. Additional advice: Watch every dollar, measure every spend. It’s critical to be transparent about the state of the industry and the company so employees understand what’s happening. Provide perks that make people feel valued.

– Jeff Smith