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I spent two decades in corporate America before jumping on an opportunity in the cannabis industry in late 2015 to become the head of a premier staffing agency. I have always been passionate about being an entrepreneur and combined this with my passion for the cannabis plant and its potential to help so many people. Today, my company has adapted and pivoted to grow into a team of 35 employees working with thousands of cannabis employees across the country.
Over the past six years spent growing my business, I’ve learned that this industry moves fast and changes often. Flexibility and adaptability are crucial traits of successful cannabis entrepreneurs, whether you’re looking to open a new dispensary or build a cannabis product line. Consider potential barriers and challenges before jumping in blindly.
Here then is my advice for any budding cannabis entrepreneur hoping to grow a successful cannabis business.
1. Know your “why”
Ask yourself: Why does your business exist and what is its purpose? Getting the answer to thes questions is one of the most important steps you’ll take as a business leader in the cannabis industry. You have to have a passion for what you do, a clear vision for what you want to create, and the desire to go after it.
Find a niche within the industry that you feel passionate about and innovate from there. Consider different pain points within the industry or within your target audience to spark creative ideas. If you’re doing something that’s been done before, how will you differentiate yourself?
2. Build a personal brand and a company brand
Building a brand is about both your product and the story behind your product – you want to create something that your target audience can invest in for the long run. Your personality, beliefs, passions and values are the core of your personal brand, the driving force behind your business. From here, you’ll be able to build the solid brand identity that all successful cannabis companies have. Explore your business’ mission and values and start to define your company culture.
Research your competition and find out how your business will be different. Your customers aren’t just purchasing a product or service, they’re investing in who they want to be. Define your target audience and speak to them specifically. Find out what your customers like and don’t like, and keep a finger on the pulse of the industry to understand how to adjust or improve what you’re offering.
3. Always be networking
Always, always look to network. Networking is an invaluable practice in any industry, but particularly so in cannabis culture where the community is full of passionate people. The cannabis industry is growing every day, and the more connections and relationships you build, the more potential you have to grow as an entrepreneur and a business. There are events, conferences and meet-ups in almost every state where recreational cannabis is legal. Don’t be afraid to ask the people you meet about how they got started and their career paths.
Being active on social media and in online cannabis groups will also help you build your network. Put yourself out there – you never know what opportunities can come from a follow-up email or simply reaching out on LinkedIn.
4. Win or learn
This industry is all about how you can take the hits and roll with the punches to keep moving forward. There is plenty of potential for failure in the cannabis industry, but being successful means you have to be willing to take risks. Failure can be your best teacher, so try to learn along the way by analyzing, making adjustments, and moving forward. Adopting a “win or learn” mentality will help you learn from your mistakes instead of viewing them as failures. Just as the industry as a whole is growing and dealing with new challenges, your company needs to learn how to adapt.
5. Make decisions with conviction
Cannabis business leaders need to be the decision-makers in order to capitalize on new opportunities and drive the company forward. Hesitation, second-guessing and closed-mindedness will only hurt your progress as an entrepreneur. You don’t have to be right all of the time, but do your research to be as well-informed as possible and consider all of your options. Always keep your big picture goals in mind and understand any potential downsides of your choices. According to Harvard Business Review, decisive leaders are 12 times more likely to become high-performing CEOs.
Joining the cannabis industry can be exciting and worth the journey, but that’s not to say it’s without its own unique set of challenges. If you’re ready to take the leap and establish a successful company in the cannabis market, understand what you’re in for and what you’re up against. Take the time to craft a thorough business plan and always be ready to pivot in order to keep up with the industry.