Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Cannabis businesses have matured dramatically over the past ten years. However, I’m still surprised by how often I encounter well-regarded operators who track their critical information on spreadsheets despite bringing in tens of millions in annual revenue. A few weeks ago, I was visiting an operator using a calculator and notebook paper to tally up sales to reconcile the vault.
I asked why they were doing this despite more than tripling their volumes over the last few years and having access to systems to solve it. The response: “We just have always done it this way.” Over the next week, we quickly migrated this business process to allow software to handle it, freeing up time for this executive to focus on hitting the next milestones for their business.
Technology saves talent
Automating manual, repetitive tasks saves money. We’ve known this since the Industrial Revolution started in the late 1700s. But failing to adopt new technology also threatens a company’s ability to retain talent.
In this tight labor market, what happens when employees who could be propelling the business forward are stuck with tedious data entry tasks or spreadsheets? They bolt—leaving you, your business, and your hard-earned customers in the lurch. Digitizing and mechanizing routine work to allow your employees to focus on more fulfilling aspects of their jobs supports retention while reducing costs.
Training empowers employees
But acquiring technology is only half the battle. A lack of training can be a barrier to making the most of new technology. In a Wall Street Journal article about technophobia, a top executive of General Electric Co. said, “Inevitably, there will be fear. But then, you give them the technology and you show them that, ‘Look, this is how you use it and your job becomes more efficient, faster, and safer,’ and they get it.”
Training and a well-defined change management plan to make sure people use their tools properly are core to fostering a culture of continuous improvement. When developed right, a culture that embraces continuous improvement naturally instills a drive to improve and innovate. Ideally, this starts from the top, but it doesn’t have to. Leadership on this topic can come from any level in the organizational structure.
One of the most important aspects of continuous improvement is empowering everyone to speak up about problems and fix them. Employees usually know what’s not working and the pain points in their processes. Listen to them and work to eliminate those problems. At my company, we ask and expect employees to voice these issues.
Still, I understand that inertia is hard to overcome. In the cannabis industry, there are daily challenges, and often management is so tied up in just getting through the week that innovation falls to the wayside. That’s why I suggest starting small. Identify a core business process that can be improved and consult with your employees on this. Alignment with them is critical. If they feel left out of the process, you’ll do more damage to morale. Look to the Japanese concept of Kaizen for guidance. This continuous improvement framework is core to staying competitive and fostering a culture that also supports employee retention through ownership in process and success.
Most of all, have the courage to stand up and make a change.