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Trei McMullen and Daniel Sharkey have a lot in common. They are both military veterans, and they both started cannabis security firms after their service.
Now they have teamed up to help other veterans get into the business, sharing the experience they gained writing their security plans for cannabis license applications. The two also provide security plans and staffing for onsite cultivation facilities, dispensaries, and transportation.
Trei McMullen is CEO of SYOTOS, and Daniel Sharkey is CEO of Asymmetric Solutions. They both view cannabis as a high-growth field with many opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs to carve out a slice of the pie. Here’s our interview with them.
You decided to join your talents and expertise to focus on empowering the veteran communities. How did you meet and get started in business together?
We met after our time in the army and marines. During Missouri’s medical licensing round, I began working with a group out of Kansas City called Harvest 360 Technologies. We ended up in Illinois, where Trei joined me. We assisted cannabis license applicants in writing security plans and guided them through the process in conjunction with our friends over at Harvest 360. This was when Trei and I decided to form SYOTOS, a security company based in Florida, where we live.
One of our main focal points is the development side of getting a company up and licensed. So that’s where we go through the entire layout of your building. We typically work with the architects and help them design the security infrastructure of the building, where the cameras are, how a product is supposed to move from inventory to customers, customers through the facility, staff through the facility, shipments coming in, etc. And really compartmentalize the access to everything in there because that is what’s absolutely critical to get that perfect score on your security plan, which in the case of Illinois, was 20% of the total points necessary to get a license. And in those sorts of competitive markets, you have to have 100%, plus any bonus points they give you. So we take a holistic approach to security planning for these companies. And I’m proud to say that in Illinois, we have not missed a single point on the security plans we did for any of the projects we worked on.
When we spoke earlier, you mentioned that the state police would assess and look at your security plan in your application.
Yes, the state police are consulted to review security plans for validity. And they monitor all things relating to the security of cannabis businesses. For example, most states require the police access to all of your facility cameras through a web portal.
Do you consult with the state police while you’re working on the security plan in any way?
Working on the security plan is in the pre-licensing phase. So, nothing is really discussed with local officials at that point. It’s mainly with the building commissioners more than the police. But, we need to know the local chief of police on a first-name basis and confirm that the property is a safe location. State police work closely with regulators than the applicants and their team as long as they have access to our information.
What are common mistakes you see people making when applying for licenses?
First and foremost, having someone with absolutely no security experience write a security plan is the biggest mistake we see. It’s surprising to learn how many applicants overlook the need to hire security experts to write their security plans, especially since it typically counts for 20% of the application’s score. The competition is so fierce that you MUST score 100% on the security section.
In most competitive markets, applicants engage consultants to write their applications. You have subject matter experts in finance, business planning, management, cultivation operations, etc. Many consulting groups don’t have in-house security experts putting together up to 500-page applications. Many think having an attorney who knows compliance is capable of the task. Undoubtedly, an attorney should ensure that the application passes legal review. But no doubt, you need someone who works in security to write your security plan, or you’re going to miss many things.
Cannabis businesses are high-risk security in several ways, and many overlook a security budget. If you’re an investor thinking about doing business with a cannabis business, you should ask -How will you protect my investment? Who is the security agency? What is the security plan?
I’m surprised that we haven’t heard of more armed robberies in dispensaries because it’s all cash-based.
One reason is that 90 percent of theft is by their employees. This is why planning and compartmentalizing access to the various areas of your facilities is so critical. It’s all about maintaining accountability of who was access to get into that room, who went into that room, who wasn’t supposed to be in the room, and being able to flag it immediately. That’s where we prevent the problems from happening before they start.
What kind of security setup would you deploy for a dispensary?
We have a signature feature that we’ve designed into the dispensaries. And it’s part of our secret sauce. We get talked about for that special feature. But suffice to say, there’s only one throat to choke if anything goes missing because we can identify the person who breaches our security plan.
Access to certain areas of the dispensary is extremely limited, down to one person per shift. We limit the number of employees who have access to inventory to such a degree that you know exactly who and when someone has access to a location. And we work with certain technology providers to ensure accountability of who it was. This is metadata and, more than anything, just proper planning and good access control protocols.
So, not only do you protect the dispensary from outside intruders but inside jobs or theft as well.
Writing security plans for applications and developing operational security procedures go arm in arm. We do an assessment of the facility that includes a room by room description of security systems, how staff and customers interact, loss prevention, visitor policies, access control, facility monitoring, open and closing security procedures, cash stores, transportation safety, emergency procedures, active shooter, and natural disasters believe it or not.