Growers Network interviewed Aaron Ray of STM Canna about his experience managing individuals and relationships with other companies.

Human Resources

What have you learned from managing people?

Being a successful leader means surrounding yourself with people who are better than you so that you can be better. This is true regardless of what industry you work in.

It’s also important to point out that, as an entrepreneur, you’ll spend more time with your coworkers and employees than you do with your family. You want everybody to be rowing the boat in the same direction. If we keep the company’s best interests at heart, we should always be able to come out on top.

How do you find and hire good talent?

The cannabis industry is unique when it comes to this question. You don’t really have a 10-20 year track record, because there’s no evidence for it. Even somebody who has devoted their life to cannabis doesn’t really have a paper trail to prove themselves.

Because of this unique problem, you have to take a different approach. We start out with a question. Why is this potential employee in the cannabis industry?

  • Are they in it for a passion to heal?
  • Are they in it for the business side?
  • Or are they just in it to get a paycheck?

You need people with a mix of all three reasons. Employees should recognize that it’s a business to make money, but also want to help people and do some good. It can be hard for people to separate their identity from the business, and you don’t want people just to make a quick buck.

How do you retain quality employees?

It depends on the employees you want to retain. Many of this industry’s employees are young. Not to stereotype the “youngins,” you should target your retention policies towards the things they desire.

Most of my employees want a to have a clear path of where they can go as an individual and how to get there. We keep a “vision board” where people can see their progress and how to advance further. This curbs the desire for instant gratification and shows that you care about your workers. You treat them as family. You don’t need to listen to everyone all the time, but you’re showing that you value their input.

What would you like to know about human resources?

I want to see the data from staffing companies like Vangst. I want to know what the studies say about the A+ worker in the cannabis industry. What do they look like? What are their wants and needs? I don’t want to rely upon anecdotal data, I want a comprehensive study.

Business-Client Interactions

How do you find the businesses worth interacting with?

Fortunately, or unfortunately, you have to learn as you go. Each state is practically a different country due to the different rules and guidelines they have in place. States with better-defined protocols and standards tend to have the best companies to work with.

This is why, when we started STM, we made sure that we were going to stay ahead of compliance. Everything has safety features, matches the food-grade quality or laboratory quality, and more. When you design and build with compliance and safety in mind, you establish your company’s reputation as a positive one.

How do you protect your business from untrustworthy individuals?

In our case, we don’t actually touch the plants. We just sell processing equipment that is used in the industry. It’s really hard to abuse our products in a way they weren’t designed for.

We also require a large deposit or a full payment up front for our machines. When people are serious, they’re not going to run you around. Most have a litany of questions about the quality, ease of use, and how our products fit into their supply chain. If they find our answers satisfactory, then they shouldn’t have a problem pulling the trigger.

What’s troubled you about the industry?

I haven’t had any problems that are unique to the cannabis industry. We’ve had people back out of deals suddenly, or decide to renege on a deal. Opportunities will fail to pan out. But you encounter that in any business.

Because of the industry though, we have to worry about our clients all the time. Are they going to go under? Is the federal government going to do something to them? That’s really where our industry differs from other ones. It’s the trepidation and worry. It’s practically in the air. If Jeff Sessions sneezes, and the word “marijuana” is on his lips, everyone else holds their breath. It’s a scary world to live in legislative limbo like this.

This article has been paraphrased with permission from Growers Network.

Want to read more? Head on over to Growers Network to read the full article.

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