Hello all, hope you’re having a stupendous day! Rob Hendrix here with Cannabis Consulting Nationwide. Today’s story harks back to October 2014.
I had been open about seven weeks, working about 85 hours per week personally so I was tired. 2014 was a tough year; I was the GM at a major new car franchised dealership and had been working endlessly during the meat grinder aka vetting process in order to become eligible for the Lottery.
Washington State decided that a Lottery was the best way to pick the “winners” who would be granted a retail license. The GM job was a full-time job and then on top of my responsibilities at the dealership was this process to gain the license. So by October of 2014, I was bushed! So I felt it was time to find some help.
I had no trouble finding an applicant; what could be better for a college student looking for a little extra spending money than a part-time gig at the all new local pot shop? Long story short, hey that’s a change huh?, I hired two female college students. They were ideal hires for me at that time. They were by the fact they were young, younger than me I mean, automatically great with computers, WIFI, social media, graphics, spreadsheets, other younger people and of course, Cannabis.
In a word they were smart, really smart about real life stuff. They both were college students putting their own way through school without much parental help and therefore and for other reasons, they were tough. Mentally tough and quick thinkers on their feet. They could call BS on customers who were making claims that I would not have had the smarts to dispute. Not that I instructed them to argue with customers but you have to understand how out of my element I really was. They saved me in those early days and months. We of course had cause to hire many other employees over the last four plus, some were great, others less than great. But you’ve got to have an idea, a plan as how to proceed. I learned a lot from these two. I had a lot to learn!
I have gotten in the habit of having a two person shift approximately six hours each and mixing the shift with one male and one female. At first I thought this might be a smart thing to do for a sense of security but later I came to the conclusion customers sometimes want to talk to an individual who they feel a bit more comfortable talking to. Giving your customers choices in everything is never a bad idea. And we are always looking for that that hard to define idea in a team; chemistry. So we may play with the combinations, always looking for the maximum fun, enthusiasm and energy.
The team concept, never less than a two person shift at all times, is good for several reasons; security but its also more fun and can be helpful to each of the two coworkers. No one knows everything about everything, except yours truly of course!, so sometimes an employee may not know the answer to a customer’s question. Since I NEVER ask my employees to lie, there’s a good bet one or the other will have an answer to just about any inquiry. Vendors will always bring samples to the store and I do not take them, they are distributed fairly among the employees. So quite literally, sampling in a fair manor gives a nice mix of reviews for my employees to share with the customers. By taking part in sampling, my employees are rendering opinions as to the inventory we carry in our store.
Everyone needs to feel appreciated and needs to know they matter and their opinions and thoughts matter. This is a perfect way for all employees to “have their hand on the wheel” so to speak. So this practice serves two purposes; first employees have tried most if not all products carried in the store, and second gives them the satisfaction of giving me and my purchasing manager relevant and critical feedback about their experiences with the products and therefore input as to what inventory and products the store will carry. Pretty cool, huh? This is a big help in keeping good employees and employees good. But this process starts early, in the interview process obviously.
In the interview, usually the second interview, I get involved and I hit several items very hard. They don’t work for me yet, so I do not mince words. I tell them all they will show up to work to work. That may not make sense at first glance. I mean get here ready to work because even though it’s a pot shop, it is my business, my life, my retirement, my family’s livelihood. It’s an incredibly serious business, much more than one might think. It should be fun, it needs to be fun, but we can never forget how regulated we all are.
The world is watching, hoping we’ll misstep so the anti-Cannabis crowd can pounce. I also tell them they all do the dirty work; cleaning, sweeping, cleaning the toilet, it is a job for every one of us and I had better never hear that it’s beneath anyone ever. Kind of a thing for me. Then it gets really serious and now its time for me to I really lay into them, if they’re still in the interview!
This is when I begin discussing the legal issues surrounding our chosen business. Selling to a minor, in our state the legal age to purchase Cannabis is 21, even accidentally is a felony. A felony. I let that sink in. Then I tell them the store owner is not charged with a felony but rather the employee who completed the transaction, that is who took the money and handed over the product. It is a huge black eye for the business owner, but the real hurt is going to be put on the employee.
In Washington State, since the Cole Memo has been essentially rescinded, the Attorney General of the US has left it up to the Regional US Attorneys to decide if and how how to prosecute Cannabis-related crimes. The Eastern Washington US Attorney is known to be somewhat conservative and likely to pursue the alleged crime with some energy and enthusiasm. This revelation is scary and I mean for it be exactly that.
The last topic we cover in the second interview, almost always the last interview, is me and the employees. I tell them I am a father and a grandfather first and foremost and I want nothing more than for my kids and grand kids to be well balanced and successful in their life’s pursuits. I know that for the kids who are working for me currently, except for my two store managers, they are likely going to be with me a relatively short time. This is not the end of the line. Their goals in life do not, and should not, end with them being an employee of Cannabis Central. I want more for them like they, hopefully, want for themselves. I want to help them achieve their goals as much as I can as their employer. If they get into trouble, I tell them if it’s necessary and appropriate I would like to help wherever and how ever I can. And I have helped people over the years; with car troubles, relationship trouble, tenant and landlord issues, you name it. So because I have a big heart and I want to help those who have a bit of history with me, I also inform them that if they ever steal from me, I will come after them with everything I’ve got. I warn them I will spend much more than what they stole is worth to me. It’s a matter of principal to me. I make it clear if you need help, ask. It is not a guarantee I will help, but darn it it is much better for you to ask.
Now I am not a fool, employee theft is a reality in all businesses, a cost of doing business. But minimizing it must be a goal and my technique is both olive branch and paddle. It may sound harsh, but it seems to be working for me. Better to get your point across early in the relationship, like before the relationship even begins. This way there are no surprises; “You never told me that”, is a statement I never want to hear from any employee’s mouth ever.
We could go and on about hiring practices. In fact hiring is one topic of conversation, training another, and keeping employees is yet another. This is a good thing to remember; hire slow and fire fast. A termination is a failure, I’ve always thought it was at least as much my responsibility as the employee’s. You are the owner of the store, everything is on you. Captain Smith was asleep in his bunk when the Titanic ran into the iceberg, but you know what? It was the Captain’s responsibility. That’s you.