Finding a path to help navigate the industry and to build a career.

In my time in the cannabis industry, I’ve seen many new hires fight to enter and then wonder how they can build their new job into a career. The time spent in every position I’ve had has taught me to grow my career using the knowledge, leadership, and the experience I’ve gained. The cannabis job ladder is no different; it’s built with those who take the time to learn everything they can about their role to serve the needs of the business better and innovate upon their best efforts. The most significant difference between a career outside the industry versus inside is the products and skills to produce the product, are rooted in cannabis. When looking at the skill sets involved for most of the industry, you can quickly identify what sectors are needed to learn from to better our own. The structure of the business and roles involved mirrors other areas and studying what makes those companies successful will only help you to create success.

Experience, Empathy, Communication

The most layered position of any dispensary will be budtender, your responsibility to your patients is immense. Looking into how to be a better consultant to their needs is going to depend on you knowing the products you carry. Beyond knowing the product, I would encourage you to have experience with every product. Understand the importance of having empathy, as you will be serving those who depend on cannabis as their primary medicine. Taking the time, talking to your patients, and learning about how they utilize cannabis in any form is essential for you to serve them better. The ability to communicate new or difficult-to-grasp concepts will be vital to your ability to help people.

Communication needs to be the core of your performance, coupled with knowledge of everything your dispensary may have to offer, along with your personal experience of products and their use.

As a budtender, your other primary focus is driving sales, along with maintaining the sales floor. Keeping a clean work area and maintaining the merchandising of the sales floor will show patients you care. Common sense dictates that we work to keep things organized, and taking an interest in product knowledge by helping to merchandise is invaluable to your team. It can also be the leap needed to expand your experience within a dispensary, even if it involves printing and sticking labels on incoming products to assist inventory. Starting patient interaction by greeting everybody whole-heartedly, never taking an interaction personally, and always remaining positive if your day becomes difficult will help you to stand out. Looking at the customer service from other industries like retail technology, Apple, is a company known and admired for their welcoming, knowledgeable, and ready to serve staff. Learning what makes these interactions successful can be carried into your patient consultations to build you as a lead so you may help others develop these skills.

Cannabis Knowledge is Power

My experience has been that dispensaries put the most knowledgeable people in roles for inventory control, processing, and purchasing. Expanding into these roles involves the knowledge and experience of all products on the sales floor, to build then maintain that inventory. A good inventory will be diverse, cover multiple price points, and can offer different care options to anyone with a desire to medicate. In any retail business, learning how to diversify product while still be able to identify trends to build an adequate inventory is applied to dispensaries as well. The experience of those doing business on behalf of a dispensary purchasing will be most important to observe. Understanding standards of quality for purchasing is valuable experience, only gained by observation and participation with experienced buyers. Knowing the patient base, how they medicate, and what is not effective will be the foundation of building any great inventory. A supply chain element then comes into play for those in inventory when breaking down pounds, slabs, or twisting prerolls.

Drawing from professional experience, I’d run my inventory similar to a kitchen brigade in a fine dining kitchen. I have prep, hot and cold stations running, which in a dispensary would equate to pre-rolls, pre-packaging of flower and concentrate processing stations. I can adjust as demand as identified, with the ability to change all three stations to flower packaging, or creating a fire line for moving out something specific if the dispensary is in dire need. Having a processing area that is fluid is invaluable, but using loose schedules to maintain a direction and balance the menus will be imperative to the success of the dispensary. The ability to create a self-sustaining inventory with established trends and standards will be your overall goal. Utilizing time management and developing the staff to complete short- or long-term goals will start your journey into management or leadership roles. Managing a business, especially one as dynamic as a cannabis storefront will be an accumulation of all departments converging on the success of the dispensary.

Leadership is Key

Leaders chosen in any capacity should bring strength to their team, and be able to manage people effectively. To the benefit of the leadership and those beneath, the ability to teach is a must for any leader no matter their capacity in the company. I would argue that anyone from outside, or with vast experience within the industry can manage a dispensary. The real success of a manager’s style is reflected in the cannabis community that supports the dispensary agents working and their happiness. The deciding factor involves having a clear vision as to what success looks like, and a leader who has that vision will always push for something greater for their employees. I’ve tried to incorporate all facets of knowledge and experience into my career in cannabis, and as a result, I see better success than I have in any other industry I’ve been a part of. I would advise anyone wondering how to better their position, to follow suit and to work to better yourself.