In a survey of 75 current cannabis business owners who were asked, “In your experience, what is the most difficult part about maintaining cannabis business operations?”

44.44% cited unstable regulations as the most difficult part of maintaining their cannabis business.

27.78% of respondents cited legal compliance as the most difficult part of maintaining their business

11.11% of respondents cited steep competition as the most difficult part of maintaining their business

The remainder cited staffing, oversupply and other as their main challenges.

How are cannabis businesses to deal with unstable regulations, legal compliance and steep competition, while also managing day to day operations and growth strategies? Here are some simple tips for addressing these inevitable aspects of cannabis business operations.

1. Unstable Regulations

Policy Advisor

A policy advisor can be retained to create regulatory reports on a regular basis. Monthly, quarterly or semi-annually having reports generated on behalf of your business’ specific interests can keep you updated so owners and management can stay informed even while focusing on daily business activities. Policy advisors will attend state and jurisdictional meetings on your behalf and create reports which are tailored to your business interests, so your management doesn’t have to worry about wading through all of the information and taking time away from the business to attend long meetings.

Relationships with Regulators

Over time, as your business gets inspected and audited by local authorities, make sure to build relationships with the inspectors. Having good relationships with inspectors can give you a direct resource for making sure you are implementing regulatory changes in your operation. Reach out to them and run your implementations by them to show that you are being mindful to operate in line with what they are looking for.

Industry Resource Newsletters

Keep up to date by signing up for the newsletter from the state marijuana regulatory authority. Most state authorities have newsletter mailing lists which will update subscribers when any changes are made. Also, keep up with industry specific publications which focus more on business and regulation than on products and people, such as MJ Biz Daily.

 

2. Legal Compliance

Hire a Compliance Officer

The role of a compliance officer, sometimes called a compliance manager, is to make sure that a company is conducting its business in full compliance with all laws and regulations that pertain to the cannabis industry, as well as professional standards, accepted business practices, and internal standards. Hire an internal compliance officer to make sure your operation is acting compliantly on a day-to-day basis.

Quarterly Compliance Assessments

Even when you have a compliance officer on staff, having third party compliance assessments is a huge value to your business. Third parties can catch things which may be overlooked and having third party reports keep investors safe and show regulators that you are making a genuine effort to operate by the book. Compliance assessments will provide you with a full report of what is being done well, what could be improved and what deficiencies exist which must be addressed. Having third party assessments is something that many companies are resistant to because management doesn’t want an outside party to see behind the curtain or to know about anything that may be going wrong within a business. However, any respectable company which provides compliance assessments will have a strict confidentiality policy and will not share any company information to which they become privy. Assessments look through SOPs to ensure they are up to date with regulations and with actual operational practices and do on-site inspections to spot any deficiencies before inspectors have the chance to.

Legal Advisor

Lawyers can be expensive. Having a go to attorney, even a solo practitioner (less expensive) is a good practice for times when regulations change and you want to make absolutely sure that your business is correctly applying the change. Once you have the official advisement, your management team and consultants can take it from there. Or, work with a consulting team which has a lawyer accessible for you and will automatically inform you when you may want to get official legal advisement.

3. Steep Competition

Brand Identity

Brand identity expresses an company’s uniqueness and creates clarity, relevance, and appeal so companies can successfully navigate changing market conditions over time. Understanding the importance of brand identity is one thing; knowing how to craft a strong brand identity is quite another.

Brand identity is MUCH MORE than your logo. It’s the voice of your brand, the website, the consistency and style of social media, the in-store experience, the customer service, the style of packaging and decor, the pricing method, the product quality and type. It’s everything. If branding were a person it would be every outfit the person wore, every social media post they made, every in-person interaction and every aspect of the person’s personality.

A brand identity allows a consumer to emotionally connect to a company and ultimately identify with the product or store on a personal level. It’s why there are Walmart people, and Target people. If all you have is a logo and nothing else is closely curated, your consumers don’t have anything to be attracted to, connect to, support, or care about. When you launch your brand, whether it be a product or a dispensary, hire a brand designer to give you all of the tools your brand needs to thrive. Speaking to consumers more specifically and effectively than does your competition is what will let your company rise about the rest.

“A brand does not exist within a company or organization. A brand exists in the minds of your customers. A brand is the sum total of impressions a customer has, based on every interaction they have had with you, your company, and your products.” (Lucidpress)

Marketing Strategy

Marketing is your tool to reach the consumers you want to reach. Have a strategy in place which is targeted directly to your demographic, not to a generic group. If you cast a net too wide and try to speak to ALL cannabis consumers, you’ll get lost in noise. Make sure your advertising is placed on the platforms that your consumers actually look at. If your products target individuals 50+, then instagram probably isn’t where your advertising dollars should be spent.

SEO

Consumers search online when looking for the products they like and when trying to find retailers they want to visit. Focusing on SEO ensures that your brand or retail location is one of the first the consumers find on search engines. Getting your company to appear on the first page of google when consumers search certain key words ramps up business like crazy. Consumers rarely look past the first page, and many times they barely look past the first few results. Use SEO to show up on page 1 so the buyers you want to attract can easily find your company.

Use data

Your seed to sale tracking system and point of sale system record an abundance of data. As long as your info is being input correctly and consistently (ie – products are named the exact same thing each time an order is received), you can run reports showing purchaser trends. Use this information for decision making in purchasing so you always grow, produce and purchase products that consumers really want!

Maintaining a compliant cannabis operation requires detailed oversight and an understanding of how to navigate the industry and its regulations. Reach out today and let’s get the conversation started.

Juliana Whitney