Professionalism is key to helping change the stigma of cannabis
Cannabis is beginning to become an industry of natural selection and survival of the fittest, where those who fail to play by the rules are forbidden from playing, and rightfully so.
Late last year, the mugshots of budtenders from Sweet Leaf’s Denver dispensaries graced cannabis and mainstream news as its 26 Colorad0-based dispensaries experienced a crackdown. Once lauded as one Colorado’s most successful dispensary chains, Sweet Leaf’s operations were promptly cracked down upon when budtenders were found being heavy-handed and selling more than legal purchase limits for the state.
Sweet Leaf’s story should act as a warning for current and emergent dispensaries. It’s demonstrative of a significant gap that exists between the professional and sophisticated image that the cannabis industry strives to promote and how some companies are abusing the privilege of legal cannabis sales. The budtenders of Sweet Leaf could have done better to promote compliance within the industry, and the management and ownership failed to embrace their responsibility to uphold professionalism in legal cannabis.
Here are 10 quick tips to increase professionalism for budtenders and dispensary staff so to not allow your store to find the same fate as Sweet Leaf.
- Be careful who you hire. Cannabis dispensaries who don’t take the time to go through thorough recruitment processes for their budtenders, that includes significant due diligence, put their dispensary, and their image at risk.
- Require specialization. Don’t just hire any old Joe or Joanne in your cannabis dispensary. Those prospective budtenders and dispensary employees who can show a dedication to their own career in the cannabis industry are more likely to step up and show their best face within the industry.
- Pay adequately. When you take care of your employees, they take care of you. Look at market data to see what figures budtenders are reporting for their salaries, and try to exceed it.
- Train well. Many people fail because of lack of adequate training. Your training program for your budtenders shouldn’t be unofficial. It should be an official training program that is over an extended period of time that includes a few benchmarks that are right for your dispensary before they can move on to more autonomous work.
- Set your standards early. Employees like those at Sweet Leaf got lazy, and that’s what led them to jeopardize the whole company. Set your standards early for your employees, including methods to prevent employee theft. Let them know that heavy-handedness isn’t an option and that friends, and other employees, are not privy to a 5-finger discount.
- Embrace tracking technology. When you invest in a secure Point of Sale system and inventory management software, you can ensure that your product and inventory is not experiencing any discrepancies. Work the use of the technology available for inventory management and POS system into the sales process so that budtenders support their work and sales with tracking.
- Invest in professional development. Professional development within your dispensary goes beyond initial training. Show that you value your employees and their contributions to the cannabis space by helping them engage in professional development opportunities like attending conferences like MJBizCon and other cannabis expos.
- Set a corporate culture. Corporate culture invites cannabis retailers to think beyond their sales and bottom lines to include the experience of all those involved in their strategy. Setting a corporate culture increases engagement and loyalty to your brand and company and brand while infusing standards of professionalism to your practice.
- Have a zero-tolerance policy. In a space that is so highly regulated, where you can be subjected to compliance checks at any time, you can’t afford to be too lenient if you find a budtender has jeopardized your business. At the same time, you have a responsibility as a business to ensure that employees work in a safe environment free from harassment. Institute a zero-tolerance policy for harassment, theft or any breaking away from compliance to ensure employees uphold the standards you’ve set.
- Show appreciation. When a leader takes the time to show appreciation to employees, it serves as a reinforcement for positive behavior while modeling the way for other employees. Institute employee recognition programs that help your dispensary employees have something to strive for.
It’s Up to Cannabis to Uphold Itself
Cannabis has always been under a certain threat, and the moves of Attorney General Jeff Sessions is continuing to throw shade on the legitimacy of the cannabis industry. When a cannabis business takes intentional steps to uphold the professionalism of their own business, they continue to add to the overall professionalism and legitimizing of the cannabis industry. Now isn’t the time to be complacent. Take it upon yourself to be a leader if professionalism for budtenders and cannabis dispensary staff, by incorporating these 10 quick tips into your employment program.