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What You Need to Run a Successful Cannabis Business

These four founders share the skills, education, personal qualities and team members essential to a cannabusiness.
Lucas Wentworth comes from a strong background in professional writing, editing, social media marketing, and strategic communications. He considers himself to be an activist for the reform of cannabis laws in the United States.
Lucas Wentworth comes from a strong background in professional writing, editing, social media marketing, and strategic communications. He considers himself to be an activist for the reform of cannabis laws in the United States.

Image: TinaKru on Pixabay

Bored of your current job or finishing up university? Daydreaming about trying to get into the cannabis industry? For those who consider themselves entrepreneurs, this industry is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It’s not every day that a century-old black market goes legit and is regulated from scratch.

The legal cannabis market in North America is already booming in Canada and certain U.S. states. A very recent report done in conjunction by Leafly and Whitney Economics concluded that the cannabis industry added 68,000 jobs in 2018 alone, with more than 40,000 new jobs predicted to develop by the time 2019 is over. This prediction represents a 110% total jobs increase from the beginning of 2017; a relatively unprecedented growth rate.

Do not expect it to be easy, however, as one shouldn’t attempt to get into this industry in some attempt to just ride a “green wave.” Curious about what makes a successful cannabusiness, and aiming to gain insight into the breadth of ways to enter this industry, I reached out to four cannabis-ancillary business founders to ask!

The first person I talked to was Tom Zuber, Managing Partner and Co-Founder at Zuber Lawler, a corporate law firm with 10+ years’ experience helping businesses and entrepreneurs in the cannabis space. He keyed me in to very specific skills and education which he has seen to have worked:

As to skill sets, in my experience representing cannabis companies over the past twelve years, I’ve found that those who pulled in executives who honed their skills at large public companies outside the cannabis industry have moved with great dexterity toward their visions.

As to education, I’ve found that companies that have been the most informed as to the importance of protective intellectual property assets, and in managing risks, have had the most success in growing the values of growth in their companies. In the next phase of things, as cannabis proceeds toward legal status, companies that become educated early in the future role of the FDA in determining the layout of the cannabis regulatory landscape will reap the benefits.

The next executive I reached out to was Andrew Hunzicker, Co-Founder of DOPE CFO, the leader in cannabis accounting and tax. DOPE CFO provides the only national training program for CPAs, EAs, MBAs, bookkeepers, and CFOs who want to serve in the cannabis industry, with almost 200 students in 40 states who join via webinar. Andrew stressed the need for a good team to back up the business:

In this young industry especially, it’s important to learn from mistakes that you and others have made. Learn from them and do not make them. You also need to surround yourself with the right people: a solid management team, board of advisors, and financial infrastructure will take the company far. An integral part of that infrastructure is accounting. High-quality accounting in cannabis is as valuable as high-quality product.

The last two founders with whom I spoke chose to discuss personal qualities that are helpful for a cannabis entrepreneur to hone. Salwa Ibrahim, Co-founder of MKSI, a cannabis business accelerator that has spent decades successfully founding, leading and supporting companies across every aspect of the cannabis industry, told me:

Self-motivation and focus are key in entrepreneurship. Especially in cannabis, everything is so new and exciting that staying focused on your goals is often hard to do, particularly when times get tough and it seems like other groups are ahead of you. Slow and steady wins the race. With the ever changing climate, adaptability is becoming a necessary skill as regulators try to figure out how to control the market. Being able to pivot fast is often required.

Similarly, Cody Ziering, Managing Partner and Co-Founder at CannaBIZ Collects, the leading US-based full-service collection and accounts receivable agency specializing in the legal cannabis industry, told me:

Entrepreneurship in the cannabis industry requires a few simple but important things. A strong head on your shoulders that keeps you engaged and pushing forward when naysayers say you won’t succeed. The canna-preneur also needs a nice mouth with fresh breath. A giant smile backed by good conversation can take you a long way in this business. Success in the canna-business often comes from the connections you make and the hands you shake.

The cannabis industry is quickly becoming a multi-billion dollar behemoth. Take heed of the advice of these four successful founders. And whatever path you take to enter it, there will be no shortage of demand for talented people from all walks of life in this industry.

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