Legal cannabis may be growing at unprecedented rates but the industry is still relatively new, requiring old fashioned face to face networking. Executives know that trade shows and events are necessary, even if they can become grueling. The road life may not be for everyone, but in the cannabis industry, it is a necessary evil. As such, it’s important to find a way to cope with it. We spoke with Mara Gordon, co-founder of Aunt Zelda’s and Milan Patel, chief executive officer at PathogenDX to find out how they handle the frequent travel required for working in cannabis.
Frequent travel is tough but there are some perks
Some wide-eyed rookies may think traveling for work is exciting, but for many, including Gordon, the excitement can eventually deteriorate.
“I have been traveling with work off and on for over three decades, so the novelty has long worn off,” Gordon said, though she still finds a way to make the best of her demanding schedule. “Fortunately, I have good medicine!” Gordon also appreciates getting to maintain her friendships across the globe. “I have met some of the most fascinating and generous people through my travels and get to see many of them frequently.”
Patel seems to be more comfortable as he gets accustomed to frequent travel for work. I travel 100,000 miles a year, and at that point, I get to enjoy airline perks like early boarding and complimentary upgrades and meals,” Patel said. “Having a CLEAR membership and zipping through the security line has also made life a whole lot easier.”
Making sure things stay on track at the office
Patel has a team he trusts in place but makes sure to stay in contact as frequently as possible. “Usually, before boarding, I jump on a call with my C-suite to discuss key priorities that need to be addressed,” Patel said. “I am almost always connected to the plane WiFi when it’s available. I also prioritize urgent and tactical responsibilities before leaving for my travels.” Patel also relies on his team leaders including his chief security officer, chief operating officer, and chief financial officer, to keep everything in order while he is away.
Gordon realizes she cannot be in two places at once and has a team in place that she can trust. “My role requires me to be on the road so much of the time that it would be imprudent to make my physical presence a requirement,” Gordon explained. “Instead, I’m available during regular intervals—even for a quick call or text. I am a macro-manager—it has been my style throughout my career to insist that concerns are brought to me with potential solutions. The competence and confidence this magnifies in people has served me well.” Gordon’s husband, and Aunt Zelda’s co-founder, also plays a key role in making sure things run smooth. “If there are facilities-related issues needing attention, I know he has it under control. He’s a MacGyver.”
“I am a macro-manager—it has been my style throughout my career to insist that concerns are brought to me with potential solutions.”
Is finding time to relax possible while traveling?
“If the event is at a hotel, I try to stay somewhere nearby—either a boutique hotel or Airbnb—but not at the event location (unless the organizers book me there),” Gordon said. “This forces me to get outside and is a natural pretext to take time for myself. I may have dinner with one of my friends/colleagues if the group isn’t too large. Otherwise, I prefer to order food delivery and retreat. If there is a swimming pool and sauna, even better!”
Patel stays focused on the event and trying to maximize his time networking. “My schedule is often packed at trade shows where I’m meeting back-to-back with clients and customers,” Patel said. “To be honest, there is very little time to even have lunch. Lately, I’ve been trying to use the evening networking events to decompress because the setting is more casual.”
“To be honest, there is very little time to even have lunch.”
Planning what you can beforehand
While Gordon and Patel have different approaches to traveling for work, they both recognize that it is impossible to meet with everyone and attend every event.
“In my experience, it can be easy for executives to lose an entire day when they get pulled into meetings with every person down the aisles of exhibit floors,” Patel said. With such little extra time to begin with, once the schedule goes off the rails it may be impossible to get it back on. “While I think it’s great to be curious about the landscape of the industry, people who attend trade events should go in with a clear expectation of what they want out of it instead of passively participating in it. I would recommend reaching out in advance to potential clients, partners, and stakeholders to lock down specific times to meet.”
“Be selective,” Gordon said. “There is this phenomenon I keep hearing about, FOMO—Fear Of Missing Out. You cannot possibly go to them all. Choose events wisely that are going to give you access to specific information or individuals that you would otherwise be unable to access.”
And for the events you do make it to, Gordon recommends a “carry-on bag only whenever possible. Don’t worry about being a fashionista—less is more. Carry a pen so you can make notes on business cards. Walk outside at least twice per day—and not just to partake.”