We know business leaders in the cannabis space are often expected to wear many hats, but one can only get so far on their own. We won’t delve into all of the teamwork clichés, but it is true that a company is only as good as its employees or that a chain is only as strong as its weakest….you get the idea. We spoke with several cannabis executives about how they motivate members of their team and keep them engaged.
Make sure to develop trust
“I think it’s super important to remind your team members that you hired them because you believe in them and are confident in their ability to execute,” Cyo Nystrom, chief executive officer and co-founder of Quim, told mg. While some employers lose trust in their employees after a mistake is committed, Nystrom does not want her team members to work in fear. “We’ll all make mistakes and that has to be ok. I’d much rather have team members fall down and make a little mess while learning than remain paralyzed by a fear of failing.”
“I’d much rather have team members fall down and make a little mess while learning than remain paralyzed by a fear of failing.”
Rusty Wilenkin (CEO) and Jason Osni (President) of Old Pal want their employees to know that their success and hard work will be rewarded. “The first thing we do at Old Pal in terms of motivating our employees is that we’re all about promoting from within,” Wilenkin said. Unlike some bosses, Wilenkin appreciates a little self back-patting. “We encourage our employees to share their successes within their individual teams and the broader organization,” he said.
“At the highest level, we have decided to take the path of making everyone in our organization an owner,” Osni said. “It is a partnership mentality as opposed to a boss/employee mentality.”
Believe in your staff’s experience
Nystrom does not hire team members just so she can directly download her thoughts and ideas into them. After all, what good is hiring a group of employees that check their unique experiences and knowledge at the door? “It has to go hand in hand with communication but we want to hire people with expertise and knowledge that we don’t have and then let them execute on the project we hired them for,” Nystrom said.
“As we’ve continued to hire incredibly smart, experienced talent, we really feel that getting them on the bus and letting them drive is super important.”
“As we’ve continued to hire incredibly smart, experienced talent, we really feel that getting them on the bus and letting them drive is super important,” Wilenkin said. “For Jason and myself, we’re young and we have a strong vision for where this business is going, but we by no means have the expertise in every area that is required to run a successful business.”
Osni realizes that being a supervisor or an executive does not equate to having all of the answers. “We bring people into the Old Pal ecosystem who have expertise and the ability to teach us as founders,” Osni said. “If we were experts in everything we would be able to do this alone…that is far from the case.”
“If we were experts in everything we would be able to do this alone…that is far from the case.”
In many workplaces, employees are situated next to each other, yet divided by both physical barriers such as cubicle walls and personality barriers that may reduce meaningful interaction. Nystrom tries hard to make sure her team bonds and appreciates one another. Team building exercises are the perfect way to make everyone experience more of an intimate connection. “We like to go on short walks in Golden Gate Park in the morning,” Nystrom explained. As anyone working in cannabis knows, it is a networking and events based industry that sometimes leads to grueling days. “We also definitely enjoy getting a meal and a good bottle of wine after a big event to decompress and process all that has happened.”
Team building for Old Pal is a bit more challenging, but something Wilenkin and Osni place a great deal of emphasis on. “Given our team is spread across states, we make it a point to bring everyone together twice a year for a few days to align on the health of the business, what we have achieved as a team, where we are headed in the next six months, and save a little time for group bonding and casually enjoying each other’s company,” Wilenkin said.
Osni mentioned that he and Wilenkin both like to look at how leading sociologists, authors, and thought leaders approach organizational management. While sharing these insightful and deep analyses is a great way to motivate a team, sometimes the tried and true methods are just as effective. “We have also been known to kick back a couple of beers together on our happy hours that happen on the first Thursday of every month.”