How To Find Your Next Cannabis Business Executive

guide hiring cannabis business executives

Where there’s industry growth, there are robust hiring needs. With a cannabis business executive, however, there are special considerations to keep in mind. Cannabis in particular, because it is so highly regulated and legally challenged, is an industry plagued by misinformation. But times are changing and the operating environment is evolving to reflect a business that is quickly becoming mainstream. 

Whole Foods may have been slow to jump on the CBD bandwagon. But as more and more states legalize cannabis — 36 and counting — even the company’s founder and CEO John Mackey recently acknowledged that the industry is on the cusp of a major transformation. The makers of Marlboro and Corona, with their billion-dollar investments in the industry, have signaled that cannabis is beyond the next big thing. It’s the next Great American Industry, according to Mackey. Just as CBD has gone mainstream, cannabis won’t lag far behind. The industry is growing by leaps and bounds, expected to reach $30 billion by 2025

So how do you start hiring the right cannabis business executives to take advantage of all of this opportunity?

Cannabusiness Is the Industry of the Future

In many ways, the industry makes the job easier. The Cannabis industry will see tremendous job growth in the coming decade. It’s a burgeoning market with higher-than-average pay in comparison to, for example, the consumer packaged goods industries. Also, the cannabis industry has more generous leave policies, which is enticing news for millennials who want a family life. Maybe it’s even a bit more exciting, too, for those who want to get in on the ground floor of an up-and-coming market. 

Since the business hasn’t been around very long, many companies embrace candidates with little or no direct experience in the space. But when you need a cannabis business executive, you’re not looking for just anyone. You’re seeking that special individual who has the ability to propel your company to the next level. 

Challenging Issues for Cannabis Hiring 

As with any emerging industry, there are special challenges to finding the right people, for example:

  • Lingering stigma: Although cannabis is becoming more mainstream every day, there continues to be a stigma attached to working in the business. It’s important that executives believe in the value of cannabis and are willing to engage for the long term. Marijuana has been illegal for ages, overcoming the negativity is going to take time and commitment to being a leader in the industry.
  • Shallow talent pool: Many executives will need to be sourced outside of the cannabis business since the industry is so new. It’s a matter of finding hard skills that are portable as well as soft skills that resonate within your business (more on that below!).
  • Job stability: Despite excellent career growth potential, candidates may wonder about the stability of the cannabis field. That’s one of the reasons Whole Foods was hesitant to stock CBD products. Admittedly, challenges remain, but cannabis is here to stay. 
  • Hidden potential: Job search engines now include cannabis in their search algorithms. But some experienced employees may change the cannabis-specific wording on their resumes to appear in a larger number of searches and avoid being labeled. 

With so many obstacles, how can you find the executive you need?

Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills

Despite the industry challenges, the skills you require are in abundant supply among job seekers. It may not be necessary to have specific cannabis industry experience in many positions. A number of hard skills, such as IT, finance and marketing, are largely transferable. You can, of course, home in on the exact skills your business needs by looking at similar industries. Depending on the position, that could be consumer packaged goods, pharmaceuticals, retail, agriculture or something else entirely. You’ll need to keep an open mind about the synergies. They are there if you look, even among the more mature industries. 

Hard skills are in relative abundance; soft skills present the biggest challenge. The challenge is in aligning the potential new hire’s capabilities with your culture while supporting the changing environment. These skills may include, for instance, the ability to:

  • Work within a highly regulated environment and meet compliance requirements.
  • Respect oversight requirements and comply with changing regulations.
  • Demonstrate activism or interest in the benefits of cannabis.
  • Demonstrate sustained commitment even in the face of uncertainty.
  • Navigate changes as the industry evolves from entrepreneurial to corporate.
  • Demonstrate patience to work through and lobby for legal and regulatory change.

You may identify more based on your company culture (and you can consider asking these 10 questions during interviews to help assess both hard and soft skills). But keep in mind the following important caveat.

Caveat: Pay Attention To Fit

When you are close to the business, particularly one that started small, it can be challenging to assess the culture accurately. Realize that values don’t equal culture. Think in terms of how you actually do things in practice — that’s culture. But because culture can be nearly impossible to see when you’re part of it, you can find an executive with all the skills you require and still make the wrong hiring choice

Successful Hiring

That’s why it’s important to have a good hiring partner — one that brings an objective point of view. They can help identify the characteristics that are critical to your company’s success and find optimal candidates in the most unlikely places. 

As a startup company, you were driven by the entrepreneurial spirit and united behind a common cause. Now, the world has shifted: The attention to detail needed for compliance versus the freewheeling creativity that drives innovation must coexist. For emerging businesses, executive hiring is crucial. It’s confusing when the rules of the game are constantly changing, the talent pool is shallow and the required skills seem contradictory. 

At Y Scouts, we partner with you to help identify critical characteristics that play well with your company today and in the future. By using a covert hiring process that finds executives who are organically aligned with the mission of your company, we are able to help connect organizations in emerging industries with the candidates they need to take their company to the next level. 

Reach out today to learn more about how Y Scouts can help you find the purpose-driven and performance-proven executive your company needs to succeed in the increasingly competitive cannabis space.