Corporate Cannabis Culture Vultures
When people show you who they are believe them the first time.Maya Angelou
With over 22 million people out of work, chances are you or someone you know is looking for a job. Cannabis has been given a measure of grace as an essential business — still restructuring and layoffs continue.
Studies about workplace satisfaction indicate that culture tops the list sitting high above salary. Evaluating the culture of an organization is hard to do over the course of a few hour-long meetings. After working with three very different cannabis companies, I can attest to the ratio of culture to happiness. When walking down this crooked path, don’t be distracted by the shiny chrome of a new vehicle. Taking time to look under the hood is the best favor you can do yourself, even in a time when opportunities may seem sparse.
We look at interviews as a challenge. Our egos are determined to win the prize by getting the offer. After several meetings, the job starts to look like a holy grail. Maybe you make a connection with some of the people you meet. Perhaps the benefit package looks rich. We dream of a big payday when the company goes public, or shares are vested. All of this becomes part of a monologue repeated in buoyant terms. Look carefully at the fine print before you equivocate culture and potential financial rewards. There are vital questions to ask yourself if you don’t want to be walking out the door in 6 months.
The definition of culture includes the customs, social institutions, and aspirations of a people. Evaluating this aspect can’t be overstated. If the new team is cannabis naive or has a conflicted view about the plant, take note. Friction will come up again and again over marketing strategies, go to market plans, field executions, and sponsorships. You’ll be fighting endless battles, ultimately leading to exasperation and finally apathy.
Do your homework. Ask around. Culture is modeled from the top. If you hear of high turnover and read reviews from one unhappy ex-employee after another, something’s up. Whether it’s sex, drugs and rock and roll, or nepotism, you have to decide what you can tolerate and what you can’t. You may suspect bitter rapport among the senior staff. If owners of a company dislike each other, you’ll be witness to bare knuckles brawls. Friends often start cannabis businesses. Those friendships can fray quickly, resulting in conflicting directions on everything from advertising to product development.
If throughout your interview critical information is obscured, do yourself a favor and ask why? You’re not joining the CIA. Don’t let politesse keep you from inquiries that will help you make an informed decision about your future.
Many states are right to work. This means you can be terminated at any time and without notice for any reason. It’s worth it to ask for a contract. The volatility of the space can result in teams sacked without notice. Recently an investor arrived from overseas and dismissed an entire organization on the spot. Non competes, NDA’s, background checks, and 30 pages of legalese may be overwhelming, but take the time to go over them with an advisor, so you know exactly what you’re signing up for.
I’m not talking about the requirement for cameras in production and cultivation facilitates. Rather software installed on your company laptop that IT won’t explain. This was common in my former corporate life; in cannabis, it caught me by surprise. Then there was an owner who insisted on GPS tracking for the sales team. Generally, my view is that if you’re on the up and up, you have nothing to worry about, but again it’s a sign of the culture.
There are obvious red flags and signs you’ll have to read between the lines to understand. Great culture or a band of vultures? It’s up to you to decide.
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