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  • R.W. Navis, Guest Author

Why Cannabis Companies Need Executive Recruiters

Ok, so your company has made it through the seed round and is well into your Series-A financing. Business is booming, but you are starting to realize that you don’t have three arms or 40 hours in a day.

In order to scale your company will have to delegate from here on. Friends and relatives will probably not fit all the coming personnel needs.

Certainly, having relatives in key positions can solve some problems. Generally speaking, the trust factor is higher than normal. Your relative probably has as much “skin in the game” as you do through company ownership and will guard company secrets. Just make sure you assign duties that they can actually handle in a competitive marketplace.

The Master Grower is a Relative

Many cannabis cultivation operations have been started by gray- or black-market growers looking to cash in on their experience and go legit. Typically they go to friends and relatives for seed capital or partnerships. These money sources kind of know what the growers have been up to and see this as a huge potential windfall.

What the money sources often overlook are the shortfalls in business experience necessary the grower would need to make any enterprise successful. One of my earliest clients found this out the hard way. This Pacific Northwest CEO brought incredible business acumen to a partnership that relied on his relative for the Master Grower know-how.

Two years into this arrangement it became clear that the Master Grower-relative was making a lot of mistakes.

We lost an entire crop. Other than that mishap, he was an adequate grower but could not delegate to supporting staff and it became clear he would not be able to scale the business,” lamented the CEO.

The business partner turned to me and within a couple of months we found a replacement cultivation manager out of the traditional agriculture sector who had been responsible for a massive growing operation. With oversight from the cannabis company team, the new cultivation manager has done quite well as his strong background in large scale growing shines through. I am sure that this was a difficult transition to move aside a relative for the best interests of the company, and quite sure there are many early stage cannabis concerns that are now or soon will be facing this same situation in the coming months.

The Sales Manager is a Friend

Another cannabis cultivation client, this one in the Bay Area, faced a similar situation as the business grew. The Sales Manager, a friend of the founder, had been involved since the get-go and touted his industry knowledge as critical. But all was not rosy.

Our sales have slowed in an up-market and competitors are taking precious market share” according to the company CEO.

This CEO contacted me and made it clear we would need to find a star if he were to make this change. Well, I found the perfect match. My search developed a candidate with a strong beverage sales background who had gone to work for a cannabis company. He had been very successful in his current position but was being asked to relocate. This was not an option for him, so he was interested in my client’s position, which would allow his family to remain in the same home.

The CEO tells me he was able to smooth this transition out by assigning new duties to his former sales manager. Tough choices, but the kinds that have to be made as companies grow.

Job Boards are Not for Senior Positions

Online job posting and job boards are a good tool for lower level positions in your company. As you move up the ladder to key decisionmaker, this is a bad idea. Sorry to be so blunt, but who do you think is looking at job boards? If the candidate is at a VP-level and is looking at job boards, that probably means he is about to get cut loose from his current position.

I know many of you reading this will disagree, but ask yourself this question: If you are really doing well in your job, do you have the time or desire to be looking at online job postings? No. Also, if you want to hire the best talent available, you have to look outside the cannabis industry. Longtime participants in the cannabis industry are generally not qualified to run larger scale operations. At the same time, promising potential candidates from other industries are very unlikely to be looking at cannabis job boards.

Experienced Executive Recruiters Can Help

Candidates at the level of quality to scale your cannabis business will have to be sourced by seasoned Executive Recruiters. The best in this field will find you the kind of talent you need to stay on top. Yes, there is a fee involved but this fee is a drop in the bucket compared to losing your crop with an inexperienced cultivation manager or losing customers due to an inefficient sales force.

And one more thing: when it comes time to pick your executive recruiter, do not make the mistake of picking a staffing company. Staffing companies operate much like job boards. They wait for candidates to come to them. Executive Recruiters go out and get your best candidate.

R.W. Navis is the leading Executive Recruiter in the Cannabis Industry. His background include 20 years’ experience executive recruiting in the commercial banking industry. Also involved in capital introductions in the cannabis space. Navis is a Stanford graduate with an economics degree. Connect with RW Navis & Associates at or call (805) 453-0001.

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