kicked off the farming season last week and began prepping for the
year alongside an amazing team. The stakes are high for cannabis
farms and other businesses here in Humboldt, and for many of us, this
year is the most important of our careers. Team performance will play
a deciding factor in who continues in business and who closes their
the cannabis industry specifically, legalization has fragmented the
attention of owners. They can no longer focus primarily on growing
and sales. Owners must now navigate compliance, Human Resources,
labor laws, marketing in a highly competitive space, environmental
protection/remediation and a host of other business issues.
many farm owners have spent less time in the dirt and more time on
these other matters, quality and performance have suffered in some
cases. Farms, much like other industries, now have an increased
reliance on the performance of their teams. For this reason and in
light of challenging market conditions, team building is of paramount
a cannabis business or any other here in Humboldt, attracting and
retaining quality people is critical. This column will share my
thoughts on the issue and hopefully help you create the team your
business needs to thrive.
and Valuing Employees as Humans
are more than a number or a means to an end. Showing employees you
value and appreciate them is critical. Getting to know them as
people, creating an atmosphere where they can come to you with life
issues, expressing thanks and gratitude and simply spending time
with your people creates relationship and a sense of community, while
drastically improving commitment, loyalty and performance.
who feel honored and valued tend to go the extra mile as they derive
more personal and professional satisfaction from their careers. While
maintaining some professional distance from employees can be
advisable, treating them with basic human values like dignity,
respect and compassion will create a positive work environment that
people can excel in. Through seeking to understand and direct
employees, rather than dictate to them, relationship can be built and
your workforce can thrive.
your employees with the training and tools to succeed is also
critical to the success of your operation. Even within the same
industry, processes and operating procedures can vary significantly
between companies. Taking the time to thoroughly and meticulously
train employees in your process is of paramount importance.
cannabis, like in other industries, experienced employees often have
existing ideas and an existing approach with regard to workflow. That
approach may or may not coincide or jive well with your operational
plan, so ensuring all parties are on the same page will help prevent
problems, miscommunication and dissatisfaction. Training should also
account for the individual learning style of your employees. Some
people are visual learners, some are auditory, and others learn best
with a hands-on approach. Creating a training protocol incorporating
this understanding is more inclusive and will help optimize results.
on the pot farm or in a corporate setting, accountability and
communication are vital for your business. Accountability is about
being trusted and reliable. Do management and employees do what they
are asked and what they say they will do? With greater business
complexity and with more delegation of tasks, accountability for all
team members becomes increasingly important. If one individual fails
to tow the line, negative ramifications for the company can be
open, caring and direct communication within a company is a must.
When communication breaks down or is lacking, problems can occur and
workflow can suffer. Morale can slip, as can employee performance.
Without continuous dialog within your company, opportunities for
growth, development, deeper relationship and performance
improvements are hampered.
opportunities for advancement, or upward mobility among your
workforce is another great way to build a high-performance team. When
employees know and understand that hard work, commitment, dedication and mastery of skills can lead to more responsibility and higher
compensation, they tend to outperform.
many companies hire management-level positions through human
resources or placement agencies, promoting from within can be a more
productive strategy. In cannabis, like in other industries, promoting
individuals with a strong work ethic, a love and a deep
understanding of the company can lead to better results than hiring a
strong resume from the outside. As we are seeing in cannabis, folks
who were strong executives in other industries have not generally
shown the same aptitude in the cannabis space.
Purpose and Meaning
employees and providing them a real sense of purpose and meaning can
help supercharge the results of your team. Regardless of industry,
sharing your mission and vision with employees and empowering them to
live those out each and every day creates a sense of ownership and
increases job satisfaction.
my line of work, creating an artisanal, competition-level product
that saves and improves lives gives me the motivation to push hard
day after day. I find that sharing this with teammates creates the
passion, focus and drive necessary to differentiate ourselves in a
crowded space. Love and enthusiasm are infectious, as are toxicity
and burnout. Employees key in on the energy of management and
ownership, so being an inspirational, vibrant member of the team is a
must. When owners share their love, passion and values with
employees, and rub elbows with them on projects, relationships deepen
and performance improves.
compensation and, where appropriate, a performance-based bonus system
will solidify your team and keep employees happily and gainfully
engaged with your company and its projects. When employees see the
fruits of their labor transition into a year-end bonus, for example,
they are excited to roll into the new year with you and will be less
likely to shop jobs.
well compensated team will display greater loyalty and will be far
more willing to go the extra mile for you and the fulfillment of your
company’s mission. Conversely, teams who grumble about being
undercompensated rarely perform at the highest level.
cannabis, like in other industries, an engaged, motivated workforce
will work harder, take more ownership and radically improve the
success of your operation. As the cannabis industry and Humboldt’s
economy face near-term uncertainty, now more than ever, is time to
honor and value your people. Coming together, working toward shared
objectives and striving to be our best each day can help our
businesses survive lean times and be well-positioned to capitalize on
brighter days ahead.
times are tough, communication, accountability, community and mutual
respect are more important than ever. As we face what looks to be a
challenging year, we need to come together, support one another and
remember that love, friendship and empathy are powerful motivators.
Like it or not, challenging economic times separate winners from
losers. Organizations with a clear focus, strong teams, sound
business processes and amazing products will survive. Others will
love my lifelong community dearly and am rooting for us all. Let’s
Jesse Duncan is a lifelong Humboldt County resident, a father of six, a retired financial advisor, and a full-time commercial cannabis grower. He is also the creator of NorCal Financial and Cannabis Consulting, a no-cost platform that helps small farmers improve their cultivation, business, and financial skills. Please check out his blog at, his Instagram at jesse_duncann, and connect with him on Linkedin.