My recent interview with Craig Petersmark, the owner of United Green staffing agency, opened my eyes to the nuances, challenges, and strategy it takes to build an ‘A’ team for cannabis companies.
For instance, there is an extreme demand for trimmers in cultivation facilities, but there are few qualified workers since it’s an emerging industry. And compliance and regulation laws vary from town to town and state to state. Read on to hear how Craig and his team at United Green solve these problems and others to help companies staff and grow.
What are the most challenging problems facing the cannabis staffing industry?
Well, there are lots of problems. But I would say the biggest one right now is finding reliable talent. The turnover is super high in this industry. And we at United Green have done an excellent job of reducing the rate from the national average for our clients and in a couple of different areas, not just on the direct hire side but from the contract side. There are a lot of various incentives you can throw to the clients, employees, or the contractor. But ultimately, it comes down to building the A team, which means you need to spend a lot of time being strategic in your approach.
Some owners and leaders are very reactionary by not planning and putting effort into building the A-team because they want to scale quickly. You need a process, and you can’t give me a call on Thursday and say, hey, give me five people on Monday. That’s not a recipe for success. We staff from C suite to cultivation teams to transportation, and it’s a varying display of talent, but ultimately you have to know who’s good and most importantly, who’s not good.
It’s the redundant position in the cannabis market where some people get burnt out pretty quickly—for example, trimmers. When you’re trimming for eight hours a day and the owner wants you there seven days a week, and all you get are a few breaks throughout the day, it’s tough. People want to be assistant growers and move up the food chain, and not many people realize how difficult it is to find a good trim team. But when you do, you want to keep them, and trim teams are still better than the technology out there to maximize your harvest and your yield.
Trimming is a new job creation in high demand but without the labor supply. It must be a real challenge for you to fill these positions. Do you see people trying to transition from the illicit market?
Yes, plant trimming is highly regarded on the black market, but now that we’re legalizing it, people have crossed the road looking at better pastures. Although, some have found that vertical companies run a very tight ship, and the black market, as you know, is not as tight as corporate America. There’s a different culture now. At United Green, we try to add to the new professional landscape. I’ve got 25 years of staffing, owned a couple of companies, acquired one, and transitioned to cannabis three years ago due to the demand that was coming.
There’s a lack of cultivation talent throughout the United States. Most of the talent has been recruited from the West Coast to fill Midwest and East Coast positions. Companies and entrepreneurs are attracting talent with more pay and more equity.
How do you vet people coming from the illicit market?
That’s a good question because you have to vet these people, and you must make sure the background checks are clear. Many talented people out there are felons, and they may understand the business in different ways since they’ve been in the market for a while, but some people are just unemployable, and you can’t take the risk. It’s enlightening to see them wanting to get there. But you have to do your due diligence to make sure that they’re the right fit for your client, not only talent-wise but a cultural fit too.
So, where do you see the staffing opportunities?
Our focus right now is with the fortune 100 cannabis companies, the vertical companies that not only need cannabis support and talent, but they need the infrastructure support from a business perspective. And that’s huge for us because we can support all areas on the finance side, mid-level management, C suite management, executives, things of that nature.
And for us, we’re still growing and adding new states every year. We have a national rollout plan that includes 13 states that we have been sliding into for the last three months. We’re officially kicking it off in January, but we’re servicing Ohio, Michigan, New York, New Jersey, and Arizona for now.
We don’t touch the plant. And we don’t move the plant. We’re not secure transport, but there’s a lot of different avenues that we do support.