Operational success in cannabis is not easy. All cannabis that is purchased must be tracked and all discrepancies must be investigated and explained. Managers need to conduct daily counts, monthly inventory, and lengthy monthly regulatory reports, all while adhering to government regulations.
There are a number of areas you can focus on for operational success in your cannabis store:
Staffing your Store
Having the right team is the most important step! You could create the best standard operating procedures (SOPs) and be one of the most organized managers. That said, if you do not have employees who understand the importance of procedures, scanning and double checking, you will waste valuable time and drive yourself crazy. Having the right staff is half the battle as miss-picks, disorganization, and employee typing errors can take hours to correct. When you are spending an hour confirming miss-pick variances at 2 a.m. during inventory, you will really understand the importance of this.
You cannot completely avoid human errors. However, you can avoid miss-pick errors by scanning everything. Cannabis packaging can be hard to differentiate. Multiple LP’s grow the same strains, different weight denominations have the same size packaging, and LP’s have different strains with the same packaging.
This also means you must have a barcode for every product in your store, so you are able to scan everything.
Organizing your Vault
Organization is a big part of operational success. An organized vault—the heart of your operation—is key to all of your operations. It starts in your vault. A disorganized vault is a key indicator of a disorganized operation. An organized vault reduces miss-picks and counting errors while speeding up processing times. As a staff member, I would dread doing counts in a disorganized vault, as it would be difficult to count if everything was not where it was supposed to be. I also would not be as motivated to double check discrepancies, assuming they are errors or missing product.
The most difficult or time-consuming tasks can be alleviated with proper planning. Planning your inventory a week in advance can reduce your count by hours! This includes daily counts, which keep your inventory up-to-date. This will allow you to solve variances and fix errors that will save you time by not having to do a large amount on your actual inventory night. I was able to knock two and a half hours off my monthly inventory by planning from the beginning of the month.
Using Negative and Positive Reinforcement
Staff must understand the success of the business starts with operations and there will be consequences when standards are not met. If staff believe there will be no consequences for not following procedures, they are less likely to follow them. In turn, positive behaviours such as following SOP’s diligently, double-checking work, and finishing tasks in a timely manner should be rewarded.
Communicating with Management
Communication is key in all sectors of retail. Operational errors like miss-picks, inventory variances, and incomplete processes must be communicated to management. When issues are communicated, management can align and solve them immediately. Small issues that are not communicated are not solved immediately, and in-turn become larger issues as time progresses. You never want to be blind-sided as a result of a lack of communication. In addition, everyone learns and interprets things differently. One thing that may be common sense to one individual, could be interpreted completely different by another individual. Communication is the common ground that keeps everyone aligned.
Cannabis operations can be overwhelming at times. However, if you have the right staff, scan everything, stay organized, plan ahead, use the correct reinforcement, and communicate with management, you can be successful.
Erik Weekes has opened four cannabis storefronts and is currently solely managing one while also providing consulting to licensed producers and individuals looking to open up a cannabis business.