Article6 Starting Your Career in Cannabis - Careers in Cannabis with David Belsky from FlowerHire
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At the close of the markets yesterday, Bloomberg reported that another 2.98 million working adults filed for unemployment in the last week - bringing the 8-week total to an estimated 36.5 million Americans. Plain and simple, the cannabis industry will be here tomorrow. And with every passing month and every new state that passes new laws there is a need for good people with backgrounds that can support the scaling of an industry that is actually growing at a faster rate than we have people for right now. Jarod Duggins talks to David Belsky from FlowerHire to discuss trends in today's cannabis job market and insights for people looking to explore the industry.
Jarod: From TRICHOMES.com I'm Jarod Duggins, and this is the Careers in Cannabis podcast. On this show we will be talking staffing agencies, cannabis companies and seasoned “traditional” market executives in order to explore and obtain a better grasp of the current employment opportunities and what we might be able expect of the emerging cannabis industry.
Today marks the second Careers in Cannabis podcast episode and before we begin today’s interview, I’d like to again start with the most recent calculations concerning the national unemployment rate. At the close of the markets yesterday, Bloomberg reported that another 2.98 million working adults filed for unemployment since our first podcast. Bringing the 8 week total to an estimated 36.5 million Americans out of work. I’d also like to note, that while I personally have chosen a life long Career in Cannabis, TRICHOMES.com itself has just recently made its public debut. We are here to clarify the narrative surrounding cannabis in general but recently we also saw a two fold need arise from the current Covid-19 devastation. The way we will be globally affected has just begun to show. The “opposite and equal” effects of what will happen from what has transpired is what remains the biggest question…And while I’d like to think that the reason for our industry being deemed “essential” is a compassionate decision made by our esteemed government leaders, reality is that cannabis is one of the largest growing industries nationally, and that means revenue to the state - pure and simple. Regardless of “why”, the 2 things everyone needs to know are : #1 the cannabis industry will be here tomorrow. And #2 is with every passing month and every new state that passes new laws, we need good people with backgrounds that can support the scaling of an industry that is actually growing at a faster rate than we have people for right now. That being said, this show is for those not knowing what their next move is but know they need to make one. I thank you for joining us. We are joined today by David Belsky of Flower Hire. A staffing agency with offices in LA and New York. David, welcome to the show.
David: Thanks Jarod.
Jarod: Hey, you know I'm just gonna start things out full disclosure, I'm actually sitting here in my recording booth, AKA my walk-in closet, having the clothes, kind of cut down on the reverb that we normally wouldn’t get in the sound booth at the office. Just checking in before we get into the conversation, how are you doing? And how have you been holding that personally through the quarantine?
David: You know, it's definitely been an adjustment. I have three kids at some homeschooling track at home and you know, it's a lot. But fortunately we're all healthy and safe. So, you know to take it day by day and appreciate what's important.
Jarod: Great to hear, and you know, you mentioned the change that is inevitable when you have things happen and people stay home, you know previous to covid life, Flower Hire was around and I had been, I've been hearing about you guys making moves throughout the industry of recent times in the last couple months. I've been hearing more and more about Flower Hire and what you had been doing across the industry. Has covid changed your positioning or your thought process over the last couple of months or how are you addressing that?
David: It's a great question. I think, you know, I've been focusing on executive search and cannabis for three years and for the past year, you know, being a California-based company, a new transition to really truly being a national company with an East Coast office and I always knew that talent was going to be the driving force of this emerging industry moving forward because no strategy is going to work with other people to implement it and this is a really hard industry to workin and obviously running a recruiting business in a time when 30 million people have lost their jobs is not for the faint of heart. However, I felt like with the essential services designation everything else if anything on the other side of Covid, growth is going to accelerate because I think states are going to be incentivized to find more revenue and produce more jobs. And you know, I saw something that said, according to Frontier Data, if cannabis was federally legal there would be 1.5 million people working in this industry. So that's a lot of jobs. So I'm even more, I guess bullish on the potential of this industry than ever before.
Jarod: Oh yeah that is, that is a lot of jobs. It's a lot of staffing as you mentioned, you know the east coast and I know from when we were talking earlier you have offices in Los Angeles and New York, can you tell me a little bit about the difference that you're seeing in the needs of the markets over there? I mean primarily you're seeing, I know where recreationally based I guess over here on the West Coast now and primarily you got a lot of medical markets, New York being something of its own, what's going on?
David: I think the great thing is we're past the stigma of working in cannabis largely. Obviously in the West Coast where people have been working in it for longer. But even on the East Coast, it seems like people are kind of ready for legal cannabis, which is great. I think that the industry on the East Coast is a little bit more nascent than a lot of places so it's still very much picks and shovels. Meaning let's get plants in the ground and let's open up stores and then the market will mature and will develop brands and have distribution and all those other things down the road, right? Versus the West Coast, which is just been a more established Market, you know, you have some legal markets that have been open here for years and so in a lot of ways differentiation and specialization are what the operators are doing on the west coast. So there's a little bit more, advanced is probably the wrong word but mature and you know, East Coast are really primarily focusing on just getting operations off the ground.
Jarod: Definitely! Great observations and insights and within that you mentioned, you know, getting the operations off the ground versus a bit more of a mature market. For our listeners that are maybe considering cannabis for the first time or hearing about Flower Hire for the first time, what would you say is Flower Hire’s wheelhouse as far as staffing or placement of individuals?
David: You know, we've worked with everything from like Marky Brands, to multi-state operators, really spending all aspects to cannabis vertical our sweet spot in terms of position is sea level down to sort of experience salaried professionals. So, you know seventy to a hundred K salaried positions on the low end up to you know, your CFO, CEO General Counsel and everything in between, both on a retained and a contingent basis. So and with in that sort of lane, we've probably filled almost any role of strategic value, in the Cannabis industry across, you know, none of the executive ranks, but marketing, operations, compliance and HR and legal and sales and and even the plant specific ones, around extraction, formulations and cultivation.
Jarod: Got you, you know, and so within that you mentioned plant specific and plant specific or plant touching versus ancillary, you mentioned picks and shovels earlier, are you seeing more placements within the plant touching or the ancillary services right now?
David: Definitely, actually the plant touching. If you go back, you know, three years, it was the ancillary companies that raised money the quickest and so they were kind of the first companies that we've worked with before really pivoting more into plant touching two years ago, but right now the majority of our customers are plant touching operators across the country.
Jarod: Nice. Well, you know, it's interesting and obviously compared to a few of the conversations I have in and surrounding Careers in Cannabis as a podcast not only formally as the show, but surrounding it informally just in conversation is you have the unique perspective of being on the East Coast/West Coast as it's going from again being more mature market, into something of a developing market. Within that you're seeing this top level of employee or candidate that you're looking at, are there any traits or specific backgrounds or experience levels that you're seeing in your top hires or top placements?
David: You know, I look at those in two different ways, you know skills and attitude, right? From a skills standpoint, the areas of demand we see the most of our people that have scaled out operations whether that's in a cultivation capacity, whether that's in a kind of supply chain manufacturing capacity. People who know how to build systems in order to promote growth, you know outside of that, you know, General Counsel's, Chief Financial Officers, Cost Accounting, those are probably the most common type of roles that we see. Although again, we see many outside of that too and if you're looking at the type of industry, a lot of the people that have come into cannabis, you know, come out of there, especially more management executive ranks. It's manufacturing, you know, CPG specifically, you know, food, alcohol, tobacco, agriculture, retail. You know, those are really the most common industries that people come from before cannabis and those type of strategic roles. If you're thinking about attitude, I think what I've identified as kind of core characteristics of people that make good hires in this industry, specifically in leadership roles they got to believe in the plant, you know, they don't have to be a recreational user. They just need to believe it on the right side of history. Believe it's medicine, believe it shouldn't be illegal because ultimately all these companies are still mission-driven in their core around that. So aligning culturally is important. You have to be, you know, and we've placed a lot of sober minded people in this industry, you know CFOs, you know councils that are definitely not users but you have their story, their cannabis story. About why cannabis. So you should be able to have some type of cannabis Story. The second thing is they need to have done like startup work before. Like they had to operate without a net before, right? It doesn't have to be, you know an entrepreneur but like someone who's been through a company that's a start-up or has gone through hyper-growth or they've done turnarounds, you know, they've been consultants for a variety of companies because you know, what I found is that if no one's worked in a start-up paste in a start-up environment before and they're trying to learn cannabis and how to work in cannabis, there's too much to take on.So that operating without a net before and realizing that in true hyper growth form, the job never ends. It is a 24-hour day job and the third one is just appreciate the moment in history, you know like as maybe as a capitalist or just realizing you're on the ground floor of an emerging industry and that excitement and that buzz, you know believing in that, right? It's just not looking for another job. It's you gotta appreciate the moment in history.
Jarod: Tremendous insight and I think invaluable to anybody listening and considering cannabis for the first time. This is something that we, you know, I guess we lend towards endearing in thought at TRICHOMES.com is staying with the narrative created by the people who have brought the industry to where it's at, the people that are at the table today, whether they joined in the last couple of years or have been legacy producers and generational farmers from different parts of, you know, the country is the pursuit of doing something better for the plant, is what we all have in common at the moment. It's imperative that we continue participating in this narrative. So yeah, those points that you just brought up, I do believe are valid for people to consider as they're coming into this.
David: I completely agree. I completely agree and I think there's a character trait, humble. Because at the end of the day, it's if you work in this industry at some point you're going to either realize that the first time or you’re put a situation where you're talking to somebody who went to jail for 5 years, who lost their life savings, you know because of this plant and you know, the modern industry kind of stands on the back of all of those previous efforts. So you just have to pay homage to that. There's nothing like that. There's no essential service out there that is still federally illegal, like nothing makes sense in this industry. You've got to be ready for that.
Jarod: Yeah. Boy, could we go down a rabbit hole on that conversation but we are here to talk about careers in cannabis, not the history of that but yeah 100% and you know might I add just real quick is that wanting what's best for the plant and the community and the medicine that's inevitably going to arise from it, isn't synonymous with smoking two bowls in the morning and smoking two bowls at night. It's not about being a stoner. It's not about necessarily participating, it's about believing in the efficacy. It's about believing in a better tomorrow, contributing factors and or basically the daily value of life being better through the use of cannabinoids and ultimately even if it doesn't affect you in that way, knowing that it does affect someone in a positive fashion is something that's a prerequisite to come into the industry and being successful. I think you hit that nail on the head. So thanks for bringing that up.
David: No problem, I love that you just quoted Sublime, but it’s true, there's a reason why this plant is medically legal in over 30 States across the country. It’s because people get medical value from it and actually being excited about being able to provide some scientific rigor and actual real, gather real data about how people use this plant and how it helps them, is only going to help them make the world a better place.
Jarod: Yep. Well, you know David, these points and insights you're bringing up are invaluable to our quest to bring new talent into the industry and the right type of talent. We need people from all callings to help our industry grow into what it's going to become and you know, some of these I guess you can grow into the role, but some of these insights you provided are imperative and whether it helps one, two, three or four people as I've said on the previous podcast, for more people, you know, it's that's what it's intended to do, is help people understand that there are some jobs and opportunities in cannabis that possibly weren't considered before and it takes all types to help an industry become what it's going to become.
David: Absolutely. I mean no matter what, you know, money, you know, you can transfer that fairly easily to companies but people hiring people is critical. You know, a company in this industry is only as good as the people that can follow through and implement a strategy. So, you know, I actually look at this as the largest workforce mobilization since World War II. To go from 200 thousand people now employed in cannabis to 1.5 million, in the next, potentially the next three to five years. Yeah, it's going to take a lot of just hiring. I mean it's scale.
Jarod: Definitely and you know, there's other numbers and we're going to get into it with a one of our future guests in the next shows is let's talk about the veteran population of which prior to covid was down an all-time low number of just 2.5 percent of the veteran population out of work and it skyrocketed over 13 percent currently. So that's a conversation. We as an industry got to get into as well. So maybe we can talk about that on one of our next shows, David.
Jarod: When it comes down to how to get a hold of Flower Hire, where to find you guys, is there a best way to get to see what Flower Hire has to offer?
David: Absolutely. I would go to our website, which is just FlowerHire.com. You’ll be able to see, if you look at our blog, lots of webinars that we’ve put together for the industry. If you click on you know, our careers page you see what jobs we’re working. My email address is David@FlowerHire.com if you want to get in touch with me, probably the best way by.
Jarod: David, just to remind all of our listeners is the founder of FlowerHire.com. So David thanks for putting your email out on our show, you know, no take backs. You're on, you're being recorded.
David: I took a page from Neil Winston's book, when Neal was laid off from or let go or separated from canopy and he spoke at the NCI a event in San Jose last year in June or July and he basically on a screen in front of thousand plus people, put his phone number and said I'm open for jobs, you know, so if Neil Winston does it, I'll do it.
Jarod: Hey, you know when it comes down to doing it best usually one of our predecessors has done it before. So yeah, when it comes down to our continued conversation, I look forward to having you back to Careers in Cannabis on TRICHOMES and figuring out you know, where this highest rate of unemployment and this era in history is going to take us and how cannabis as an industry as a burgeoning industry as a growing industry can contribute to ratifying the problem. David again, thanks for joining me.
David: Thanks for having me.
Jarod: You can follow our series, Careers in Cannabis, as well as more great shows like this one at TRICHOMES.com. If you're a member of the cannabis community and you have a story you want to share with us, reach out. You can reach the show at
careersincannabis@TRICHOMES.com. Please take a second to subscribe to the podcast and write a review, it really helps others find the show. You can also join the discussion with industry insiders, and have your voice heard by joining the community at TRICHOMES.com and following us on all social media. Thank you for listening.