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What To Look For In a Cannabis Dispensary Consultant

Cannabis dispensary consultant

There are a lot of cannabis dispensary consultants out there. How do you find one that knows what they’re doing and is right for you? It’s a bit of a catch-22 because if you’re looking for a consultant, you’re probably new to the industry. And if you know what to look for in a quality cannabis consultant, you probably don’t need one.

Well, as a firm involved in cannabis consulting we’re a little biased, but frankly with our hands-on approach we don’t have the bandwidth to support everyone that comes our way, and if we can’t help you ourselves we’d love to help you find someone else that meets your needs. So here’s our opinion on what to look for in a good cannabis dispensary consultant.

Operational Knowledge and Experience   

We’d strongly suggest looking for a cannabis consultant that really knows the ins and outs of day-to-day cannabis dispensary operations. Preferably they have experience as an actual dispensary owner or manager.

Some consultants may only be experienced in getting a dispensary license, not actually running a successful, profitable store. Or maybe their only experience is at the entry level as a budtender or inventory manager.

You want someone that’s familiar with all aspects of cannabis retail – including people management, cash management, marketing, finance and accounting, and technology.

At Forte we’re fans of the mantra, “Retail is retail.” Cannabis retail management is complicated and full of unexpected challenges and nuances. It pays to work with someone that has this experience and can help you avoid all the most common mistakes.

Scaling Knowledge and Experience   

The Forte SOP and dispensary management platform helps you stay organized and maintain service quality as you scale

If you’re looking to expand to your second dispensary someday – or maybe your second dozen – obviously you’ll want to find a consultant that has experience opening and running more than just single mom-and-pop shops.

Scaling is about more than just repeating what you did one time. It’s a lot of things including developing repeatable, efficient processes; building a talented, self-sufficient team; and maintaining the flexibility and awareness to adjust to new trends in the market.

Even if you’re not looking to become the next Curaleaf, it still helps for your cannabis consultant to know how a cannabis retail business, since scaling is all about maintaining efficiency and profitability, which can help you survive and compete against the Curaleafs of the world.

Do They Understand the Local Market?

Cannabis regulations and markets vary from state to state. Your cannabis consultant doesn’t necessarily need to be from your area or live there. In fact, if your state doesn’t have an existing legal market, they really shouldn’t be from there, because running a legal business and a legacy business are two very different things. But they should at least have an understanding of the local laws and market conditions.

Understanding the laws is only part of it, since not everything you need to know is written down in the law. What’s the inspection process like? How do the regulators operate in the state? If you incur a violation, will you be given a chance to fix it, or will regulators come down on you hard for the slightest infraction?

Being able to read the local market is critical too. If you took the most profitable dispensary in NYC and dropped it into Albuquerque, it probably wouldn’t do nearly as well, and vice versa. Culture, customer expectations, labor and supply costs, margins, they’re all different from one area to another. Look for a consultant that has a track record of being able to succeed in multiple markets.

Do They Understand the Culture?   

Many cannabis operators have an instinctual dislike of corporate types, profiteers, and johnny-come-latelys without any cannabis background that are only interested in a quick buck, or that don’t have a proper appreciation for the legacy operators that struggled and paved the way for them.

This is understandable from a cultural and ethical perspective. Even if you don’t agree with it, or if you’re new to the cannabis world yourself, there are practical reasons to prefer to work with people that have an appreciation for the plant and have roots in the culture, since the core of any business is understanding your customers.

Can a vegetarian run a successful steakhouse? Maybe, but not likely.

In some markets, illicit sales still make up more than half of all total cannabis purchases. This is an untapped market that the right cannabis consultant can help you address, while still being welcoming to those that only purchase their products legally.

There For You When You Need Help   

Your cannabis consultant can be the smartest, most experienced cannabis business expert that ever lived, but that doesn’t mean anything if they don’t pick up the phone or answer your emails or texts when you need help.

Of course, any cannabis consultant worth their salt is going to be very, very busy, especially during new licensing periods, and won’t always be able to respond right away. But they should be able to get back to you in a reasonable amount of time, particularly during emergencies.

Is Forte Who You’re Looking For?

We’re not your traditional cannabis dispensary consultants. We provide one-on-one training and consulting for first-time dispensary owners in a structured, online course format. It’s more helpful and effective than similar online courses, and more affordable and efficient than traditional consulting engagements. Spots are limited and subject to approval, with priority given to those that already have licenses and a lease on their location. You can apply.

Prefer a more traditional consulting engagement? We do offer hourly consulting services in certain cases. We can also refer you to other consultants that we trust. Contact us if that describes what you’re looking for.

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