Surviving the Cannabis Industry 2020 Style

by Rosie Yagielo, COO, HempStaff

Cannabis businesses are now legal to some degree in 34 states. Between medical and adult-use programs, entrepreneurs, big and small, have an opportunity to get involved in today’s fastest growing industry. From micro growers to mom and pop owned dispensary, everyone has a chance to be successful with the right team and of course, the right amount of capital.

But 2020 has not been kind to the financial stability of this country. While cannabis continues to be deemed essential, there is no doubt you have heard the latest news about big cannabis firms still laying off employees from entry level positions to C-Level executives. So, what are some key tips for surviving 2020 and beyond?



With the unemployment rate still extremely high in many areas of the U.S. currently, cannabis businesses are overwhelmed with the number of resumes that are submitted for every single post. Just last year, an average post received around 100 resumes. That has now doubled and can be extremely overwhelming for the average hiring manager.


Let’s start with the Resume

This is an extremely important document as it is the first time you get to sell yourself to the reader – however many candidates seem to pay the least attention to it.

News Flash: pretty paper, large fonts and your photo are NOT necessary! Content is!

This should be a “cannabis” based resume, not more than two pages long and should go back chronologically for 10 years. Tailor the content to the job you want (e.g. if you want to work in a dispensary, then highlight your retail experience). Do not leave jobs out so that you create gaps in your employment. If there IS a large gap for a real reason (e.g. you raised your children for 10 years) give some detail in the cover letter.

Sending out the resume

Please be sure you are applying for a position that really exists. Is there one available or are you randomly submitting your resume to anyone who will listen? The latter does NOT work – and your resume is usually deleted by a hiring manager or recruiter that gets approximately 50 unsolicited emails a day, many of them with resumes attached.


Are you qualified for the position you are applying for? If yes, please continue to the application process. If not, please reconsider your submission. Being inundated with random submissions is no fun (I am a recruiter and this happens daily). If a hiring manager keeps seeing the same unqualified person submitting over and over again, it’s like the boy who cried wolf scenario – they won’t hear him (or see you in this case) and just delete your resume, no matter how good it is or how hard you worked on it. There are many different positions in our industry – from receptionist and cultivation site worker to dispensary agents, drivers, inventory clerks and lab technicians. Find the one that matches your past work history to increase your success rate of getting an interview and landing a marijuana industry job.

Application Process

Did you complete the application process? It may be complicated on purpose because it is a test of your reading and comprehension skills. In other words, can you follow directions? Were there pre-qualifying questions about your past experiences that you did not answer or did not answer in full? TIP:  If you left it blank or did not complete it, you have generally failed the pre-screening and will not be getting a cannabis job.

Do not bait & switch

This is a new thing in our industry driven by bad information being spread by people getting paid as “experts” when they are not! What do we mean? We mean that as a candidate, you accept the interview based on you “accepting” the salary range prior to the interview request. You take the interview and when you get the job offer you try and negotiate whatever you want for a salary no matter how far different it is from what you agreed to originally. That is bait and switch from a candidate. This not only makes you look bad but it makes your recruiter (if you are using one) look bad as well. This does not make you look good; the employer is not going to trust you and more than will likely drop the offer (it has happened too many times to not mention here).

Current Employees

This is not the time to lose your focus or your drive! Loyalty and commitment are extremely important right now! Times are tough and some businesses are trying to figure out how much they will lose this year instead of what they will make. Do you know how many employees have worked for “free” during the pandemic to ensure that crops were successful? That is loyalty! Do you know how many “front line” employees went to work in their respective dispensaries during April and May when information on the virus was scarce and moderately accurate at best? That is commitment! They had one goal in mind – to keep their business up and running and did whatever it took because as a united team – your business can achieve all its goals!



Focus on the 3 most important assets of your cannabis business: employees, customers and reputation!

EMPLOYEES – while we just spent the beginning of this article explaining to candidates and employees to be the best that they can be, we want business owners to recognize that their most important business asset is their EMPLOYEES.

You need people that will be assets, not liabilities. Hire candidates that are going to make good team members – ones who will care about your business as if it were their own. If you need an experienced Director, do not settle for less. Find a cannabis recruiter if you need the help – they have a great network and know what it takes to motivate their candidates to relocate if necessary and can assist you with a good salary. But hire the right people from the onset.

Loyalty & Commitment – We talked about loyalty and commitment on the candidate’s end but we need loyalty and commitment from the business owners as well. Be clear in your job posts and job descriptions so that your potential employee and hiring manager are on the same page.

Once you find the right staff, take care of them! Years ago, too many cannabis industry employees were taken advantage of with low wages and no benefits. That is rapidly changing. Salaries have quickly risen because those candidates with multiple years of legal marijuana experience are now at a premium. Many cannabis businesses have even started to offer benefit packages to their new hires. Since competition is so fierce, especially with the volatile employment market right now, businesses may be offering relocation bonuses now, just to get the perfect candidate.  Pay your employees well, treat them right and they will stay. Underpay them or take them for granted and they will leave, and more than likely end up working for your competitor.

Bait & Switch – While we warn candidates NOT to do this, same goes for business owners. Do not give your candidate a job description and then once they are your employee, change everything (i.e. more responsibility). Do get them onboard and then suddenly eliminate their benefit package. You want your employees to be proud to work for you—so be upfront, be honest and be respectable.

CUSTOMERS – While the employee is your most important asset, you cannot live without the customer. As you build your team, your end goal will always be the treatment of the consumer. People buy from people they like and people they trust. To earn that trust you need educated team members who are willing to go a step above to help the customer. Your team needs to understand what the consumer is shopping for so that your purchaser is keeping the appropriate product line in stock. Providing the customer with the best product at the best price is your goal.

We live in a world where reviews are everything. If your staff is not good or your products are not up to par, you are going to hear about it, along with everyone else in your reviews. Whether you are a cultivator or dispensary owner, those reviews are going to matter, so cannabis training is of the utmost importance. The internet can be your friend but if you are not doing a good job or providing the best products, the internet is going to haunt you. Lost customers are extremely hard to win back and usually the first to give an online review. The goal is to not lose them in the first place.

REPUTATION – While overcoming a bad hire is challenging and getting a “lost” customer back is difficult, recovering your business’ reputation is almost impossible in this industry! While most of the licensed cannabis business are owned by great people who take care of their employees, customers and financial obligations, there is a small minority who do not. Paying your vendors or business partnerships is just as important as paying your employees. Everyone is trying to make a living. When vendors are not paid, how are they expected to pay their delivery drivers or for products? If employees are not paid, how will they take care of their families? If you do not take care of your financial obligations to other business owners, you WILL get taken to collections and even court. How is that going to look to the State Cannabis Commission when your license is up for renewal? What about your Better Business Bureau rating?  Cannabis Collection Agencies are not hurting for business right now, unfortunately. Bad business owners have them working around the clock to help legitimate businesses recover the monies they are owed. The company that performed the services for you has employees to pay. If you decide not to submit payment, regardless of the hours the company put it or how successful the outcome of their services was, it becomes a challenge for the service provider to continue to pay those employees. During our current situation, the daily challenges are more than enough, not getting paid on completed services only makes matters worse.



Your success as an employee or a business owner is in your hands. Use all your resources and networks to be successful. If you are a job candidate and want to improve your chances for entry level employment, look for training certifications and classes to add to your resume. Engage in networking opportunities (virtual for now) and meet some new people in the industry. If you are a business owner and need help reducing your search to hire time for a new employee, consider using a marijuana recruiter who has a network of hemp or cannabis candidates at their disposal. Some of these folks may only be passively considering opportunities but the recruiters are going to know what may incentivize the right candidate to relocate for your job. Keep in mind, the longer the position is open, the more it costs the company financially. Above all else, candidate or employer, be truthful, honest and loyal because we are all in this new cannabis industry together!

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