You need good people working for you.
You want to grow the business, make money, beat the competition and so on. To do that, you need good product, good systems, good cash flow, repeat customers, strong sales, effective advertising and great delivery. But without good people, none of that matters, because none of it gets done without people actually doing it.
You want people who are excited for the opportunity, who are engaged in the work and who do what they say and say what they do. You want people who excel, who go above and beyond, who bring strong work ethic, who think about the work and have ideas to share and who genuinely care about your products the way you do.
If you want those kinds of people to work for you, it’s your job to make sure they want to work for you. Back in the 1990s, the popular phrase for this was to be an “employer of choice.” The phrase has gone by the wayside, but the concept remains viable and solid. You want talented people to choose to work for you over your competition. You want the word of mouth out there that says you’re the kind of employer that talented, engaged people want to work for, that you provide challenge and opportunity in exchange for hard work and creativity.
And that’s all on you. As the leader, you create that story for your staff. No one in your company is more responsible for how people experience working at your company than you. The way your staff encounters their work has everything to do with how they encounter you. The stories they tell their friends and colleagues are stories about how you show up every day. The stories they tell are about the work environment you present to them. These are stories about your company culture.
You can’t pass that responsibility to someone else. A CEO once told me that “human resources owns culture.” Completely wrong. HR can be the messenger, the cheerleader or the coach — but the leader owns the culture. Any lesser approach is simply inviting your culture to own you, rather than the other way around.
There are plenty of books, articles and papers about culture. Some libraries and bookstores have whole sections devoted to just the topic of organizational culture. Peter Drucker, the noted author and business mind, is credited with having said, “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” He wasn’t wrong; the best strategies in the world can get pulverized if the culture of the organization is out of alignment.
In most industries, company cultures have had a long time to settle and grow roots. Often, culture evolved in certain ways because no one was paying attention to it, and it happened accidentally. In some industries (tech comes to mind), the pace of life is so fast and furious that culture got lost in the whirlwind.
We have the opportunity in cannabis to change all that. We are an industry full of small businesses, and many are on the verge of amazing growth and opportunity. That kind of growth and the excitement that goes with it can often cause leaders to lose sight of the basics of running their organization, including the value of the culture that put them on the path to that growth. In the face of even modest growth, staying focused on culture is often problematic.
To maintain that focus, start with being very intentional about the culture we create in our companies. That means thinking very clearly about that culture and work environment, and then firmly executing on that vision, even in the face of distractions like meteoric growth.
Keeping culture up front and continually restating its intentionality will also help retain staff. The people who have signed on to work in that culture will continue to gravitate around it and will continue to find ways to support and enhance the culture — if you’ve done a good job of hiring the people who best fit the culture you’ve designed.
Sending that message clearly, consistently and often — and backing it up with actions and behaviors — affects the story your staff will tell about you. It changes what they say about you to their friends and colleagues at other companies. If you are executing on the message effectively, that story builds the case that you are that “employer of choice,” and that people who want to find success and the right work environment will find it with you. That new story is attractive to the kind of engaged people you want in your shop.
Being intentional today sets the tone for how we grow our businesses over the long run. This also lays the foundation for routine, daily practices in people management as you continue to grow. As your reputation for being a challenging and stimulating employer increases, you will become the employer of choice in your community or your channel.
Being deliberate and intentional about culture is a key building block in the process of becoming an employer of choice. It will provide you with the differentiation you need to compete in these fast-changing times.
Terry Smith is a consultant in the cannabis industry and a senior leader in organizational development and change management, specializing in strategic and operational management. His focus over the past decade has been on building organizational capability and success through effective program and system design and implementation to ensure staff can succeed and find value in their work. He has served as an adjunct professor in the School of Business Administration at Portland State University. He is a certified facilitator and coach through Korn Ferry, The Leadership Circle, Organizational Systems International and Achieve Global. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.