Industry

“Don’t Hire Your Friends.” with Anthony Franciosi and Len Giancola

"Don’t hire your friends. Working with people you know really well can be tremendously rewarding, but also really tough when things don’t work out the way either party had hoped. I have had some relationships become tumultuous that I would have rather kept the way they were before we started working together."

I had the pleasure of interviewing Anthony Franciosi, the founder and head grower of Honest Marijuana Company, https://honestmarijuana.com/, which utilizes all-natural cultivation methods to produce only the finest organic and eco-conscious cannabis products. Their marijuana is also packaged in Earth-friendly recyclable tin cans with pure nitrogen to ensure only the highest level of integrity and quality. The company also launched the first-of-its-kind 100% tobacco-free Honest Blunt organic-processed hemp leaf cannabis cigar that is all cannabis and are also bringing revolutionary THC capsules into the market for an ultra efficient, discreet, and healthy way to consume cannabis!

Can you share with the ‘backstory” about what brought you to the cannabis space?

My foray into the cannabis world began when I moved to Steamboat Springs in January ’08 when I was 18 and got a medical marijuana card and began growing. I had already been using cannabis medicinally for sports injuries in high school and when I moved out here I got my card so I could carry cannabis legally and start to grow my own medicine. I was working as a landscaper and growing on the side and supplying the dispensaries with extra medicine I grew. The people I worked with while landscaping and growing always encouraged using all organic ingredients and natural methods, and that ethos always resonated with me and I have been trying to do it that way ever since.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

When we first built our facility, it came in modular pieces on trucks from Nebraska to Colorado. Wintertime was just setting in and the building was sitting in pieces in its future home, except for the last modular unit that had to come over Loveland Pass in a snowstorm. Naturally, the trailer had an axel snap and the 40ft modular piece slid almost off the trailer as well. We got together a crew of 7 or 8 guys and went and helped the trucking company jack up the trailer, replace the axle, and move the building piece back into position on the trailer so we could put all the pieces together before the winter delayed us a few more months, which may have been a back-breaker for the yet to be conceived company.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The funniest mistake for me, like many other small business owners I’m sure, was thinking I would open the doors and be a runaway success right off the bat. We have had success to this point, but it has been slow coming and we have worked diligently over the past few years to earn it in a slow and steady uphill battle. I have learned that if you believe in your mission statement and have the product to back it up, you can win over time.

Are you working on any exciting projects now?

We are working on bringing some new and exciting products to market in addition to our Honest Blunts, which have been popular for us up to this point. A lot of the new products center around nano-technology and cleaner, more efficient dosing mechanisms for the consumption of cannabinoids. All of our products always start with in-house organically grown cannabis.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I have to thank the guy who is Honest Marijuana’s biggest supporter and driving force behind the marketing and brand strategy who believed in my mission in the beginning to grow the cleanest, highest quality marijuana for the environment and the customer: Serge Chistov. Serge’s wife and my mom worked together years ago and we met through them after stories were exchanged about my growing experience and what not. After talking to Serge briefly on his birthday in 2014 about where we thought the industry was headed, he came to visit Colorado and we have been working together ever since. Serge is a tremendously successful guy in other industries and ventures and his influence on my life since this company’s inception has been significant and it has been fun to be part of a burgeoning industry alongside him. He told me I can sit in the closet and wish for a cheese sandwich or I can get out of the closet and go to the refrigerator and make one. Probably not the most profound Serge-ism I have heard, but it’s one that I like.

This industry is young dynamic and creative. Do you use any clever and innovative marketing strategies that you think large legacy companies should consider adopting?

We just try to do what to do well even better, day in and day out. For us, it is growing the highest quality, all natural marijuana in the state and maybe the country. We package our products in food grade, top-of-the-line packaging and we try to educate our customer why all of those things are important to us.

Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Cannabis industry? Can you share 3 things that most concern you?

The most exciting 3 things are the medicinal benefits, the potential for people who were prosecuted under harsh drug war era rules to have their records cleaned up, and the potential for renewable and biodegradable plastics. The three things that most concern me start with the lack of free market in the newer recreational states that have limited licenses and require huge investment to even consider being a part of the industry. In Colorado, license fees are manageable and small business people can get their foot in the door based on merit and tenacity, not just with huge capital investment, marketing, and political sway. The second thing is the lack of access to banking and the harsh tax environment. The third thing is all the chemmy, commercially grown cannabis that is flooding the shelves of dispensaries.

Can you share your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started Leading a Cannabis Business”? Please share a story or example for each.

1. Don’t hire your friends

Working with people you know really well can be tremendously rewarding, but also really tough when things don’t work out the way either party had hoped. I have had some relationships become tumultuous that I would have rather kept the way they were before we started working together.

2. Don’t be a “Yes man”

I have always been a “yes man” and sometimes have committed to delivering things I had no real clue how I could make happen. Despite a genuine belief that I can do it and a willingness to make it happen, saying “yes: before really thinking it through has left me in some tough spots. I negotiated for months with a large dispensary chain. Finally making a deal, I made some concessions in the way distribution was supposed to happen that left me in a tough spot with a lot more work than I anticipated and a much slimmer profit. After making it work for a few months, I was unable to keep up the relationship and it fell apart. I was left wondering what it could have been like if I had negotiated more firmly or not made the deal at all, and could have focused on other potential clients.

Those are really the two I can think of and I’m sure people told me them both a number of times before I started this company.

What advice would you give to other founders to help their employees to thrive?

Create a work environment that encourages your employees to take ownership in their roles in your business. I think it flows over to their personal lives and you can create a little bubble of positivity that sort of encompasses your life and your employees’ lives. Everyone can kind of go forward together as a work unit but feel strong in your personal lives as well.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I think whoever makes the most money at the table should pay the dinner bill.

Thank you for these great insights!

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