"Everything takes longer and costs more than you envisioned. Developing cannabis companies, products and facilities is not an exercise for faint of heart. Successful companies will acknowledge the unknown and develop timelines, budgets and business plans with significant contingencies and resources to adapt to an ever-changing landscape."
As part of my series about “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started Leading a Cannabis Business” I had the pleasure of interviewing Craig Powell. Craig is an integrity-driven senior executive leader with a solid track record of delivering results and building long-term organizational infrastructures that set the stage for future, repeatable success. He has repeatedly helped rebuild and restructure ailing projects into highly profitable venues by practical reorganization and restructuring. With twenty-five years of experience spanning sales, marketing, manufacturing, operations, investments, accounting / finance, international, team building, and line-of-business management experience, Craig is used to making effective long-term, comprehensive, strategic decisions. His c-level competencies include mergers & acquisitions, brand development, exec level marketing, financial analytics, cost containment, team building, negotiations and many more that make up the profile of a successful executive. A graduate of UC Davis, he has been called to be a featured speaker several times to give advice and guidance in agricultural entrepreneurship and innovation. Craig obtained his MBA on finance and accounting from the Graduate School of Management of University of California, Davis in 1999. He also holds a BS in food science from University of California, Davis.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share with us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Natura is the opportunity for me to take the lessons (often mistakes) of 25+ years in agriculture, food processing and CPG and apply them to a brand new industry.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I am amazed by the industry’s collective desire to collaborate in meaningful ways. I spent last weekend with more than 100 industry leaders working on issues that will shape this industry for years to come. The level of candor and transparency were something I have never experienced before.
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?
I don’t know how funny this story is, but my first trip to a dispensary is something I will never forget. I was overwhelmed with the number of products and my own lack of knowledge about how to use them. The take-away was clear; consumer education is absolutely critical in this space.
Are you working on any exciting projects now?
Kind of…. we are building one of the largest and most sophisticated vertically integrated cannabis campuses in California.
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?
My wife, Kelly, has an amazing ability to “cut through” the complexities of whatever issue I am struggling with in my professional life. I think there are two components involved. First, she always tells me the unvarnished truth. Second, she understands me and how the “unique” aspects of my personality contribute to the situation. I am grateful for her counsel.
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 have some amazing people in our organization who have a real passion for and connection to the space. Our strategy is simple — we listen to them! They are able to convey that emotion in a compelling manner across a variety of formats. To me, that is the key; great communication creates emotional recognition and acknowledgement from the audience.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Cannabis industry? Can you share 3 things that most concern you?
Three things that most excite me…
1. The undiscovered potential of this plant.
2. The responsibility to educate and inform the consumer about those benefits.
3. The opportunity to participate in the shaping and development of a brand new industry.
Three things that most concern me….
1. The black market.
2. Cannabis tax policy.
3. Federal policy that prevents some of the best scientific minds and institutions from participating in the research initiatives that this industry desperately needs.
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. There is no institutional knowledge in this industry. As such, almost every project and initiative has to be developed from the ground up. Successful executives will find themselves being much more “hands on” than their counterparts in more established industries.
2. A successful cannabis company must embrace the past and the future. In many organizations, executives like myself were brought in to leverage the experience we have had running large-scale cpg operations. While those skills are certainly useful, the most successful companies will incorporate a “mix” of cannabis veterans and leaders from outside the space.
3. In a related vein, it is important to realize that cannabis ,in its current state, is not a cpg industry. We (especially those who came from the cpg space) all envision a world that is familiar and comfortable to us. However, that is not the current state of affairs. This is a space artificially segmented by federal and state law, struggling to stabilize the supply chain, competing for long-standing customers with the black market and overcoming stigmatization by a large number of new consumers. Successful companies will embrace the industry in its current state while preparing for the future we envision.
4. Everything takes longer and costs more than you envisioned. Developing cannabis companies, products and facilities is not an exercise for faint of heart. Successful companies will acknowledge the unknown and develop timelines, budgets and business plans with significant contingencies and resources to adapt to an ever-changing landscape.
5. People are everything. While I certainly have heard this message throughout my career, it bears repeating on an almost daily basis. The winners in this space will be teams who share three key characteristics: 1). The right why- Understanding and dedication to a compelling vision; 2). The right composition — Ideal mix and number of members, optimally designed tasks and processes, and norms that discourage destructive behavior and promote positive dynamics; and 3). The right systems -a reward system that reinforces good performance, an information system that provides access to the data needed for the work, and an educational system that offers training, and last — but not least — securing the material resources required to do the job, such as funding and technological assistance.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
Pick the right people and create an environment where they can be themselves. If you can do that, you will be amazed at the results.
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. :-)
This is a movement that already exists. Our planet is suffering from the consequences of the Industrial Revolution. If I could inspire anything, it would be to influence more people to acknowledge reality and start a real discussion about what we can do to fix it.
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