Start the New Year Off Right: 10 Tips

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Starting off the year on the right foot can help you achieve your next set of annual goals.

January 3, 2022

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Whether 2021 ended with missed milestones or accomplished goals, 2022 can represent a blank slate for your cannabis business. Starting off the year on the right foot can help you achieve your next set of annual goals.

Planning, preparation, and execution are critical when setting yourself up for success in any growing environment, and taking the time to think through each step will ensure that you do not miss any targets throughout the year.

Indoor, greenhouse, and outdoor grows all require different sets of skills, and each can quickly become overwhelming in their own way. With the new year afoot, now is a great time to evaluate your processes and try to improve upon last year as much as possible.

1. Plan for Expansion

The first thing you may want to do around the new year is plan out any expansions that are going to take place. If you intend to increase your plant count, verify whether your current equipment can handle the additional canopy, and plan to staff up during the expansion. Also meet with your procurement personnel and make sure you have enough pots, soil, nutrients, and other growing supplies that may be needed to handle the new plants.

If you want to build out an extra wing or add an extraction lab, make sure you plan around any obstacles that could come up during the process. Do you need to plan an alternative route for harvest? Is your office going to be relocated? Always make sure to be proactive to help avoid any confusion, contamination, or injury.

Finally, look at your processes. Do you need to increase the number of clones you cut? How many more transplants per day do you need to plan for? Make sure your team is all on the same page when it comes to these increases so no one skips a beat.

2. Schedule Maintenance

Ensuring your machines will work when you need them can make the difference between a great day and a disaster that sets your production back by weeks. This is especially true in outdoor grows, where the difference between a machine and human labor doing a task could be the difference between being profitable or not.

When you purchase equipment, maintenance should always be a regular occurrence. Be sure to regularly check in with the person in charge of making sure that the maintenance is done on time. Also, make sure to plan out yearly maintenance on the building or furnace when it is most appropriate for the equipment, such as tuning up the furnace before winter or servicing the HVAC before the summer heat.

The final thing you want to do during maintenance inspections is walk through your facility and assess any other smaller parts like light bulbs or fans that may need to be replaced. Are you using old extension cords that could be updated? Making one last trip through the facility can help you make sure every little thing will work appropriately when it’s needed.

3. Procure Savings

A good practice at the beginning of the year is to collect all the data on inputs and consumables you used in your facility last year (e.g., nutrients, media, state tracking tags, etc.). Do any glaring expenses stick out, like a rushed delivery charge for soil or packaging supplies, that could be prevented by planning? Research to see if there is any way you can buy in bulk and store large amounts of certain items.

If storage is not an option, or if you have a good relationship with your vendor, work with them to get a discounted price for promising to buy certain amounts throughout the year. Any savings on the items you order will immediately impact your bottom line in a positive way.

4. Prepare for Trade Shows

At the beginning of each year, the schedules come out for trade shows that are planned around the country to exhibit anything and everything to do with cannabis. While visiting every single one would be costly, going to one or two can have many benefits. From networking to discovering new machinery or technology, trade shows have a lot to offer—but plan to make the most out of your trip if you’re going to make the investment.

Smaller trade shows are usually more intimate and you can have more conversations, but these generally have fewer vendors with which to interface. Meanwhile, larger shows have more vendors, but it may also be harder to get one-on-one time with anyone at the show. (That said, you can always get people’s information and email them later.)

Having a range of trade shows to attend will help you get a pulse on the industry—and you never know what you may learn or come across that may change one of your processes completely.

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5. Test Your Water

Testing your water once or twice a year is highly recommended to make sure your pH did not fluctuate, your alkalinity did not spike, and/or that no foreign contaminates infiltrated your water system. If you have never tested your water before, contact your nutrient provider and see if they can do it for you—some of them even offer tests for free. If that’s not possible, research nearby water testing facilities. Even in remote areas, there is sure to be one accessible to you by mail, if nothing else.

If your water source changes often, or if you have a shallow well, then testing more often may be necessary to manage those constant changes.

6. Review Your SOPs

Part of being good at regulatory compliance is going through and regularly updating your standard operating procedures (SOPs). By scanning through these important documents, you can not only detect any new process changes that the SOP does not reflect, but you also may come up with an easier way to complete a process. Sometimes, by reading through the process, or having another person who did not write the SOP read it, you can glean a new perspective on how it works and see a shortcut.

Even if no changes are made, at least you can go into the new year confident that all your processes are documented accurately.

7. Set Achievable Goals

Often in this industry, management demands a great deal from their leadership and staff. One way to make sure everyone is held accountable but also feels appreciated is to set achievable goals. Maybe it’s a 5% increase in yield for the month compared to last year, or just sticking to the harvest schedule for six weeks straight. Whatever it is, try to make it so your team can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

If they do reach their target, try to reward them in some way. Little acts of kindness always go a long way, and sometimes your team can really use a pat on the back. Offering incentives like bonuses or raises for meeting goals can be a great way to motivate employees on an individual level, as well.

Setting goals that are achievable but challenging can bring out the best in your employees, and helping them achieve those goals will mean something to them personally.

8. Coordinate Training

Training is something every team needs to go through on a regular basis. Whether it’s brushing up on a Department of Agriculture safety video or watching a webinar about your state tracking system, it can be beneficial to help you stay compliant.

Always aim to get any training done as early in the year as possible to make sure that you are not only compliant with state regulations, but also that you are not missing any new features on tracking systems and other tools that you use.

Often, training videos will show you how the newest regulations are being tracked. They can also act as a refresher for managers who have not used the software in a while and who might need to in case of emergency.

9. Stay Current on New Regulations

As an owner or manager, you should always be up-to-date on all regulations and restrictions pertaining to your business. In the cannabis industry, it seems that every month there is a new law or guideline that comes out, requiring changes to the way you do something.

Before each new year, your state might release a redlined version of the current regulations. If nothing else, you should at least read the redlined changes for the year (or review regulation updates or bulletins posted on the agency’s website). This can save your business from being shut down for doing something that was compliant last year but is no longer compliant. Once upper management has a grasp on the new regulations, make sure the corresponding SOPs are updated and any affected personnel are notified.

10. Update Emergency/COVID Procedures

The final thing you may want to review at the start of the year is your emergency procedures to see if anything needs to be changed or updated. Maybe your fire meeting spot is in a building under renovation or a fire exit was moved. Make sure any updates are documented and that your team is aware of them.

With COVID-19 now a part of our daily lives, be sure you are up to date on all current regulations and restrictions in your state, county, and city. It may also be a good idea to get in touch with your local health department to find out their recommended procedures for handling positive cases. Have a plan for a worst-case scenario where you may have team members from another facility keep the plants alive while sick staff focus on getting healthy.

The new year is an opportunity to expand on everything you did the year before. Laying the proper groundwork today will make it all come together that much easier. Always do your best to get ahead of any major decisions and plan plenty ahead for any staffing needs. The cannabis industry moves quickly—you have to move quicker.

Gevin Gros is a partner at Mary n’ Jane, a vertically integrated multi-state operator with licenses in Colorado and New Mexico.