25 Tips for a More Successful Cultivation Business

Many professional cultivators and/or cultivation business owners have commented that cannabis cultivation is not easy, to say the least. It’s not a “build it and the money will come” scenario. While it can be extremely rewarding, and profitable when done right, it’s hard work, from initial conception to location selection to the license application to the daily operations on which the success or failure of your business depends. And it’s expensive work. Getting advice from your peers can be invaluable. Cannabis Business Times asked readers to submit their tips for running a successful cultivation operation, and here are the editors’ top picks:

1. “It is important to maintain all business and production-related operations under a documented Quality Management System. Staff should be qualified for their positions, and they must follow standard operating procedures. Maintaining lot-traceable production batch records and conducting in-process quality checks will assure product conformity and quality. And the resulting product consistency and integrity will keep your customers happy.”

– Rino Ferrarese, Connecticut Pharmaceutical Solutions, Portland, Connecticut

2. “Clean, clean and clean. You can feed whatever you want, but it needs to be a clean environment.”

– Stephen Lucht, Operations Manager, Craft Cannabis, Denver, Colorado

3. “Create a schedule for the year of when you expect to harvest. Then work backwards and use those harvest dates to build a schedule of activities during the year. This will not only keep you and your employees on track, but also give you a good understanding of your cash flow and allow you to more accurately understand and control your costs.”

– Ryan Moloney, CEO, Alef Agriculture Inc., Lansing, Michigan

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4. “Enterprise account all functions. Do a good budget. Always know what your costs are.”

– Lee Tecklenburg, Owner, Tecklenburg Ranch, Sacramento, California

5. “Know your market! Just because one's site is capable of cultivating X-amount of marijuana, X-amount means squat unless there is a market to sell one’s products. Make sure you know your market, and assemble the best team one can afford to buy. Educate yourself, educate yourself, educate yourself.”

– Michael Sexton, National Superintendent, Next Big Crop, Denver, Colorado

6. “Getting good labor.”

– Eric Edgerton, Owner/Director of Cultivation, Tilth Farms, Placerville, California

7. “Be involved in your community and local government. Having a positive working relationship with the local and state governments is key to building a sustainable business. Acting responsibly and representing your business in a positive way will help ensure short- and long-term operability.”

– Gary Morgan, Manager/Board Member, SE Moog Droog LLC, Petersburg, Alaska

8. “Obtain elite genetics.”

– Dan Lewis, President, Medicated Acres, Gladstone, Michigan

9. “SOPs (standard operating procedures) are a necessity for running a larger number of people with the same skill behind the work. The more information you can pass on to workers, the more efficient the operation becomes. Then it can move like a single entity.”

– Chaz Kobayashi, Grow Operations Manager/Head Grower, High Level Health, Denver, Colorado

10. “Having a team that believes in the direction of the company, which is only built out of trust.”

– Anonymous

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11. “Don't procrastinate! Do it when it needs to be done and plan ahead. Stick to the script and be able to adjust on the fly. Freaking out never helped anyone.”

– Clinton Kern, Owner, Aficionado Farms, Evansville, Indiana

12. “Run it like a business. It might be a fun business, but it is still a business.”

– Nathan Mendel, President, Your Green Contractor, Denver, Colorado

13. “Due diligence, research and hands-on experience.”

– Robin Thomas, Owner, Gudlief Organization, Nome, Alaska

14. “Take absolute pride in every aspect of your cultivation operation. Love what you do! It's cliché, but not a cop-out. There are numerous way you can run your operation, and no two growers will ever do things the same. Agriculture takes dedication, passion and hard work; no matter the crop.”

– Wes Conner, Manager, Special Projects, Surterra Therapeutics, Tallahassee, Florida

15. “Training and standards are a must.”

– Christopher Sloper, Consultant, Arvada, Colorado

16. “Collect data automatically and drive daily operations to a ‘best health/yield’ benchmark.”

– Dan Thayer, P.E., President, Lifespring Microclimates, LLC, Auburn, Maine

17. “Form a good team. No one can manage a commercial cultivation by themselves; they need a solid team to get things done. Look for things like intelligence, love of the plant, ability to follow directions and ability to communicate in your grow team.”

– Ian Caine, CEO, Acclivity California Cannabis, San Bernadino, California

18. “Turn your trim and shade leaf into concentrates and increase your cash flow by 30 percent.”

– Gregory P. Miller, General Manager, X-Ray Pharms, Socorro, New Mexico

19. “Be hands on with your farm. This is agriculture, not just ‘weed.’ Cannabis strains can be more sensitive and finicky as orchids. Hire quality people and listen to them, ask lots of questions until you truly understand the plants. It will take at least two to three crops before you start understanding your strains.”

– Roger C Collier, Co-Founder, Network Media, Portland, Oregon

20. “Maintaining proper environmental parameters.”

– Cody Fasbinder, Agronomist, Urban Greenhouse, Phoenix, Arizona

21. “Spend time with your plants every day. They are living things, not just cash growing from your chosen medium. Even if you have a master grower, still spend a little time with your plants every day. ... Every plant and strain has its own character and personality.”

– Grant Anderson, Owner, Black Rapids LLC, North Pole, Alaska

22. “Have deep pockets.”

– Grant Gratrix, Managing Member, Cascade High Gardens, LLC, Oregon

23. “Checks and balances for task management. Organization is key.”

– Ellis Smith, Co-founder and CDO, American Cannabis Consulting, Denver, Colorado

24. “Proper planning.”

– Anonymous

25. “Focus on reducing labor while increasing quality/yields.”

– Christian Long, Vice President, Current Culture H2O

January 2017
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