I believe passionately in the servanthood model of leadership. In this model, you create the vision, create the structure and build a framework for decision making that the team under you is educated on. Let your team understand the interdependencies of the organizations. Then, get the heck out of the way and allow them to get on with it, but show up wherever the fire’s burning hottest.
David Lonsdale is the CEO of CanaFarma Corp., a vertically-integrated enterprise that is completely in control of its Hemp Oil products all the way from seed-to-counter. Additionally, Mr. Lonsdale is President and CEO of The Lonsdale Group, boutique finance and advisory firm investing in small-cap public and private companies.
He obtained his MBA in Finance & Marketing from Cornell University and his B.Sc. in Physics & Mathematics from the University of Leeds in the U.K.
Thank you for joining us David! Can you share with us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Iwas very fortunate to get into general management at an early age, mostly working with disruptive technologies in various spaces. Disruptive technologies and emerging industries are very interesting to me, as the potential is unbounded. Moving into the exploding hemp business was a natural fit for me — it’s new and exciting, with so much to learn every day!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
For me, the most interesting story is CanaFarma’s incredible rapid speed of growth. As with most hemp companies in the space, we are all new and learning to navigate the industry. That said, we’ve grown at an outstanding rate from just $70,000 in revenue in June 2019 to currently hitting almost $1,000,000 per month.
With all of this growth happening so fast and in such a short amount of time, you can imagine the pressure that our supply chain, as well as company personnel, felt — there was and still is so much to do and keep up with, it keeps us all on our toes! These last few months have been one of the most interesting learning experiences as we better learn to manage our growth and plan for the (very exciting!) future.
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?
Great question! The funniest mistake I have made since becoming the CEO of CanaFarma is my initial reaction as it relates to naming and branding our flagship product, YOOFORIC, a hemp oil-infused gum. When my team first presented me with the name and proposed branding, I didn’t understand it — and my instinctive reaction was to tell them to go back to the drawing board. After hearing my team out, I realized they were onto something, and just because I personally didn’t understand the positioning, didn’t mean my team was wrong. Being a CEO doesn’t always make me right.
My team is experts at what they do, I put my faith in their decision and haven’t looked back since.
Are you working on any exciting projects now? How do you think that it will help people?
We have a number of exciting projects underway, but what really stands out to me, is the science in which the hemp oil is absorbed in the mouth that we are introducing with our chewing gum product, YOOFORIC. We are working with an extremely talented chemist in Europe and have filed patents around the technology and I can’t wait to see what the future brings.
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?
That’s easy! John Costello on the CanaFarma Advisory Board. A number of years ago when John ran AC Nielsen (now known as The Nielson Corporation), he hired me to run a company that he had just acquired. John is a brilliant mentor and an exceptionally talented businessman. I learned a great deal from him over the years and am grateful to know him.
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?
One of our best marketing strategies is direct response consumer marketing. We have built up a very large consumer affiliate network, and when people Google anything having to do with hemp oil, CBD or best products in this industry, there is a good chance that our brand and an affiliate will show up in the top of the search. Using this strategy allows us to direct consumers to one of our branded landing pages, complete with target messaging, educational resources and purchasing information.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the CBD industry? Can you share 3 things that most concern you?
It’s hard to choose just three things because everything about this industry is so exciting! But, with that, there are a few concerning aspects including the lack of regulatory guidelines and authorities, the state of the financial infrastructure as well as the medical science behind it. There is still so much to do!
Can you share your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started Leading a CBD Business”? Please share a story or example for each.
Each answer relates to the quantitative issues the industry is currently facing.
- The size of the market was predicted by the Financial Times to be $16,000,000 in 2022 — it is going to be far larger than that. Preparation is key!
- The medical science currently available has hardly touched the surface of what cannabinoids can do to help the human body. I think we have a long way to go here.
- Legislation has a long way to go. Legislators are working hard to catch up to everything the industry has achieved in the last year. The introduction of the 2018 US Farm Bill left legislators on the backs of their heels, so there is a lot of activity that is not yet operating under the correct rules and regulations.
- The financial infrastructure is rushing to catch up with this industry. Because of a 30-year relationship I have with Bank of America, they agreed to bank Canafarma, but we are one of the first hemp companies that they are banking.
- Be prepared for change. The hemp industry is a new “world” for many and there is still so much exploring that has yet to happen. Have an open mind, and be ready to get creative.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
My views on a CEO’s form of management are very specific. I believe passionately in the servanthood model of leadership. In this model, you create the vision, create the structure and build a framework for decision making that the team under you is educated on. Let your team understand the interdependencies of the organizations. Then, get the heck out of the way and allow them to get on with it, but show up wherever the fire’s burning hottest.
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.
Well, my friend, we are already in the movement — the movement of the hemp industry is only one I could’ve to wish to inspire, but I am so glad to be part of!
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