Hire personalities that fit your culture, and you can teach the rest. We usually try to hire people with a regulatory or quality assurance background, but we really try to make sure that anyone on our team holds the same values as everyone else in the company. I only hire people who are truly passionate about our industry and really want to make a difference with the clients they will be working with. If a person already falls into our culture and company values, then they will be a good hire, and anything they don’t already know, we can teach them.
As a part of our series about “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Team”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kimberly Stuck.
Kimberly Stuck was the first Marijuana Specialist for the Denver Department of Environmental Health, and therefore, the first Marijuana Specialist for a public health authority in the Nation. Conducting compliance inspections, license sign-offs, running pesticide investigations, writing press releases, conducting recalls, conducting shelf stability and CBD source approvals, she’s done it all. The industry lovingly started calling her the “weed-whacker,” primarily because she has disposed of 28 million dollars of Cannabis/Cannabis products in 2016 alone, due to non-compliance. She has greatly helped Colorado develop requirements, and has also helped California Department of Public Health (CDPH) develop their regulations. She has knowledge of all local, state and federal cannabis and health regulations. During the years as a regulator, she grew a love for the industry and the people in it. While working as a regulator, she noticed a huge gap in the industry when it came to Compliance Consultants. She knew she could make a huge difference and save cannabis companies millions through active preventative measures, if she started her own company, and has already been named one of the 13 women who will help shape the cannabis industry. With the support of the industry, she decided to launch Allay Cannabis Consulting. The company’s goal is to help the cannabis industry thrive on a global scale.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
Iam the Founder/CEO of Allay Consulting, a cannabis consulting firm that assists the industry with FDA, OSAH, Fire and local state cannabis regulations. I started my career as a restaurant health inspector, working for DDPHE (Dept Denver Public Health and Environment) when cannabis became legal. The department had to step up and be the first health department in the nation to regulate cannabis, and we were at the forefront. When cannabis became too big for the department to handle, as a whole, they decided to make a team of cannabis investigators, and that was when I became the Marijuana Specialist for DDHE. After a few years as a regulator, I really fell in love with the industry and the people in it. I realized that, throughout all of the recalls, disposals and press releases, most of the time people were out of compliance due to a lack of education, not necessarily malice. I felt that I could make more of an impact on the industry as a whole, if I started consulting on my own. After about a year on my own, I was so busy I had to start hiring a team. This is something I never planned on doing, but if I wanted to serve all of the clients that wanted me to work with them, it was the only way to do it.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Food safety is a career that has shown me many interesting and disgusting things. Back when I used to work for DDPHE, I think the most interesting thing I learned was just how clueless people are when it comes to food safety. It really made me understand the importance of having regulators, because it is terrifying to see what people would do to skirt the rules, all for a couple of bucks. I’ve seen disposed of tofu being pulled out of dumpsters and brought back into the restaurant, so they can use it again; I’ve seen pigs slaughtered on-site, and blood being dumped down storm drains; I’ve seen so many cockroaches in my life, I hope to never see another again. Sushi is my favorite food, and I didn’t eat it for two years after my first sushi health inspection; that’s what regulators see on a daily basis. As much as it was great for the waste line, it was a very taxing and difficult line of work, and I greatly appreciate those that do it. It’s a thankless job that has to be done, or everyone would die of food poisoning eventually. I learned that it’s human nature for people to not follow rules, if there aren’t regulators on site constantly educating and checking in on stuff. This is why I believe so strongly about fair regulation and education within my industry. My entire life is now revolving around creating fair and safe regulations for cannabis, and educating company owners to understand why those regulations have to exist, and how to be compliant with them. It may sound boring, but after all I have seen, I absolutely love what I do because I know I am helping prevent terrible things from happening.
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?
When I first started, I knew that getting banking was an issue for licensed cannabis companies, but I didn’t realize the bias that I was about to confront in owning an ancillary cannabis company of my own. I am a blunt and honest person, and I straight up told my first bank that I was a cannabis consultant. I immediately lost my bank accounts and had to figure out another means to manage my money. We’ve been around a while now, so obviously we got it all figured out, but it was shocking to learn how so many banks and companies won’t work with cannabis businesses. I have spoken to law firms, plumbers, electricians, chocolate bar mold makers, kitchen equipment suppliers, accountants, and other professionals who absolutely refuse to work with you if you have anything to do with cannabis. I wasn’t quite ready for that, but somehow the industry bands together and makes it work.
Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Most times when people quit their jobs they actually “quit their managers”. What are your thoughts on the best way to retain great talent today?
This is an accurate description of what I think many times does happen. I do want to say that we are all human, and all have flaws. No one is a perfect boss, or manager, or employee, all the time, and sometimes people leave a job, not because they hate the job, but because they need room to grow and move on. When I left DDPHE, I actually teared up when turning in my resignation. It was a great job, I was good at it, and I absolutely loved the team. I didn’t leave because I hated it, or had a bad manager. On the contrary, my manager was, and still is, one of my best friends. Sometimes employees just want to take their career in a different direction, and that is okay. Everyone deserves to live the life they most want to live. The way I retain great talent is to let those individuals know that they are important to the team. I feel like when I worked for the city, no one really relied on me. It felt like a revolving door — if I left, I would be replaced easily and no one would even notice I was gone. This wasn’t true, but because we were never told we were needed, and when people would leave, we just stopped talking about them and usually had no idea why they left, or if they got fired. This created a sense of insensibility among the employees. If your people don’t feel like they are making a difference in the company, then in their reality they aren’t. Letting people know how much they mean to the company and, to you personally, is important. And I think that many people are averse to it. My team is like family to me, and I don’t see anything wrong with that. It makes us stronger, the closer we are.
How do you synchronize large teams to effectively work together?
Communication is key! All parties involved need to know what is going on, what the tasks are, and who is doing what exactly. Also, having one person to keep everyone on track and hold people accountable for their tasks, is key.
Here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your personal experience, what are the “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Team”. (Please share a story or example for each, Ideally an example from your experience)
1) Hire personalities that fit your culture, and you can teach the rest. We usually try to hire people with a regulatory or quality assurance background, but we really try to make sure that anyone on our team holds the same values as everyone else in the company. I only hire people who are truly passionate about our industry and really want to make a difference with the clients they will be working with. If a person already falls into our culture and company values, then they will be a good hire, and anything they don’t already know, we can teach them.
2) Allow your team to grow. I think managers sometimes need to get out of their employees’ way; they will grow if you give them the chance to. They are incredibly talented and smart individuals, and they don’t need me to constantly be looking over their shoulders. I truly believe that micromanaging is a thing of the past. If I felt I had to micromanage my team, I wouldn’t have hired them in the first place. I’ve also learned to let your employees be creative and choose projects they enjoy doing, on top of their regular, scheduled work. I know that they don’t enjoy everything about their job, but having some things that they really want to do and, are interested in, is important for their growth as an individual.
3) Recognize the individual talents and personalities of your team, and have them play to their strengths. Don’t try to make everybody do the same thing; let people do more of the things they are really good at, and enjoy. Some of my team doesn’t like public speaking, while others do; some of my staff loves the OSHA side of the business, so they do more OSHA projects. We are not all the same, and it’s silly to try and make your employees be the same. Embrace their differences and let them do what they really want to do, if possible.
4) Give good guidelines on what is expected of your employees. In our company, this is a thing that I struggle with because each client is different. They ask for different things, and we are in completely different situations each and every day. I just try to make myself as available as possible, to be able to guide my team when they need it. I often get calls regarding what they should do in certain situations, or how I want them to be handled. But I don’t mind. Sometimes it’s a new situation that I have never been in, and we just need to roundtable to see how to handle it. Our company is super collaborative, and I love that about it.
5) Trust your employees. If you don’t trust your employees, then they shouldn’t be working for you. I can honestly say that I 100% trust our entire team. They are this company, as much as I am, and affording them that trust helps them do a good job, without having to be constantly questioned. Also, I am constantly asking my employees opinions about almost everything I do. When I’m writing a white paper, or creating a PowerPoint for a presentation, I always have my team review it. I am not the strongest at many things I do, and asking your team for help, not only helps you, but it also shows that you truly value their opinion, which I certainly do.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
I think that when we talk about letting employees thrive, I see this from a different perspective. I believe that allowing a human to thrive doesn’t just mean “do good at work.” I want my employees to thrive in all aspects of their lives. I believe that paying people a fair wage, so they can afford to do things like buy a house, or go on vacations, is very important. The other thing
that I think is unique about our company, is the freedom and flexibility. We all work remotely, and we have unlimited sick/vacation days. As long as your clients are taken care of, I don’t mind if you take a vacation, or need a mental health day, or just aren’t feeling it. Our job can be very high pressure and demanding, so having some time to relax is important to make sure your mental and physical health are taken care of. I know that not all companies can do things like this, but if you can, it’s a great thing to do for your employees. We also have a very tight team, and we all don’t mind covering other team members’ clients’ needs if they get sick, or need a couple days off. We all work together to keep the company going, and I love that we all care about each other. You have to have empathy for your team and understand that they are people, too.
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 that if I could inspire a movement, it would have to do with cannabis education and the overall normalization of cannabis. I hope that someday cannabis will be as commonplace as alcohol and tobacco. People will understand what cannabis is, and not live in a state of ignorance and fear like many do right now, which causes an incredible bias against the industry. Someday, I hope that cannabis will be a completely normal part of society; that all the cannabis companies will be able to get banking, be able to write things off like normal companies, as well as receive government aid during a crisis. At this time, these things aren’t a reality, but I will be there fighting for them until they are.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I love the one by Steve Jobs: “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” This has always stuck with me, and I look to it when hiring people. I tend to hire people who will help the company advance, not people who will just do their daily job. I may be the business-minded one of the group, but every member of my team is much smarter than I am. And I let them do what they think is best for the company. This is because I trust them, and I know that they care about our cause, just as much as I do, as the owner. They are what makes this company great.