Work life balance: My team is one of the hardest working groups of individuals I’ve ever worked with, and I’d bet top dollar on their ability to perform above industry standards across the board. The danger in being a workaholic and working from home is that it’s easy to work from dawn until the early hours of the following morning. Losing that structure of an office can lead to an aggressive work schedule that can lead to a more unbalanced schedule.
As a part of our series about the five things you need to successfully manage a remote team Matt Janz Director of THC Marketing, The+Source.
Matt Janz brings years of industry leadership experience to his new role as director of marketing for one of Nevada’s first cannabis dispensaries, The+Source.
Janz, who says he has long admired the company’s brand positioning, messaging and clean design, is responsible for planning, developing and implementing communications campaigns for The+Source. He oversees the company’s marketing and advertising strategies along with maintaining legislative compliance.
With experience as a Vegas Cannabis Summit marketing panelist and as a published writer in the cannabis editorial sphere, Janz hopes to further The+Source’s mission by developing innovative tactics to effectively reach organizational goals, implement successful growth strategies and exceed marketing objective expectations.
An industry veteran, Janz previously held positions as regional marketing manager at The Apothecarium and vice president of marketing and operations at Oasis Cannabis Dispensary. Janz graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in marketing with a minor in communications from Nevada State College. He is also certified in advertising compliance by the Nevada Dispensary Association.
Janz is an avid supporter of several local community organizations, including Opportunity Village, Three Square, the Nevada Blind Children’s Foundation and Forgotten Not Gone. Janz enjoys spending time with his dogs, hiking, cooking and playing music.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. What is your “backstory”?
Prior to transitioning into the professional world, I was a touring metal musician; I had the long hair, Hagrid-inspired beard, and cut-off sleeves to match. I took aptitude tests and kept receiving “marketing” as a potential career. Unbeknownst to me, I had been marketing all along. Building a social following, driving fans to shows, and encouraging them to purchase our products (CDs and merchandise) and services (live shows) was my job.
Medical dispensaries launched in late 2015 in Nevada, and I was fortunate enough to acquire a marketing coordinator position at The Apothecarium. I was eventually promoted to regional marketing manager, which allowed me to build the foundational elements of their marketing mix including their website, social strategy and paid advertising. After leading their recreational launch in both Nevada and California, I was presented with an exciting opportunity to help reinvent Oasis Cannabis Dispensary.
As the vice president of marketing and operations for Oasis, I rebranded, re-strategized and renovated their organization. With the help of an incredible team, we were not only able to elevate their marketing but also completely remodel the dispensary which ultimately led to Oasis being awarded “Best of the City 2019” by Desert Companion magazine.
The success of Oasis opened the door to my biggest blessing yet, The+Source. As the director of THC marketing, I’m responsible for leading messaging across all markets for The+Source, as well as our vertically integrated brands, CAMP and 8|Fold. I also lead and develop our communication and marketing strategies and am ultimately responsible for those brands’ articulation at retail. This includes team, omnichannel, and consumer strategy development across all regions as well as maintaining leading practices in digital retail marketing and brand development and acting as our team’s in-house cannabis expert.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
During my time at The Apothecarium, I’d frequently consult patients to get a better understanding of who our customers were and what their needs were. We had a patient with Parkinson’s Disease that I had become close with, and one day he came in with violent tremors and was anxiously asking me for his normal medicine, a 1:1 THC to CBD ratio Trokie Lozenge. After we finished checking out, he headed to the bathroom and took one of his normal doses (without our permission). By the time he reached the front door, he had completely stopped shaking and was almost brought to tears in the relief he felt.
To me, this was definitive proof of the power of cannabis and its ability to improve the quality of life. It’s this kind of compelling experience that drives our industry to innovate and create better products for patients across all kinds of wellness needs.
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?
During my time at The Apothecarium, we manufactured an edible gummy called Valhalla. One day at an off-site office, I noticed an open pack and had assumed they were non-medicated. We often made non-medicated samples to use at grassroots events and for potential new vendors.
Apparently, these were not one of those samples. Without this critical piece of knowledge, I ate the entire bag (10 pieces/100MG) and slowly started feeling… different. It was around the time when I felt glued to my chair that I realized what had just happened. Long story short, I spent a little more time in the office than normal trying to avoid all human interaction and re-learning how to breathe. The lesson I learned here is to always assume edibles are infused and ask before you eat someone’s food.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive and avoid burnout?
Utilize your emotional intelligence to be present and empathetic; act as your team’s pressure valve; and find time to celebrate and appreciate your team. During these unprecedented times, it is important to recognize the additional efforts your teams are making and respect their need for a feasible work-life balance.
By being present and empathetic, you’ll pick up on cues when your team may need to grab a coffee outside of the office to talk about something that’s on their mind or an issue they are facing. Happy teams are effective teams; the more exhausted your team is, the less productive they will be.
Effective leaders lead from the front and it’s pertinent to showcase your dedication to your team and willingness to help them by any means necessary. Roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty when your team is approaching an overbearing workload. Every CEO has started from the foundational level. A willingness to help your team accomplish your goals by direct involvement goes a long way to show your humility and team-oriented mentality.
And finally, always find time to celebrate and appreciate your team. When we work at high intensities, it’s easy to forget our “why.” No matter what your deadline looks like, you can always find ways to let your staff know that you see them, you appreciate their hard work and that you’re proud of the victories they’ve accomplished.
Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Some companies have many years of experience with managing a remote team. Others have just started this, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Can you tell us how many years of experience you have managing remote teams?
My experience managing remote teams stems from my time at The Apothecarium. In 2018, California opened its recreational cannabis market and I was fortunate enough to assist in the launch of our San Francisco location’s entry to retail. While I was based out of Las Vegas, I had a talented team in California ranging from a “Minister of Culture” to a content curator. Utilizing the Slack software, conference calls and a shared CMS, we were able to put together and execute the full launch campaign without meeting once in person. Considering the work we did together, it’s fair to say I have just over two years of experience managing remote teams.
Managing a team remotely can be very different than managing a team that is in front of you. Can you articulate for our readers what the five main challenges are regarding managing a remote team? Can you give a story or example for each?
- Lack of real-life interactions: This may sound like something Michael Scott would say, but part of my morning routine at my office (pre-pandemic) is to make my team laugh. It’s the best way to break the ice in the morning and start our days off on a positive foot. Unfortunately, there isn’t the same level of engagement you get from in-person reactions through Zoom calls, and that lack of connection can be challenging in this time.
- Virtual emotional intelligence: In the same vein as the lack of real-life interactions, remotely accessing your team’s energy can be challenging. While I do typically focus on the tangible, there’s something to be said for “feeling” your team’s “vibe.” When you walk in the office and feel that stale sense of discomfort in the air, you can identify if there is an issue and try to remedy it with your staff. However, on a Zoom call, your team’s virtual beach background may be your only indication to how they’re feeling that day.
- Ideation/conceptualization: Part of marketing includes being visually creative — whether it’s constructing mood boards, packaging prototypes or sample print ads. While sharing a screen is an easy option for virtual calls, it’s not the same as the hands-on approach of in-person ideation and conceptualization. As with learning, your team has different ways of expressing and employing their talents. For example, my marketing manager, Michael, is the type of visual creator that constructs miniature display prototypes and brand identity boards. Part of his magic comes from that physical construction aspect and his ability to articulate his ideas in a palatable manner, versus purely digital. The physical manifestation of ideas can be conducive to the creative process and proof of concepts.
- Morale: As Jim Collins has stated, “Culture is not in support of strategy, culture is the strategy in great organizations.” Part of what makes a company great is the culture it employs, which fosters high employee morale and engagement. Supporting employee morale can be challenging when working remotely — there’s no mid-day nerf battles, turning desks upside down or surprise cookies.
- Work life balance: My team is one of the hardest working groups of individuals I’ve ever worked with, and I’d bet top dollar on their ability to perform above industry standards across the board. The danger in being a workaholic and working from home is that it’s easy to work from dawn until the early hours of the following morning. Losing that structure of an office can lead to an aggressive work schedule that can lead to a more unbalanced schedule.
Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges?
While this seems somewhat obvious, encouraging video meetings can make the world of difference. At the start of the pandemic, my team was using Zoom, but wouldn’t activate their cameras. While it may seem like an odd request, we decided that real video chats were necessary. You wouldn’t believe the smiles on our faces getting to see one another — that small amount of human connection felt like a long-awaited family reunion.
We’ve also made time for discussions about life outside of work and often ask team members about their highlights of the week. Another tool to help mitigate the challenges of virtual emotional intelligence is to do weekly check-in calls with each individual on your team. Take the extra time to check in on their workload, any challenges they are facing, and any potential tools you can provide them to work most effectively.
Part of our company’s core values is being “seriously fun.” It’s something that’s deeply embedded in our secret sauce and was a challenge at the start of our remote work. However, there are ways to virtualize your company’s culture. For us, it was bespoke memes. My boss and I had created a manual NPS process in the interim of our new system. It was an everyday task (weekends included) and wasn’t the most fun, it was mostly serious… At a certain point, we started creating and exchanging memes with every manual NPS email. I found myself chuckling at my desk (like a crazy person) and the once monotonous task of manual NPS surveys became enjoyable and felt a little like our normal office banter.
In my experience, one of the trickiest parts of managing a remote team is giving honest feedback, in a way that doesn’t come across as too harsh. If someone is in front of you much of the nuance can be picked up in facial expressions and body language. But not when someone is remote. Can you give a few suggestions about how to best give constructive criticism to a remote employee?
For me, it’s important to start any constructive criticism with some positives. No matter what the situation is, start your conversation discussing the positives you see in their work. Constructive criticism can come off too harsh when you start with the negatives, instead of seeking to positively encourage beneficial change. In addition, constructive criticism that is delivered over video meetings help retain those facial expressions and body language that can help soften the delivery of critical feedback. It also allows you to better gauge your team’s response and react accordingly.
Can you specifically address how to give constructive feedback over email? How do you prevent the email from sounding too critical or harsh?
Start your email off with thanks: “Thank you for taking the time to put this together, I appreciate your work and effort.” Reinforce a positive prior to critical feedback: “The messaging here is consistent with the campaign theme of Better Together and I like the functional drop shadow on your edit.”
Move into the constructive feedback with additional perspective: “However, there are a few too many elements and background noise. When we are constructing email graphics, we want them to be visually engaging and easily digestible. If our customers aren’t sure where to draw their attention to, we may lose out on the opportunity to convert them.”
Provide suggestions on what improvements you are seeking: “Try removing the background text blocks, the additional shapes in the header, and the grain filter on the edit. You did a great job on the Better Together print ad; think of that streamlined concept and visual when you’re making your edits.” Close out with an additional thanks: “Thanks again for your work, I’m looking forward to seeing this revision.”
Can you share any suggestions for teams who are used to working together on location but are forced to work remotely due to the pandemic. Are there potential obstacles one should avoid with a team that is just getting used to working remotely?
Be patient, be nimble and think creatively. For many of us, working remotely is a new endeavor. While your Director of IT may be impeccable with zoom calls, your Director of Finance may struggle with getting connected.
Part of successful remote work is being nimble; be adaptable and flexible in your working style. Rigidity will only make the integration process more difficult. The more open and adaptable you are, the easier this transition will be.
Lastly, find ways to stay connected, keep your company’s culture alive and remain hyper-functional.
What do you suggest can be done to create a healthy and empowering work culture with a team that is remote and not physically together?
Be vulnerable with your team and encourage honest dialogue; set meeting structure and standards; and be as communicative as possible. Being vulnerable with your team helps you connect with them on a deeper level, which builds trust.
Setting meeting structures and standards is not only a productive use of time, but it also helps to encourage a routine. The certainty we feel with routine can offset the great uncertainty we feel by being disconnected and living through these challenging times. Routine is also a positive influence on mental health, which can make the world of difference when working remotely.
In a time when SOPs change overnight from governing regulations, communication is key. When you communicate effectively you keep your teams informed, focused and give them the peace of mind that there is indeed a plan through the chaos. It’s a mechanism of stability, direction and assurance.
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. 🙂
If I could inspire any movement, it would be for people to “act like it’s the holidays” every day. The holidays are my favorite time of year; not only because of the gifts and delicious food, but because it’s a time we all treat each other more like humans. The holiday state of mind fosters more compassion and empathy. We should want to bring a smile to our neighbor’s faces year-round, not just when we are bringing them our finest batch of snickerdoodles. We should want to volunteer and express thankfulness for those in our lives as often as possible, not just during Thanksgiving dinner. It’s easy to get lost in the madness of life, but a holiday state of mind could help people treat each other like… people.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Good is the enemy of great.” — Jim Collins.
I’ve had some near-death experiences and lost some of the most important people in my life — both of which have taught me that life is short and finite. Every day we wake up, we have the opportunity to leave this world a better place, to inspire others, and to reach our greatest potential. I want to maximize my time on this earth and work relentlessly towards greatness in everything I do. Before my Grandmother passed away, she told me that I was capable of achieving my wildest dreams. It’s my obligation to work towards her vision of what I could be and make her proud. Good isn’t going to cut it, great is the only outcome I accept.