by Adam Weiss
Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Michael Dell are household names to most entrepreneurs and consumers, and like you, they had to start somewhere. These empire builders had common traits that made them successful. They knew how to create a product that was unique to the marketplace, they had a product they believed in, and they provided a product customers wanted. That was the foundation to building their legacies.
As a newer business owner — I started in 2009 — I have followed their work and have successfully grown and nourished my own company. And, as an owner in a budding industry, there are steps you can take to begin the path to building your own legacy.
1. Define your product.
Seems reasonable, right? What’s the market and what can you provide? Is your product the best on the market? Who’s your competition? And how can you provide something better or different than what the market currently offers? By creating uniqueness, you create a demand. To use a beer analogy, are you positioned to be the next Budweiser or do you want to provide a product that’s niche, hand-crafted, artisanal and made with attention to detail?
It’s OK to be the name in the industry. But our motivation has always been to plant the flag as a company that provides a quality product now, then build a reputation based on the quality of the brand.
2. Develop your company’s DNA.
Can you spot a logo that has been professionally designed? You’re already ahead of the game. No matter how great your product or service is, none of it matters if you don’t present yourself and your company to the world in the same way. You could have a genre-breaking widget, but if you’re not represented by good design, you risk not getting in front of your audience — or worse — getting lost.
If someone asks you what your service or product does, have a great answer. Craft your elevator speech or your 140-character tweet to define what your product is, what it does and how your customers are using it. And take the time to make your presentation memorable.
3. Keep it level.
In any industry, you need to bring a high level of ethics to the table. And in the cannabis industry, that step is amplified. The long-term viability of our industry is based on demonstrating a high level of ethics right now. Don’t cut corners to save money or time. Your customers will sniff this out immediately. Play by the rules.
In the cannabis industry — in any industry really — every step of the production phase needs to incorporate compliancy measures. From the time our plants pop out of the soil to the minute the final product is sold, it’s been monitored and tagged, and we know that it’s getting in the right hands. Being compliant will help you develop checks and balances that let you stay above ground and stay legitimate.
4. Be a leader in your industry and to your staff.
Building strategic relationships is key to growing your empire. Relationships can be defined by those you have with vendors, manufacturers, organizations and local groups. We’ve built strong relationships with industry insiders, like-minded stakeholders, government, law enforcement and regulation staff.
It doesn’t happen overnight and can take years to cultivate, but it’s extremely helpful along with finding the people to help build your business. And, don’t forget about your competition. We know our competition — we meet with them, we have beers with them and we push and get pushed by them. It helps you build a better product and ensures that you’re on top of your game.
Develop a culture that attracts the best employees. The Starbucks model of offering employees great benefits make people want to show up for work each day. That’s our goal. Appreciate your employees and hire the ones that will take pride in their work.
Building an empire takes time, a myriad of steps, relationship building and finding the right partners. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t offer this last piece of advice: Before you type the first word of your business plan, hire a good attorney and accountant. They will save you time, tears and heartache. Trust your experts. They will offer the insight and intelligence to steer you on the right path.