Avant-Garde Holdings Americas CEO Robert Chavez

Robert Chavez

Robert Chavez, CEO of Avant-Garde Holdings Americas

How did you identify this business opportunity in the cannabis sector? What was your “aha” moment?

I’d been in health care for two decades. I ran pain clinics, and I immediately saw the aftermath of the opioid epidemic. South Florida was the epicenter.

The patients—they weren’t even patients, they just wanted pills. I said, “We’ve got to do something about this.”
We started looking at medical marijuana, but I understood the politics of Florida and said, “This isn’t going to work.”

Then we saw CBD and decided to try it. We took a risk and figured we’d take a small order of CBD and see how it works. It was enormously impactful. The patients were getting real results.

My best patients said, “I can use this stuff during the day and function. … To see the hope in their eyes again was amazing.”

 

What have you learned about growing a new company?

Before you scale up, it’s all about proper organization and process management. You have to know all the components that affect your business.

Everybody talks about vertical integration, and they know what it means at a high level. But there’s more to it. Say you have a grow, and you want to vertically integrate, and you’re going to put this strain and that strain in. Do you know what it means to grow in other conditions? Do you know different extraction techniques? What are the cost considerations? Do you know how one system leads to another?

 

What do you mean by that?

Say you have a shortage of a raw ingredient, something that impacts the finished product. Do you have the systems in place to account for that? It’s a little glitch when you’re handling two orders a day. Scale that up to 1 million orders a day. A little glitch becomes a huge problem that can cost you tons of money.

 

How can a new entrepreneur compete in the increasingly crowded cannabis market?

Quality with integrity. Seriously. Not just saying you’re the best, but truly being the very best. At the end of the day, a molecule is just a molecule. How are you making sure that yours are the best?

 

What lessons from the health-care field carry over to cannabis?

This is no longer a novelty item. We’re being carried in doctor’s offices. There are people taking this for a reason: This is medicine. Don’t let people cut in line. The businesses you work with, every product you make, consider that might be your mother or your grandmother you just skipped over. That comes back.

Don’t ever tell somebody that you’re going to call them back and then don’t. To you, they’re just another number, but to them, it could be their whole world, and you’re not calling.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.