Stratos VP of R&D Brenda Verghese on the jump to the cannabis space

Brenda Verghese

What made you jump into the cannabis space?

I think the most compelling for me was the amount of cannabis refugees, specifically children, who were taking refuge in Colorado to deal with epileptic seizures.

Next on the list would definitely be people who are dealing with chronic illnesses and trying to just maintain an enjoyable quality of life.

 

What have you learned about finding business partners in cannabis?

We are approached frequently by many people who want to partner up for distribution deals or auxiliary services.

It takes creative and deliberate investigating to determine why people enter the cannabis space and whether a partnership would be a good fit. Our mission is to help people, and we want to partner only with people who share that vision.

 

Do you have any tips for evaluating business partners and avoiding bad actors?

One of the main things I advise before signing with a company is to be sure it has a solid moral compass and an overall goal to do better. Find a business partner who has aligned moral values.

They also need to demonstrate willingness and aptitude in quality and compliance. This can be determined by looking at standard operating procedures, checking business references and interviewing staff.

 

How can you tell whether potential partners have these qualities?

During site visits with a potential partner, evaluate if their team members are happy. The mood in the office is very telling. If a team is motivated and excited about their job, then chances are you’ve got a pretty good company that you’re potentially working with.

Also, assess what their overall end goals are in regard to community involvement. For SOPs, they need to be documented and in place. Of course, for references, we look for trust and enthusiasm in past or ongoing relationships.

 

Where do you get management advice in an industry without long-established operators?

Good leadership and management translate to any industry.

It can be very fruitful to maintain a good relationship with a professional coaching program. We work with a local coaching firm, and it’s been valuable to have an external perspective to work through challenges and amplify successes.

 

How does management coaching work?

We have monthly meetings and are frequently consulting with them. They always give sound, unbiased advice regarding leadership, change management, organizational structure and conflict resolution.

It can be hard as a manager to separate the emotion from what’s actually going on. It’s always great to have a third party there to provide insight on how to deal with situations that we can be too close to.

 

This is a fast-growing industry. What are your tips for scaling up and finding new talent quickly?

Make sure you cover all of your bases before looking for a new team member. Create a detailed, accurate job description so interviewees are aware of what is expected of them.

This sounds really basic, but busy companies often quickly put out a job description without giving it the proper thought. Once that’s clear, conversations can circle around finding out if a candidate can meet those expectations. Reputable temporary agencies can help you quickly locate talented candidates for your company.

 

Reverse question: How do you know when it’s time to let someone go? Any advice there?

I think it’s actually the same: being up front on what’s expected of them. Creating roles and responsibilities and measurable goals goes a long way in setting expectations on both ends. If you’re setting metrics and they’re continually unable to meet them, that’s a sign it’s time to part ways.

 

What kind of company culture helps cultivate employee loyalty?

To be successful in this kind of environment, you need to have good people behind you and give them something meaningful to commit to.

At Stratos, we focus on creating a space where each team member is valued and, at the same time, held accountable. We cite the equation: Commitment plus discipline equals accountability. And our job (as managers) is to empower our team and help each member succeed.

It’s a big part of our culture to work as a team, help each other out and show gratitude.

At the end of the day, rather than saying goodbye to each other, everyone says thanks. It’s so simple, but it means so much. It started with our founding owner. When he walked by people, he’d say, “Thank you so much for what you did today.” And it just spread through to the entire company.

 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.