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How to Evaluate a Cannabis Consultant in a Crowded Pool of Choices

The cannabis industry is saturated with consultants who can assist with business planning, application development, build out, financial advising, and more. Finding the right consultant can mean the difference between a successful business and one that closes its doors too soon.

But it also can be one of the most difficult partnerships to establish. Whether you are considering engaging with a consultant, or you’re a business interested in partnering with a firm to provide holistic solutions, take into account the following points during your evaluation.

Real industry experience

Choosing a consultant who has a proven track-record of cannabis industry experience cannot be stressed enough. Request to see examples of their work in cannabis. This can include quantitative results, testimonials, or even better, speak with their previous clients. Vet whether they have deep and diverse experience across multiple verticals and geographic locations.

If you’re considering working with an attorney on your application, understand that their perspective is not one of an actual cannabis operator and they will lack knowledge and experience in the operational best practices and requirements of setting up a cannabis business.

Request to see writing examples to better identify their technical skills and capabilities. If you’re contemplating working with a previous marijuana operator who now consults, identify whether they have assisted businesses with expansion efforts and are knowledgeable of the specific compliance requirements and demographics of your particular jurisdiction and market.

The right consultant has the insights, connections, and data to help you optimize your business to become a market leader.

Industry connections

Cannabis consultants can help provide the shortcut to building a cannabusiness by recommending the right people, companies, and tools that provide end-to-end solutions to help your business thrive. Marijuana consultants also have positive relationships with stakeholders including regulators, lobbyists, and local and national cannabis organizations. Having strong connections helps provide the most comprehensive, compliant foundation for a cannabusiness.

Common goals and business approach

Establishing a relationship with a trusted consulting partner who shares your long-term goals and understands your vision is key. Does this consultant have plans in mind to optimize your business beyond the application process and are they going to work to ensure your future growth?

There are many qualified consultants in our industry, so your focus should also be on whether you trust this firm and their people. A quality consultant should have excellent listening skills, and be transparent, technically savvy, and trustworthy. If a consultant requests equity in your company, spend time to review the terms and decide if that is the right direction for you. Remember, equity is a very expensive way to pay.

Competitive advantage

If you’re concerned your consultant may be working with your competitors, discuss how they approach each account so you can feel assured that you are receiving personalized services. For example, most consultants require a non-disclosure agreement (NDA), and must uphold those terms so that client information is never disclosed.

It’s important to feel comfortable knowing that your consultant sees your business as a unique entity and will develop plans to support your goals and brand vision. Even the team that you and your consultant assemble makes the application and workflows differ. You have an exclusive story and your consultant should honor that.

The big picture

Many consulting firms in the industry are facing a capacity issue when it comes to client work. C-level executives at some consulting firms are very heavily involved in the writing process and are so “in-the-weeds” that the focus can become cloudy. A good consulting partner executive can contribute direction and knowledge, but has the ability to step back and look at the bigger picture.

A successful consulting firm has developed qualified teams in their specific areas, such as cultivation, extraction, infusion, retail, distribution, compliance regulations, technical writers, project managers, etc. to contribute maximum value and increase your ROI.

Engaging in a consulting agreement is a costly, time-consuming process, and comes with even more risk when you’re involved in the cannabis industry. The guidance gained from working with a trusted consultant brings peace of mind, so know that you’re working with the best-of-the-best.

Jessica Billingsley

Jessica Billingsley

When the first marijuana businesses opened in Colorado, Jessica Billingsley co-founded MJ Freeway Business Solutions to fill a fast growing need to track and manage inventory. As Chief Operating Officer, Billingsley and her partner made the timely decision to design a tech firm specifically for the cannabis industry. MJ Freeway Business Solutions provides a business software platform for point of sale, inventory tracking, manufacturing, cultivation management, and more. MJ Freeway also provides cannabis small-business consulting services and application license support. Since its inception, the women-owned firm has been recognized in numerous major media outlets and was listed in the prestigious INC 5000 in 2015. In addition, Billingsley has been named to Fortune Magazine’s list of Top 10 Most Promising Women Entrepreneurs.

An avid Ashtanga yoga practitioner, Billingsley applies the skills of balance, discipline, and centeredness to her approach as COO. Her deep management skills and strategic vision consistently result in cohesive teams and large profit margins. MJ Freeway’s industry-leading customer service and high revenue returns has earned Billingsley an outstanding reputation in two highly competitive fields – medical marijuana and software development. Billingsley’s respected reputation also won her a board member seat several years running on the National Cannabis Industry Association.

Prior to forming MJ Freeway, Billingsley cut her teeth building and managing technology operations with an emphasis on executive management, corporate culture, finance, and strategic relations. She has been a successful founder, owner, director, COO, and CEO of companies with revenues exceeding eleven million ($11M).

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