James Yagielo, CEO of HempStaff

Thinking Outside The Bud - 021 - James Yagielo

James Yagielo, CEO of HempStaff

James Yagielo is the CEO of HempStaff, a cannabis industry staffing agency that offers recruitment services to cannabis companies and educational courses to prospective cannabis employees.



[00:00:01] You're listening to Thinking Outside the Bud where we speak with entrepreneurs investors thought leaders researchers advocates and policymakers who are finding new and exciting ways for cannabis to positively impact business society and culture. And now here is your host Business Coach Bruce Eckfeldt

[00:00:30] Welcome everyone this is Thinking Outside the Bud, I’m Bruce Eckfeldt. I'm your host today we're here with James Yagielo and James is CEO of HempStaff which is an industry staffing agency. We're going to hear more about that. We're going to hear more of that James's background. We're going to talk a little bit about buttoning which I'm excited about I think it's a really interesting topic and an important role for the industry as we go forward. James welcome to the program. Thank you for having me here. So what do we start with just getting a little bit a sense of who you are or what your personal and professional background is how you got into cannabis and then let's talk a little bit about that stuff.

[00:01:01] Sure. You know when I started step in 2014 at the time I had been a I.T. recruiter for about 15 years. I reside in Florida in 2014. It looked like medical marijuana was going to come to Florida. So I you know like a lot of people want to in the industry. I also like a lot of people found out I couldn't afford to own a cultivation center. Yes. So then my next task was to figure out how else I could get into the industry. I figured you know why not do something IRA knew how to do which was recruiting. I went out to a bunch of different trade shows and marijuana conferences and met with people that were looking to get into Florida and found that there was a need for recruiting in the cannabis industry and it wasn't really something that was done at a mass level yet. At that point HempStaff was created. We went a little further. I actually founded the company with my wife Rose and she actually had done hospitality corporate training in the past and what we found from a lot of people was that their dispensary workers were not knowledgeable especially out in Colorado California. That was the big complaint of block owners. So we formed the dispensary training course in 2014 as well that we you know been doing over the past four years as well mostly newer markets to create you know some knowledge of dispensaries for these hundreds of new workers coming into the industry in a new state.

[00:02:28] So it's a little bit of what you actually cover and of course how do you what are the what's the training look like for a bartender or are you putting them through obstacle courses and making them do pull ups or what's the what's the content and how do you do it.

[00:02:39] Sure. You know we basically we start with the regulations the state of our training is customized for that state because everything's a little different state to state. The meat of the course is really the science of cannabis. We really dive into the cannabinoids recovery like the top does and we dive into the terpenes we cover the you know the top dozen of those become the top couple dozen cannabis products. So a lot of people don't realize there's products like suppositories and inhaler creams and patches and topical and so we really you know dive into all those and we relay all those to the ailments associated with the medical conditions for that state's program. So we can go through and say this cannabinoid is best for insomnia or anxiety and these products are you know best for someone you know with know skin ailments or you know maybe if they're having problems with nausea. So we break down each cannabinoid Turpin and product related to the ailment. We then go into how to speak to the patient how to comfortably get information from them without violating any HYP of privacy laws or making a bill uncomfortable in any way we want them to you know have a conversation and get them to tell you what relief they're looking for.

[00:03:50] So discussion of the proper way to interact with patients we briefly go over the operations of a dispensary how they're going to know inventory and POS you know how it's mostly a cash business. And at the end of the course we give them a resume template that we found works very well for the cannabis industry and they can send us the resume after the course for a resume review. And we also give them tips on where to find jobs in the industry and give them the states license information so we give him a list of all license companies. Other contact information or Web sites. If they post the jobs where we've seen them post jobs at the end of the course we do have a test. If student passes with 75 percent or better they get a staff certification Yagan then list on their resume and also puts them in our recruiting database in case we get any jobs in our area as well.

[00:04:42] It sounds like the course is kind of a freestanding product which people are interested in becoming bartenders will take to learn get kind of trained on both the of science aspect as well as the actual sensory operations and customer service fees. And then separately you've got a business who is focused on working with dispensary owners who are looking for staff and doing actual placements some of which are people you've trained some of which maybe are not correct are recruiting actual recruits for all business cultivation processing testing labs dispensaries.

[00:05:11] Any licensed cannabis business and into training we actually I'd say two thirds of people looking for jobs but one third may be patients looking to get more information on cannabis.

[00:05:21] We've we had a lot of doctors come in because the doctor of course is sometimes you know a lot of times actually we're told are as in-depth as our course doctors have come to us just to get more information. Even owners come to us a lot of times then they'll send their employees after they realize you know the depth our class covers as well.

[00:05:39] Yes and this is all online. How are you delivering the program.

[00:05:42] These are actually all classroom style travel to each state. All of our trainers have at least five years in the legal cannabis industry and at least two years as a dispensary manager and we basically rent out a hotel conference room for the day. Our classes are four hours and we do two in a day and we just you know travel around the country basically a different Saturday we're in a different city and we just mostly focus on the newer places where there's going to be a lot of employees hired all at once. Now not a lot of experience working in a dispensary.

[00:06:15] Ok. So you can actually sort of swarm into the area and train train a group of people for a particular line or for particular dispensary. Exactly.

[00:06:24] Or just in an area where it is going to be a lot of job openings like for example we were just in Ohio because they just license 40 some dispensaries. They'll all be hiring at once.

[00:06:33] Got it. And are you doing. Are you doing it. These are open enrollment public classes are these private people hire you to train their group of people.

[00:06:41] These are public classes that are going to charge 249 to attend the course. But yet you're just purchase it right on our Web site.

[00:06:47] Interesting. Yeah there is. I think the position side is interesting. We have someone on the podcast who will describe you were talking about the products he liked to say that you know if there's a service or a hole. Figure out how to get cannabis in it you know because there's so many different things so many different ways to consume it and just that you know that's out of it alone is really quite daunting. I think for me even the somewhat experienced cannabis user going into the dispensaries these days I mean the variety in options and all the myriad of products and variables on the products is pretty daunting in terms of the the course itself. What do you think are the big challenges or where where do you see the challenges around but tending role itself is it. Is it the science side is it understanding all of these kind of products. Is it the customer kind of relationship management like how to kind of understand the customer's needs and customer desired outcomes and get them to the right products which where do you see as being the challenge for most folks.

[00:07:44] The challenge is definitely on the science side. For the most part I mean 85 percent pass our test on the first attempt but the ones that don't are generally missed in the questions of the cannabinoids more than anything I think because the acronyms are so similar. You know yeah THC thc cbd CBN CBG.

[00:08:03] So you know if moderate consumers like to say exactly.

[00:08:08] I've never seen these acronyms before and it is a closed book test. So you know a lot of times that is where people get tripped up more than anything. Yeah sometimes they get tripped up with you know speaking to the patient and sometimes that leads to someone after they take our course decide dispensers that really for them they didn't really realize they were going to be dealing with sick people all day and maybe they'd rather go work on a cold Imation site. So that does happen as well.

[00:08:31] And I'm curious about that these in kind of two modes one is what's your kind of take or kind of summary of what the bystander role is. What is it really like. Like if you're thinking about becoming a bartender or you know you're trying to say you're a dispensary owner and you're looking at hiring bartenders like how do you play that role and how do you describe that role.

[00:08:51] Well well you know the first thing we do teach especially in the medical markets is compassion literacy. So you know you people coming in there in a medical market specially the ones east of Mississippi are a little more strict in getting a card. Those people are truly you know sicker than you'll see in Colorado especially in recreational markets. So the passion is very important for this person. A lot of times these people may be older and have never really used marijuana much. So I know you know how to explain the products to them properly. You got to be a cannabis products specialist so you know the worst thing you can do is give someone the wrong product or tell them how to use it incorrectly. So make sure they're getting the right product and you gone make sure they understand the proper dosage of Deaner those things are screwed up. It's a good chance that personæ coming back to you.

[00:09:38] Yeah. Let's talk about dosage a little bit in terms of your strategy or how you advise bartenders how do you.

[00:09:45] Because I think that's one of the big challenges right now in terms of the market. I go to my physician that I get this letter that authorization to use cannabis. The state gives me some kind of cart a man show a dispensary and now I've got to figure out like well what do I take. How much have all said when there's all these kind of questions How does a bartender successfully navigate that decision making matrix kind of process.

[00:10:07] Absolutely is the hardest thing about a bartender's job because like a pharmacist is just filling a prescription they know how much they give you. But tender dispensary age doesn't. So a lot of times we have certain recommendations versus you know stuff like flour or whatever smoking we say you know take one hit wait a half hour. See how you liked it. If you need more take another one. Wait another half hour. So low and slow is always the way to go. Got it. We recommend on other products they may have recommended dosage on the label to do half that first half that weight for the time it takes to kick in especially with edibles. That's where new patients get trouble the most. You got to make sure they understand only eat one square that candy bar it may taste delicious. Go buy a Hershey's bar to eat. Don't eat the rest of that bar.

[00:10:55] Otherwise you should you should sell them in packages so that your ideas like yours. Here's what the satisfy the sweet tooth. This is a medicated version.

[00:11:05] Exactly. Hisato so yeah. Yeah once again. I mean we recommend take you know five milligrams of an edible weight 90 minutes. And if you need more then take another 50 milligrams. And you know it could be it may not give him the best effect for the first couple of weeks but in a couple weeks are going to find that sweet spot for him and know what is good for their ailment to take. But you never want to overdose them in the beginning of course.

[00:11:30] It's tough to recover. I know overdose experience can can really kind of kill kill the product for you especially for a new user. Took me a little bit about strains and varieties and stuff like how do you navigate the different types of cannabis or the different strains of cannabis in terms of advising or figuring out what you would be suggested use based on conditions.

[00:11:48] Sure yeah you know the strains back in the day everyone worries about Steven Indico these days everything is so crossbred that you know you don't see the you know straight on in because the city has too much anymore and that's where those cannabinoids and terpenes come in more and more states are starting to list more and more can Royds the terpenes testing labels. So that's where our class knowledge really comes in. They can look at it and for example this person says you know they have a really hard time sleeping. CB Ns are good cannabinoid to go to sleep so you look at what strange you have the highest percentage of CBN and you would recommend that strain for night time.

[00:12:24] You know they want a strain where they may have to go to work and you don't want to be too out of it. And while one with a lower THC you know for their daytime so you know there's different things you can look at with that and as well the Terrapins to a milder effect also have medicinal effects. So not only will you know the flavor by the different terbium Well it may help them with relaxation if there's some lean a little in it which is like a lavender that helps people you know relax because those are essential oils and they work just like essential oils that you haven't gotten too much into Turkey.

[00:12:55] So I think that's an interesting concept that it's really it's kind of a two part Matrix's cannot afford that Europeans and how they interact in different ways. Absolute like it's pretty complicated to understand of figuring out this map of all the different variables. But I also think that I mean how much do you find that your inventory that a lot of this is kind of figured out depending on what you have. I mean a lot of dispensaries only have a certain inventory in that inventory is flexing a little bit over time based on availability. So it sounds like a lot of this is going to have to start. What are the options that you have to give the user and then figure out based on these issues are based on these questions how to navigate to the right product.

[00:13:33] Absolutely and that is something that we teach our Chloris as well during your slow times you should be brushing up on inventory of your store. So you know you are just staying around doing nothing know what you have in stock know what you're almost out of know what the next shipment coming in contains so that you are you know up to date on. Oh sorry we don't have any topical. We only have these patches right now botanicals are coming in Wednesday if you want to come back. So yeah inventory is extremely important you know and amatory can change like especially with strains you get purple diesel in one week and it has 28 percent THC the next week in mind we have 22 percent. So once again those labels are important because one strain is not the same from batch to batch.

[00:14:14] Yeah that's another tough one and you know there's various efforts I know in the industry to try to figure out how to create consistent product but you know we're dealing with a situation currently where the products are quite inconsistent production the production process the processing processes that are in place are trying to but they're still not perfect at delivering super consistent products. So I think that's good. It gives me a sense of kind of the product side of that product matrix and how do you tell me a little bit about the recruiting side like when you looking at people to become contenders. What are the things you're looking for. You mentioned the sting of compassion but what else are you looking for in terms of skills experiences attitudes behaviors like what tells you that you have found someone who might be a good bartender. And what tells you that you found someone that might not like. What are your kind of warning signs or not.

[00:15:00] Yeah I mean passion for cannabis absolutely goes a long way in this industry. So you know we see someone as passionate for cannabis as we know they're usually not ten times going to be a good bartender. Yeah. On the opposite side. You know the person that just you know doesn't look professional you know uses a lot of slang terms. Usually they're not going to be the best behind the counter that they're probably going to be better off in a cultivations side because you know especially now this like you said cancers the face of the industry. So they want to exude professionalism. So that's really why a lot of people are looking for in an interview. They want professionalism now to get to that interview. There's a couple different sides of what people want some dispensary owners really like to look for people to have medical experience like nurses pharmacists assistants stuff like that. The other side is that some other dispensary owners just want retail and customer service experience.

[00:15:56] So we get both those sides when recruiting for our clients in terms of where do you see the market right now. You know you started this business when you saw things kind of coming into Florida is this there's no end to the demand. Are you looking at how do you generate demand for both of your businesses both the training and placement services. How are you seeing it. Is it generally growing or is it morphing or shifting in different ways. Tell me about the industry.

[00:16:26] Yeah it's definitely growing. I mean as each new state approves a program you know you got an influx of people in need to be trained. So you know that helps our you know training programs right there. Right now we're scheduling several classes in Oklahoma because they just approved medical marijuana and they'll actually have a cap on their licenses.

[00:16:45] They could open up hundreds of Southwest.

[00:16:49] Yeah exactly. So you know it's only a 2000 dollar application fee. So they're going to get a lot of apprehensions as well. So you know a place like that you know the training is going to be very necessary and is going to be influx of jobs as well. A lot of these people are going to get licenses and not really have a master grower. So they are contact recruiting companies and say hey I got my license now I need someone that's willing to move to Oklahoma for 100 grand a year and be my master grower. Yeah. So the recruiting side definitely picks up as a state picks up. Now on the other hand as a state matures and a company gets bigger the recruiting picks up in the beginning like companies are hesitant to use recruiters unless they really have someone they can't find. But as they start making more money and they start realizing that they get one to two hundred resumes in for every opening they start realize the value of a recruiter in saving them hours and hours of time per position.

[00:17:45] Let's say the cost is their cost of time that I think really becomes the deciding factor or you know what makes our ally work for them. Zach you can spend your windows for a while.

[00:17:56] Exactly. I mean if you're going 200 resumes and only 10 percent of those are qualified to use waste a lot of time look at 190 resumes that weren't worth it.

[00:18:05] So I came out of the tax base as well. What have you seen in terms of similarities in terms of the recruiting process and how the industry works how you source candidates how you evaluate and what have you seen as different just in terms of comparing what you were doing before with tech recruiting to kind of us a big similarity is this very similar to the early 2000s in tech.

[00:18:24] Yeah big jumps in salary right now measure people move from west coast to east coast. One example a guy was making fifty five thousand as a dispensary manager relocated to Maryland is now making 91000. Wow. So you know master grower recently went from I believe he's making 70 and now he's making 92. So there's big jumps in salary just like there was in the tech industry in the early 2000s because there is way more demand for these people than there are availability of these people because it's a new industry.

[00:18:54] People like in this industry just like you know the fifth person in at Google is doing pretty good right now. People want to be the fifth person in a new and this company. Yeah. So you know they're very similar in that aspect from I.T. of the early 2000s a little different is the owners and dispensary managers and cultivation managers seemed to be from industries that didn't really use recruiting before. So each industry is very familiar with recruiting. They know its benefits and everything we kind of have to sell the cannabis companies more because these people may have been in finance or whatever but please they didn't really use recruiters and they don't understand the time is money aspect of you know why why our fee is worth it. You realize how hard it is to find employees hire employees and retain employees.

[00:19:42] Yeah. You don't have to wait for them to suffer a little name before they realize that I should have done this six months ago. Exactly. I'm curious in terms of the market data where what are the big what are the big roles that are in demand. You mentioned dispensary manager are you concerned master grower. What's hot right now in terms of the cannabis staffing industry.

[00:20:02] Yeah the three different you know managers cultivation master cultivator a dispensary manager and a master extractor are the highest demand. Master extractors our most recent one was 180000 dollars. I mean this guy was a Ph.D. had worked for you know companies like Johnson and Johnson. So he was you know and he was making that elsewhere. So it wasn't like he jumped in salary just over to the cannabis industry. But people like that are starting to be required in the cannabis industry especially as people and bigger companies trying to find new ways to come up with cheaper extraction methods cheaper cultivation methods dispensary managers are just you know get good salaries being plucked from the West Coast to the east coast you know from good brand names.

[00:20:49] In Colorado there are a lot of migration of people coming from Colorado California groups to some of the new states.

[00:20:57] Yes absolutely especially if they have you know unnamed dispensary they worked for they is kind of a national name already so they can claim oh you know I have a dispensary manager from ABC dispensary in Colorado are here whenever Harborside in California you know. So those do bring a lot of you know big demand especially in newly licensed states. Yeah yeah I can see that. Then of course you know you've got your entry level workers. You know you get those you might get 10 at a time. You know I need 10 cultivations site workers I need you know seven dispensary agents. So those come in bursts. But less frequent than manager positions at this point.

[00:21:35] Yeah I guess I would imagine that finding kind of more day to day workers there's there's other options and I'm probably not looking at quite quite the level of experience or training in terms of the value of recruiting. So if we look at to the Untied are a little bit more because I think you know my next question is really about as soon as this market Rosen shifts right and we go from essentially selling cannabis to people that have had some familiar Kanas historically you know they were you know users at some level or they knew the culture at some level and they're just kind of getting into it now that that is that it's either medically or recreationally legal as as the market grows we start to get people that really have no no prior experience or exposure or maybe have very almost anti cannabis kind of views or or underlying assumptions or historical views and are kind of getting into it. How do you see this kind of tender role or how do you see that kind of developing. I think that the market growth is going to be an interesting sort of dynamic for the business. I'm curious how you see the fund gender role or other roles changing as as we shift to more of a general population or as I like to say you know Middle America starts to use more Canibus like how is this going to shift the whole experience for folks.

[00:22:53] Yeah definitely the bud tender you know they're going to be the educator of cannabis nationwide. I mean they're going to teach these people that hammer really use cannabis before and maybe like you said been anti cannabis that actually works for whatever ailment they have. You know we're starting to see a huge trend of senior citizens starting to realize that the topic has work really well for arthritis. It's measured rheumatoid arthritis. So you know something like that is a word of mouth is getting out you know. So you know the older generation is starting to become way more adaptive to it. We're seeing and even in recreational markets we still do our training because our saying is even a recreational market. They're still looking for some type of medicinal relief for cannabis. So you know whether it's a sleep better relieve anxiety or just relax you know relieve pain. So it still works you know the same way in a medical as it does in a recreational you're still looking for what that person really wants to get out of can.

[00:23:50] Yeah what outcome are they are they looking for and how can I help them select the right product and the right use and the right kind of model or for getting there. Have you seen any big shift in who is interested in becoming a bartender. The people that actually come to the courses are interested in courses.

[00:24:05] Yeah in the beginning it was you know a lot of people I'd say mostly under 40 and 70 30 male to female combat that switched. It's pretty close to 50/50 male female now interesting men and I would say you're getting a lot more of the 40 to 50 five year olds looking to make a career change now that they realized that the industry has been around long enough. They're feel more comfortable that's not just going to be yanked out from under them by the federal government. So we get a lot of nurses and pharmacists assistants they're in their 40s and you know are looking to make the switch. So that has been a change over the past couple of years as well as the equaling out of male to female ratio.

[00:24:45] Did you any particular kind of targeted advertising or focus for your orses in those areas for figuring how to target those folks.

[00:24:51] I mean we would generally target people that have cannabis interests like social media. So we are really targeting the medical fields per se but you know the cannabis interest seems to run the whole gamut of people I mean we were at 70 year old doctors in our class as well. So you know it goes you know from 18 year olds up to 18 year olds. We've had through.

[00:25:13] Yeah I just see that as particularly as you know as you were mentioning as you know the user groups of cannabis you know become more diversified and older generations and stuff that you need bartenders that can effectively interact and relate to these customers it's going to be tough for you know Sixty 65 year old you know new cannabis user to walk into a dispensary and talk to a 22 year old you know a particular type like that that's not going to work or it's going to be more difficult. I had the choice if I get the right to target that market with the right kind of tenders and dispensary experience you know I'm going to see know strategic differentiation. I'm going to be more successful.

[00:25:48] Oh for sure and you know dispensaries do hire what their clientele generally is. So if their clientele is mostly they live in a senior citizen area they will tend to hire older bartenders you know just like if they live in a mostly African-American community they may look to hire you know more African-American bartenders just because you know people relate to people that are similar to them and same lifestyle live in the same area.

[00:26:12] I kind of thing that reliability. I mean I think at some level there's a whole kind of retail science that starts to come into play here is how do we really figure out OK what is our target demographic what kind of experience do they want. How do we message to them. How do we create a physical environment customer experience what kind of information and how do we help them through the decision making. You know I think a lot of a lot of what the suspect will see in the whole kind of dispensary market is this real kind of starting to segment and starting to create different kinds of sensory experiences based on the markets that I'm trying to address and the products that I'm trying to deliver.

[00:26:42] Absolutely especially as capturer are lifted and recreational starts to come onboard and then you know you can have different dispensaries because you don't have a limit on how many are in the state.

[00:26:52] Yeah. I've been kind of thinking about getting into the cannabis market or becoming into a dispensary or cultivation or extraction facility like how would I. What advice would you give to people who are interested in getting involved. Certainly are taking the course and getting educated but what else do you suggest or advise people to do if they're interested in getting involved in cannabis.

[00:27:11] Yeah definitely education is key. You know that definitely helps get your resume noticed. The other thing is you know be prepared to start the bottom. You know most people do take a pay cut when you switch over the cannabis industry. But on the other side promotions happen very fast in the cannabis industry. You know if you're a good worker these companies are expanding quickly and they take their best workers from one shop when you open a new shop to make them the managers of their new shop. So you know I've seen people go from literally 12 dollars an hour to 70000 a year and four years in this industry. So you have to start the bottom but you can work your way back up quickly sir.

[00:27:47] Opportunity for growth as we like to say. Absolutely. Good sir about a time here. If people want to find out more about you about South what's the best way to get a hold of you get more information.

[00:27:57] Oh yeah. Visit our website help staff dot com. But we have information on our recruiting and our dispensary training courses are listed there. He can also find us on Facebook Twitter and LinkedIn Rosten.

[00:28:09] James this was a pleasure. I've learned a lot. I look forward to keeping in touch and hearing how things going. And maybe I'll show one of your courses soon.

[00:28:17] We'd love to have you.

[00:28:19] You've been listening to Thinking Outside the Bud with Business Coach Bruce Eckfeldt to find a full list of podcast episodes. Download the tools and worksheets and access other great content. Visit the Web site at thinkingoutsidethebud.com. And don't forget to sign up for the free newsletter at thinkingoutsidethebud.com/newsletter.