By Dawn Dolan
Liz Gehl, founder and chief recruiter of Gehl Search Partners, has been recruiting in the adult beverage industry for several years, and sees many opportunities starting to present themselves in the fledgling legalized cannabis industry. “Our primary focus is providing incredible talent within sales, marketing, commercial strategy and planning, finance, accounting, and administrative roles”, says Gehl. “The competition for talent exists far beyond the vineyard worker level.” Gehl works with people coming from the adult beverage industry bringing with them professional skill sets within compliance, branding, and marketing that are in high demand.
Exciting new job openings are created in the burgeoning cannabis industry daily, offering job seekers the chance to leverage skills learned in the wine industry. As cannabis rules and regulations continue to evolve, compliance personnel have become in higher demand. “Rules are continuing to change, and the [cannabis] industry is aware of that. Compliance experts coming from the wine industry are used to varied laws and regulations by state or new implementation of direct-to-consumer laws going into effect, so the ever-changing rules regarding cannabis don’t faze them.”
Sales is also an area that Gehl is seeing blossom. “[Cannabis industry] people like the fact that adult beverage folks come over understanding how to sell a tangible product, and how to work with distributors and retailers.”
Branding, marketing, and publicity are working their way up in importance to cannabis producers as well. Remarks Gehl, “With marketing, they [cannabis industry] are looking to bring in that upper echelon of experience.” She notes that in Canada, Great North Distributors, a subsidiary of Southern Glazers Wine & Spirits, one of the biggest distributors of alcoholic beverages in the US, is now distributing cannabis. “For this level of marketing and advertising, we need polished individuals. For example, look at the Kindred Cannabis commercial. It’s like a high-end wine commercial.” Bringing cannabis to a mainstream audience takes finesse, and the industry is searching for these people now, Gehl states.
The benefits to taking a job in the cannabis industry? Flexibility, continuous learning, and a fast-paced, exciting new industry may draw some people over. The ability to wear many hats in a fledgling company gives some people the variety in a job they may be missing if they are working in a large company, and only do one type of thing, insists Gehl. “A small cannabis company may need a compliance person, a bookkeeper, and an office manager. Cannabis companies aren’t very profitable yet, so they might try to find someone to do a bit of everything.”
One of the downsides may be the lack of structure. “It’s still a wild west environment,” chuckles Gehl. “It’s not structured, like Gallo or a big distributor like Youngs or Southern.” If being paid in cash works for you, then that could be a non-issue, but no health benefits, and the possibility that the Feds might shut down the business is another deterrent.
Gehl comments, “Cannabis needs the skill sets that are part of many day-to-day operations in the wine industry. Build a brand, utilize fact-based data sets to tell a story, and drive growth. Even with branding and marketing roles, the level of compensation may not be there yet. With equity options, it’s getting better, but it’s a risk for wine industry people. It must be a calculated risk, with a love of the product in order for it to be a successful career move.”
Whether the looser structure of the burgeoning cannabis industry will call to wine industry people enough to get them to make the leap remains to be seen. With a lot of room for growth, undoubtedly this industry will open doors for some of the more adventurous.
The second annual Wine & Weed Symposium will take place in Santa Rosa, CA on August 2nd, and Gehl will be speaking in the sessions covering ‘Cannabis Opportunities for the Wine Industry,’ a discussion led by a panel of three experts on the cross-over job opportunities that are becoming available as this new industry grows. To learn more about this subject, see the Wine & Weed Symposium schedule.