After graduating from university with a degree in Exercise Science and a Master’s in Health and Wellness Management, Jack Haddox pivoted his focus and pursued a career in the cannabis industry.
In this interview, Jack discusses his experiences growing a multi-location cannabis business in two states and reveals the hardships and lessons that came along with the journey. The focus points of the discussion are highlighted below:
What led you to pursue a career in the cannabis industry?
Working in the cannabis industry came out of left field. I am passionate about health and wellness, and that’s what I studied in university, but I never had a clear career path mapped out.
A few years back, my wife (then fiancee) was offered a job in Michigan, and I decided to join her. I applied for an entry-level job in the cannabis industry as a budtender and had absolutely no idea what I was doing.
Working in the medical dispensary, I felt fulfilled helping improve people’s health and wellness, but I was hungry to learn more. I offered my assistance in other areas of the business, and soon after, I was promoted to assistant manager and then manager. I eventually helped open 9 dispensaries all across Michigan.
When the opportunity arose to move back home to Missouri, I accepted the position of Director of Dispensary Operations for Swade Cannabis – and there’s no looking back.
Challenges & Insights
What elements of design have you implemented in your shops to give your customers the best in-store experience?
We have designed our shops to closely resemble a typical shopping experience. We want our customers to feel invited and safe, and not like they’re doing anything illegal or shady.
Not many dispensaries allow you to pick up a product (non- cannabis) off the shelves and bring it to a register, but we encourage it! We also have product specialists roaming the sales floor to answer any and all questions that may come up.
We have designed our shops to closely resemble a typical shopping experience. We want our customers to feel invited and safe, and not like they’re doing anything illegal.
What roadblocks have you encountered when procuring products?
Right now in Missouri, the biggest roadblock to procurement is simply product availability. With only a handful of the licensed cultivators/manufacturers up and running, we’re having trouble with severe scarcity. With that said, the next roadblock to procurement will be “inside deals”. Most of the available product in Missouri is spoken for, and it will be really difficult to get your hands on inventory for at least the next two years.
What is the most difficult part of managing and operating multiple retail locations?
The most difficult part of managing multiple locations is maintaining a uniform and cohesive company culture. All of our locations are in very unique parts of the city, each with its own distinct population, quirks, and preferences. Our company culture is something that sets us apart from other dispensaries in the area, and keeping that culture consistent is one of the most important things I do.
All of our locations are in very unique parts of the city, each with its own distinct population, quirks, and preferences.
How would you describe your brand, and what actionable steps are you taking to build that brand and culture?
Swade dispensaries are designed to provide a premium, elevated, and comfortable experience for our patients and customers. Everything in the store is designed with a purpose, including our “jewel box” which showcases loose flower, hand trimmed, and selected for your order. This, in addition to our world class customer service is what sets us above other dispensaries, and keeps patients coming back.
How do you minimize product shortages in your stores?
Since our company is vertically integrated, we have a lot more control over our supply chain, and many people involved in the process to ensure that it is as efficient and stable as possible. This allows us to purchase in greater quantities than we normally would.
However, Covid inevitably interfered with our supply chain, and in response, we’ve implemented protocols to “re-order” at certain quantity thresholds.
What does your vendor vetting process look like? How do you determine their degree of reliability?
The cannabis market is like a community of consumers, everyone knows everyone, or at least everyone knows someone that knows everyone. So, our current vetting process is built solely on availability. If you have products to sell, we will buy them.
As the industry grows, we will determine vendor reliability through corporate sponsors and industry experience or willingness to be a “friend of the industry.”
The cannabis market is like a community of consumers, everyone knows everyone, or at least everyone knows someone that knows everyone.
What was the biggest operational challenge you faced in 2020?
There’s a really obvious answer to this question: Covid.
It changed everything, from how many patients we can see in our stores to the types of payments we can accept. Also, it seriously hampered our expansion by delaying the build-outs of new locations.
If you had all the resources you could ask for, what is one strategy or solution that you wish you could implement to better grow your business?
I really want cash out of the cannabis equation. I would like to have easier banking and seamless cashless payment options made available to all our stores and the entire cannabis industry.
As an operations leader in the cannabis space, what advice do you have for someone who is interested in taking on an operations role in your industry?
To thrive in the cannabis industry, you have to be both flexible and patient. With the constantly changing regulations and laws governing the cannabis industry, the market moves at a volatile speed, and you will experience delays and setbacks. A new law could facilitate it for some time until another one is signed to slow it down. This industry forces you to focus on the big picture, think long term, and realize that many of the setbacks and frustrations are only temporary.
Do you have a personal motto that you live by?
“Don’t be a question mark.” I try to do everything to the absolute best I can. I try to be the answers to questions and not the question itself.