Karson Humiston is the founder of Vangst, a multi-state recruiting company focused on the cannabis space. Karson is on the Forbes list of The Top 30 Under 30 entrepreneurs on the rise.
Listen in as Karson describes how to hire the perfect candidate to help your business grow. Karson also lays out how to create a successful career in the cannabis industry and what kind of candidates are getting hired.
– How Snoop Dogg’s VC fund invested in Vangst
– Common mistakes employers make hiring
– The devastating math behind misfiring
– How to ensure employees are successful in their new roles
– Enticing executives from other industries
Learn more at:
What are the 5 trends disrupting the cannabis industry right now?
Find out with your free report at http://www.cannaInsider.com/trends
Matthew: Hi, I'm Matthew Kind. Every Monday, look for a fresh new episode where I'll take you behind the scenes and interview the insiders that are shaping the rapidly evolving cannabis industry. Learn more at cannainsider.com, that's cannainsider.com. Now here's your program.
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As the cannabis industry mushrooms in growth, businesses are struggling to find talented individuals to fill key roles. Here to tell us how companies are solving this problem is Karson Humiston, founder of Vangst, a multi-state staffing agency focused on the cannabis industry. Karson, welcome to "CannaInsider."
Karson: Matt, thanks for having me on "CannaInsider." I'm excited to be part of this.
Matthew: Give us a sense of geography. Where in the world are you today?
Karson: Well, Vangst is based in Denver, Colorado, and Santa Monica, California. Today, I'm actually in Washington, DC for the NCIA lobby days, but typically I split my time between our two offices in Denver and Los Angeles.
Matthew: Okay. And I'm in Edinburgh, Scotland today.
Karson: Wow. Not bad.
Matthew: Not bad. Yeah. Give us a little background. What is Vangst at a high level? Give us a sense.
Karson: Sure. Vangst as a recruiting resource for the cannabis industry. We started in 2015 and since that time, we've connected over 5,500 people with jobs at leading cannabis companies around the U.S. and Canada.
Karson: We connect these people, these professionals with jobs for direct hire, employee on demand in our job board, which I'm sure I can get into a little bit later on in the podcast. But that's how we go about connecting people from all different industries with jobs in this industry. And we think it's very critical that as this industry continues to move forward, the best and the brightest from all different industries are bringing their skills, bringing their experience, bringing their talent, bringing their passion into this space.
Matthew: Well, tell us a little bit about your background and journey and how you got started with the idea for Vangst and how it kind of matured and evolved.
Karson: Okay. I was a senior in college at St. Lawrence University in upstate New York. And I was running a student travel company that I founded called On Track Adventures. And as the end of my senior year came around, I sent an email out to my network which consisted of current students and recent college graduates, and I asked them which industries they were most excited about, most interested going and attempting to get a job in. And there was a huge overwhelming response to the cannabis industry, which looking back on it, it's very forward thinking of my age, millennials, to be thinking that the cannabis industry would be where it is even today and in the future because, in 2015, it was nowhere near as popular as it is today. But this is, you know, this intrigued me to go to a cannabis trade show.
And I went to a trade show and I was really impressed and surprised by the types of businesses that were there, the types of professionals in the industry. Obviously, my own stigma to the industry changed and I asked the companies, "What positions are you hiring for?" and it was mad. It was every type of position. It was chemical engineer, sales manager, CTOs. I mean, just every type of position that you can imagine was needed in the industry, which of course, I didn't realize. I thought it was growers, budtenders, dispensary managers, and there were so many more. Accountants, CFOs, controllers, everything along the financial side. And this was still very early. So, I asked the companies, "How do you go about finding your employees?" And they said, "It's tough. Right now if we post on traditional job boards, our job postings are taken down and flag because of the cannabis industry," which since that time that has actually changed. But they said, there's not an industry-specific search firm. There's not a firm that helps us with temporary employees. And so it was very hard to find employees outside of our own networks. And I let them know that I have a very big network of students and recent grads, so if they're interested in hiring one, I own a company called Gradjuana which was just something I made up on the fly. Green jobs for grad, Gradjuana.
Matthew: I like it.
Karson: And the logo was completely ridiculous. A graduation cap with a weed hat coming off of it. And I went back to St. Lawrence and I made an inexpensive website on Wix and started reaching out to all the people who I had met and I said, "I'm moving to Denver, and let me follow up. Let me help you find that in Turner recent grad that you told me that you need." And so I graduated, I moved out to Denver to start Gradjuana. Of course, my friends and family were horrified that I was starting a weed hiring company. And it was off to the races from there. Our first plan was Openvape, and we found them an accountant named Chiara. Our second client was CannaAdvisors. We help them find a construction project manager, a technical writer, and an executive assistant, and I was able to use the revenue from those first searches to start hiring recruiters.
And since that time, we're a team of 40 now. Then we've hired recruiters with all different recruiting background. And so we have recruiters that focus on all the very scientific, very technical roles, so those high-level cultivations high-level labs, high-level chemists type roles, and they know how to ask those questions that a lot of times our clients don't know how to ask. We've hired recruiters who solely focused on retail. We've hired recruiters who solely focused on all of the ancillary position. So, accounting, finance, back office. And that's a little bit about...I know I kind of went out of ramp, but that's a little bit about where we are today.
Matthew: Well, it's clear that you lack ambition, Karson, and you're lazy. Tell me, how old are you? I don't even know.
Karson: I'm 25.
Matthew: Oh, my gosh. That's great. You're busting. This is great. This is unbelievable. So you're 25.
Karson: So, someone said to me the other day on...I get asked this all the time. And so someone...I'm in the meeting the other day and the client said, "Okay, we're gonna sign up. This is all great. How old are you?" And I said, "Sixty-three. How old are you?" And the guy just started laughing and I said, "No, I'm just joking. I'm not 63. I'm 25." But I get asked this all the time and, yeah, I'm 25.
Matthew: That's great. I mean, you could be peaking here, like, what if your...this is like the peak of your existence now and it's all gonna be downhill until you get older. I mean, have you considered that?
Karson: No, no, no. I'm not...I'm so far from peaking, so let's not...That's depressing.
Matthew: I'm totally teasing. What kind of person would I be to say that? But I just...Of course, of course. So, one thing I'm curious about here is you've raised capital, correct?
Karson: Yep. Recently, for the first time.
Matthew: Now, how do you go about learning that? I mean, do you reach out to people that have done it? Do you just say, "I'm just gonna start reaching out to people and see what they say?" I mean, how did you orient yourself before you started that process?
Karson: I think the first thing to note is to get an understanding of if you actually need to raise capital. And so we got to a place where we had been going for two years and things were looking great and I hadn't thought that I was going to need it. And we realized that the opportunity in this industry is so big and the time to grow is right now. And because of how quickly we wanted to scale and to dominate in several more markets that we were gonna need some upfront capital to do so. And so I think the first step is getting an understanding of, "Do you even need to do this?" I think a lot of people think, "I'm starting a business. The first thing I need to do is go and raise money."
For us, we had a proven concept, we were well-liked and well-known in the market, and we knew exactly what it was that we were going to do. And so I would say that that's the first step, getting an understanding of if you need it. Step two is, how are you going to use it? How are you going to put it to best use? What are...Yeah. Just how are you gonna use it? How are you gonna put it to best use? So those are the first two steps that my team and I identified internally, and then, of course, from there, it's going out and finding the right investors, right partners to be part of this with you. And I think this is the most important part.
In this industry, particularly, there's so much money coming into the space that I don't think the issue is finding the money. I think the issue is finding the right people who you align with, who your values align with, who have experience doing what you're attempting to do. And that's exactly what we were fortunate to find. Our lead investors, Layer Hippo, out of New York City, and our other investors, Casa Verde, Los Angeles based cannabis firm. And I'm so excited to have them both part of this team and they both fill in gaps of areas that I lack and they complement each other very, very well. So, that's a little bit about what I have to say about raising capital.
Matthew: So, it's Casa Verde Snoop Dogg's venture capital arm?
Karson: Yep. Yep.
Matthew: Cool. Did you had an opportunity to meets Snoop?
Karson: I have not met Snoop yet, no.
Matthew: Gosh. That's fantastic. Okay. So let's dig in a little bit to Vangst here. Now, what states are you probably primarily focused on than it would just say it's mostly...I mean, California is just so big. Are you focused on that, primarily, you're based there and you're kind of you're looking at other states but that's the focus, or what's your strategy?
Karson: For direct hire, we're live in 13 states, and the states that we're in right now are Colorado, California, Washington, Oregon, Illinois, Nevada, Arizona, Massachusetts, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, and New York. Those are the 13 that we're in. Out of those states, the ones that we're most dominant are Colorado and California. And actually based on our data, one of the awesome things we have is our job board, and the job boards going great and we're able to collect so much data. And so through our data, what we were able to find was that last year the majority of the jobs that we were filling were in...I'll tell you the five most popular cities. It was Denver, LA, San Francisco, Seattle and Portland.
You know, to that extent, if you look at how many jobs exist, the market with the most jobs is California. There's right now around 41,000 people full-time employed in California, and the market behind that is Colorado with about 26,000 employees. And so it makes sense for us to be based in those two states, have the majority of our focus on those two states right now. And as additional states continue to grow and legalization continues to move forward, we, of course, will be there, meeting new clients, meeting all different types of candidates and helping those states grow. But right now the majority of jobs are in Colorado and California, and therefore the majority of our clients and our candidates are there, so it makes sense for us to be there.
Matthew: What differences do you notice between the Colorado and California markets in terms of business environment, the jobs that are being offered, maybe the style and approach of the business owners? Anything you can tell us there?
Karson: I think the main difference for us and our business is the difference in regulation around employment between Colorado and California. One thing that's very important to us, especially for our on-demand business, on-demand meaning when employers need temporary labor, they can call Vangst on-demand employee whether it be a trimmer, a budtender, a packager or somebody who works for us. There are W2, we provide them with workers compensation, we take care of all the payroll taxes, there are employee. It's very important for us to remain up to date on each state's regulation and remain compliant. So, there's a difference between who's qualified to work in Colorado than who's qualified to work in California.
So, for example, in Colorado, in order to work in a business where you're actually touching the plant, you need to have what's called MED badge. You apply for the MED badge through the MED. And the basic criteria is a clean background and being up to date on your taxes. If you meet those requirements, you're eligible to receive a badge, then every couple years, you have to get the badge renewed. It's our job to ensure that people that we're employing are up to date on their badge, their badges and expired and that they continuously check all the boxes in order to work in the state.
And California, I would say the main challenge is, the rules are still somewhat unclear. We know that there's not...1099 is not allowed with any cannabis business. This is something that recently came out. But the general rules of who's qualified to work in California cannabis continue to be somewhat unclear. Right now the standard has been clean background. So, I think the main challenge is just remaining up to date and compliant around employment regulations between the two markets.
Matthew: Okay. So, I didn't realize. You actually...They're the employees of Vangst, so you handle all kind...Do you handle the benefits and all the tax and paperwork and all the things so that the employer can just say, "Okay. I want to hire this person or not, and then here's what I pay monthly," and then Vangst takes care of all the back office paperwork?
Karson: So, there's two ways that we...Like, I was talking about a little bit earlier, there's direct hire searches, where a company says, "We need a COO. We'd love someone from consumer packaged goods. Here's all the requirements that we need." And then one of our executive recruiters will go out and actually head-hunt that individual. So they'll find them on LinkedIn, they're probably currently employed somewhere else. From there, we'll do all this interviewing, reference checking, background checking, present our clients with the top couple candidates. And then when the offer is made, the candidate goes directly on that client's payroll and that client's responsible for taking care of the benefits, etc.
What I was just referring to is our on-demand component, which is the component of our business. It's actually growing the quickest right now and that it gets me very excited. And this is for companies that have short-term seasonal needs which, as you can imagine, is pretty large in the cannabis industry. We have clients who have a harvest and they need growers for 12 days and they will be able to hire Vangst growers. So, as you were just talking about the Vangst employees, we verified their I9s, their RW2s, we're handling the benefits, we're handling the workers' compensation, we're handling all the state-federal taxes surrounding that employee and we're actually managing that employee telling them, "Hey, today you're going to be going to native roots. Tomorrow you're going to be going to good chemistry," and giving them their schedule for the week based on the demand that our clients need.
Matthew: Okay. That makes sense. That seems like it would be a popular model, that on-demand. And how long is the typical on-demand? Are you seeing that more like you mentioned in trimmers and growers and things around actual harvesting of the plant? Is that worth the on-demand the most popular?
Karson: One segment that's very popular is these entry-level positions, exactly what you're talking about, trimmers, growers, post-harvest staff. On the processing side, extraction, technicians, packagers, those types of positions. What we're really seeing kickoff is higher level on-demand longer-term needs. Let's say that somebody wins a license in Maryland. They need a Director of Cultivation to come and get them set up. They need someone to come in, help them source nutrients, help them source equipment, help them write their SOP, sometimes even help them design their facility, help them hire staff, help them train staff, and then move on to the next project. So we're getting much longer-term engagements with companies that say, "I need a Director of Cultivation. Somebody from large-scale commercial agriculture who has a scientific mind, who's then transitioned into the cannabis industry and has at least three years of large-scale commercial cannabis cultivation and management experience. I need them to come and help me get set up." We have these people who work for us. We have a great bunch of them. And we essentially lease them out to our clients for sometimes six months, sometimes six-week engagements.
Matthew: Okay. So, I imagine more for the direct hires, you're having to reach out to other industries to find talent. Can you tell us some of the other industries you find yourself reaching out to?
Karson: Sure. I think a really big one for us has been in pharmaceutical space. Another one has been large-scale commercial agriculture or consumer packaged goods. And then, you know, kind of a surprising one, I think, maybe some people would think but it's very big for us is technology startups. Technology in this space is really big. We have clients like LeafLink technology and they're recruiting engineers out of Snapchat, BuzzFeed, lots of mainstream technology companies. You know, an example I like to give is a company called Baker Technologies.
Karson: We work with them. We placed over 50 or 60 people with them and their Director of Sales, Carter, who's a total rock star, she came out of Salesforce and she's built out a team of inside sales, outside sales, and customer success, and she's pulled it in top talent from all the different technology company. So, the technology scene in this industry is exploding and it's amazing to see the type of talent we've been able to attract into the cannabis tech startups.
Matthew: I know it's a hard question to answer. But what is the relocation package look like? Is that happening a lot? Is that more the direct higher level and where do you see that going on? And then how do people put together attractive relocation packages?
Karson: Great. So, I'm gonna answer your question in two-fold. One is, we do see a lot of relocation happening particularly on the plant touching roles director level. Again, to that example that I just made, somebody wins a license in Maryland, maybe they..rather than doing the on-demand platform, maybe they would like to hire somebody full-time who can be with them and help them grow for the next five years and they need to relocate somebody from Colorado, Washington, Oregon where they've been part of the large-scale commercial legal compliant cannabis industry for the past few years, help them bring that expertise to Maryland. We see that very often.
Typically, we're seeing 20% pay increase to do so to have someone essentially uproot their life and move. And we're also seeing a lot of stock options. And so employees can have skin in the game and really be part of the new company that they're joining. In my opinion, people treat things better if they're an owner than a renter. So in our business, we are rolling out of stock option plan where everybody in the company will be part of it because we're all building this together and I think that a lot of companies in this industry have adopted that mentality and it's been able to help them get top level talent.
Matthew: Talk about turnover for a minute. How big a problem is that? And what can employers do about it?
Karson: Turnover is a huge problem and it's a very expensive problem. And in my opinion, turnover comes down to...Of course, it comes down to making the wrong hires and that's what everyone always says, "Oh, I hired this person, they're terrible. That's why I'm having turnover." But if you look inside of your company, I believe a lot of turnover comes from lack of preparation and not making necessarily a bad hire for the person, but hiring the wrong person with the wrong experience, the wrong skill set who was not set up for success to do what you need them to do. So, while I completely agree that hiring the best people is critical, more so critical than that, I think, it's setting people up for success and making sure that as employers you know who it is you want hiring. If you want, I can elaborate more on that.
Matthew: Sure, yeah. Please, do.
Karson: Okay. So, I think that sort of a recipe for success and making a hire is, step one, figuring out who it is that you need to hire, and in order to figure this out, I think, the best way to do so is getting an understanding of what needs to be accomplished through this person. What is the gap that you're looking to fill? So an example I could give is, maybe you're looking...maybe your company needs to grow sales by 10% month over month and you need to bring in sales reps to do so. Figuring out what exactly that salesperson needs to do to help you reach that larger goal. So maybe the salesperson needs to bring in $50,000 in new business a month. That needs to be clearly thought out and explained that you can get an understanding of, "Okay. My need is, I need to increase sales by 10% month over month. In order to do this, I need five salespeople who are all bringing in $50,000 worth of new business per month."
Now that you have what the goal of these hires are, it's easier to work backwards. So now we're understanding that we need to hire a salesperson, the salesperson needs to bring in $50,000 worth of new business per month. How do you anticipate them going about doing this? Are they going to be expected to create their own list of people to call? Are they gonna be going to trade shows? How many calls a day do you expect them to have to make? What kind of marketing material are they gonna have? And really putting together these things as an employer that you can...You know, so you're setting the expectation for the employee and then, you know, to that point, you are now figuring out, "Where is this? Where in the world is this person right now?"
Let's think about companies where a person would be expected to make $50,000 in sales a month, obviously, finding someone who's selling something similar to what you're currently selling whether it be a product or a technology, and so then you can identify, "This is the type of candidate who I'm looking for. I'd like to find someone with five years experience at a SaaS startup who's had to hit these goals." And then at least you have a clear picture of what you need the new hire to do, and who the new person potentially is, and where they potentially could be working right now.
Matthew: Okay. And you mentioned the expectations a little bit. That's a key thing. How do you...I mean, you mentioned putting numbers around expectations, but is there anything else you would share about creating expectations for a new hire that's coming in?
Karson: Well, it doesn't always have to be numbers, of course, because not everything is sales. That was just the example that I was using. But I think it's very important to let a candidate know in the interview process how there'll be judged. And so in that last example I was using, it would be important to say, your goals may be after three months ramp-up period are going to be to $50,000 in new business per month. Talk to me about your last company's quota. Talk to me about how you went about ensuring that each month you met your quota. Talk to me about a time you missed your quota and what changes you made to ensure that didn't happen again. And finding somebody who's done in the past what you need them to do, again, is critical and also laying the expectation out for them that, "This is how we're measuring you. This is how we're going to determine if you're successful or if you're not successful," so that you're very clear and you have communicated to people what you're expecting from them, because people, employees cannot read minds.
They're not mind readers and I've made this mistake myself where I think that if I just, you know, wave a wand in the air, the team is gonna know what I want them to do. And it's not the reality. So, setting the expectations upfront, I think, is very cool. And then, of course, when they start in the new job, giving them a clear roadmap and timeframe of, "This is what I'm expecting this month. This is what I'm expecting this month. This is what I'm expecting this month." Clear timeline, deadlines so that it's easier to keep track of and manage.
Matthew: You mentioned to me before that you consider on the job learning laziness. Can you tell me what you mean by that?
Karson: Did I say that?
Matthew: You did. You did.
Karson: No, I don't think...I think I meant when employers are expecting their employees to just come in and completely figure it out, that's laziness on the employer.
Matthew: Yes, absolutely.
Karson: Yeah, yeah. That's what I mean. I mean, how can employer... I've seen it happen all the time where they put all the blame on the employee, "This employee sucks." Right? "It's all their fault that this job isn't working out." And we asked them, "Did you lay out the expectations? Did you tell them what you were expecting them to do? Did you tell them the resources that are available to them?" "No, they should just be able to figure that out on their own. That's why I hired them." I think that that is a blame and a cop out for lack of preparation on the employer's end.
Matthew: Yeah. How bad...
Karson: And I'm guilty of it. I'm not...I guarantee you, if anyone on my team is listening to this, they're saying, "Oh, my gosh," because I'm working on improving it and so is my management and team. And fortunately, I have a great team of people around us. But we're all startups. Everybody is learning on the fly. We're all trying to do the best that we can, and so not...Of course, this isn't gonna be completely perfect, but we've found in our business and we've seen in our clients business that setting clear expectations and giving your team the tools that are needed for success has made a huge difference, and it also makes everyone happier. I mean, people want to be successful. Nobody wants to fail. And so when you can lay out a plan that foster success, I think it's a win for everybody.
Matthew: Any suggestions on how to check in on performance with employees without being too overbearing and finding the right balance? Because some people, you know, they like to be handled, you know, tenderly and other people just say, "Cut to the chase. What am I doing wrong? Give me three bullet points and that's all I need."
Karson: Sure. I think timelines and ongoing check-ins, just regular check-ins, maybe it's 15 minutes at the end of the week, whoever the direct manager is. So you've laid out the timeline, you've laid out the expectations. At the end of the week, whoever the direct manager to the employee is, there's a 15-minute check-in where you go over the progress made that week to just ensure that you're on track. And then that way, if there's a problem with them, you can catch it before it's necessarily a problem. And, of course, bigger meetings, maybe on a month, maybe on a monthly basis, every other month, but just a standard consistent check-in so it doesn't feel like an employee randomly gets an email notification, "Need to meet with you to talk about missed goals." If there's a standard recurrent check-in, I think that it's a great time to catch problems before they necessarily even become problems.
Matthew: What can you tell us about trends in pay in the cannabis industry? Any generalizations you can make or anything you can say that would help would-be employers, and also give prospective employees kind of the proper mindset how to think about compensation?
Karson: I think right now everybody thinks the cannabis industry is a gold rush. I'm gonna go into the cannabis industry and I'm gonna make it big in two years. I'm gonna have an insane salary. And that's not the reality. The cannabis industry is still faced with dozens and dozens of challenges and hurdles. Like, I mentioned, I'm here today in DC speaking with various members of Congress talking about the challenges we face. And the majority of our clients are affected by 2ADE which virtually sucks away all of their profit. I mean, there's many things working against us in our industry that don't allow our industry to pay as competitively as many other industries though there's this misconception that everyone's printing money right now. That said, employers in the industry are really starting to value bringing in top talent from other industries and they're cutting expenses and other areas to ensure they have a larger payroll budget to be able to hire the best and the brightest.
So, what we've seen and what we...You know, the clients that we work with are people that are gonna work in line with the hire that they're going to make. So if they're going to hire a retail store manager, they're gonna hire in line with where are the candidate is. So, maybe the candidate is a manager of a bar or a restaurant, they're gonna hire in line or potentially even a little bit better if the candidate is expected to take, you know, in updates minds, they're taking a small bit of a risk going into the cannabis industry. So we are seeing parallel pay and sometimes a little bit better pay. And what we're really seeing companies valuing, hiring and understanding the importance of bringing in top talent from different industries.
Matthew: Sometimes people say, "Well, I'll just hire him or her and see how it goes." But there's a real cost to hiring the wrong person. How do you think about that?
Karson: Completely agree. I mean, there's statistics out there that it can be five times the bad hires pay. If you think about... If you add up all the costs and a lot of the intangible costs, if you think about the time it took you to recruit the person, interview the person, hire the person, the time it took you to onboard and train the person, the time that the person spent not doing the right job, not to mention all the mistakes that the person made adding up those costs. And then there's the negativity that goes into having to let somebody go, the negativity to the manager or the owner who actually has to do the firing, the negative energy that this person could have cause to the rest of the organization. The majority of statistics say five times the wrong hires pay, which, again, you would think if you say to yourself, "Okay, $50,000 times five," that number in my head I'm thinking, "Oh my goodness. That is such a gigantic mistake."
But I think because there's so many intangibles that people don't often think that way and they think, "Whatever, I'll just hire this person. I'm only paying them X. It goes bad for a couple months and I'm not out that much money. Who cares?" And that's the wrong mentality and it will affect organizations in ways that employers and entrepreneurs have no way to foresee. So, again, of course, my advice and our entire business is based around making the right hire and making sure part of that is getting...You know, making sure you're hiring the right person with the right skill sets, the right background, then you're hiring the right person and then you're setting them up for success.
Matthew: So some employers suffer from, "We are special" syndrome where they think, "Hey, we've got this great organization that someone would be lucky to come in, and sure we pay last, but the upside to couple years from now is so compelling that they should recognize that." How do you level set expectations in that situation?
Karson: I think everyone thinks they're special. I think that Vangst is very special but I'm not asking people to work for us for free. I think that organizations that value hiring and value bringing in top talent need to figure out a way to have the resources to provide their staff with compelling compensation especially given where the industry is right now and how it's maturing and where the industry is going. That being said, I definitely do think it's reasonable to ask employees to take somewhat of a potentially been in pay, but there has to be a tradeoff. Maybe we're asking you to take a 20% decrease in salary, but in exchange for that we're gonna give you X amount of shares in the company, but in exchange for that, we're gonna give you an opportunity to be a manager in six months if you hit these goals. And so I think there are ways that you can offer...there are ways that you don't have to say, "Take a 20% pay cut. Come work for us. We're the best." I think there's ways you can show them that, "Hey, financially, this is where we are, but here's what we can offer you in exchange, and here's the path to getting you back to where you were previously pay-wise."
Matthew: You know, when someone's being hired, is there any suggestions in terms of how the team should evaluate the person that they go around like, "Okay. Culture, check. Skills match, check."? Is there any other kind of check marks or boxes to check that you would think about?
Karson: I think their previous experience is huge. And when doing interviews, getting concrete examples and concrete, excuse me, stories. Again, to the example I gave. You're hiring a salesperson. Good examples of, "Hey, how do you go about finding new clients? How do you go about taking on cold calls? How do you go about closing meetings? Give me an example of a time that you had a client that you knew are super-interested but they just wouldn't call you back. How did you go and break through that barrier? How did you get through gatekeepers?" And asking very open-ended specific questions so that the candidates can give you real-world experience answers.
It's very easy to say, "I can increase sales by 10%." "Okay. How did you go about doing that? Talk to me about what each month look like." And so that's one. And two, getting an understanding of, the question is, "What did you do?" People often talk about their team, people often talk about their organization. "I helped grow the organization from 2 people to 1,000 people." "Okay, that's great. But obviously, a lot of people were involved in growing the organization from 2 to 1,000. So, talk to you about some things that you specifically did. Were you involved in hiring? Were you involved in managing? Were you involved in budgeting? What were the actual things that you did?"
So, I think open-ended questions are in experience are very key. And then to piggyback off that culture is, of course, very important. Finding people who can mesh well with your team. We've seen a lot of success and people who have come from startups, who have come from wearing multiple hats, who are used to a fast-paced high-growth environment because this industry is a...The entire industry is a startup. It's a startup industry, and then every company is a startup company, so you're toppling startup industry, startup company. You're pulling somebody from a huge corporate America job where they have 5,000 people in their department and with any given problem they can pass it off to somebody else. That's not going to typically go well in the cannabis industry.
Matthew: What advice would you give to employers that don't have the funds to hire candidates they need? They go, "Urgh, I'm listening to Karson here. She's speaking to me directly. I know that I could take my business to the next level except I don't have the funds to hire the people." It's the sharpen the saw problem, like, I wouldn't have to saw as much if my saw was sharper but I don't have the time to stop and sharpen it. So, it's like a circular problem. So, what do they do?
Karson: Yes, it's a tough question. I mean, I've been there. I sell more, make more money, raise money. I mean, like, I don't really know what to tell them. I would say, increase your sales. I mean, companies go out of business because they run out of capital, and so it's important to consistently keeping your eye on the ball on sales and revenue. And so, increase sales and revenue could lead to an increase payroll budget. Beyond that, if you're very passionate about what you're doing, and you believe that maybe you could hire somebody and within three months, you would have the funds to pay them what they need, maybe you'll find a rock star and say, "Listen, right now here's where our company is. If we do one, two, three, we'll be here, and at that point I will be able to afford to pay you." So, that's a second alternative in try to find the right person and paint them a clear roadmap of, "If you do these things together, we'll be able to get the company to a place where we can afford to pay you."
And I've seen plenty of candidates take a risk. I'll give you an example that's obviously close to home for me. Our first employee named Jordan Smith. She started working for us and me, and I could only afford to pay her $15 an hour, four days a week. She was working at a company called SignPost where she was doing cold calls majority of the day and that's what I needed. I needed somebody to help us open doors and find new clients. And I said, "Listen, Jordan, I really can only pay you $15 an hour, four days a week, but if we do X, Y and Z, I'm gonna be able to get you on to a salary, and ultimately, we're going to hire more people."
And Jordan did it, and now Jordan is pretty much running the show at Vangst. Like I said, we're a 40-person team. She's making a lot more than $15 an hour. I'm pretty sure she's making more than I am. And she's killing it and she got to go through this amazing experience of taking the company from the two of us to a 40-person team and we'll inevitably get to 500 and 1,000-person team and she's gone through the whole part. And so I do think that there's a component of experience that you can't put a dollar amount on. And so if you're an employee listening, maybe you'll find that right entrepreneur who you're willing to take a risk on and as long as the employer sets clear expectations of how you can ultimately pay them, you know, sometimes it can work out.
Matthew: Let's transition to a few personal development questions, Karson, that will help listeners get a better sense of who you are, personally. Is there a book that has had a big impact on your life or way of thinking that you'd like to share?
Karson: I read a book in college called the "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People." And that was really impactful to me. And I listened to a podcast that actually my dad shared with me when I was a senior in high school called the "Strangest Secret." It's like only about a 40-minute...It's only about a 40-minute podcast, but I really listened to it every once in a while. The general message is, "You become what you think of." If you think about plants, if you plant poison into the ground, poison will grow out of the ground. You become what you think about and you get out what you put in. That's a principle that I tried to lead my life by, and I'm gonna continue trying to do that.
Matthew: Yeah, that's great. And is there a tool you consider vital to your productivity that you'd like to share?
Karson: A tool that I consider vital to my productivity. I think waking up early is something that is so important because in the morning, you don't have a lot of noise and distraction and it's a great time to think higher level without being bombarded by emails, text, calls and having your mind be cluttered. So, for me, I wake up early and I exercise and I leave my phone on airplane mode and it's just a nice time to think and basically not be harassed.
Matthew: Now, final question here. If some young people are listening or people that are in other career path that wanna get into the industry and they're really thirsting to, but they're not sure the best way to do it. Maybe for the young people first, where do you think there's the most jobs where they could, you know, if they graduate with such and such a degree or have an internship someplace that they have a really good chance of getting hired into the cannabis industry?
Karson: Great question. And, you know, I think there's so many different verticals and so many different ways you can go. I always say, keep your career changer industry. People that say, "I just really wanna work in the cannabis industry," that's not enough. You need to say, "Here's what I'm good at. I just graduated with a degree in accounting. I really understand accounting. I wanna be an accountant in the cannabis industry." And then go out and research companies that are hiring in the cannabis industry. And I bet you, the majority of them have a need for an accountant. So I think it's more a matter of determining what it is that you're passionate about and then you're able to apply that into the cannabis industry.
I mean, Matt, look at you. You're running this crazy successful podcast out of Edinburgh, right? It's not like you had a degree to do a podcast in cannabis. You're great at doing podcasts and people in this industry love you and you're able to find this awesome cool niche. There's so many opportunities like this and it's a very exciting time.
Matthew: Oh, thanks for that, Karson. Well, as we close, tell us, how can listeners find you connect? How can people looking for jobs find out more about jobs in the cannabis space and how can employers that are looking to fill an on-demand job or to have a direct hire reach out to you?
Karson: Vangst.com is the best way to get in touch with us. Vangst.com, as a candidate, you'll get redirected to a place where you can build a profile. Actually, excitingly, we have around 35,000 active candidates that have build out profiles on the platform and about 600 open positions with companies all across the country on the platform. So, if you're a candidate, go to vangst.com, build a profile, scope out the open jobs. If you're an employer, reach out to us directly through vangst.com. We'd love to get on the phone with you, get an understanding of where your business is, what your hiring needs are, and ideally meet you in person and get a plan together so that we can help you plan for hiring the best people, hiring the best people, and then, of course, retaining the best people.
Matthew: And Karson, I...
Karson: Sorry. That was the salesperson in me coming. I know I'm not supposed to sell on this thing.
Matthew: No, you gotta do it, you gotta do it. And you're good at it. Now, before the interview, I said, "Hey, Vangst, is that Dutch?" and you said, "Yes, it is." Tell everybody what Vangst means.
Karson: Vangst means "catch" in Dutch. And the idea is that we're catching talent from all different industries. But my favorite part about Vangst is that if you get place, if you find your job with Vangst, you're considered a Vangster. And if you're a Vangster, on your first day of work, you get a box from us in the mail with some Vangster swag, a cool hat that says, "Damn, it feels good to be a Vangster." And we invite you to lots of exclusive networking event just for Vangsters." We're actually launching a platform Just for Vangsters where many companies will offer discounts. And it's just a great way to connect professionally with... In our opinion, we think Vangsters are the best and brightest in this industry, and it's amazing to have this ecosystem of people that are working amazing jobs and amazing companies. And so that's a little bit about why we chose Vangst and we have this cool network called Vangsters.
Matthew: I like it. Vangster.
Matthew: Well, Karson, thanks so much for coming on the show today and educating us. And I encourage everybody that's looking for a job or that needs to hire someone to reach out to Karson and let her know that CannaInsider is where you heard about her. So, Karson, thanks so much for coming on the show. We really appreciate it.
Karson: Thank you, Matt.
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