urban-gro's Vice President of Human Resources, Nichole McIntyre, speaks to Benzinga's Andrew Ward, about the changing face of cannabis company leadership.
As the cannabis industry scales, so does its need for experienced business veterans to steer companies towards the top. The demand has led to an influx of executives entering the space from other industries.
Most in the cannabis industry note that the move is a likely response to a nascent space. However, as recent analyses revealed, gender and diversity gaps persist at the top of cannabis companies.
Why Hire Executives From Outside Industries?
Numerous cannabis companies continue to lack the needed boardroom experience to bring a startup to a grander stage.
That skills gap led to the demand for outside industry talent in recent years. The trend continues today as more companies come online.
Nichole McIntyre, urban-gro Inc (NASDAQ: UGRO)'s vice president of human resources, told Benzinga that bringing in leadership from industries experiencing similar regulations is helpful as companies scale.
Luis Merchan, CEO of Flora Growth Corp (NASDAQ: FLGC), echoed similar sentiments.
"The industry is going through a period of transformation where operations, supply chain management, project management and financial discipline are becoming imperatives in the skill set of executives that lead cannabis companies," Merchan said.
Luke Zimmerman Esq, a cannabis industry attorney and instructor at Oaksterdam University, said outside leadership is a suitable decision for many companies. "If you want to be a multi-state operator or try to expand to other countries, it makes sense to hire someone who has the background and experience to help grow the business," he stated.
Zimmerman added that he believes the influx of outside leadership is spurred on by the innovative and exciting appeal of the industry.
He also noted that changing spaces is leading to transitions, such as shifts in tobacco use, decreasing alcohol consumption among younger demographics and an evolving pharma industry all playing a part.
"C-suite execs from these industries are paying attention to this and see the opportunities the cannabis industry is offering," Zimmerman said.
McIntyre warned incoming leaders who may underestimate the culture shift in the nascent space, notably its casual pace.
"Cannabis companies desire change and a new way of business operations which I believe originates from ongoing plant advocacy to overcome inaccurate public perceptions and misguided public policy," McIntyre stated.