Written by Fleta Solomon, Managing Director
As a start-up business owner, the goal posts move quite frequently, and in the cannabis industry a “simple” goal post shift in a product could mean years in adjustment. As a CEO, you have to be able to deal with that. So does your team. As fabulous as it is to grow your company and meet or exceed production goals, growing is hard because it’s change, and change makes everyone at least a little uncomfortable.
At Little Green Pharma, we know that leaders can ease the challenges of change when they invest in a thriving culture – one that keeps people coming back to work each day (even in a pandemic) by seeing each staff member as a whole person who shares your vision, who brings ideas because they know they’ll be respected and listened to, and who you want to spend time with.
Regardless of how good the business idea is, it’s destined to fail without authentically motivating those we trust to bring that idea to life.
Medicinal cannabis is a hard business. From the rigours of testing to the bureaucratic nightmare of licensing, it requires tenacity, exacting standards and good old-fashioned grit to make it to each hard-earned milestone. The patients knowing our product will help their quality of life have to trust us to get it right every time; so I have to trust each team member to fully show up for their duties, each and every day.
Putting people before profits is more than a catchy tagline; it’s a secret to success.
Our employees know they are at the centre of our organisation’s success, which empowers them to put the needs of our patients first. The money to make it all happen flows from there.
While we see that often it is missed, there really should be no secret about treating people with respect, cultivating good communication, committing to transparency – or, my favourite, knowing it’s ok to let your hair down and have some fun with quality people as well.
Live the mission
If I’m being honest, trusting other people with my vision for LGP was initially an oddly uncomfortable thing to get used to. How could anyone else possibly care about this as much as I do? But by now, every time I see a Little Greener enthusiastically build on an idea or ask a supplier or potential partner how an initiative will be the right thing for patients, it reassures me that they live this mission as much as I do.
Every single person on the Little Green Pharma team has to buy into our mission. I certainly can’t make a Little Green Pharma product all by myself, yet too often CEOs see their company as something they alone accomplish. Instead, I see my role as keeping the focus on our patients. I find myself often asking, “Is this the right thing for the patient?” because serving them is our real mission.
Invest in your people
As any company evolves and changes, many things look different than in the early days. Little Green Pharma started out as quite a “flat” organisation. We continue to face challenges as the team grows more expansive and the inevitable hierarchy creates more titles and levels. If you view hierarchy as a framework for managing business complexity – rather than controlling people – and consistently reinforce the mindset that good ideas come from everywhere, you won’t go too far wrong.
With that point of view, everyone feels like they’ve got their own voice and autonomy to use their skills to the best of their ability while also gaining new ones.
As CEO, encouraging openness, especially through development tools such as our 360-degree Performance Reviews, means we receive quite a lot of feedback. I remind myself it’s a chance for people to share what could be improved, often things that I can’t see myself so that we can all function together better. Assessing performance in the same way at every level ensures that everyone feels empowered to speak up, and I can trust our work knowing that mistakes and problems will be addressed before snowballing into something really catastrophic.
Stay connected – and have fun
If you think of “people power” as an asset in a similar way as capital, then you’ll see it as an invaluable asset and invest in different ways to connect, because people require connection to thrive.
As nearly everyone has learned this year, technology means we can all keep business running remotely, but what about nurturing our company cultures? How do we keep up the fun inside jokes, the random conversations in the hallways, and celebrating milestones together? Staying connected takes real effort – but it can’t feel like a chore. At Little Green Pharma, we’ve upped our Whatsapp chat game, moving our jokes and costume contests online, and turned our in-person gatherings to sharing photos and videos. The most important of these involve one of our best company traditions: The Bell.
A little history on The Bell: The Bell was imported from Germany to Australia back in early 2017 (no license needed for this product!). One of our team members had their father mount it on a block of wood so we could take it anywhere with us. It’s how we celebrate: big wins such as getting our GMP licence have the bell ringing for a long time (and really hard!) whereas, little wins like an export permit are a quick little ‘ding’! Celebrating even the smallest wins is vitally important. It’s something that is meaningful to the team and is ‘our little thing.’
Grounding ourselves in service of the patients is part of everything we do. That passion feeds the collective goal – and there’s no one way to do that. For the Little Greeners, The Bell is at the centre of our stories and holds our history. It gets us through the tough times as a symbol of all that we have accomplished in the past, and it excitedly waits for what we will accomplish in the future – together.