When I directed cultivation for Canada’s largest licensed producer, I used consultants. I had lots of questions about facility design, cultivation methods, and pest control. Some consultants were great, and others I regret doing business with to this day. Consider the following 5 tips for seamlessly and successfully integrating consultants into your cultivation business.
1. Don’t pay by the hour
Hourly consulting creates a conflict of interest. Clients are best served by the rapid resolution of their problems, while hourly consultants are best served by dragging out their work as long as possible to generate the most billable hours. To avoid this conflict, pay a flat fee for consulting work. Experienced consultants don’t charge for the 20 minutes it takes to solve a problem, they charge for the 20 years it took to be able to solve a problem in 20 minutes.
2. Expect friction
Consultants are called in to identify the root of a problem. Oftentimes, that problem is the Head Grower. If the grower is convinced that “everything’s fine”, they will resent the consultant’s involvement and do everything in their power to modify, ignore, or squash their advice. Be vigilant that the money spent on horticulture expertise isn’t being wasted by a stubborn grower.
3. Your consultant isn’t moving in
Last year a prospective client called me looking for advice on a massive hemp project in Montana. I was happy to help and offered to send along a proposal that same day. Then he asked, “So how soon can you move here?” My answer: “I’m not moving to Montana.” I’ve worked on projects in three different countries but I’ve never had to camp out for months in order to improve the client’s situation. Consultants provide advice and direction, and the cultivation team (the employees) implement that advice.
4. Concentrate on results, not time on site
A prospective client in Bogota desperately needed help improving their crop, but they would only contract my services if I committed to 20 hours a week in their office. That makes no sense. The problem was 40 minutes away at their greenhouse, not in their office. Experts should be paid for their expertise and the rapid resolution of problems. If a consultant quickly improves the condition of a client, how many hours they spend onsite is irrelevant.
5. Know when to say good-bye
Consultants should not be a permanent fixture at your business. The name of the game is knowledge transfer. Consultants should provide advice for improving a situation, help train and explain, and then leave. If you hire a consultant without an exit plan, there is no incentive for knowledge transfer. On the contrary, if a date of departure is determined from day one, the entire team is incentivized to “get their money’s worth” before time runs out.