Choosing the right consultant
As the cannabis industry continues to grow, more and more companies are relying on consultants to support and enhance their businesses. Cannabis is heavily regulated and navigating those requirements without reliable insight can be a real challenge.
December 18, 2018 By Jeff Hannah
I’m proud to say that I’m a cannabis security consultant. My business is focused on helping cannabis businesses build strong and compliant physical security programs to protect their people and property, while achieving and maintaining compliance with the Cannabis Act and Regulations.
The Cannabis Regulations (and its predecessor, the ACMPR) are largely outcome-focused without providing much insight into achieving those outcomes. Consultants, who get to work through the application process over and over, accumulate meaningful insight. They do that by proposing and refining compliance strategies and engaging in meaningful dialogue with Health Canada. That can provide significant value.
While there’s nobility and a sense of achievement in “going it alone,” an experienced perspective can provide proven and cost-effective strategies. Working without a consultant can be cheaper in the short term, but it can end up costing you as the application process drags on. Engaging a consultant allows you to learn from mistakes and missteps that you don’t have to make. Consultants also tend to present Health Canada with proven solutions they’ve already taken the time to review and approve.
There are several types of consultants in the market and it’s important to be able to recognize the differences between them. While all are in the advice business, for many, that’s not the full extent of what they can offer you. Consulting businesses range from very large firms to small, independent service providers. Some are completely independent while others have varying levels of integration with other businesses. Which you select will depend on your needs, your budget, and the consultant’s value proposition. Choosing can be hard, so it’s important to understand the large and sometimes subtle differences between service providers.
In the interest of integrity, I intend to provide a balanced explanation of the various type of consultants I’ve encountered in the cannabis market. Again, in the interest of full disclosure, I am an independent consultant. That means that time and advice are the only things I sell. Independent consultants give the best advice with only the clients’ best interests in mind. They can help you make a decision when buying security systems, fencing, or other products to build out your physical security program. Independent consultant can also manage a competitive bid process for anything from cameras to transportation services. Independent consultants like myself, as a matter of personal choice and business strategy, don’t collect fees or compensation from anyone but their clients.
The alternative to this approach is the fully or semi-integrated consultant. These businesses offer something that can be much more “turn key.” In some cases, consulting isn’t even the primary business.
There are a number of excellent security system installers who also offer security consulting services. For them, there’s a financial incentive to help turn applications into functioning production facilities. They sell the security hardware necessary to do so. Many of them have accumulated a great deal of knowledge working in the industry and want to share that. Obviously, their expectation is that when you get your confirmation of readiness, they get to install your system. For them, the consulting piece is more of a means to an end.
Some consultants will partner with other businesses like security system installers, transportation services, or security guarding businesses, and direct their clients toward them. This can be a good option if the consulting firm has thoroughly vetted the service provider, believes in what they provide, and makes sure that the pricing they offer is fair and competitive. There are also ethical considerations to this type of arrangement. In an ideal world these relationships should be disclosed to the client. Where a client has a great deal of trust and faith in their consultant, this can be a convenient and reliable format.
It’s important for clients to ensure that the consultant’s advice is always in their best interest.
The old saying “buyer beware” applies to everything we buy, including the services of a consultant. It’s the responsibility of every potential client to spend the time to really understand what’s being offered to them, and make an informed decision. When considering a consultant, you should always ask the tough questions. How many licenses have they helped their clients secure? How many applications have they worked on? Never discount the value of references but keep in mind that the references you get will be the clients they want you to talk to. Digging deeper and asking around the industry may also help you get the information you need to make the right choice.
Jeff Hannah is the owner and principal consultant at JH & Associates Security and Risk Management Consultants. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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