Cory Waggoner of Higher Yields Consulting: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started Leading a Cannabis or CBD Business
An Interview With Candice Georgiadis
It’s all about the people you hire. Those committed to the company and experienced in their field are hard to find, but once you find those people hang on to them. The fallout of a bad hire will cost you money, time, and sleep.
As part of my series about “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started Leading a Cannabis Business” I had the pleasure of interviewing Cory Waggoner, CEO of Higher Yields Consulting.
In 2015 Cory founded Higher Yields Consulting — shortly after recreational marijuana was first legalized in Colorado — in response to investors’ and business owners’ growing need for expertise beyond cultivation design and optimization. Through Higher Yields, Cory has overseen the design or optimization of nearly 2 million square feet of cannabis cultivation and extraction facilities worldwide.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share with us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?
After being a medical cannabis dispensary owner and operator for five years in California and Colorado, I decided I wanted to have more flexibility and help to solve problems within the industry. In 2013 I sold my businesses and started working with a few distressed cannabis assets in Colorado. I helped these groups implement operational systems to their cultivation facilities first and then to their retail stores. After two years, both companies were able to exit the industry with a healthy buyout.
After I completed these two projects, I reflected on my experiences in the industry and thought about the areas where businesses were struggling the most. I looked at the people who were entering the industry. All of them had been successful at something in their careers to get to the point of investing in an unknown industry, but very few wear all of the hats necessary to succeed.
In 2015, I founded Higher Yields Consulting to help businesses elevate their cannabusiness operations. The company focuses on four vertical systems, including start-up services, design & system implementation, deployment services, and growth services.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
It’s hard to select my most interesting story, as it has been a fascinating journey over the last 13 years, and it has been interesting to see the industry’s evolution. The beginning conferences were small, equipment was limited, and the tech sector hadn’t expressed an interest in the industry. Today we have multi-billion dollar a year global companies entering the space.It’s also been exciting to see how social equity opportunities have evolved, to watch sovereign nations get involved and prosper, and see the global trade of cannabis that currently exists.
I’ve learned many lessons along the way. One thing that sets Higher Yields Consulting apart is that there is no project too big or small for us to take on, as our mission is advocacy for the global acceptance of cannabis and hemp. We have seen projects with small budgets and a lot of passion, up to Management Service Organizations (MSOs) with huge budgets and even bigger personalities, and everything in between. We’ve seen so many creative and innovative business models and approaches in the industry. Every lesson I have learned has been invaluable to the success of my company.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
International cannabis is the most exciting for me right now. We’re fighting an uphill battle here in the United States while the rest of the world is working toward global trade of the product. It is exciting to meet with regulatory departments, presidents, kings and other government officials to educate and talk through the nuances of this industry to create cannabis programs that protect consumers and create economic wealth.
This industry has created many jobs and streams of tax revenue and has positively impacted small and large communities. It’s gratifying to see a program develop over time and see the positive impact this plant and industry can have.
Are you working on any exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We work on a lot of social equity projects around the country. We have a project in Jamaica right now where we are focusing on using cannabis and the industry to fight the global slave trade. These projects can benefit the industry and the world.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Having worked with so many different types of people, I’ve picked up finance, strategy, and customer service skills. It’s hard to pinpoint one person because I learn something new from my clients and team members every day.
This industry is young, dynamic and creative. Do you use any clever and innovative marketing strategies that you think large legacy companies should consider adopting?
It is mind-boggling that large MSOs focused on acquisition don’t brand all of their products together. We see MSOs running independent operations without capturing market shares because they acquire a new license and keep the name and brands.
Digital marketing is significant for Higher Yields Consulting. The same marketing strategies that have allowed the company to grow quickly into an internationally recognized cannabis consulting firm are the same strategies we pass along and programs we develop for our clients.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Cannabis industry? Can you share 3 things that most concern you?
Three things that excite me include:
This would allow the industry to thrive. It would open up opportunities for new businesses and state-to-state trade. It would potentially allow for the export of cannabis to other countries and allow the United States to catch up to the progressive acceptance of cannabis by the rest of the world.
The United States is currently fighting an internal battle with cannabis and some states are experiencing the same with CBD. Globally, there are countries trading this product over borders and seas. This creates a lot of uncertainty in the United States for where, when or if the United States will enter the global cannabis market. There are a handful of countries globally that are cultivating, manufacturing, exporting, and importing these products. There is an enormous economic impact on the countries that become involved with the industry. For many areas looking to climb out of the aftermath of the COVID shutdowns, this is an amazing opportunity to bring jobs and tax revenue to their areas.
Overall, it’s exciting to see the industry continue to grow and evolve. Cannabis was hardly an industry 10 years ago and today it’s massive and continuing to grow exponentially year-over-year on a much larger scale.
3 Concerns that I have about the industry.
The federal government is notorious for being unable to create a cohesive and successful cannabis program. Generally, their involvement demonstrates that issues will be politically influenced and likely benefit operations closest to DC.
Underdeveloped social equity programs
We continue to see states and local governments failing to put forth a successful social equity program. Governments believe that putting a piece of paper in someone’s hands will allow them to raise capital, purchase real estate, build out a facility, operate a business they’re not familiar with, and then compete with large MSOs doing the same thing. If these governments continue to leave out access to capital and adequate training, these programs will continue to fail and MSOs will continue to use these programs to exploit social equity applicants to create larger financial gains for their investor pools.
Lobbyists are generally loyal to those who pay them the most. Unfortunately, MSOs are usually the companies employing these groups with the company’s best interests in mind. This might include very limited licensing processes or RFP requirements that are difficult for others to adhere to.
Can you share your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started Leading a Cannabis Business”? Please share a story or example for each.
- You don’t get to choose your schedule or make all the money as a business owner!
- It’s okay to say no. Some people don’t have realistic goals. Rather than trying to achieve the impossible, it is sometimes best to move on.
- You can’t make everyone happy.
- Every day is hard as a leader. Everything falls on your shoulders, and it’s a lot of stress some days.
- It’s all about the people you hire. Those committed to the company and experienced in their field are hard to find, but once you find those people hang on to them. The fallout of a bad hire will cost you money, time, and sleep.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
Have a plan and stick with it the best you can, but don’t fear change. It’s okay to reassess the situation; the industry is constantly changing.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I am working to find a city or state with a social equity program that needs retooling. Many of the existing programs don’t do a great job of helping the applicants become successful. Most governments assume if you give them a license or the ability to obtain a license, they somehow will be successful, but it’s not the case.
There is a significant lack of capital support, educational training, and strategic partners to support these entrepreneurs in competing with businesses that are large global operators with huge checkbooks and years of decades of experience under their roof.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
Cory Waggoner of Higher Yields Consulting: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started Leading… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.