Brian Gaultier


  • Brian Gaultier is the director of cultivation at Curaleaf.
  • He says that while nurturing the actual plants is one of the main aspects of the business, his job is also to nurture the people he works with.
  • The people are what make a place thrive, and they should be given the opportunity to provide feedback, set goals, and healthily dissent.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Believe it or not, cannabis cultivation has been around for over 10,000 years. Yet those of us in the burgeoning legalized industry have just over a decade of experience to draw upon — from early “Wild West” days to adhering to today’s strict state-mandated regulations. The challenges we face in building a productive operation are many, not the least of which is how to best nurture the plant itself. However, one of the biggest factors is how we manage our people. There’s no substitute for tangible human relations, no matter how much you’ve invested in equipment, structures, and technology. At the end of the day, this business is based on the direct relationship between the plant and the people.

People are drawn to the cannabis industry for many reasons. For me, it was the chance to continue to work with a plant I love and to remove my family’s fear of me ending up in jail. When I started cultivating in Florida, we faced mandatory minimum sentences. Now, my job as a manager is to nurture the passion and enthusiasm of the people who work here. Here are five things I learned about keeping people excited, motivated, and engaged with what they do while managing a 100,000 square foot cannabis grow facility.

1. Set the standard

FILE PHOTO: Cannabis plants grow inside the Tilray factory hothouse in Cantanhede, Portugal April 24, 2019.  REUTERS/Rafael Marchante Cannabis plants grow inside the Tilray factory in Cantanhede Reuters

The perception people have when entering the industry is mostly based on third-party information. Fact is, most people have never set foot in an actual cannabis production facility. Establishing the “house rules” is a great way to shape their attitude towards the work we do. One of my favorite things I say to new and existing employees is, this facility is a hotel for plants. Every morning they should wake up in a room that looks, smells, and feels clean. We’re overpaid janitors — our primary work is to make sure the plants are happy. If your people see themselves as the responsible stewards of your company’s product or service, they’ll be more engaged, positive, and productive.

2. Sell the dream, and make it happen

2 diverse coworkers Be a resource to employees. mentatdgt/Shutterstock

We’re truly fortunate to be part of a growing industry — and that means there’s no shortage of potential opportunities for your people. Instill in your supervisors the practice of having open conversations with their teams. “What is your goal? Where do you want your career to be in 3-5 years?” Then lay out a plan with them to achieve it. Be a resource to help fulfill their dreams and they’ll work with passion to exceed the company goals. The sky’s the limit in the cannabis industry, so I encourage my teams to take advantage of every opportunity.

3. Overcommunicate

zoom meeting computer Set aside time to get feedback. Zoom

No one should feel their thoughts don’t matter, and people at every level deserve to be heard. It’s critical to find a balance between maintaining production and being open to ideas from the people who make the actual work happen. When there’s an issue, give teams examples of situations which must be addressed immediately and those which can wait. Set aside time to receive feedback from your staff. This creates an environment where the team understands they are part of implementing the process and part of continually improving it. Dedicating specific time to discuss ideas ensures workflow is not interrupted, and that teams remain engaged. Remember that information, both good and bad, is only useful if shared.

4. Encourage healthy dissent

diverse coworkers Honest conversation can be uncomfortable — but it’s important. Shutterstock

No one has our business completely figured out. There are no perfect facilities; therefore, we must not only encourage the process of continuous improvement, we must demand it. Honest conversation can be uncomfortable, and it’s crucial to remind teams that we must critique the process, never the person, and that the common goal is continued growth. Passionate people will have opinions — and that’s what you want to encourage. Someone might disagree with our choice to run our humidity below 55% during the flowering cycle. So we explain the reason we do so is to inhibit the potential growth of any type of mold or mildew. While their protocols might work in their personal garden, that’s not an acceptable risk for a production facility which is being counted on to provide clean product to hundreds of thousands of people. The goals of the company must be thoroughly defined and conveyed. Only then can we begin the discussion about how to get there.

5. Foster the people

In this Aug. 22, 2019 photo, lead grower Elizabeth Keyser, talks about flowering medical marijuana plants being grown with special grow lights during a media tour of the Curaleaf medical cannabis cultivation and processing facility in Ravena, N.Y. After legislative efforts stalled and a vaping sickness stirred new concerns, the governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut still want to make recreational pot legal. But the states have different approaches and timeframes, and some proposals have shifted since last year. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink) In a 2019 photo, lead grower Elizabeth Keyser gives a tour of the Curaleaf medical cannabis cultivation and processing facility in Ravena, N.Y. Associated Press

The people make the place. They fill the hallways with their energy. Make an effort to acknowledge all of the staff members and to introduce them to senior management when they visit. Those moments mean a lot to the people that put their passion into our products/services. Every company has a distinct culture. Direct the culture’s narrative and work every day to actively define it. Invite your people to help shape their workplace. As a manager, you bridge the gap between investors, the leadership, and the staff. It’s your responsibility to make decisions with the interest of the company in mind. If the company is successful, then you will be in a position to reward your staff. Issues will inevitably arise between upper management and those in the field doing the work. It’s important to address negativity and conflict and mitigate the damage to the culture. It’s equally as important to work with upper management so that they are aware of the impact their decisions can have on morale at every level and ultimately, their bottom line.

If you want the company’s future to be green, start with the people who make it happen, plant by plant, every day.

More: Features Cannabis Cannabis industry Leadership

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