Interviewed by Cabiria Mazzuchelli
The Sira/Ayr Senior Management Team continues to bring on some of the most talented individuals in the cannabis industry. One of the newest members of the Retail team is Gretchen McCarthy, VP of Retail for Ayr's Northeast Region. Prior to coming on board, Gretchen worked at Curaleaf for over 6 years, leading the Curaleaf retail team at a national level and more recently across multiple states in the Northeast. Before that, Gretchen got her foot in the door of the cannabis industry as the General Manager of Retail at Maine Organic Therapy, one of the first medical cannabis dispensaries on the East Coast.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Gretchen and discuss how she developed her leadership style and what brought her to Sira/Ayr:
- What aspect of the cannabis industry do you find the most inspiring and fulfilling?
The Cannabis industry is inspiring and fulfilling to me in many ways, but a constant for me has been the opportunity to work alongside some of the most talented, driven, and passionate people with a common mission to serve our patients, customers, and communities. There is something special about this industry and the passion that surrounds it. The “Power of the Plant” shines through the people who work in the trenches every day. We are all in this together, and the sense of community that working in this space creates is inspiring.
Nothing comes easy in this industry, so when that new store opens and the first customer walks through the doors and you get to observe the team adopt everything they were taught and look back on all the efforts it took to get to that day - it’s truly amazing and a pure team effort. It’s so important to always step back and celebrate the small wins and the big ones!
- What do you find most unique in developing sales strategies for marijuana in particular that you wouldn’t ordinarily use in the sale of products?
It’s no secret that operating in the cannabis business brings forth extra hurdles that other industries do not experience when it comes to developing sales strategies and restrictions around marketing. In addition, many of the social media giants have tight restrictions or will ban your account if you are promoting products or pricing online. It takes creativity and thinking outside of the box constantly. I believe our employees are our strongest asset when it comes to the sale of our products not only while at work, but outside of work being everyday cannabis ambassadors. Putting a special focus and investment into having a highly trained and educated dispensary staff that can speak to our brands and recommend products that are best suited to our customers’ needs and desired effects is certainly a winning sales strategy. Customers will continue to come back if they have a great experience with an educated budtender and in turn tell their friends and family. Word of mouth is a powerful tool!
You also can’t be shy to try new things and throw ideas against the wall and see if it sticks! It’s a very scrappy industry, and all eyes have to be constantly on our competition to keep our edge.
- Discuss how experiencing the “Cannabis Boom” from its early stages has impacted your leadership style in the industry.
Being in the industry for over a decade, I feel my leadership style has certainly evolved from the early days of Cannabis to today. I think the most relative is adaptability. With the constant changes in regulations and changes in general that tend to rear its head consistently, having the ability to pivot and react quickly is important, but it’s also imperative your team can do the same. There have been endless times when we are running in one direction, need to stop and go in a completely different direction – quickly! Being able to manage to different preferences of the employees who report to you I believe is critical. Not everyone can be managed the same way, and there cannot be one way of doing things – adjustments need to be made. Leading with that mindset and taking a special focus in coaching, guiding, and most importantly trusting your employees to make good and smart decisions, will allow us to tackle any challenge that comes our way and continue to grow.
- How do you feel about the future of the cannabis industry?
I believe the future of the Cannabis industry continues to be bright! I feel like we have just chipped the surface and still have a long runway to go. New states will continue to adopt programs, legalization will continue to happen which will only help further break the stigma around the sale and its use. The majority of people believe in legalizing Cannabis on the Federal level and believe this is in our future, which will open the door to a whole new world for our industry as it relates to being able to operate like other major corporations and have access to banking. I also do not see large acquisitions going away and consolidation will continue to happen with smaller companies joining forces with larger ones. As it relates to retail, I believe the customer experience and enhanced technology will continue to evolve.
Meeting each customer where they are at, whether they want to shop online, mobile, express, stay on the couch and receive a delivery to their door, or come in for the enhanced experience in the store with a little more hand holding. Advanced technology will only enhance the customer shopping eco system.I believe as laws change, you will see a true retail shopping experience where products are displayed out in the open vs. locked behind glass or dispensed from a vault or behind the counter like other traditional shopping experiences.