WebJoint had the privilege of interviewing Josh Wand, Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of ForceBrands. ForceBrands is a New York-based recruiting firm for cannabis brands of all sizes. HerbForce, the cannabis division of ForceBrands, connects cannabis companies with talented job-seekers who specialize in sales, marketing, finance, operations, and HR roles. HerbForce’s goal: to supply fast-growing cannabis companies with the talent they need to building meaningful brands and drive scalable operations.
ForceBrands CEO, Josh Wand
What inspired the idea of creating ForceBrands and more specifically, HerbForce, to address recruitment needs within the cannabis industry?
Josh: ForceBrands was born out of my natural passion for the beverage industry and my interest in connecting people. In the early 2000s, I ran a rum company, an experience that helped me develop deep industry relationships and taught me how to hire a team, manage business development, and run a national sales and distribution network. The idea for ForceBrands came about in 2006 when I was promoting our rum brand at the South Beach Food and Wine Festival in Miami. Someone from a champagne company approached me and asked if I knew of any Regional Sales Managers. A few minutes later, someone from a different champagne company expressed his interest in changing jobs. And suddenly my professional matchmaking career was born. At the time, high-quality recruiting for the beverage industry didn’t exist. In 2007, we launched BevForce. Following its success, other forces emerged. We expanded into packaged food with FoodForce and then into beauty and personal care with BeautyForce. Most recently, we’ve formalized several years of work in cannabis with the official launch of HerbForce, which was a natural evolution of our service offerings.
How would you say HerbForce differentiates itself from other recruitment firms addressing staffing needs in the cannabis industry? Essentially, what does your company do differently to ensure high quality talent for cannabis brands?
Josh: At ForceBrands, we’re in the people business. We see recruiting through a human lens and engage with job seekers and employers in a real way — we get to know them personally, understanding that each individual is as unique as the needs of an organization. All of ForceBrands’ industry-specific divisions collaborate with clients as friends and trusted colleagues in the pursuit of transformational goals. HerbForce is unique in that cannabis is a whole new industry where hiring playbooks do not yet exist. We’ve found that there are countless natural synergies between cannabis and other CPG sectors. It’s an exciting opportunity for us to leverage more than a decade of experience and our incredibly powerful community to build the cannabis teams of tomorrow.
What are some lessons you’ve learned while building your own brand/staffing your own company that you’ve shared with your clients?
Josh: Culture is key. Building great teams goes beyond matching skill sets with job descriptions and responsibilities. I’m proud of the culture we’ve built at ForceBrands — one that is centered around our core values: people first, integrity, collaborative culture, progressive, purposeful. I always recommend to the teams that we’ve helped build to go beyond filling a role — hire candidates who fit the role not just professionally, but personally and culturally as well.
Considering ForceBrands has staffed businesses in multiple industries, what industry would you say cannabis brands can learn from the most? (Food, Bev, Beauty, overall CPG businesses?)
Josh: There are a lot of natural synergies between cannabis and the beverage alcohol world as they’re both highly regulated industries. Even though alcohol is federally legal in the U.S., the laws are complex as they vary at the state and local levels. Cannabis brands should look to the bev alc industry and to those with experience cooperating with legal restrictions as determined by federal, state, and local laws.
How important is the connection between your brand, your staff, and your company culture when building a team for your cannabis brand?
Josh: There is no one-size-fits-all approach to team building. Understanding that each organization is uniquely different helps us approach each brand differently. Cannabis is a new industry, and even though there is not yet a hiring playbook for this sector, we’re able to take what we’ve done building beverage, food, and beauty brands and apply that directly to cannabis companies.
Scenario: It’s 2019 in California and you’re building a cannabis brand currently with a team of one (you). What are the first 3 positions you would hire? Where would you start looking for these people (what industry)? How much would you expect to invest in the hiring process?
Josh: The first key hires I would make would be Head of Operations, Head of Finance, Head of Revenue, and Head of Field Marketing. I realize that’s four positions but they are all incredibly valuable for getting a cannabis brand off the ground. And when it comes to sourcing talent for these roles, I would look toward the CPG industry as cannabis essentially is a consumer good. I would invest a lot in taking the time to find the right people — not just the people who meet the desired skill sets necessary to succeed.
What should cannabis brands look for in their applicants? What are a few common mistakes brands make when hiring?
Josh: Hiring is about looking at the whole picture. As mentioned above, brands should consider looking at their hiring strategy beyond just filling roles. It takes patience to find the right fit. It’s not an easy feat and there are no shortcuts when it comes to making great hires. Brands that take the time to hire right will be rewarded with long-term growth and success.
Where do you see the future of staffing in the cannabis industry going? What trends should brands pay attention to ensure they have a top tier team building their brand?
Josh: Cannabis is already an incredibly crowded and competitive space, and I don’t see its momentum slowing down anytime soon. When it comes to building top teams, employers should look to their benefits and compensation packages to attract and retain top talent. ForceBrands’ 2019 Talent Market Report, a comprehensive analysis of benefits and compensation packages across CPG, found that the cannabis sector was among the most competitive, with average annual raises the highest across CPG at 14 percent. When it comes to benefits, paid leave policies have gained in popularity in recent years and as a result, we’re seeing cannabis companies offer more extensive leave policies than established businesses across other industries. Cannabis brands should pay attention to their employee offerings to ensure that they’re building the best teams possible.
What are a few overlooked positions brands should consider implementing into their business to ensure the success of their business?
Josh: Some key overlooked positions are Head of Operations and Head of Finance. Both of these roles are critical to ensuring the business has what it needs to succeed.
What are some of your favorite resources (books, podcasts, software, etc.) that you can share with our audience that has benefited your personal and professional growth in this industry?
Josh: I’m all about additional resources that help personal and professional growth. I highly recommend reading “Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose” by Tony Hsieh and “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho. I also love the Peptalks app that offers daily motivation.