9 Steps to Building a Team of All-Star Budtenders

Here are nine proven best-practices that will help you to manage your cannabis dispensary more effectively and build a team of top-performing budtenders.

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A lot is going on in any given dispensary storefront. As a dispensary owner or manager, you likely put a lot of thought into the products you carry to ensure your customers have a range of options. Whether it’s jars of Indica, Sativa, hybrids, pre-rolls, concentrates, or drinkables, marijuana retail is a brave new world for consumers, and it’s difficult to know where to start. It's no wonder customers rely so heavily on the guidance and insight of budtenders.

Beyond new cannabis consumers, another sphere of your client-base are likely experienced connoisseurs--they expect your budtenders to be proficient at “talking shop.”

And then some will walk into your dispensary who want to get their preferred cannabis product, then leave, with little interaction. In these cases, your budtenders must possess the savviness to satisfy those expectations while still promoting up-sells, introducing new products, and cultivating loyalty.

As a leader in cannabis retail, or if you’re a budtender with leadership aspirations, you need both intuition and knowledge when it comes to the customer experience. When you do that, you’ll see quite clearly how invaluable a team of all-star budtenders is when it comes to ensuring your business thrives for years to come.

Below, we’ll look at the core dispensary practices required to foster a frontline team of top-performing budtenders.

1. Create a Team Culture Budtenders Love

According to several studies, 94% of executives and 88% of employees believe a strong workplace culture is essential to business success.

That stat applies to cannabis dispensaries as much as it does to Google’s Headquarters.

So, what are you doing to ensure your budtenders feel proud of your business and excited to show up to work each day? How are you keeping your team engaged, focused, and motivated?

When you fail to actively foster a team culture in your dispensary, your customers take notice. They visit your store less often, and when they do come in, they spend less.

2. Make Expectations Crystal Clear

At the end of the day, your budtenders can’t meet and exceed your standards if they’re unclear on what is expected of them.

Keep in mind, however that repeating rules and policies until you're blue in the face can backfire. Often times managers communicate workplace expectations in ways that fail to resonate with budtenders--these rote and impersonal approaches can be just as bad as saying nothing at all.

There’s a delicate balance involved in communicating and clarifying expectations with your team, that will keep them on their toes—figure out what technique works best for your budtenders. The best methods will connect daily tasks with the broader picture. For example, indicate to your team how cleaning your glass cases daily really makes a difference to customers in how they perceive the overall quality and legitimacy of your store.

3. Make it a Game

As a cannabis retail leader, it's imperative that you incentivize positive habits at work. Let's be honest, working in a dispensary, like any retail job, can feel repetitive and exhausting. It’s all well and good to offer “teachable moments” for whenever someone missteps, but there needs to be something more on the table than that. Negative reinforcement will only get you so far.

Instead, ensure there’s a strong system in place that rewards the unsung intangibles that help your business succeed. Whether it’s celebrating a budtender who picks up an extra shift or giving a public shout-out to someone who frequently offers help to fellow employee--you must make sure those behaviors are underscored and and valued appropriately.

You need a reward system that encourages your budtenders to perform these behaviors without a second thought.

Or else, your budtenders will grow discouraged and slowly slip into bad habits.

4. Ensure Top Performers Know They Are Valued

Guess what happens when you fail to let top-performing budtenders know they are vital to your business?

The answer has two parts:

1. They leave, and start working for a competitor


2. They stop being top performers

Motivating your strongest employees to remain sharp is integral. It’s just a matter of utilizing the most successful tactics.

5. Offer Professional Development Opportunities

It’s easy for talent to become disinterested when there’s no room for growth within an organization.

A proverbial light at the end of the tunnel is a must for anyone with ambition, drive, and passion. Otherwise, your employees will begin to feel like hamsters on a wheel, which will put an end to their thirst for product knowledge and for delivering customer satisfaction.

Know that providing various ways your budtenders can move up throughout your dispensary requires a layered approach. Whether you base your promotions on sales, online reviews, or some other metric, make that upward mobility clear and tangible.

6. Establish Attainable Goals

Just like athletes need to aim for goals so they can keep improving, so do your budtenders.

Plus, it puts something concrete and establishes parameters for success. An absence of clarified goals makes it challenging for your team of budtenders to know what they’re working towards. We've developed an awesome new tool called SparkPlug that integrates with your POS and let's you seamlessly create budtender scorecards, set individual and team goals, and launch sales contest.

You can read more about SparkPlug here.

7. Harness Technology

Nothing will demoralize a team of budtenders more than inefficient operations and rote-procedures mandated throughout your dispensary.

When thinking about technology to be used in your dispensary, most people don't think past their Point of Sale (POS). While a robust and feature-rich POS will help to streamline inventory management and keep lines moving, there are lots of solutions out there that can provide similar value to other aspects of your business.

Compliance software, budtender-management and communication tools, digital marketing solutions, and sales gamification platforms are just a few technologies that will keep your operations running smoothly while maximizing revenue and decreasing headaches. The industry is full of exciting cannabis technology; to stay competitive, make sure your team is constantly trying new solutions and implementing tools that work for you.

8. Make Budtenders Aware of the Bigger Picture

Your budtenders need to be fully aware of how much they matter at work. Otherwise, they’ll end up feeling like insignificant cogs in a massive machine.

All too often, owners fail to realize the overall importance of their budtenders. Which is foolish, since they’re the lifeblood of every dispensary.

Taking the time to connect the dots for your team will make them feel important and aligned with your company's broader goals and mission. Employees that feel like they are making meaningful contributions to your overall success are less likely to quit and more willing to work hard each day.

9. Continually Assess Your Business

Don’t fail to analyze and evaluate your dispensary’s overall performance continually, so you can react to both negative and positive trends in real-time.

If you don’t keep yourself informed, how are you supposed to stay on top of your team’s performance? Whether it's sales insights, website traffic, labor costs and metrics, or employee training, make sure you're keeping an eye on the data and trends to determine what's working and what might be wasting time and money.

Honestly, we’re only scratching the surface with the above practices. Click here to read a more comprehensive guide on building a team of top-performing budtenders.

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