4 Ways to Avoid Making Dispensaries' Biggest Mistake

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I don’t blame any small business owner for scrutinizing expenses and pushing away salespeople touting their latest and greatest product. I’ve been there. My keep-your-hands-off-my-tiny-pile-of-cash approach saved me time initially, but I also missed opportunities where I could have spent money to make money and run my business more effectively.

Technology is a key area where many dispensary owners and managers can be shortsighted. They seek the cheapest solution to meet their bare minimum needs instead of fully understanding how a robust tech solution can benefit them over time. “We just need a tablet and a cash drawer” is akin to buying only a tricycle and a lunchbox for a cross country trip.

Here are four specific actions dispensary owners should take to avoid big mistakes.

Factor in total cost of ownership (TCO) when purchasing or upgrading your point-of-sale system.

Just because you’re most familiar with low-cost consumer devices doesn’t mean they should serve as the technology backbone of your dispensary. The initial price tag on a commercial-grade point-of-sale system may make your eyes widen, but consider the purchase an investment. Systems purchased online may actually cost more due to hidden fees and support costs, plus they may be out of warranty or unsupported when you have an IT issue or when you’re opening an additional dispensary. You’re better off spending more on an expandable, compliant, reliable, tailored system at the outset instead of starting over again. As a cannabis IT expert told me, “So many intangible costs are buried in a failure at the wrong time.”

Quit slapping Band-Aids on your tech needs.

“A dispensary can run on anything, but it can’t run well on anything,” a cannabis industry veteran recently told me. Your first step to taking the technology stack seriously is mapping out your IT strategy with a retail-focused value-added reseller (VAR). As your trusted advisor, the VAR will help you not only stay up-and-running without interruption, they’ll also enhance your store’s customer experience, keep you compliant with industry regulations and maximize your operational efficiency.

Brace yourself for increasing tech complexity.

Dispensary technology is about to get a whole lot more complicated with online ordering and curbside pickup and mobile POS and mobile payments and credit card processing and inventory management and above-store reporting and cellular failover and more. If your IT foundation is weak because your platform wasn’t designed to scale, you will be forced to rebuild as success arrives, wrestling with your technology when you should be catering to your customers. You’re going to need a trusted advisor to navigate the impending complexity and help you stay profitable and compliant.

Get educated on tomorrow’s tech requirements and possibilities.

When you watch a pre-1990s movie, do you smirk when you see someone racing into a telephone booth or clacking away at a typewriter? We laugh because we know those are outdated, inefficient technologies. A trusted technology advisor can help you keep pace with and stay ahead of cannabis technology advancements. Instead of you Googling AI, BI, ERP, PCI, NFC, RFID, BOPIS and BORIS, a VAR will present to you only emerging tech options that will positively impact you, your budtenders, your customers — and your bottom line.

This isn’t the time for amateurs to be making technology decisions. This situation reminds me of a few years ago when my wife and I had our new house built in an ever-expanding subdivision. We could have saved money installing our flooring — my wife is pretty handy and I’m good at following directions — but we chose instead to pay a professional. A neighbor opted to go it alone and install their own hardwood flooring. Their materials were delivered to their attached garage and one weekend they started laying wood with everything looking great. Shortly after, the floor started buckling and bowing. The cause was a mystery to them — but not to the flooring professional they called. He knew from experience that cold wood needs to be brought into the house for several days to expand before installation. The home owners ripped out the flooring and paid more to have the pros start over again. To paraphrase an old saying, if you don’t have the time and money to do it right, when will you have the time and money to do it over? The most expensive product is the one you have to buy twice.

Not only can VARs save dispensary owners from making mistakes, they can also serve as the single point of contact for all things technology. You won’t have to invest time researching products and you don’t need to meet with technology vendors anymore — all that is handled by the VAR. This eliminates hours of meetings that aren’t specifically related to running your dispensary.

A leading cause of business failure isn’t spending too much on technology. It’s a lack of surrounding yourself with the best people to improve fulcrum areas of the business. Partner with a trusted technology advisor who will increase your dispensary’s sales and reduce your expenses over the long term.

Jim Roddy is the vice president of marketing and a business advisor for the Retail Solutions Providers Association (RSPA)

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