Observations from MJBizCon 2022
CannaBlog by Aaron Stolz, Senior Accountant with Bridge West LLC
When I got word that I’d be attending this year’s MJBizCon, I couldn’t have been more excited. I had been trying to attend for the past four years, and something always got in the way. Not this time. This time, nothing would interfere, and I was even prepared to take PTO. Attending this year’s annual gathering of my peers from across the nation, and the world, feels like … home.
This isn’t a recreational visit though; I have an agenda. My goal is to stay up to date on the latest and greatest IT and banking solutions for our clients nationwide. This is no small task. The IT side of the industry is dynamic, and I don’t think that an industry winner has emerged yet. In our experience, there are a few standard IT options that every dispensary needs. At the top of the list is a POS system, preferably one that integrates with other software. If it played nicely with QuickBooks Online (QBO) and other Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, that would be great. If it also helped drive marketing solutions, that would be great too.
If the pandemic has done one thing, it’s revolutionized the customer experience. The boutique model of taking your time with ‘patients’ has fallen to the wayside in states that allow retail adult-use. Now it’s about efficiency. The goal is to get patients in and out without taking too much time. You see fewer and fewer retail operations that just have giant jars of loose flower that you can buy by the weight. Now it’s pre-packed flower, even up to an ounce.
From the vendor side, it’s about volume. The cannabis industry is too competitive to think that you can just raise prices without affecting your market share. This makes the industry particularly vulnerable to inflation. When the costs to produce rise, and the costs to sell rise, the difference can’t flow through to the consumer. That means the dispensary must live on lower margins. So, that means efficiency. Efficiency, Efficiency, Efficiency. This is where technology comes in and can be a game changer. The more customers who can order, pick up, pay, and leave on their own time, with minimal assistance of a salesperson, the better. At the MJBizCon Expo I am on the hunt for solutions that let dispensaries handle more customers without adding more staff.
Blaze Solutions, a POS vendor, offers a product that integrates with their marketing app. This feature lets patients place orders from any location. It’s pretty common to see dispensaries bring out an order facilitator whenever there’s a rush. That way, customers aren’t waiting until they get to a cash register before their questions are answered, and budtenders can pull orders together before the actual transaction. I liked the simple interface of this product, but I would have to take a closer look and schedule a demo before I would recommend them over the competition. One drawback is that this product still doesn’t have the ability to interact with QBO.
On the banking side, I was glad to see more participants exhibiting at MJBizCon. In my observation, more purchase financing options are coming online, as well as new payroll providers, like Hybrid Payroll. In the coming weeks, I’ll schedule a demo to examine their platform and consider adding them to our preferred recommendation list.
I was also looking for accounting software that focuses on state and local sales and excise tax returns. Sadly, that still seems to be an unfilled market niche. While the returns are both important on a monthly basis, and relatively complex, nobody’s seen fit to create a module that calculates and files them for the client. Of all the requests I get, this is perhaps the most common.
After attending MJBizCon, my primary take-away is that it is much more than just taking the time to investigate booth after booth. It’s also a great opportunity to meet with valued clients, both long-time and new. This is the industry event where new plans are developed, and conversations about the future happen. As Bridge West’s esteemed founder Jim Marty pointed out, the cannabis industry is about relationships. Everyone in the industry has many choices about who they hire, do business with, and their colleagues and friendships. Those decisions are based on the comfort of their relationships, and the feelings and trust the client has about their team. Throughout the conference, I was happy to meet new people from around the country and the world. All of us are brought together by one plant and that’s what gives me confidence. Despite the oppositions we encounter, despite the ups and downs of creating a new industry, and despite everything that’s happening in the world, we still can get together every year and remind ourselves that we’re not alone. There are millions of people who think just like us, maybe more. And every year we get to renew those connections that make us one community. Hopefully I’ll see you there next year.
In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me, Aaron Stolz, Senior Accountant with Bridge West, at email@example.com or 651-287-6333 ext. 6333. We also welcome you to visit our website and Contact Us to schedule a call or complimentary consultation.