Management and leadership in cannabis industry

Management and Leadership in the Cannabis Industry – a conversation

Hannabis and their affiliate approach

I first met Jess Gelling at the Hemp & CBD Expo in 2019. For just over three months, Jess has been the affiliate manager of award-winning CBD brand Hannabis, a UK-based company that places great emphasis on ethically sourced, eco-friendly products. 

This holistic and ethical approach spills over into the affiliate program that Jess manages, where the mindset is that self-care matters; more than that, it’s a priority, because if you’re not 100% you’re not going to have as much to give to your business. Jess’s role also includes providing 1:1 personalised support to affiliates as needed in a truly human-centric approach to management.

Jess took over the affiliate program to free up time and space for co-founders Hannah and Nicole and allow them to focus on their leadership role. Her role is broad; she keeps the two of them on track with project timelines, makes sure content is compliant, trains the affiliates on product knowledge and compliance, and much more.

Hanabis currently has more than 270 registered affiliates, of which between approximately 100 – 150 are active at any one time. Instead of sending bulk messages Jess reaches out to a handful of affiliates every day to check in and see how they’re doing. This individual attention is a rare thing in the affiliate world, and makes a huge difference – Hannabis affiliates are like family.

The difference between leaders and managers

This family culture was fostered by Hannah and Nicole from the beginning; it’s always been a mindset of collaboration rather than a sense of hierarchy. Affiliates are encouraged to take care of themselves and are cared for as individuals rather than treated as numbers as is often the case in the affiliate marketing world.

The approach of Hannabis’s affiliate program is one of empowerment and support, of family-first, business second. This highlights the leadership fostering approach of the company, which doesn’t see affiliates as employees but as valued collaborators.

The crucial distinction between leaders and managers is that leaders empower you to thrive and achieve great things, whereas managers will just tell you what to do and not necessarily involve you in the big picture. This tends to lead to people feeling unappreciated and that they have no way of making an impact, which is damaging for self-esteem and ultimately unfulfilling. 

The biggest challenges and learnings

Jess told me that the biggest challenge running the affiliate program has been managing the diverse personalities; remembering that not everyone is like you and that you need to adapt to each person. This seems to get easier with time and with the approach of not judging anyone’s communication needs (copy/paste emails are a no-no!).

One easy way of keeping track of prospects and clients and being able to offer personalised messages or support that I use is through a spreadsheet; inserting the person’s first (or most recent) message, the way they prefer to be contacted and any other details pertaining to that person. 

Going from managing 15 people to 200+ has been a big learning curve for Jess that felt rather overwhelming to begin with, especially as Jess deals with depression and anxiety. A big part of managing people constructively and responsibly is managing your own mindset; making sure you do not pass your negative mindset on to other people, and this is something Jess is learning to master.

The other big learning has been accepting that you can’t please everyone; there will always be people that we don’t get on easily with, or people who don’t like us, or who don’t like what we’re doing or how we’re doing it. Making friends with this fear is a necessary part of the leadership journey.

// Listen to this episode on the Podcast.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *