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Is it Because I'm a Woman or Because I'm a Woman in Cannabis?

brain picking

I received a call this morning out of the blue from a past client I only hear from every few months when he needs to “pick my brain” or needs an introduction or advice to, at the end of the day, help his new business succeed and help him make more money.

But it’s a new month, COVID-19 made things hard on my business, and it’s in my nature to be helpful, especially when it comes to ending stigma around cannabis and helping entrepreneurs succeed. So this time, even though I was in the middle of preparing for a call with a paying client, I picked up the phone. Positive thoughts! Maybe he wants to introduce me to someone who could be a paying client?

Maybe, shmaybe

The call started as they normally do: An update on his “amazing” cannabis plants and shooting the shit about how great his life is and how great his business is coming along. No curiosity expressed relating to how I am doing, how my business or family are, or if this is a convenient time for me to drop everything to speak with him.

Quickly, and expectedly, he pivots to the ask: He needs my advice about who to hire and how much to pay them for a variety of marketing services (some of which I do). I told him he was putting me in an uncomfortable position again because this is the type of strategic and organizational development work that people pay me for, and I would need more information to advise properly.

Luckily I had that paying-client call and had to cut the call short. I gave my brain picker a quick referral to a designer I admire and told him I would be happy to make the introduction. Within minutes he tells me via text message that he’s located the contact information for my referral and would let the designer know I suggested him.

My response:

I’m glad I could be helpful again with the [designer] suggestion! He’s great and very talented. If I can be of further assistance to your business let’s please set up time for you to bring me up to speed on your business development needs and to agree on compensation for my time and services going forward. Are you available Thursday or Friday morning?

I haven’t heard back yet, which I’m guessing means he didn’t like my suggestion that I be compensated for my time and the value I’m bringing to his well-funded business.

We aren't selling widgets

Now don’t get me wrong: I thrive off of seeing others succeed, especially my loved ones and minority- and women- and veteran-owned small businesses in the cannabis space. I’ll help them all day! Heck, I even started a nonprofit organization (ELEVATE Northeast) to help them and break stigma against all of us who use and/or work with cannabis.

For experienced cannabis industry business development consultants, our value is in our understanding of the complexities and nuances of the local, state, and federal cannabis eco-system and well-practiced ability to assess a business’s situation and advise them on strategies and steps to build their brand. Our time is important and valuable because it produces ideas and results that help businesses grow.

We are't selling widgets or any physical products for that matter. So when creativity, innovation and connections are the cannabis industry’s true currency, why do so many people undervalue both the time and creative experience they seek to profit from? Why is the invaluable expected for free from marketing and business development professionals?

I certainly don’t have the answers yet, but I am getting stronger and more comfortable at saying “no” to these intellectual sycophants and using the asks for handouts as opportunities to assert myself.

I gotta know from fellow consultants and well-connected creative intellectuals: How do you handle requests to “pick your brain” or exploit your knowledge and connections? Let me know in the comments or on LinkedIn.

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