Serial entrepreneur’ is bullish on future of cannabis industry

Pete Findley, owner of Exhale Nevada/Exhale Brands, a marijuana dispensary in Las Vegas, poses for a photo on Thursday, Dec. 21, 2017.

There’s still a stigma about using cannabis, says Peter Findley, managing partner of Exhale Nevada, which cultivates, produces and sells marijuana. And Findley wants to help break that stigma and build a worldwide business in cannabis and alternative medicine, all headquartered in Las Vegas.

Tell us about your background and how it prepared you to launch your cannabis business.

My partners and I are serial entrepreneurs. This is my fifth startup and between the three of us, we have more than 75 years of experience running businesses of all different types. We haven’t seen this much excitement since the dot-com and early years of the tech boom of the late ’90s. It’s one of those industries that is growing extremely fast with so many moving parts — it’s a total thrill and what we thrive on; it keeps us going 24/7.

My first company was built through that tech boom. We pivoted when necessary, we failed at some things and succeeded greatly at others. Having been through that, I hope we can learn even faster as an organization. This is what made Amazon great. Try something and don’t be afraid. And if it doesn’t work, just realize it quickly enough so you can move on, or learn from it and be better.

How is your company structured, and what is your management style?

We have three divisions, which make us vertically integrated. We have cultivation (growing from seed), production and manufacturing (processing the plant and creating shelf-ready goods), and retail. Each division has its own challenges.

We are rapidly growing to keep pace with the industry and our own company goals. We’ve tripled our team since July and plan on tripling again this year. When you do that, you have to constantly evaluate and shift, to be able to turn on a dime. We’re still building the team at all levels, trying to find the right people to lead us to greatness.

From a management perspective, we are hands-on and collaborative with all levels of the company. It is so embryonic that you really have to be to understand the challenges and opportunities that the team faces.

What is your strategy for long-term success?

You have to build a great brand that has immense loyalty with your customers, the community and your team. When you have brand loyalty, you can work toward an even greater brand affinity. Harley-Davidson and NASCAR are companies that have excelled with brand loyalty and affinity. Even more, it’s brand religion. That’s powerful.

What is Exhale Gives Back?

Exhale Gives Back is our vehicle to give back to our community. Our mission is to raise funds and further drug education awareness and alternative treatment solutions. We work with charities that need more funding or manpower. On May 17, we’re hosting our inaugural Memorial Day Golf Tournament to raise money for veterans groups and help fight the opioid crisis, which hits our veteran population especially hard.

Is it necessary to consume cannabis to work in the industry?

Much of our recruiting is toward professionals who have learned relevant skills in industries outside of the cannabis space. The ability to take “what works great” in other industries and deploy those in the cannabis space is valuable. I know many people who do not consume cannabis who are excelling in the industry.

What is the best business advice you’ve received?

Hire great people and get out of their way. Let them excel at what they do. One of my first mentors was intent on imparting this to me: “Hire people who are better than you at what they do,” and “hire to your weaknesses.” That’s stuck with me my entire business life. I’ve found that hiring people who process or think differently than me, and aren’t afraid to use that, is valuable.

What is your biggest pet peeve?

Laziness and incompetence. Combine the two in an individual and they are exponentially worse. I see lots of people who just don’t try. They don’t care and aren’t driven or inspired to do better. I wish they would just wake up one day and realize this, and motivate themselves to do more and do better.

Where do you see yourself company in 10 years?

There will be profound breakthroughs and excitement in this industry, and we want to be a major player in contributing to it. We’re particularly excited about the CBD movement. CBD (Cannabidiol) is a cannabis compound that has significant medical benefits, but does not make people feel stoned and can counteract the psychoactivity of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the active ingredient in marijuana). CBD is an appealing option for patients looking for relief from inflammation, pain, anxiety, psychosis, seizures, spasms and other conditions without feelings of lethargy or dysphoria.

If you could talk to one person from history, who would it be?

Leonardo Da Vinci. That man was pure genius. Inventor, mathematician, painter, engineer, architect and so much more. He died holding more secrets that we’re still learning about. Getting insight into how his mind works would be amazing.