Whether you’ve merged with another dispensary or acquired another company, having a new dispensary location means there’s more work to be done to truly bring them on board.
Here’s an uncomfortable truth about mergers and acquisitions (M&A):
“According to collated research and a recent Harvard Business Review report, the failure rate for mergers and acquisitions (M&A) sits between 70 percent and 90 percent.”
Fortunately, there are resources to help you navigate these tricky waters. In today’s article, we’ll cover the basics around setting yourself up for success, including:
- Back to Basics: Revisiting the Mission Statement
- The Business of Rebranding
- Doing Local Market Research (the Right Way)
- Being the Captain of the Ship
Ready? Let’s jump in.
Acquired a New Dispensary Location? Start By Getting Back to Basics
Opening any new business is challenging. Of course, you already know that through your own hard-won experience. But what you might not know is that while gaining a new location—whether by merger or acquisition—might sound like a shortcut to success (the business is already up and running! everything’s ready to go!), the numbers we quoted above suggest a very different story.
In addition to asking all the obvious questions—Why did the business fail? Were there structural or operational issues with the company? Did they fail to grasp their demographics and customer base?—you’ll want to start with a clean slate. Before you paint your logo on the front of the building or take out any full-page ads, it’s time to get back to basics. That means connecting with the former dispensary’s customers and staff—a topic we’ll revisit again in a moment—and turning your gaze inwards, back to your own foundational document: Your mission statement.
Mission statements remind organizations why they exist; when they lose sight of it, they lose the ability to communicate and connect with customers. Treat the acquisition of another location as an opportunity to reinvest in your mission and it will pay tangible dividends: For you, for any former staff you’re rehiring, and for the customers, you need to connect with.
Acquired a New Dispensary Location? Brand Yourself
Speaking of branding, let’s drop a little deeper into this hugely important topic. We’ve written about branding before—this primer on branding “Do’s and Don’ts” is a great place to begin—but the changeover from old ownership to new is a unique case.
If you’re simply rebranding a defunct business—and you’re certain your branding is on point—the process could be as straightforward as replicating your existing dispensaries’ signage, copy, and graphic materials.
But if you’re entering into a true merger with another company, it’s an opportunity to revisit the essential questions any business owner should consider before settling on a new brand identity. We already introduced the first and most important one: The mission statement that tells you, your staff, and your customers why you exist (hint: it’s not merely to sell cannabis).
Other points to consider include:
Developing a rebranding strategy that dovetails with your current brand. Unless you’ve decided to truly start from scratch, a little consistency is actually a good thing. It signals to consumers that you’ve got a plan, that you’re stable and trustworthy. This helps build trust and retention, and subtly contributes to the perception that you’re a business worth staying connecting with. Take a moment to check out these examples of brands that evolved over the years, some to their benefit, and others not so much.
Assess the competition. How do you differentiate yourself from other dispensaries? Where do you see yourself fitting in the overall matrix of similar businesses in your area? If your market lacks dispensaries focused on aspiration and wellness, is that a niche waiting to be exploited? Sometimes a more straightforward value-centered approach is more appropriate. Wherever you see yourself fitting, it’s essential that your branding conveys your value proposition immediately and effectively.
Manage the process carefully. A rebrand isn’t something to undertake lightly. Take your time to plan the planning and implementation, and utilize your best project-management skills and deadlines to help make for a smooth changeover.
Ask for help. We’ll say it again: Branding is a big deal, and it’s not a job for amateurs or dabblers. We’re experts in dispensary branding and we’d love to help, but whoever you end up collaborating with, make sure they’re qualified to guide this complex and supremely important part of the M&A process.
Not sure if rebranding is worth it? Here’s something to consider: Even well-established companies rebrand themselves once in a while. The trick is to stay fresh, current, and crystal-clear in their intent (while not getting so far ahead of the pack to look instantly dated).
Acquired a New Dispensary Location? Know the Market
We’ll start with the bad news: Conducting market research is a long and potentially grueling process. In the case of acquiring a new dispensary location, it involves taking a close, hard look at nearly everything about that location—the local regulations on cannabis sales and marketing, the demographics of the local population, and all competing dispensaries—and formulating it into an actionable map of the landscape. It’s highly probable that the former dispensary failed for exactly this reason: They didn’t fully comprehend the landscape in which they operated.
With this in mind, it’s crucial that you understand several key segments:
The Regulatory Landscape: If you’re expanding to a municipality outside your experience, begin with our state-by-state guide to cannabis advertising restrictions. Drilling deeper, your local City Hall will be able to provide granular information on any city- or neighborhood-specific regulations on cannabis sales, dispensary operations, and advertising.
The Human Landscape: At the end of the day, understanding the human landscape around your business is probably the single most important contributor to your eventual success. In addition to diving deep into local demographics and trends, you have an incredible source of intelligence at your fingertips: The employees and customers of the dispensary location you’re taking over!
Soliciting honest and objective feedback about what the former business did wrong (and right!) is one of the smartest investments you can possibly make in your future success. Customers can be incentivized via points in your loyalty program or some other form of legal reward. The same goes for the employees, who may well be looking to be rehired. By stressing your desire for honesty and demonstrating your objectivity, you may well have already found your new best hires.
The Competitive Landscape: We’ve touched on the topic of opposition research elsewhere, but it’s a supremely important step of the process. Understanding the composition of the dispensary landscape will pay enormous dividends as you assess possible niches and opportunities for growth.
Much of this work is done online in business directories, web searches, and places like local libraries and city planning offices. But whenever possible, we urge you to hit the streets and actually visit competing dispensaries. A few hours spent at these other operations will give you reams of information you can use to construct a remarkably detailed map of the competitive landscape. Along with knowing the people in your neighborhood, it’s no exaggeration to say that the success or failure of your business depends upon truly knowing the competition.
Want more details? We urge you to visit our recent post on conducting market research for your business plan.
Acquired a New Dispensary Location? Being the Captain of the Ship
It’s helpful to think of a merger or acquisition as a sort of marriage. As such, there are endless formalities and reams of paperwork and legal documents to be on top of. But at the end of the day, M&As are about people: The staff at the former dispensary—whom you should definitely consider keeping on rehiring—your own staff, and your customers.
Here’s a simple truth: People need leaders they can trust to guide them out of uncertainty. And the closure or buyout of a business is nothing but uncertain. Demonstrating that you’re competent and trustworthy, that you’ll integrate the employees fairly and judiciously, and that you’ll give the customers of the former dispensary an exceptional experience from Day 1 should all be top of mind as you plan your next steps.
Who’s the person most qualified to do this? You are. If you’ve already built a successful dispensary business, you’ve demonstrated you’ve got what it takes to be one of those leaders. Do your homework, keep in mind the challenges we’ve laid out in this article, and step forward into this exciting and rewarding phase of business-building with boldness and confidence.
Once your ducks are in a row and it’s time to hang that new sign, be sure to market your presence so people know what’s going on!
You will want to write a press release announcing your new acquisition and rebranding, update your directory listings (including your Google My Business profile), make sure you have a robust local SEO strategy, and start collecting reviews highlighting how great your new store is! Need help getting your ducks in a row? At Foottraffik, we’ve helped plenty of dispensaries launch a new location. Contact us to learn more about our services and how we can help you transition seamlessly.