Lori Glauser – Co-Founder, President & COO of Signal Bay, Inc.
Lori Glauser is the Co-Founder, President and COO of Signal Bay, Inc., a publically traded company (SGBY) that provides research, advisory and management services to the cannabis industry. Her 25+ years of job experience, ranging from mechanical engineering and management consulting to entrepreneurship in the energy and tech sectors, have taken her around the world. Before entering the cannabis space, Lori was working at senior-level management consulting positions with Ernst & Young and IBM. Since she was introduced to the cannabis industry less than 2 years ago, Lori and her team have been completely immersed in the space. In addition to her work with Signal Bay, Lori is the founding chair of Women Grow: Las Vegas as well as an outspoken participant in local and national organizations and conferences including NCIA and FOCUS. In an industry that could certainly use more female leadership, Lori shares how she has navigated through her professional journey.
What was the deciding factor for you to join this particular industry?
My initial experience with legal cannabis came when I moved from Boulder to San Francisco, so I could launch a tech startup. It was the tail end of the ‘dot com’ boom. Gavin Newsom was city mayor, Proposition 215 was recently passed, and in my neighborhood, preparing for the Burning Man festival was everyone’s second job. It was there that I met cannabis patients, advocates and growers who opened my eyes to the beneficial effects of cannabis.
Fast forward 10 years, I landed a project with IBM in Nevada, and wound up in a Burning Man camp with cannabis industry pioneers including Leslie Bocskor, Mark Goldfogel, and Joe Brezny. They let me know it was an industry to watch.
This industry is going to mature in the blink of an eye, and we want to be, indeed we are compelled to be, a part of its growth.
My first opportunity to work around cannabis as a professional was with Ernst & Young. I worked on a project that evaluated the impact of energy theft in British Columbia, Canada. A shocking amount of electricity is diverted around meters, mostly by cannabis growers, not so much to avoid paying the high energy bills, but to avoid getting caught by the Provincial Authority which was affiliated with the utility.
About a year later, Leslie formed Electrum Partners, and asked for my assistance preparing cannabis establishment applications. I immediately recruited the most capable person I knew – William Waldrop – and we got to work. Soon we had submitted eight complete applications to the state and today all of our clients have establishment licenses.
Through this process, we clearly saw there was a need for more business expertise. Here was an entire industry being re-formed on top of a foundation of decades of illegal, unregulated activity. The new legal industry offered little in the way of market intelligence, best practices, and sound business models available to the cannabis entrepreneur. This was precisely the type of expertise we can bring to the market.
Since we launched Signal Bay, Inc. the only industry I have seen go through as much transformation as quickly and the cannabis industry has is the Internet. This industry is going to mature in the blink of an eye, and we want to be, indeed we are compelled to be, a part of its growth.
What skills from your previous experiences helped you in what you are doing now?
I began my career as a mechanical engineer in the nuclear power industry. That experience comes in handy when working with imaginably dangerous substances in a regulated environment. In addition to performing design engineering, I wrote and adhered to operational procedures, strict security and transportation protocols, and dealt with lots of regulatory reporting and compliance. Obviously, the marijuana flower is not nearly as dangerous as radioactive uranium, but sometimes it appears that regulators think it is.
We anticipate that California is going to be the next huge market for consulting services as all those business who have been working in a lightly regulated arena will need to come into compliance quickly.
One project that helped me prepare for the cannabis industry was my involvement in planning a $500Mil power plant in Mexico, on the US border. We developed an extraordinarily detailed due diligence package that involved business on both sides of the border (which meant two currencies). The package included everything from multiple fuel sources, complex power purchase agreements, piles of vendor agreements, and a financial pro forma that maxed out the capability of Excel at the time. The plant got funded, and is now generating hundreds of millions per year in electricity sales both in the US and Mexico. Developing application packages for cultivation, production and dispensary facilities is no easy task, but it has been made easier by this experiences.
In addition to these experiences, I started, or have been involved in several startups throughout my professional life. In 2008, I participated in a clean tech accelerator program in Palo Alto, where I developed an idea for an automated building controller operated on a wireless mesh network. I learned a tremendous amount through that program, most of all the importance of working with the top people in the industry.
Right now, where are you guiding your passion and energy towards?
Thousands of business owners and entrepreneurs in Oregon, Maryland and Hawaii are getting ready to submit applications for adult use marijuana establishments. As deadlines loom and state requirements evolve, we are preparing to assist dozens of entrepreneurs as they launch their businesses. Our passion lies in helping cannabis industry entrepreneurs succeed, and do so on a large scale. Next year is likely to be a windfall for new regulations. We anticipate that California is going to be the next huge market for consulting services as all those business who have been working in a lightly regulated arena will need to come into compliance quickly. They need business intelligence, they need help getting their businesses started and they need help operating their businesses once they open their doors.
Signal Bay intends to be there for businesses as they need help with improving operational efficiency, to assist with a coming wave of managing mergers and acquisitions, and to help entrepreneurs exit the industry entirely when it’s time to cash out. Additionally, and just as important, we want to guide the industry towards providing safe and sustainable products that are in compliance with local and state rules.
Describe your work ethic to me in one word.
What do you consider your weakness as an entrepreneur? Your strength?
I’m highly analytical, and as a result I sometimes find myself overthinking an issue. That’s why I work well with my CEO Will Waldrop, who is decisive and can see when to move strategically and quickly. It’s a good balance.
My strength comes from my ability to see patterns in markets and trends.
My strength comes from my ability to see patterns in markets and trends. My experience working with energy market and price forecasting, working through boom and bust cycles in multiple technology fads and developing business models in other developing industries has given me an ability to understand the direction the industry is going. For instance, in the cannabis industry, I clearly see a coming wave of exuberance, retraction, regulation, optimization and standardization followed by consolidation, and ultimate stability. The maturity of each market varies by state, but ultimately, the entire nation will come into sync.
Another strength I have is networking. I’ve made around 1,000 connections in the cannabis space in just over a year’s time, and many of those have joined the Consultant Marketplace. Today, I feel comfortable that if I have a question on virtually any cannabis related topic, there is someone in my network who can help me out.
How are you differentiating yourself from the competition?
As a public company, we have leverage to grow through acquisition. We believe there will be opportunities for strategic acquisitions to add shareholder value in the coming years. When William (CEO) worked in the telecom industry, he very quickly worked his way up to VP, and oversaw the buildout of dozens of corporate retail outlets. He ultimately oversaw over 400 stores.
As a consulting firm, our key competitive advantage is our vision and ability to scale. Through the Cannabis Consultant Marketplace, and with the guidance of leaders from big consulting firms, we have the ability to quickly build a deep bench of expertise and deploy experts nationwide. As a publisher and as a service provider, we provide the platform for industry experts to provide their research, information, and services to the industry.
How do you find inspiration in this industry? What have you found that has inspired you?
I’m inspired by the rate of innovation in the industry. Each time I hear about a good idea (or think of one), it seems an entrepreneur somewhere is making it happen. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of passionate, hardworking entrepreneurs working towards a goal of forming a great new industry that is built on a foundation of caring for people’s health, relaxing and finding some moments of peace in our hectic world.
As a publisher and as a service provider, we provide the platform for industry experts to provide their research, information, and services to the industry.
I am also inspired with what could be a massive shift in the way we medicate in this nation. We have become so accustomed to taking synthetic pharmaceuticals or resorting to alcohol for very common ailments such as pain, insomnia, and depression. With the regulation of marijuana, an incredible amount of science will come out to demonstrate new treatments and condition-specific formulations from this plant. As more people discover the benefits of cannabis, their eyes will be opened to all aspects of natural healing. People will consider other herbs and natural medicines as alternatives to synthetic drugs.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
At IBM, I was trained to ask why 5 times before drawing a conclusion with any client or providing advice. With each layer of questioning, we uncover the root cause of issues, and under that the root cause of that. Ultimately leading to a solution that may fix problems at the core rather than firefighting symptoms.
I’m inspired by the rate of innovation in the industry.
Active listening is also key to developing trusting relationships in business, and in life. It’s the way to understand others motives, and generally makes the partner, client, or employee feel better that they have someone to talk to – which ultimately builds trust. Maya Angelou said “People will forget what you said, they will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. “
Where do your great ideas come from?
Great ideas are not born in isolation. They come from sharing ideas with several people, Las Vegas based entrepreneur and Zappos.com CEO, Tony Hseish refers to great ideas forming as a result of “collisions”. Ideas morph based on various points of views and perspectives. That is why I believe strongly in the power of building a big network that can allow us to collectively develop and incrementally improve ideas. It is also crucial to challenging other’s thinking to transform a good idea into a great idea.
Ideas morph based on various points of views and perspectives.
It’s exciting to see new ideas get born that way. For instance, the idea for the Cannabis Consultant Marketplace came from our CEO during a long circuitous conversation about how we can leverage our information site, CANNAiQ.
Many entrepreneurs fall into the trap of falling in love with their own “great” idea that they may have come up with while on the flight home after sitting through an inspiring conference. So much so that they invest money and time into something before discovering that it may not be feasible in the macro.
What is important to you – mission, vision, or core values? Why?
Mission and vision are important, however they can and do change over time. Core values, by definition, do not. Signal Bay has very strong core values that are rooted in the foundation of our company; safety, compliance, sustainability, integrity, and really, really hard work.
William is a dad of two awesome boys, and I’m a Big Sister and an aunt to two remarkable girls. We are defining an industry that could shape their world as they will soon go into high school and beyond. When making business decisions, we may keep them in mind every step of the way.
What will we be seeing from you and Signal Bay in the coming future?
Because we are publically traded, I can’t disclose our future plans. However, I can share what our current initiatives are, that way it will give you a flavor for where we are going.
We have two divisions, Research/Advisory and Services.
On the Research and Advisory side, I mentioned the Cannabis Consultant Marketplace. This is a platform where cannabis professionals can come together, not only to find projects, but also to collaborate with one another – as they would in any big consulting firm. In its current version, consultants apply to join the marketplace, while companies post projects. We make the match. This concept has taken off rapidly, and we expect to start facilitating more of those “collisions” I mentioned earlier.
CANNAiQ is an industry news and data portal. This site offers a stage from which our consultants to publish their thought leadership pieces, as well as leverage the site for data and information – and contribute to it along the way. We envision continuing to build out CANNAiQ, so it is a critical business intelligence tool that helps professionals stay up to date with the industry, evaluate the competitive landscape, follow trends, or simply access industry statistics and regulations. You can imagine the power this will have as it becomes the place to get information from multiple states, and as a growing network of consultants contribute to it.
Signal Bay has very strong core values that are rooted in the foundation of our company; safety, compliance, sustainability, integrity, and really, really hard work.
Among our publications is the Medical Marijuana Desk Reference by Dr. Alicia Wilbur. A compendium of the published studies that have been performed related to a long list of medical conditions, and a cross reference to them. Dr. Wilbur is now working on the next book, Medical Marijuana Physicians’ Desk Reference, which takes the research to a much deeper level, going into more detail about the types of studies performed and how the studies were done.
On the services side, we have a management services agreement with a licensed production facility in North Las Vegas. We are also acquiring a majority interest in a test lab in Oregon, for which we will also provide management services. Furthermore, we are pursuing other opportunities to serve marijuana establishments. We anticipate deploying consultants that have joined our marketplace to assist in these efforts.
In addition, we are getting on the speaking circuit. In July, William and I spoke to entrepreneurs at the Cannabis Creative Conference, and will be doing so again at upcoming conferences in Santa Monica and the Marijuana Business Daily conference in Las Vegas in November. We are also co-sponsoring a two-day conference in October – Powering Indoor Agriculture for Utilities. This niche conference is geared towards bringing professionals from the power industry together to discuss how indoor growing is and will affect them. Our speaker lineup includes representatives from utilities in Nevada, Colorado and Washington.
What scares you most about this industry?
I am concerned that excessive government regulation and inconsistency in those regulations across the country will stifle the development of the industry, possibly leading to unintended consequences including unnecessary costs that could enable the black market to thrive. For example, in Nevada, security concerns led to a regulation that prohibits the ability to observe growing cannabis from outside the facility, including from above. This has led to much debate about whether greenhouses are allowed in the state.
I learned the hard way that I can’t change the minds of people who have diametrically opposite values from me through words alone. Instead, I can lead by example.
For this reason, I am grateful to serve on a sustainability committee for FOCUS – Foundation of Cannabis Unified Standards. We are working towards developing rigorous and common sense standards that will promote safety, sustainability and allow the industry to self-regulate nationwide.
If you could tell a skeptic one thing about this industry to make them change their mind, what would it be?
I learned the hard way that I can’t change the minds of people who have diametrically opposite values from me through words alone. Instead, I can lead by example. I’m a highly productive person with a great career and education, who happens to work in the cannabis industry.
I am confident that skeptical minds will change, one at a time, as they get over their fears of the unknown. For instance, I was working in the business for months before I finally “came out” to my conservative 70 year old father. My dad had served as a volunteer deputy sheriff in Florida for many years, and he tells me, he never once tried marijuana – not even while serving in the army during the Vietnam war. I prepared myself for some major resistance when I went to them to say “Mom, Dad, I’m not going to be a partner at EY – instead I’m launching a business to help the cannabis industry.” Shortly after the shock wore off, they were good with it. They’ve been following the media coverage, seeing the same images of pot barons saving the lives of epileptic children on TV as everyone else. Not only were they ok with it, but they even invested in Signal Bay and have helped out with the business.
Tell us something that you wish you had known before becoming a cannabis entrepreneur.
I wish I had known that business transactions, which are relatively straightforward in any other industry, take much longer in the cannabis business.
Industry players are taking extraordinary care in the decision-making process. Regulators, policy committees, lawyers, buyers, sellers, investors, landowners – are all going the extra mile to ensure every contingency is covered. This is a good thing. However, because of this, everything takes time. Lots and lots of time. We anticipated businesses in Nevada, for instance, would have been open months sooner than they have. Other states are seeing similar delays. These delays not only affect the establishments themselves, but the ancillary businesses that have sprung up around them.
Despite these delays, speed to market is critically important in this business. And entrepreneurs are innovating daily. We are in the midst of a massive grab for market share, so those who can maneuver in this regulatory environment best will have a great advantage at the end of the day.
Anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Cannabis prohibition is coming to an end. Thousands of new businesses are emerging or will be created, generating well over 200,000 new jobs.
Signal Bay is prepared to be there to help businesses, regulators, entrepreneurs and investors navigate what is arguably one of the most exciting and pivotal industries to work in today.
How do you think the proper implementation of standards will impact the perception of the cannabis industry? What do you think needs to change and what is working as is? Join the conversation and comment below!