I had the pleasure of interviewing Kevin J. Hart, founder of Green Check Verified. Hart is an enterprise software veteran with almost 4 decades of experience. Having worked with global CPG brands in the full supply chain suite of applications including high-volume retail order management/POS, Hart has a keen eye for the business needs and how technology can be properly applied to solve the real and extended business requirements of retail operations, not shoe-horning the business to fit the software.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I was doing research on developing a point of sale for the industry. Part of this fact-finding allowed me to tour some amazing operations in CA and CO. On one particular tour, as we wound our way through the operations I was led to a room, within a room, within the building, layers of card swipe security until I saw the door. Unmistakable this was a vault!! Once the door was opened, we stepped inside it was more safes along with wall-to-wall cash, floor to ceiling. I joked “what’s with all the cash?” The simple reply was, “we can’t find a bank to take it”. That was when I knew I didn’t want to build a POS, I wanted to solve the cash problem. There has to be a way for technology to help bridge this gap.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I, like so many others, and sadly a lot of people still today, thought that banking cannabis was illegal. WRONG!!! It isn’t illegal if you can do it according to the guidelines laid out by the Treasury Department. So, a fair amount of time was wasted trying to devise methods of working around the banking system, not within it. I jumped too quickly to design a system before I clearly understood the full scope of the challenge. That is when I knew, as is always the case, that I needed more experts involved in understanding the full scope of the challenge from cannabis regulations to cannabis operations to all the treasury/banking requirements to state-chartered bank operations all the way through to financial institutions examine cycles. Run on sentence but that is the point, there is a lot to verify. We had to create a fully integrated horizontal compliance platform that satisfied every rule and every cohort along the way. Complex as hell but so much fun to design and work on and we have three patent-pending technology business processes to support all the hard work.
Are you working on any exciting projects now?
Yes, very exciting. After three years of design, external validation and verification by industry experts, building the platform, and more testing via pilot projects, we have begun our national launch. We knew from the beginning that an enterprise class compliance system was what the industry would need to overcome the disconnect between cannabis related businesses and the financial institutions that would love them as customers but simply didn’t know how to establish and maintain the relationships. We built that integrated platform that makes it easier, cheaper and most importantly, compliant for all cohorts.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
In this case I can’t point to one single person, but I can call out the key members who worked with me side-by-side on their free time to help get us to where we are today. In order of dates of involvement, they are Paul Dunford, Mike Kennedy and John Gadea. Each brought an exceptional and unique experience to what the company has become. I’m equally proud to say that they are also the first three full time employees of the company and are still committed to our success.
We had many late-night white board sessions and sometime the ideas would flow, other times we would look at each other as though we lost our minds. But through it all we kept the respect levels high and always knew that the best idea would win. Egos were never a challenge. A rare event.
This industry is young dynamic and creative. Do you use any clever and innovative marketing strategies that you think large legacy companies should consider adopting?
I love this question but I’m certainly not going to share some of our secret sauce. The big companies are on the sidelines looking for ways to get in the game. We read about them every week. Let them do their own homework, let them put three years of no salary and heavy personal investment into developing their own strategies, I’m not interested in helping them at this juncture. Now on the other side, within the industry today, there is amazing creativity and pure genius at work. From the beginning we designed our platform to be POS/tech agnostic meaning we could easily bolt into any ancillary provider. Today we are working on relationships with some of the biggest names in the industry, this industry, to co-market our white-labeled technology. Who wouldn’t want a better POS system today? Who wouldn’t want a better relationship with their regulator? Who wouldn’t want to sleep better at night knowing their cash was safe? We make all of that and more much easier.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Cannabis industry? Can you share 3 things that most concern you?
1. The explosive growth. Reminds me in an odd way of when iPhones and iPads were introduced. I got to be part of that as CEO of Tekserve. The growth and opportunity in this industry feel somewhat similar
2. The knowledge about the plant itself. Fascinating
3. The speed of change. Different than growth to me. When we started this journey there were 13 states, now there are 33. That wave of acceptance is something to behold from our seat around the table.
1. The lack of real compliance in certain segments of the industry. If the industry wants to be taken seriously there simply are certain things that need to be done. Like it or not, it is the way commerce works
2. The pretenders. Too many bad products just springing up all over. Not just CBD but also service providers in the industry. Some folks are making really bad investments with their time, businesses and capital.
3. Over-taxing. States are driving illicit sales by instituting exorbitant excise taxes. The states want compliant sales programs but drive illegal sales based on implementing high taxes.
Can you share your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started Leading a Cannabis Business”? Please share a story or example for each.
1. That raising money was going to be challenging because of the mix of public funds in so many investment firms. Investors, while they love our company and approach, feel blocked because they have public money in their funds. Never gave that a thought when we started the process.
2. That the mob mentality and FOMO would drive the behavior patterns of the industry. Reminds me of the dot.bomb era and while 20 years ago you see some of the same mistakes being made again.
3. How much fun this would be. I’ve been working in tech for 40 years and this is the most fun I’ve ever had. The opportunities and challenges are equally endless. I feel so fortunate to be involved in the industry, doing our little part.
4. How divisive the industry can be with people. The visceral reaction some people have to the industry is really eye-opening. I’ve lost friendships, or what I thought were friendships, when the discussion has turned to my involvement in the space. Mind-blowing but it does really let you know the depth of a person.
5. The variability of rules and regulations across all the different state programs. The only commonality is that regulations exists, after that it is wildly different and always changing.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
Always remember that someone might have a better idea. I’ve yet to ever be disappointed in a group of motivated people when everyone is trying to solve a problem. We were all born with two ears and one mouth, they should be used in that proportion.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Always give back your time, talent and when possible also your treasure. One of the benefits we promote here at Green Check is that each employee is encouraged to spend a day a quarter doing something outside of work, to help others. A small gesture but as we grow in terms of our headcount I hope our impact as a company will too.
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This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!