It can be hard to find a cash infusion in this industry – many banks won’t issue loans due to federal regulations against the legal sale of cannabis. Instead, look for private equity firms, crowdfunding, or non-specific business or personal loans you can use to get your business off to a running start.Hopefully, this will lead many cannabis companies to connect with angel investors, private equity firms, or venture capitalists. If you fall into that category, how can you be prepared for the future influx of opportunities from cannabis companies?
There are a few things to seek when evaluating cannabis companies from an investor standpoint. Cannabis companies come with a lot of inherent risk: the industry is new, regulations are still evolving, and there is a lot of cash involved. Bad record-keeping, poor cash control, and outright fraud are just a few of the things many investors worry about. Ask these questions to determine if a cannabis enterprise is worthy of investment.
Does the company use a cloud-based accounting system?
What’s wrong with a traditional accounting system, like keeping track of your sales and purchases in an Excel spreadsheet? A few things: The system is limited to one computer (and duplicates can be inaccurate or out-of-date), Only one person has user access at one time, It’s complicated (and costly!) to keep backups, Customer support can be expensive or non-existent, and It’s not secure or reliable.
Cloud-based systems are more secure, mobile-friendly, and easily auditable. Keep tabs on your investment with a cloud tool that lets you quickly review invoices and receipts. Cloud software is more secure: if a laptop is stolen, the data stays safe. A cannabis business can limit the actions an employee can take by deploying different user roles, and make sure that only certain people can enter cash flow transactions. Ask for transparency from a cannabis business to ensure that your money is being used as it should be.
Does the producer or extractor use a robust system of measurements?
Cannabis producers or extractors work with lots of raw material. The end product is like liquid gold: so throughout the process, it’s important to have controls in place to minimize waste. Ask to see evidence that the ratio of final product to raw material makes sense. Can the cannabis extractor/producer demonstrate tight production controls? Can they show the use of standardized measurements at multiple points throughout the process? Can they show that they have taken steps to safeguard against fraud? These are all things you can look for when at an onsite visit to a cannabis operation.
Have they done their due diligence on third-party vendors?
Make sure anyone you’re entering into a partnership with has cleared their third-party vendors. Cannabis businesses have lots of secondary partners – from suppliers to distributors, it’s important to make sure these vendors are fully licensed and aboveboard. Ask a cannabis company for copies of their partners’ California cannabis permits, records of vendors’ physical addresses, contact names and numbers, and any mutual business references that can be checked. See that the cannabis company keeps vendor agreements with every partner on file.
Does the canna-business use a system of checks and balances?
Checks and balances can be as simple as separating staff roles for different accounting functions. Fraud is easy when one person handles all the bookkeeping functions: things such as processing customer payments, managing petty cash, keeping accounting records, or paying invoices. The cannabis business should have at least two people to manage these functions, and keep their accounting and cash handling separated. It’s also recommended that they also keep separate systems for inventory and manufacturing accounting.
Some companies might find it helpful to use a tool like Clover or Xero to keep an eye on their employees. Tools like Clover Payments Plus can give you as the investor better insight into things like cash in and cash out, sales, employee management and scheduling, and inventory tracking, and more.
Do they have up-to-date records?
Keeping up-to-date records show that that the cannabis business is the real deal. Here are just a few things to ask for: Monthly trial balances, Monthly profit/loss records, Breakdown of sales and cost of goods sold per month, A rationale/standardization for accounting cost of goods sold, Sales returns and any price adjustments after sales, Product warranties, Invoices on sales orders (and accordingly, shipping documents), Insurance agreements, licenses, and permits, and Employee and vendor agreements
In all, depending on the unique cannabis operation, get specific on what other permits, records, and local licenses you need to see. Do they have municipal permits? Do they use a system of dual signatures to control cash flow? Does the cannabis company have the right insurance?