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Ep. 422: Hadley Ford, iAnthus

Cannabis Economy Podcast
Ep. 422: Hadley Ford, iAnthus

Ep. 422: Hadley Ford, iAnthus

Hadley Ford joins us to shed light on his retail philosophy of delighting the customer in the cannabis industry: “If you’re doing your job right from retail perspective, they’re going to buy your product. And that product can either be a product that we own 100%, or it could be a third party product that we’re curating in that store. I think you have to have a balance of both because a consumer will say, ‘I want the choice. I want the selection. I’ve heard about this. I’ve heard about that.’”

Transcript:

Seth Adler: The dulcet tones of Hadley Ford. Now is this really ... I mean, Hadley Ford, that's quite a name.

Hadley Ford: It's a stage name.

Seth Adler: Is it?

Hadley Ford: Oh, sure. No, I just rented it for the whole cannabis thing.

Seth Adler: Exactly. You would be one of those suits that we used to talk about way back when.

Hadley Ford: You'd be surprised. I say it to my daughter now, "Man, you just got to stick it to the man." She looks at me and says, "You are the man."

Seth Adler: Right, yeah. Goldman Sachs guy we figured would be the man, right?

Hadley Ford: Yeah. I got thrown out of college the first time around. Spent five years as a juggler and itinerate farmer.

Seth Adler: Now we're starting to understand things.

Hadley Ford: Yeah.

Seth Adler: And you're not kidding, right?

Hadley Ford: I'm not kidding. No, no.

Seth Adler: The juggler thing, do you have Ringling roots?

Hadley Ford: No, no, no. I just have roots that I don't want anyone telling me what to do.

Seth Adler: We have that in common.

Hadley Ford: So someone says, "Do this." I say, "No, I'm going to do that."

Seth Adler: Uh huh (affirmative).

Hadley Ford: So the juggling thing, I was in college as a chemical engineer, and I got thrown out. And then I had to figure out some way to make a living, so I just hitchhiked around the world, and lived in communes and tents and street and taught myself how to juggle. And then randomly was introduced to the greatest juggler in the world while I was doing that. He gave me a whole bunch of tips.

Seth Adler: Who would that have been for juggling fans?

Hadley Ford: That was Dick Franco. In a bizarre twist, so that would have been 1979, -80, something like that down the streets of Oslo. And we hung out together for a week or two. He was performing in Oslo at some sort of outdoor club, and he was kind enough brought me in with his wife, his daughter and taught me all this stuff. I was no where near what he was. And then I never saw him again until last year, my old juggling partner Scotty said, "Hey, a friend of mine is using one of my dogs," because she's dog trainer, "in the Big Apple Circus. Do you want to go to dress rehearsal?" I said sure. I go to the dress rehearsal. After the dress rehearsal, I'm sitting next to some juggler and we're talking. And he's good friends with Dick Franco. I said, "I met Dick Franco once." He says, "Oh, Dick's not doing so well." Had some health issues. I said, "Put us in touch because I used to be in healthcare." He put us in touch, and I helped him out with that. 40 years later, payback comes around. He took some young kid off the street, taught him a few tricks, and I was able to pay him back 40 years later. What a strange world, right?

Seth Adler: That's very kind of you.

Hadley Ford: It wasn't kind of me. It was karma. It's the way the world works, right?

Seth Adler: That's it. It comes and it goes.

Hadley Ford: It comes and it goes, exactly.

Seth Adler: So I want to get back to how you got thrown out ... Yeah, exactly. Of college maybe later. That's why you chose your words ... I don't know how-

Hadley Ford: Very carefully.

Seth Adler: -much you choose your words.

Hadley Ford: I choose them very carefully.

Seth Adler: You used to be-

Hadley Ford: With the press, especially.

Seth Adler: Yeah. And so when you say ... Well, I'm an anthropologist, just for the record, just to set you at ease. You said, "I used to be in healthcare," as opposed to being in healthcare now. Did I hear you wrong or would you rephrase that or is that how you see it?

Hadley Ford: Well, any business you have to delight your customer. The delighting part in this business is different than the delighting part in my last business.

Seth Adler: The healthcare business.

Hadley Ford: Yeah. In the last business I was in, Proton Therapy, it's a very sophisticated way to oblate tumors and cancers. Another way you delight people is to make that mass go away and out on a walk or have a higher quality of life. The way we delight customers in this, there's a whole spectrum of desire that a customer wants. The same person who micro-doses for back pain on a Monday morning when they get out, someone like myself, old guy with a creaky back, is the same person who on Saturday is going to a concert with his or her friends and may want a little exhilaration. And the customer approach is the plant in that manner, so we as a company have to approach that plant in that manner and try to delight the customer across all those things because the states in their wisdom's have said, "You can only buy cannabis at one spot." So you have to ... I don't want to say you have to be all things to all people, but you have to be a lot of things to a lot of people, which is a much different focus than my last company, which was you've got a solid mass in your body and I got to destroy it.

Seth Adler: The dulcet tones of Hadley Ford. Now is this really ... I mean, Hadley Ford, that's quite a name.

Hadley Ford: It's a stage name.

Seth Adler: Is it?

Hadley Ford: Oh, sure. No, I just rented it for the whole cannabis thing.

Seth Adler: Exactly. You would be one of those suits that we used to talk about way back when.

Hadley Ford: You'd be surprised. I say it to my daughter now, "Man, you just got to stick it to the man." She looks at me and says, "You are the man."

Seth Adler: Right, yeah. Goldman Sachs guy we figured would be the man, right?

Hadley Ford: Yeah. I got thrown out of college the first time around. Spent five years as a juggler and itinerate farmer.

Seth Adler: Now we're starting to understand things.

Hadley Ford: Yeah.

Seth Adler: And you're not kidding, right?

Hadley Ford: I'm not kidding. No, no.

Seth Adler: The juggler thing, do you have Ringling roots?

Hadley Ford: No, no, no. I just have roots that I don't want anyone telling me what to do.

Seth Adler: We have that in common.

Hadley Ford: So someone says, "Do this." I say, "No, I'm going to do that."

Seth Adler: Uh huh (affirmative).

Hadley Ford: So the juggling thing, I was in college as a chemical engineer, and I got thrown out. And then I had to figure out some way to make a living, so I just hitchhiked around the world, and lived in communes and tents and street and taught myself how to juggle. And then randomly was introduced to the greatest juggler in the world while I was doing that. He gave me a whole bunch of tips.

Seth Adler: Who would that have been for juggling fans?

Hadley Ford: That was Dick Franco. In a bizarre twist, so that would have been 1979, -80, something like that down the streets of Oslo. And we hung out together for a week or two. He was performing in Oslo at some sort of outdoor club, and he was kind enough brought me in with his wife, his daughter and taught me all this stuff. I was no where near what he was. And then I never saw him again until last year, my old juggling partner Scotty said, "Hey, a friend of mine is using one of my dogs," because she's dog trainer, "in the Big Apple Circus. Do you want to go to dress rehearsal?" I said sure. I go to the dress rehearsal. After the dress rehearsal, I'm sitting next to some juggler and we're talking. And he's good friends with Dick Franco. I said, "I met Dick Franco once." He says, "Oh, Dick's not doing so well." Had some health issues. I said, "Put us in touch because I used to be in healthcare." He put us in touch, and I helped him out with that. 40 years later, payback comes around. He took some young kid off the street, taught him a few tricks, and I was able to pay him back 40 years later. What a strange world, right?

Seth Adler: That's very kind of you.

Hadley Ford: It wasn't kind of me. It was karma. It's the way the world works, right?

Seth Adler: That's it. It comes and it goes.

Hadley Ford: It comes and it goes, exactly.

Seth Adler: So I want to get back to how you got thrown out ... Yeah, exactly. Of college maybe later. That's why you chose your words ... I don't know how-

Hadley Ford: Very carefully.

Seth Adler: -much you choose your words.

Hadley Ford: I choose them very carefully.

Seth Adler: You used to be-

Hadley Ford: With the press, especially.

Seth Adler: Yeah. And so when you say ... Well, I'm an anthropologist, just for the record, just to set you at ease. You said, "I used to be in healthcare," as opposed to being in healthcare now. Did I hear you wrong or would you rephrase that or is that how you see it?

Hadley Ford: Well, any business you have to delight your customer. The delighting part in this business is different than the delighting part in my last business.

Seth Adler: The healthcare business.

Hadley Ford: Yeah. In the last business I was in, Proton Therapy, it's a very sophisticated way to oblate tumors and cancers. Another way you delight people is to make that mass go away and out on a walk or have a higher quality of life. The way we delight customers in this, there's a whole spectrum of desire that a customer wants. The same person who micro-doses for back pain on a Monday morning when they get out, someone like myself, old guy with a creaky back, is the same person who on Saturday is going to a concert with his or her friends and may want a little exhilaration. And the customer approach is the plant in that manner, so we as a company have to approach that plant in that manner and try to delight the customer across all those things because the states in their wisdom's have said, "You can only buy cannabis at one spot." So you have to ... I don't want to say you have to be all things to all people, but you have to be a lot of things to a lot of people, which is a much different focus than my last company, which was you've got a solid mass in your body and I got to destroy it.

Seth Adler: Right. And that's just the one thing, and we do it over and over again.

Hadley Ford: Over and over and over again.

Seth Adler: Yeah, hopefully.

Hadley Ford: Yeah. And there's analog to that in cannabis doing the same thing over and over again because clearly you can't make the product in one state and ship it around. You have to make it the same in every single state. So bizarre as it sounds, there's a lot of sort of skill sets that I needed in radiation oncology that actually transfer over to the world of cannabis. The content's different, radiation versus cannabis obviously, but the ability to do the same thing over and over again is a key strength that we brought to the table.

Seth Adler: That's also the business side of things. I just want to kind of dive in on what your perception is of medical cannabis versus wellness as far as prescription and what we're ... because we're starting to see a couple of different ways to look at this, which is-

Hadley Ford: Yeah. It has to have absolutely bifurcate. I think for a long time when people said medical, I'm not sure what they meant with that. When I think medical, I'm thinking randomized clinical trials with and endpoint and a hypothesis that's being proven or disproved and $5000, $10,000 a patient. Then it goes through an FDA approval process, and finally it comes out the other end. Kind of what you think from a big pharma perspective.

Seth Adler: Indeed.

Hadley Ford: I step back from it, the plant itself has more cannabinoids than any other plant on the planet. We have more receptors for cannabinoids in our body. I mean, just statistically, someone's going to find that kind of big pharma medicine solution set. That's a whole different business model. That's a lot of dollars. That's a lot of commitment. That's a long runway process. An interim period though, we know that cannabis can be helpful for medical afflictions, for pain, for PTSD, for seizures, all sorts of things that might effect someone. But it's a little more health and wellness or nutraceutical intended that the patient themselves has to self advocate on that research piece, right? Come in, I've got this problem. Try this. That work? No. Try this. Try this. There's a whole trituration period. What works for one person may not work for another.
It's actually a shame, right? Because the fact that this has been an illegal plant for decades and decades and decades, we've not had the type of clinical research that's necessary to know that this works for that and this is the dose that works. If you have this type of genetic makeup, you ought to have a different dose or something. That work has not been done. So even in this strange world of availability with a self advocating drug regime, that sounds a lot more like you'd have it at your health food store or with a nutraceutical product where there's benefit but you have to discover it yourself. So that's the world in which we live in.
I think ultimately you will get full legalization. The FDA will weigh in and you'll get real research done. Like a 5000 endpoint randomized trial, and I think you'll find great benefits from it. If the states allow us to sell those drugs, we will.

Seth Adler: But that gets us back to pace, and we have to act now and do certain things now. We can't be all things to all people, but we kind of can as far as that spectrum is concerned. So it seems like your focus, and I'm here for you to tell me, not for me to tell you, but is to kind of you've mentioned the musical chairs element here. There's this is a musical chairs thing. There are only so many chairs. You have now made your way into many, many states. You are one of these multi-state operators. So is that the focus is to just spread as wide as possible, as quickly as possible?

Hadley Ford: No. I think then we have to think about who the customers that we're delighting, which is our shareholder. We're a public company. We work for our shareholders. As much as I'd like to do whatever I want, I have people that I have to be responsible for. That's to show I report to a board and they have fiduciary to the shareholder. So from a shareholder perspective, they look in and say, "How can you make us rich? How can you make the stock price go up?" And we as operators have a choice. We can take $1 of revenue and put it into the public market and get value. That can be as a retailer at a 0.8 times revenue multiple. That can be as a prevayor of branded goods, like an InBev or someone, and trade at a five or six times.
So clearly with a blank piece of paper, you'd want to have your revenues valued at the much higher multiple. So how do you create that branded revenue as opposed to just playing vanilla retail piece? Well, you have to create brand awareness. You can't advertise in cannabis. You don't have access to use social media in a sort of usual manner in which you do because they'll kick you off. So you're really stuck, and it's a great irony in today's day and age. You're really stuck with having to have a bricks and mortar location, right? You have to have a well located store that's inviting, that people want to come to, that they're going to learn about cannabis. And when they come there to learn about it, they're going to be delighted by the experience. If you're doing your job right from retail perspective, and they're doing to buy your product. And that product can either be a product that we own 100% of or it could be a third party product that we're curating in that store. I think you have to have a balance of both because a consumer will say, "I want the choice. I want the selection. I've heard about this. I've heard about that."
But ideally what you can do is move the purchase decision towards products that you've produced that an appropriately good price and quality and meet the needs of your consumer, and ultimately that's how you build that brand awareness.
Now by definition, if you want to have a national brand, that means you have to have that national footprint. But does it mean you need to be in 50 states? Probably not. But you need to be in a meaningful number of states that can influence and define that national awareness around a brand and have people ask for that.

Seth Adler: I've heard many people in your seat, CEO, multi-state operator tell me, "We're not going after Oregon. We're not going after California. We're not going after Colorado." Couldn't help but notice that you are in at least two of three of those states.

Hadley Ford: I think, look, I'm shocked someone said they didn't want to be in Colorado or California. That's where innovation is right now. Now I think Colorado, when we come back to Hickenlooper, I think they seeded for no particularly good reason this ramped growth in California from an innovation perspective when Colorado could have maintained that ownership just by-

Seth Adler: From an external in depth standpoint.

Hadley Ford: They just kept capital away. And, look, capital just flowed to California. Now you're seeing a real bolus of innovation in California. You have to be in California. If you want to create brand, if you want to have that conversation, you want to know what's going on, you have to be there. And we got a little, tiny sort of toe in the water there. But we'll be there in a meaningful way at some point.

Seth Adler: Governor Hickenlooper said to me on this podcast, as I'm sure he'll tell anybody, the reason that he did that-

Hadley Ford: Because he wants to be president.

Seth Adler: Well, that's probably one reason. But he was there to protect the small business owner, of which he counts himself to me. He's an old beer guy.

Hadley Ford: I'm sure. And did people say to him when he was like looking for capital to build out his crap brewer, you can only take money from guys in your neighborhood. Nah, he was allowed to go get money wherever he wanted.

Seth Adler: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Hadley Ford: It's a little duplicitous, don't you think? I'm sorry, governor, I will probably vote for you if you run for president.

Seth Adler: There you go.

Hadley Ford: Because I like the cannabis piece, and you're a cannabis guy.

Seth Adler: And Governor Inslee-

Hadley Ford: The whole concept for restricting the free flow of capital or free flow of labor is ridiculous. If you want to create value, you want money and people to come together to make something happen.

Seth Adler: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Hadley Ford: And the worst ... Look, it's easy for a guy like me to go get money, right? I've done it my whole career. But guy you're punishing is exactly the small business person. They need to be able to cast as wide a net as ever, as far as the eye can see because they don't have those relationships. Someone says to me, "Oh, you can't raise money, blah, blah, blah." I just go to a different part of my Rolodex. If you're a small business person, it's the first time you're coming out, maybe you had a small restaurant or a bar and now you want to get into cannabis, you need a lot of dough. If someone's restricting that pool of capital, that only benefits the bigger guys. It doesn't benefit the smaller guys. The small guys should have unfitted access to whatever means of capital raising they can to create value. And that's the entrepreneurial piece, and that's where I think a lot of the politicians have it backwards when they try and restrict capital.
I remember we had the same argument up in Vermont years ago, and I was in front of the Senate committee. And I said, "We don't want big weed up here." I said, "Let me walk you through what's going to happen. If you keep money from coming to your state, you're going to have a lot of poorly capitalized small players. And at some point when this goes legal on a full national basis, InBev's going to come along and sue with the Commerce Clause and say they're allowed to be here. And now you're going to have InBev coming in against a bunch of poorly capitalized small guys, and they're all going to get wiped out. But if you allow the local entrepreneur to raise capital from anywhere they want, they'll be well capitalized. They'll be strong and they'll be local." Just like Ben and Jerry's was up in Vermont. If you're putting out a great product, that's what you have to do. A great product, delight your customer, and have access to capital, and you just got to let it flow to where it's going to be best used.

Seth Adler: That race to capital, you are at the front of the Canada idea.

Hadley Ford: Yeah. I got a few arrows in my back for having been first.

Seth Adler: Well, let's talk about that, right? Because you just explained why you would exactly do that.

Hadley Ford: If there were a great ... If the politicians really did care about this sort of stuff, they would have charged everyone a tax to give to me for having pioneered this.

Seth Adler: That's a whole different conversation, isn't it? That's a whole different conversation.

Hadley Ford: Yeah.

Seth Adler: But when did you decide to do that, what led to that? Yeah, what led to that decision?

Hadley Ford: It was literally I have our now current CFO, Julius, was the president of a sort of a mid-tier but very aggressive enrichment bank up in Canada. And I was up there talking to him about something completely different. It was some real estate deal or something, and I looked down on his desk. And he had this offer memo for Hydropothecary private placement, and it had a little cannabis leaf on it. I said, "What the heck is that?" He said, "Ah, well. We're structuring this deal, and we're going to take it public." I said, "Wait, wait, wait. You're going to take a cannabis company public?" And he said, "Yeah, it's completely legal in Canada." At the time I think they had six or seven public cannabis companies in Canada, and the collective market cap was maybe less than $1 billion. And they'd raised maybe $100-$150 million. But to me, that was a bright line opportunity.
Here you had a capital market. The only one on the planet that is showing a willingness to finance cannabis companies, and you have trading stocks and you had research analysts and accountants and lawyers and a completely functioning model. So that, bang, bright line. What if we actually had a public company in Canada that raised money, educated the investor up there about the opportunity in the United States, and used that money in support of U.S. operations. And that was the whole genesis. I originally thought it'd take about six months to structure all that. It took about two years, but we ultimately did it. We went public two and a half years ago and never really looked back.

Seth Adler: Now you bring up five plus years ago, this was mostly a real estate play if I remember it or do I mis-remember that?

Hadley Ford: No, it was capital market's play. I'm the carpenter with the hammer. Everything looks like a nail to me. So my background was MNA and capital markets. My brother and sister were in the business.

Seth Adler: Where?

Hadley Ford: My brother at the time was the largest medical provider, legal medical provider of cannabis in New Mexico, and my sister was licenses operator in Vermont. And they weren't talking to each other because my brother lent my sister a lot of money to get your business up and going, and then he needed growth capital back. But she put it into air conditioners and soil. So she didn't have the cash to give back.

Seth Adler: So you did MNA in your own family is what it sounds like.

Hadley Ford: Well, I got called in to the do workout. So I was in the middle, and I said, "Why don't you guys just go to the bank and borrow some money?" They're like, "Silly, big brother, you can't borrow money in the cannabis business." And that was sort of the original genesis of, "Wow, there's a problem here." You've got these entrepreneurs in the United States, like my brother and sister, who were given a license. Well, they applied for a license, they weren't just given it. But they had a license to sell cannabis. They had no access to money. They had no access to a regular way of accountants or banks or anything like that. And that was an interesting problem. That's what I've done my whole career is see problems to be solved, and if you solve them, you can have a lot of fun. That's what we've been doing is solving problems.

Seth Adler: That's one outcome to have a lot of fun, right? Money would be another outcome.

Hadley Ford: Yeah. Money's good, right? You want people to make a buck. That's how you attract capital. That's how you attract employees. But if that's what's getting you out of bed in the morning, you're never going to make money.

Seth Adler: That's kind of what I'm aiming for. So was it your brother and sister that actually kind of gave you that cannabis idea, was it sitting across the desk in Toronto?

Hadley Ford: I just want them to shut up.

Seth Adler: Okay. Fair enough.

Hadley Ford: They're just yelling and screaming at each other. No.

Seth Adler: What does get you out of bed? Why are we doing this? Why are you ... Old Goldman Sachs guy. You started a healthcare company. Got technology in your background as well.

Hadley Ford: Well, there's two things. There's three things to it. One, I just love a problem. Like a Rubik's cube, I was terrible at doing Rubik's cube, but my brother could do it in under 40 seconds or something. Just what I call bright line opportunities. There's a problem, how can I solve it? I like that. The piece that I really like around cannabis is the stick it to the man, stick it to the government. You can't tell me what to do. I don't want the government telling my daughter what she can do with her womb. I don't want them to tell me what I can put in my body. It's this getaway, right? You work for us. And people gotten away from that. I mean, I remember back in the '60s, it was power to the people, baby. And then that's what it was about. Now it's like power to the government. And it's like flipped. Everyone wants to give the government all this power. It's like, no, no, no. They abuse us with their power. They say we can't have cannabis. They say they want to control what happens in our bedroom. They want to control what's right and what's wrong. Now, there's certain aspects. You can only build one highway in one spot. But by and large, let us live our live. Let us have a pursuit of happiness.
So that was a big interesting draw to me around the whole cannabis piece. It's like really, you're going to tell us what to do. No, thank you. Now it sounds kind of funny because now I sit here and look like some old guy in a jacket, but that's a brand, right?

Seth Adler: Right.

Hadley Ford: You have to have a certain brand within the capital markets, and that's our brand. We're professionals that are doing stuff in cannabis.

Seth Adler: Let's though make sure that we kind of cross these lines where they do cross. I brought up Goldman Sachs twice hoping that you would take that bait, and you haven't.

Hadley Ford: What's the bait?

Seth Adler: Well, how does the juggler become the Goldman Sachs' guy, right? That's the-

Hadley Ford: Slowly I turn, step by step by step. I was very fortunate. I don't know how this happened in my life. But there's like points in my life I can point to and say, "That was a turning point." I can just know just that was a crystallized turning point, and there was a crystallized turning point back towards Goldman Sachs. I had been thrown out of school and traveling around and doing the juggling thing and working odd jobs here and there. And I was working in a photo album factory, the Holson Photo Album Factory. At the time it was in Norwalk, Connecticut.
I was the material handler in the glue department, and I was a damn good material handler. And the foreman came to me one day, and he said, "Mr. Holson wants to chat with you." I said, "Wow." They were identical twins, Mel and Shelly Holson, and they were like old school. They were like 220 employees in the factory, and they knew everyone's name. They'd walk the floor with these unlit cigars, but you can never tell who is who. And Mel or Shelly, I can't remember which one, came over to me and said, "Well, Hadley, we've been watching you, and you've really got it on the ball. We think that you've got foreman material. We want to put you in the foreman training program." That's great news. He said, "Just remind me, what college did you go to?" And I didn't tell him the whole thing about getting thrown out of school. I said, "I never went to college." He said, "Hadley, I'll be in touch." And I knew in that instant, in that moment, I'd be the material handler in the glue department of the Holson Photo Factory for the rest of my life. That's not a bad aspiration I suppose for some folks.

Seth Adler: No, but he dropped you after you didn't have college.

Hadley Ford: He walked. So I went to the foreman. I forget the guy's name, a nice guy. And I said, "I'm going to take the rest of the afternoon off." And I left. I had hair down to here, halfway down my back and a beard. I went to the local barber and had all the hair cut off, had the beard shaved. Went to the local high school where I'd gone to high school, and got my transcript. And that night I went back to this house where I was squatting. I had this empty house that just serendipitous and my old juggling partner Scotty was there. And I said, "Scotty, why don't you fill out this, write my recommendation for the Boston University?" I was dating a girl who was going to school at the Berkeley School of Music. So I said I was going to Boston. I'm like, Harvard, nah, don't think so. BC, nah, it's not going to happen. BU, yeah, I can probably get in.
So Scotty wrote my recommendation, and I stapled the transcript, wrote a couple of essays long hand, mailed it off and got in. Then I went up there. Low and behold, the second time around, five-six years later, I was pretty good at school. I ended up valedictorian of the class. Put myself through school as a bartender. I worked 30-40 hours a week. Took five years instead of four, but I got through. Number on in the class. And then got a job at Fidelity as a research analyst. And then I said I'm going to go to business school and applied. Actually this is where my current wife comes in. She like would grab me by the ear and say, "Write that application." So I wrote the application to Stanford. I got in there. Ended up being an RJ Miller Scholar, and Goldman ... Well, actually first Boston came knocking, gave me a job, and then Goldman came knocking and gave me a job.
So it was really this turn and as I put one foot in front of the other.

Seth Adler: I gotcha.

Hadley Ford: One foot. You just got to wake up every day, get one thing done. If that's all you do, you'll be successful. You got to get one thing done. That's all you got to do.

Seth Adler: That is great advice. It was just that infliction point of the boss man-

Hadley Ford: The boss man.

Seth Adler: -basically saying-

Hadley Ford: I knew it right there.

Seth Adler: -maybe an opportunity, and no you don't have it.

Hadley Ford: Exactly.

Seth Adler: And then that was literally a moment of enlightenment for you.

Hadley Ford: That was it, right there. Like a lightning bolt, and I just knew that. It's like the same thing that got me off of the street performing and back into that factory job like a year and a half before that. Because street performing, it's good when it's good, but it's not so good when it's not so good. So I was in Finland. I think I was coming down from a North Cape hitchhiking down towards Helsinki, and yeah, it's like pouring rain. I had like $12 in my pocket. I'm thinking, "This sucks." It's great when it's sunny and you got a big crowd and like everything's going great. But you twist your wrist or your ankle, you're not eating. I said, "This sucks." And I said, "But I chose this." I'd been doing this for three or four years. How do I change that path? I'm on a highway in the middle of nowhere. And I just looked off at the horizon and I said, "You know what, you just got to take that one step and you can actually do it." I took that one step, and I got to Helsinki, and I took a ... I went standby, which back then you could standby for like $100 and go anywhere in the world. Model has since changed in the airline industry, but back then I went standby from Helsinki to London to New York. I got back. I got that job in the factory.
It was like I got to get out of the street performing piece because it's just so volatile. And I remember that point. And there's things like that. So there's just different points in your life where you make that decision to turn it, and then you got to stay focused. Right now, we're changing the tenure of this company. You got to focus on one thing. So we focused on the capital. We did that. We planned all the money stuff. Then it's like let's focus on the footprint aspect. So we acquired a lot of things. Now we got to focus on the brand aspect of it. We've got a new CMO coming in. We're going to focus on the brand piece, 2019 is that. You got to do one thing at a time. Actually, I got the advice from a floor manager of a restaurant where I was a waiter, and he left and I took over as the floor manager. And he said to me, "Hadley, I know you've been waiting on tables here for a long time and you've got a lot of things you want to do to make it better, change on thing at a time. Don't change two, don't change three. Change on thing at a time." And that's it. You got to stay focused, focused, focused.

Seth Adler: Good advice can come from anywhere, right? Floor manager at a restaurant.

Hadley Ford: Yeah. And it's simple advice but it's hard to do. I've got a call right after this with my senior management team. We have it every Monday, and I will ask people, "What's the one thing you need to get done this week?" And invariably every single one of them will say, "I got this, I got this, I got this." And I have to bring it ... We have the same conversation every week, and every week I have to say, "Yeah, but there's one thing that's going to get done by Friday close of business in that list of stuff." Because we all have like 200 things on our list. What's the one thing? Because if all of my guys and gals get one thing done and all of their people get one thing done, you get to the end of the year, you've got 450 employees, they all got one thing done-

Seth Adler: That's a lot of things.

Hadley Ford: -every week, you're going to be successful. But it's maintaining that focus that's hard.

Seth Adler: I've got three final questions. But before that we got to find out how and why you got thrown out of college.

Hadley Ford: All right. So I usually do this when I got a beer or something stronger in my hand.

Seth Adler: Sure.

Hadley Ford: But I was at the University of Rochester, chemical engineer. I was on both academic and disciplinary probation. I had a 1.17 grand point average.

Seth Adler: Is that lack of focus? What is that?

Hadley Ford: Well, I was focusing on other things.

Seth Adler: There you go. Fair enough.

Hadley Ford: I was very good at the things I was focusing on. I wasn't particularly good at the things I wasn't focused on.

Seth Adler: Understood.

Hadley Ford: And I'd been up in front of the ... This is kind of the end of the '70s. So the schools had seeded a lot of power to the students at this point, and the students were effectively self governing. And they had something called the all-campus judicial committee and sort of the George Orwell best sense of something like that was-

Seth Adler: Even though it was the students.

Hadley Ford: Yeah. The all-campus ... I mean, you can just ... Right? It was comprised of a bunch of pre-law students who had to appoint, like a senior would graduate and they'd appoint a sophomore to come on. So it was like the polyp burrow. I'd been running a campaign in the paper, and at one point, I had a bunch of ... I got brought up on some charge. I had a bunch of friends come with me with candles, and I had paper chains on. We were all singing kind of spiritual songs. So they didn't like me much. And there was this huge water fight. This was like January of '78. Huge water fight in the dorm where I lived in. I usually was instigator, and this time I actually hadn't been involved. But the best form of an old filmed war or something, they said, "Round up the usual suspects," and I got rounded up. I got brought before the all-campus judicial committee on a Tuesday night in the basement of the student union, and they said, "Hadley, we find you guilty of having participated in this water fight that caused all this damage. You've been in front of us multiple, multiple times. We keep giving you punishments. Nothing seems to work. Why don't you come up with your own punishment this time."
So I stood up and I said, "You're a self appointed, hypocritical kangaroo court, and you're going to treat me like a child. I need a child's punishment. I should have a week with no TV."
And they said ...
God's honest true story.
And they said, "Hadley, you don't take us very seriously. Will you wait in the hallway while we decide your fate?"
I said, "Sure."
So I went out into the hallway. I don't know if people still do this or not, but I had a pocket full of change and I pennied the door shut. You take a stack full of coins, and you stick it in between the door and the door jam and then the lock jams and they can't get out. This is pre-cell phones. It's a Tuesday night, basement of the student union. They're in there for 45 minutes pounding on the door to some sort of janitor comes by and opens the door. In that 45 minutes, they said, "You're gone." And they threw me out. There was no redress, and that started my five year journey in the wilderness that ultimately led to Goldman Sachs and cannabis.

Seth Adler: There we go. And here we have you here now.

Hadley Ford: Another precise turning point in my life that I can point to.

Seth Adler: That's amazing. I cannot wait to speak with you again. But for the time being, we'll do the final three questions. I'll tell you what they are, and then ask you them in order.

Hadley Ford: Okay.

Seth Adler: What's most surprised you in cannabis? What's most surprised you in life? And on the soundtrack of your life, one track, one song that's got to be on there. But first things first, what's most surprised you in cannabis? How many years? Podcast land knows no time. It happens to be sort of the beginning of 2019 when you and I are speaking. So how long have you been in?

Hadley Ford: Five years. Well, I mean, my parents grew it back in the '60s. But professionally, I've been in five years.

Seth Adler: As an industry so to speak.

Hadley Ford: As an industry, yes.

Seth Adler: What's most surprised you in cannabis?

Hadley Ford: The thing that's most surprising to me is just how similar it's been to other industries as they've launched. So it reminds me a lot of the tech industry as the internet was starting up back in the-

Seth Adler: Dot com.

Hadley Ford: Dot come but early in the dot com, like '93, '94. Then you had the first big mini-bubble in '95. Seeing all the parallels between those two pieces, to me, I found somewhat surprising. I think the other surprising thing is just how many things you have to be good at because the way the states have set it up, you have to be good at being a farmer, you have to be good at being a chemist, you have to be a cook, you have to be a retailer, you have to be a marketer.

Seth Adler: You have to be a banker.

Hadley Ford: You have to be a banker. You got to be a project manager. There's so many industry things, and I can't really think of any other industry that has to do that. Like Proctor and Gamble doesn't have to grow corn, right? So it's a strange industry in that fashion. And by definition, you can't be great at all those things. So you have to pick and choose where you're going to focus and what you're going to be great at and what you're going to be good enough at. Those are strange decisions to have to make.

Seth Adler: Yeah. What's most surprised you in life?

Hadley Ford: The amount of times you get second chance.

Seth Adler: Okay.

Hadley Ford: The amount of times I've looked at something and said, "Man, am I ..." I guess I can't say it on radio, but, "Boy, am I up the creek here." And then sort of out of left field you're not up the creek. There's been so many times I thought, "Boy, that's it." And you get a second chance.

Seth Adler: Just getting back to that kind of musical chairs thing, there's only so many seats, and maybe this company's up the creek or maybe that one is. The fact that folks just do need to capitalize and go public if they can and all of that. What are your thoughts on how this all looks in one, two, three, four, five years? You choose one.

Hadley Ford: I think you see disaggregation of this sort of forced kind of capital stack that people are given. You have to grow, process, formulate, manufacture. You got to be everything. That'll disaggregate. If you have full legality, there's no reason we're growing cannabis in a warehouse in Massachusetts. Matter of fact, there's probably no reason we're making products in every state we're in, and probably some of the products we're not even going to make. A contract manufacturer can do it better and cheaper for us. It'll look similar to how things have evolved in a lot of other industries. And where we want to focus is on the front end of that with that customer relationship and delighting the customer either from a retailer/brand perspective. So my guess is five/six years from now, we're out of the growing, we're out of the extraction, and from a product perspective, we're probably out of the manufacturing some of the products that we're selling.

Seth Adler: Okay. Well, thank you for that. It is time for our final question, which is on the soundtrack of your life, one track, one song that's got to be on there, and you are a world traveler early on in your life, so I just wonder what one of these songs might be for you.

Hadley Ford: Yeah. Pressure Drop Toots and the Maytals. Ah yeah, right there.

Seth Adler: Toots, I mean-

Hadley Ford: Toots, baby.

Seth Adler: Yeah, 54, 45 was my number. That's mine for Toots, but that's a good-

Hadley Ford: That's a good one.

Seth Adler: They know how to groove.

Hadley Ford: Yeah, yeah.

Seth Adler: Hadley, very much appreciate your time. We'll check in with you down the line.

Hadley Ford: All right. Thanks, bye.

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Cannabis Economy is a real-time history of legal cannabis. We chronicle how personal and industry histories have combined to provide our current reality.