Not all procurement solutions are created equal, and this is especially true when assessing the right procurement software for your cannabis operation.
We see it all the time: cannabis business owners working 2x as hard to force traditional purchasing software to fit the operational and financial structure of their business. And while it doesn’t seem like a big deal at first, deploying procurement software that is not built to manage the specific challenges of the cannabis industry can cause you endless problems over time.
Got A Cannabis Software Hangover?
We get it – a lot of operators have PTSD from cannatech (more on this in future posts). As an emerging industry, cannabis had to be nimble with its tech development, and many of the systems still used by cannabis operators were built in the early days of the industry to suit specific niche issues unique in that moment (i.e.: Seed-to-Sale, Track-and-Trace, inventory management, POS etc.).
However, these systems were not necessarily built to handle the sophistication of the industry we know today. Adding to this complexity, as the cannabis industry matures, operators are seeing the value of pairing their required cannatech with software originally designed for more traditional industries. But the world of traditional software does not always integrate well with the quirky infrastructure of cannatech, resulting in disjointed systems, clunky integrations, and manual workarounds.
In an ideal world, you would have a system built by cannabis experts but developed with the sophistication of traditional software. That is exactly what you get with the MainStem Procurement Platform. We hired software ninjas from traditional industries and paired them with cannabis gurus to create a platform built expressly to manage all aspects of cannabis procure-to-pay workflows.
So why does this matter? To understand why we built MainStem the way we did, we need to understand the unique factors that create sourcing, purchasing, and supply chain management challenges for the cannabis industry:
- Maturity: For decades, the cannabis industry relied on an inefficient, fragmented, and at times, illicit supply chain infrastructure. And, while most states have some aspect of legal cannabis sales, as long as the industry remains federally illegal, inherently, operators are going to encounter inefficiencies, roadblocks, and daily hurdles as they try to run their operations. Although this means we have all been flying by the seat of our pants (despite being a nearly $17 billion industry), we have a huge opportunity to define our own future. As an emerging industry coming out of the shadows, the cannabis industry already knows how to learn from the failures of traditional solutions and has the chance to build and adopt streamlined technologies that can be scaled to fit the specific demands of the industry – now and into the future.
- Rapid Growth: Expanding legalization over the past few years has created rapid expansion across the industry, but along with all the good stuff, this growth has dramatically increased the complexity of supply chain management for cannabis companies. With this complexity comes an increasing disconnect between supply and demand, resulting in more time spent on procurement and more potential for unregulated overspending. As more supplies across more states are needed, procurement teams spend a ridiculous amount of time sourcing the materials, while accounting teams and leadership struggle to get visibility into the full inventory and budget. This is messy all year round, but downright painful during tax season.
- Compliance: No matter where you do business in the cannabis industry – compliance is always a critical factor in how you manage your operation. This is probably the biggest deficiency when using traditional software. We all know that cannabis is the most highly regulated and transparent supply chain, and no other business model needs to consider the same level of restrictions that cannabis operators manage every single day. Retrofitting traditional software into compliant workflows of a cannabis operation can require creative workarounds and lead to diminished efficiency.
- Disjointed Process = Zero Visibility: Gaining visibility into the company’s procurement and spend across the entire supply chain requires the connection and centralization of data and processes. This has been a challenge for cannabis operators and happens primarily because companies still work with a disjointed, and often manual, finance and operations technology ecosystem. Many operators are not using procurement software at all and are managing their procurement through spreadsheets and manual entry across multiple locations. This procurement management system is incredibly vulnerable and open to errors, duplication of orders, lost data, and missed or miscoded payments. If you are using traditional procurement software, it won’t seamlessly connect to your Seed-to-Sale system and in most cases, can’t roll up procurement data and activity across a multi-entity operation. Other procurement software companies structure their licensing by location. This is problematic for cannabis operators for several reasons. First off, it can get really expensive to keep adding location licenses if you are a growing enterprise. Secondly, it means your data stays at a location level, making it harder to get visibility across your entire footprint.
The MainStem Procurement Software Revolution
The MainStem development and strategy teams had allllll of this in mind when they started designing out the MainStem Procurement Platform. Since we were building the first ever procurement software just for cannabis, we knew the platform had to solve these issues instead of making them worse. Challenge accepted, we designed a system that doesn’t add complexity but instead simplifies procurement, centralizes all your data, and connects your employees, locations, and departments into a single, user-friendly dashboard. Prepare to be amazed!
How MainStem solves for industry maturation:
We know where the industry was 10 years ago, we know where it is today, and we can see where it is going. We are innovating daily to make our platform the best possible procurement system for cannabis operators. We are building with your future in mind, and instead of trying to force traditional procurement practices into the cannabis mold, we are building a whole new mold – just for you. We are taking the best aspects of procurement processes and customizing them for the industry we know (and love). And if things do get a little overwhelming, we have a whole team of actual humans to support you every step of the way.
How MainStem solves for growth:
We are growing with you. We didn’t design our software 10 years ago; we are actively designing and innovating our solution for today’s cannabis companies. We know the industry is experiencing expansion and aggressive M&A so we built a system that can facilitate that growth instead of complicating it. We integrate all your systems, whether it is your cannatech, your accounting/ERP solution or other business software tools. By doing this, MainStem becomes the “connective tissue” that brings all your data, financials, workflows, and procurement processes into one platform, whether you have one location or one hundred. We also bring all the supplies you need for your operation into a single, eCommerce platform, allowing your team to easily source, compare and purchase everything from one place. Imagine what your team could do with the HOURS that will save them.
Oh - and one more thing. We charge you one, flat licensing fee, for unlimited locations and unlimited users. We want to be your partner throughout all your growth and success. And as a good partner, we certainly are not going to penalize you for growing your business.
How MainStem solves for compliance:
If you are using procurement software designed to manage the workflows and processes for fitness concepts or clothing retailers, you have to know that they are not going to be concerned with your state-by-state compliance. When you choose a software platform designed by people that knows cannabis inside and out and built their software in partnership with the industry, you are assured they are hyper-focused on all these important, industry-specific workflows.
As experts in cannabis across all verticals, we know how critical compliance is – even before you plant your first seed or ring up your first sale. We can ensure that your cultivation facilities team can only order nutrients that are compliant in their specific state, and on the other end, we can help you design branded packaging that is fully compliant for all the states within your operation.
Our multiple entity & location support combined with custom catalogs, product controls, and approval systems give you control at the state-specific level for all applicable regulations. This means the MainStem Procurement Platform keeps you compliant in any state, eliminates risk and saves you from expensive fines. You can thank us later!
How MainStem solves for visibility:
How can you forecast and budget for next year if you have no idea what you spent collectively this year?
Are you using 37 spreadsheets to manage supply purchases?
Did Bob in operations accidentally overwrite an order in google sheets and now you have no idea who ordered what and if it was even received?
Do you have invoices coming in and you have to search through your emails to figure out who purchased it, and what cost center it needs to be coded to?
Yikes, we see this all the time. MainStem digitizes and connects your whole org, giving you a national, regional, and location-based view of 100% of your spend & activity across all your locations, licenses, departments & users. And when we say connect – we mean you manage it and see it all from one dashboard in our platform. MainStem gives you the insights you need to forecast, plan, and maximize cost savings opportunities - in one place.
So... Is a Cannabis-Specific Procurement Software Important?
Ok - now that you understand the complexities, and you are looking at all the software solutions out there that claim to solve your procurement woes, ask yourself (and the salesperson pestering you every 5 minutes), does this procurement software REALLY understand my business, my operational complexity, and my industry? Do they GET cannabis?
Let's go back to our original question – How important is it that your procurement software was built for cannabis?
We talk to operators every single day and know how to help them thrive. Once you consider all the unique complexities of doing business in this wild and crazy industry, we know you will see how important it is to work with a vendor that knows the cannabis industry inside and out and has customized software especially for your needs.
We can’t wait to show you how MainStem can help your cannabis operation thrive!