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The Wild West Comes to Michigan: Coach Shelly Urges Ethics and Self-Care
Ken Wachsberger

The Wild West has come to Michigan in the form of the emerging statewide cannabis industry, and Shelly Smith, long-time sales coach at Southwestern Consulting, is trying to give it focus. And ethics.

“The laws are different all over the country,” she says as she waits to address guests at the April 7 monthly meeting of Women Grow-Southeast Michigan chapter. “Even though new people I’ve met getting into the industry are trying hard to follow the rules, the rules are hard to follow. That huge gray area means that there could be a temptation to slip into the mindset of ‘The law is stupid and difficult and no one respects it anyway and you know they’ll raid us if they want to so I’m going to do whatever the hell I want.’”

To make it ethical, she says, a huge start would be changing the laws so that cannabusiness owners aren’t blocked from essential banking services.

                 Those discriminatory laws make it tough to keep the best records and prove your value in the economy. Business persons who are blocked from resources that they need to be viewed as legitimate business entities might wonder why they should respect a system that doesn’t respect them. Business owners have to think like activists and activists have to be vigilant professionals who have no cause to be seen as untrustworthy. Cannabusiness owners can ask themselves, what can I be more honest about with my team? How can I be more service-minded? How can I treat my employees better?

Shelly Smith is “part business woman, coach, therapist, and motivational speaker,” says Allison Ireton, co-chair of Women Grow-Southeast Michigan chapter, as she introduces her.  She calls Smith “the guru of fine-tuning and running an ethical team.”

Shelly also is a public speaker and a comedian who is active in several improv theatres both as a participant and as a teacher. She brings lessons learned in improv to her consulting:

                The main starting principle of Improv training is saying “Yes, and,” which translates into “I am listening to you and what you say is valid and I’m not going to negate it.” This starting point really frees up your thinking. Also I have lived long enough to realize that bad things are going to happen and when they DO, I will react with appropriate worry/discernment/concern…..but when good things happen, I may as well be super grateful and enjoy the heck out of every little thing. Laughter and cannabis are the best two medicines I know of. Stress reduction. Blood pressure reducing. Community building.

                 It often seems like my coaching clients need permission to be silly. I actually honor it as a noble calling. It is easier to think when we are happy. It is easier to work with a team if it is fun. It is easier to learn when laughing. I see a sad trend of people seeing “silliness” or “fun for no reason” as a sign of IMMATURITY; I see it as the most obvious intelligent choice. Do you think because you have a furrowed brow you are somehow making more grown-up choices, or that taking yourself too seriously is somehow the path to success?

In her talk, she emphasized the importance of entrepreneurs taking care of themselves if they want to remain healthy and long-lasting in the business:

                  Motivated entrepreneurs run the risk of giving their whole lives to their work and then becoming so overworked and disillusioned in the process that they forget their initial excitement. They look at their schedules and see items like eating lunch, laughing with friends, having a date night, and getting a massage as completely unnecessary extras, even a weakness. Why? You won’t be happier “once this one thing is done” unless you know how to have fun and be happy now. So, as a coach, I am granting everyone in business the permission to do what you need to do to take care of yourself, because if you don’t have your health you have nothing.

She cautions entrepreneurs to avoid or overcome bad business practices. For instance, improper expectations, like how soon the business will start making money, or not having systems in place to grow create unnecessary disappointment and frustration: “Even if an individual or small team has all the passion and capital in the world, if no one is, for instance, figuring out how to consistently schedule staff, keep in touch with customers, keep on top of the finances, and find new prospects, it is going to be a stressful ride.”

To create more realistic expectations and reduce overreactions, she recommends asking more advanced industry veterans what they wish they had known when they were starting out. “Then ask yourself, What am I  going to do to accept and overcome those inevitable challenges? I would also ask the employees to make a list of anticipated challenges and how they might handle them.”

For the most part, women in the cannabis industry face the same challenges as women face in any industry, she believes: “Do you have a clear vision? Do you know what it takes to make it happen? Are you willing to learn the things you need to learn to get it done? Are you pulling together wise mentors to help you along? Do you have a sound financial plan? Are you willing to keep going when everything seems to suck? “

But in one significant way, women in the cannabis industry face a unique challenge:

            Motherhood. Yes, it’s so obvious I almost forgot it. Depending on where they are and how their local laws are being enforced, women have to fear people judging  them, wanting to take their children away because they grow a plant, being raided by a SWAT team and having to suffer the insane consequences of how the drug war tears apart families. They have to face losing custody—and often they are following the law to the best of their knowledge and ability.

Kind of like the Wild West.

Ken Wachsberger, editor of Bloom Blog, is an author and founder of Azenphony Press Writing and Editing.

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