When explaining how iComply works with prospective clients, we demo our service offerings and how we work to achieve a level of compliance management that is tailored to our client’s needs and budgets. In every case, we explain the iComply Methodology – honed in since 2011 and proudly collaborated with our beloved cannabis business owners, managers, and stakeholders.
The Methodology is simple and effective. We’re proud, after all, that our clients do not make the news for violations or being shut down and we know it works. And, while simple enough on the surface, there is a deeper understanding of how and why our methods work for all types of clients. Whether you’re applying for a cannabis license, establishing operations, new to the cannabis business, or a seasoned veteran like us.
We have designed all of our compliance management packages to include this methodology at various levels of frequency, service, and depth. In all cases, we advocate three important foundational pillars to our methodology to ensure the most relevant, effective, and comprehensive, risk management services.
Fundamentally, we make sure our clients have insight and support to ensuring:
- Compliant Processes
- Compliant People
- Compliance Measures and Management
Firstly, compliance starts on paper. Literally. From facility designs, HR handbooks, employee training manuals, application representations and warranties, logs, forms, reports, and Standard Operating Procedures, no one can effectively and comprehensively manage operational compliance without ensuring the ongoing implementation and accurate management of these vital documents.
SOPs are the bible for any business -, especially in cannabis. They must be living documents by which all other documentation, logs, forms, and training manuals are derived. Unfortunately, most cannabis operators pay little attention to their SOPs. They let them sit on a shelf and gather dust.
Often, we find inadequate SOPs that don’t cover nuances important to effective business management – let alone comprehensive compliance. Most commonly missing are procedures for Equipment Maintenance, Quality Assurance and Control, Sampling/Testing, Bookkeeping, and Onboarding/Offboarding Procedures – just to name a few.
Rules are bound to change – as are versions of SOPs and subsequent documents created from them. It is imperative to review them periodically to ensure they are being followed and that they are accurate to prevent non-compliance, certainly, but also process validation for testing purposes and product liability issues that may arise. Even in our most basic package, we insist on having a third-party SOP and Compliance Documentation review and subsequent report for our clients to identify regulatory requirement changes and areas of improvement. Areas we can take on and get done or hand back to clients to edit and have us review later on.
Without compliant processes, cannabis companies are bound to experience higher turnover, disgruntled employees (who often snitch to regulators), and inconsistent quality which directly relates to lost brand value in the eyes of consumers and lost revenue which directly relates to less value in the business itself. Having developed hundreds of SOPs, we know the value of quality processes and the importance they play in effectively managing compliance.
Once SOPs and subsequent documentation is developed, our clients can run their business on paper. However, we all know it takes people to carry out the intuition behind compliant processes.
Unfortunately, most workers never read the rules and regulations. They are written for attorneys, by attorneys, and aren’t casual reading material for most owners or managers – let alone the average person. However, every person with a badge who is licensed to work in cannabis is expected to know the rules and follow them. In some states, this is mandatory training.
At iComply, we’ve been breaking down the rules and teaching them in normal english since 2012. We were instrumental in rulemaking for Colorado’s Responsible Vendor Training Program and have modeled our success into multiple States and emerging markets.
Corporate compliance training is a standard in most heavily regulated industries for a reason. Literally getting everyone on the same page not only teaches them the intuition and importance of adhering to SOPs, logs, forms, reports, and internal employee training manuals and programs, it also creates a level of accountability and risk mitigation for management.
No one has an excuse to not follow the rules once they learn them.
When the lowest worker on the totem pole can shut down the business over a misunderstanding or mistake, the importance of effective and timely training is paramount to protecting licenses and investments. People who know what’s expected of them also tend to stick around – which reduces the amount of turnover plaguing the industry at large.
We certify individuals and licensed facilities at large. Even in our most basic compliance package level, we include front-line staff training (2-3 hours) to ensure everyone is literally reading from the same page. As a team, workers are able to identify their role and responsibility in managing compliance from the ground up – alleviating risk and increasing accountability for everyone.
Knowledge is power and complaint procedures require compliant people to ensure cannabis businesses are operating in a compliant and consistent manner. For operators running larger organizations and multiple cannabis licenses, we have more extensive Comprehensive Compliance Training programs intended for owners and operators (5-6 hours).
We repeat these training sessions annually to ensure new rules are trained to all staff members and that each team can carry out what is expected of them. We also require new trainees to pass their supplemental training course within 90 days of hire to ensure the entire team stays on the same page and to maintain certification in our programs.
Setting standards and expectations is paramount to ensuring compliance is not skirted or ignored. In doing so, compliance becomes a team effort – not a top-down approach – making it tremendously more effective.
Compliance Measures and Management
Lastly, our methodology ensures that the investment in processes and people can be adhered to and proven over the course of time. If SOPs sit on the shelf and people forget their training expectations, cannabis companies set themselves up for failure and for an ineffective return on their compliance investment.
Simply put, third-party validation, transparency and insight are critical to keeping the train on the right track. At our most basic package service level, we mandate ongoing audits of operational compliance and inventory reconciliation. These services ensure compliance is being adhered to and help keep cannabis employees on their toes – especially in the event of auditors performing more detrimental inspections, investigations, and audits.
Most markets we service require ongoing compliance management and daily reporting of inventory in electronic systems that can be remotely monitored by regulators. State Seed to Sale tracking requirements in METRC, BioTrack, MJ Freeway, and others mandate close monitoring and accurate reporting of inventory to meet federal and state compliance and ensure cannabis diversion is prevented.
By having third-party validated audits of operational compliance cannabis operators, owners, investors, and stakeholders obtain transparent and honest insight in our reports to the effectiveness of their training and processes. Our ongoing audits can be customized by frequency and go in depth to include books, records, packaging, and labeling reviews at a micro level in addition to macro level auditing and inventory reconciliation.
You don’t know what you don’t know. By ongoing measures and management of compliance, our clients gain the most valuable aspect of our methodology – the ability to effectively adjust their operational compliance infrastructure and personnel and protect their business with unparalleled peace of mind that most of their competitors will remain ignorant to.
We work collaboratively with our clients on the results of compliance measures to better manage compliance through frequent meetings and consultation to identify and address mutual agendas of compliance concerns and considerations ongoingly. Through close collaboration, we help to effectively reduce the largest compliance risks and more efficiently manage our client’s operations over the long-term. We aren’t going anywhere.
It is our goal to improve operations and future reports on compliance to ensure our clients have more ammunition and paperwork than the regulators do when they stop by for a visit or analyze compliance data remotely. Our methodology works by blending in the most important cannabis business considerations and, in doing so, providing a tremendous return on investment for those savvy enough to invest in their operational compliance.