Fri. Oct 18th, 2019

Steve Blank Hosts John Comeau, Founding Partner at H2 Talent and Owner/President at C-Level Search (Audio + Transcript)

On this edition of The Cannabis Today Podcast, we're joined by John Comeau. John is a Founding Partner at H2 Talent and the Owner/President at C-Level Search.

On this edition of The Cannabis Today Podcast, we’re joined by John Comeau. John is a Founding Partner at H2 Talent and the Owner/President at C-Level Search.

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On this edition of the podcast, we’re live from the show floor of the Cannabis World Congress and business exposition at the Javits Center in New York City. I’m joined by John Comeau. John is a founding partner at H2 Talent in Boulder Colorado. H2 Talent is creating new jobs where they haven’t existed and bringing the entrepreneurs, visionaries, problem solvers and disruptors into the next great American industry.

H2 Talent is creating an elevated path in the cannabis industry for entrepreneurs and professionals, and providing a new path for talent solutions by recognizing that successful cannabis businesses must have the right balance of outside talent and tribal talent.

John is also the owner and president of C-Level Search. C-Level Search partners with high growth companies and emerging industries to secure top talent to help build and scale their business. Without further ado, John Comeau live from the show floor of the Cannabis World Congress and business exposition in New York City.

Steve Blank:         Thanks for joining The Cannabis Today Podcast. I appreciate it man.

John Comeau:     I appreciate it too.

Steve Blank:         Let’s before we- we’ve been recording for a minute and a nearly tangented… a dozen times or so but let’s give a foundation here and give you an opportunity just to introduce yourself.

John Comeau:     Yeah, sure. John Comeau with the H2 Talent. We are a premiere search firm focusing and helping the fastest growing companies in the industry, find the absolute best talent to grow and scale their business successfully. Concentrating on the management, director, VP and executive level and above. That’s concentrating on people from the right skills and expertise from outside of the industry that can go and bring their skills and repeat those from referenceable industries.

But also, those cannabis experts. People that you know from product formulation to extraction specialists, lab technicians cultivation. That’s basically what we focus on. Been doing that for… I’ve been doing this recruiting for 15 years in emerging industries. But in this cannabis industry, for over three years and H2 talent has been growing like crazy. We’re actually one of the fastest growing– We are the fastest growing LinkedIn company page in the history of the platform which is pretty crazy.

Steve Blank:         Yeah.

John Comeau:     So that’s it, man. I mean it’s just having fun in New York. I’ve been all around the country for the past, the, internationally, talking about cannabis for the past month and a half it seems like just on the road. So it’s been great to stop here and meet some new friends.

Steve Blank:         How many years ago, the transition into cannabis?

John Comeau:     Sure. Four years ago. And I was sitting in a pool and I was reading a– I’d been recruiting in emerging industries for 15 years. So placing people in big data, cryptocurrency, augmented reality, virtual reality. I worked with a lot of IT offshore firms early on. And so, I’d always been in touch with hyper growth industries. As a recruiter, you need to adapt. And so, I read that the industry was going to go from 2.7 billion to 3.7 billion.

So, I was like oh my gosh, this is explosive growth. And I was just taken by the cannabis bug essentially where I remember reading that article and I called every single person in Colorado that I know and said, “Hey, what are you doing?” Then, I called every single person that smoked weed and I said, “Hey, is this a legit industry?” And then it was just so cool and full circle. Four weeks ago, when I was in Vancouver talking about the global market, what Canada and expansion and Jamaica, South Africa, Germany, Australia, Israel, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

They showed something from BDS analytics and it said in 2025, the entire CBD hemp cannabis space is going to be 44 billion dollars in revenue. And it was just like cool. I did something right at that pool that day [laughs], follow those trends. And so, it’s just really cool to see it explode from the global stage. And then the week after, I went through California and just started going from Hall of Flowers and seeing all those established brands and some of the growing brands and working our way down and speaking to people in Salinas California who are vertically integrated and growing big all the way down to fully integrated hemp processing down in San Diego.

And the week after, I go down to Missouri. In Missouri is just like hope and ambition thing. They have large AG [00:05:19] background but they don’t have anybody right now that has those cannabis knowledge. So it’s just like the last month has just been so awesome. It’s just been so cool to be traveling around and hearing the stories about the industry and then just seeing the all different 30 industries within the industry on top of all the different markets from medical to global expansion. It’s just been so cool.

Steve Blank:         Right on. How did you come to the role that you’re in now aside from cannabis and aside from big data and tech and the verticals within there?

John Comeau:     Sure.

Steve Blank:         What was it that led to you being able to wake up every day and be fulfilled by a role like that?

John Comeau:     This industry is so cool and I can’t think of the experiment. I was around a little bit towards the end of the whole Y2K and the dot com movement which was explosive. But this one’s so unique. It’s a startup industry essentially made up entirely of startup companies with 2000 years of user product experience. So, it’s just this fascinating spot. I didn’t realize when I was placing people in emerging industries for the better portion of 15 years that I was going to develop a skill of seeing what skills, experience is referencing into emerging industries. And this one so cool because it’s 30 industries made up in one industries, so it’s so cool.

So for me, it was like how do I go and leverage this skill that I’ve built up, right? Finding people that will be a good fit, can take those skills and go and apply it. And then also, going out and recruiting for mindset. People who are risk takers, people who are entrepreneurs, people who understand rapidly growing companies. And just going out and being able to leverage that skill that I have and so little did I know 15 years ago when I started recruiting that what I’d been doing and building up would just play perfectly into the cannabis industry. I mean if I was just sitting around waiting on that, I would have been people to thought I was insane for the last decade. Right?

Steve Blank:         Sure. And so, speaking of people thinking you’re insane, to Segway-

John Comeau:     That’s common.

Steve Blank:         -that transition three or four years ago, that time in the pool. You come home or you go to the office or you call a family and let everybody know what you do now.

John Comeau:     Sure.

Steve Blank:         Whether it’s in the workplace, at church, at home…. What was the transition like as a man as a father as a brother or a son?

John Comeau:     Sure. It’s a great question. I mean to get like introspective about it, it was a risk. I’ve been recruiting in industries that don’t have stigma necessarily. Yeah, there was risk involved, entrepreneurs getting into spaces and creating things that hadn’t been created before. It’s really cool but this one has this incredible stigma that’s been around forever and once you’re in it, it just seems so absurd. Like I can’t even wrap my head around–

Steve Blank:         Yeah, the idea that Reefer Madness existed [crosstalk] or exists.

John Comeau:     Right and so was really tough. I mean there is family, there was friends, there were clients saying “hey be careful, you’re dealing with the government, you’re relying on the government.” It wasn’t a really good business model. There was only a 2.7 billion. There was a handful of companies that could actually garner the use of my services at that time.

So, I really had to build a patient’s muscle to wait until this entire industry evolved around what I could offer it. And there’s taken a huge step back not only financially, professionally but also personally. People find I was just a little crazier, a little bit premature and gave me all these warnings. People looked at me foolishly for doing it. Now fast forward to today,

Steve Blank:         They’re asking you what stocks to invest in and which product [crosstalk 00:10:04].

John Comeau:     “Oh hey, can I talk to you a little bit about investing?”

Steve Blank:        ” Couple of questions. “

John Comeau:     Yeah, “just a couple questions…” and it’s like back in the day, I would have talked to them all the time, but now it’s like hey I’m busy trying to build a rapidly scaling company in this industry and so it’s really interesting but I’ve get– From the human capital portion of it, I’ve been able to have people reach out to me saying hey I’d really like to get into this industry and I give them the same advice I had to go give myself is like try to identify the skills that you have, figure out and tell the story as to how what you do or have done in the past will apply to this industry.

Go to the conferences, go and talk to people, see the legitimacy of it, see the passion that people have behind it, and then cultivate that story to employers. “Hey, how can I go and apply this correctly.” It’s fascinating now, the difference between four years ago and now how many people are just calling and saying boom, boom, boom and I tell that same story. If you do have the ability and the passion for it, you’ve got to wait for it. You’ve also got to do your due diligence and really put yourself in front of decision makers if you really want to go and take advantage of this industry’s growth. But some of the hardest things are disqualifying people as far as candidates just because … the big picture- they don’t hit the mark as far as “why cannabis, why are you getting into it?”

Steve Blank:         Sure.

John Comeau:     And it’s fine to have the financial component with it. But I think with rapidly growing industry, companies, you really need the whole environment to go and hit on all cylinders seriously with regulations. Get the right person.

Steve Blank:         Getting back to getting the right people. In the short time that we spent if I’m understanding correctly on a very base level. If you’re listening now and you are a high-level professional seeking placement in the space or if you are seeking a high-level professional to operate on your behalf in this space, you can help.

John Comeau:     Absolutely.

Steve Blank:         Where can we learn more, get in touch?

John Comeau:     Yeah, sure. We’re at H2 Talent dot com. I mentioned at the top. Any type of opportunities that we have will be listed on our LinkedIn company page. We’ve got 6,500 followers just on that company page alone looking at our job postings and everything. And the audience that we have on that is 81 percent of the people are VP, director and C-Level executives. So always go to our LinkedIn page. We’re updating those profiles all the time. Apply, reach out to one of our recruiters, and then you can find us on H2 Talent, any of these shows, any of these conferences, we’ll be at all of them. And that’s probably the best way, follow us on there.

Steve Blank:         That on. What’s your experience thus far at this conference, this expo?

John Comeau:     I love New York City. I love New York as a market and when you think of all of the different markets, I think San Francisco, the Bay Area, they’ll go big. Southern California, Los Angeles will go big. And I think the two other markets that will really be able to push the boundaries I think are Nevada. Obviously, Vegas is Vegas is Vegas, and then New York City. I mean the markets, if you combine California’s market and you combine New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Philadelphia, DC and all those markets, it’s going to be just as big.

So as far as your/my view on it. It’s not now but both of the coasts are going to be in an enormous race for talent to go out and really help grow these businesses. And here’s the funny thing about the talent part of it is like there’s all these states in the middle too. We are placing processors in rural Ohio to North Dakota in regards to pre application. Missouri’s coming on board. But it’s like California and the East Coast, these markets are going to be enormous man. Awesome, so cool.

Steve Blank:         You are joining the yacht party tonight?

John Comeau:     All over the yacht party.

Steve Blank:         Is this your first– I ask is this your first CWC Expo in New York?

John Comeau:     I was in New York. Yeah, I was out in Los Angeles. But I was like “no yacht party?!”

Steve Blank:         What are you looking forward to for the duration of the show all yachts aside? Is there a workshop or another keynote or an exhibitor or some [crosstalk 00:15:23]?

John Comeau:     … has a really great investor forum that’s tomorrow that people are gonna be in. You’re invited too. I think that’s really great. That should be interesting and then it’s like what’s next, go into the next [chuckles]. I think I’ll be back out here in late June for another investment conference. But it’s just fun man. Thanks for having me talk cannabis.

Steve Blank:         Yeah, it’s always a blast.

John Comeau:     All my friends and family are like thank you Steve for– So, they don’t have to listen to me talk about it [laughs].

Steve Blank:         Well, now, they’re going to have to listen to it on Spotify and iTunes and stuff. Now you get to replay it and you don’t even have to–

John Comeau:     What’s next for you guys?

Steve Blank:         We’re going to the yacht party. We just came here from Illinois.

John Comeau:     Okay [crosstalk 00:16:10].

Steve Blank:         Where they just went legal.

John Comeau:     Yeah. A few days ago, right?

Steve Blank:         Day after we left.

John Comeau:     Wow!

Steve Blank:         Or the day we left.

John Comeau:     That’s great. So, do you think when you’ll leave New York, it will go legal as well? Is that a trend?

Steve Blank:         If so, I will continue here.

John Comeau:     Just travel everywhere [crosstalk 00:16:24].

Steve Blank:         We’ll be on tour for the next however long it takes quite frankly.

John Comeau:     Exactly…

Steve Blank:         Yeah. So, we came from Colorado, went to Illinois to see some family and go to a wedding, and now all things cannabiz. And from here, back to Colorado, post-production and churn all this out.

John Comeau:     You guys located in Colorado?

Steve Blank:         Yeah, Longmont.

John Comeau:     Okay, I’m in Boulder.

Steve Blank:         Oh nice.

John Comeau:     Yeah, yeah, for sure.

Steve Blank:         Catch a drink or something, a launch. Yeah, for sure. Are you–

John Comeau:     We actually do with our partner company Canna Advisors, and we share a founding partner. My partner, my business partner in H2 Talent, Michelle Whitmore. She came from SAG of America. She has 10 years of human resources and recruiting background from a corporate. So excellent expertise in corporate change management. And then, our other partner, my business partner, Jay. [00:17:31].

They were actually had– You know with Canna Advisors and they started Boulder kind care, so they were number seven license in the state of Colorado. And so with my expertise of finding people from outside, Michelle’s in building organizations and Jay’s from cannabis, we really have a well-rounded solution and we have a first Friday 420 Happy Hour party in Boulder at the beginning of the month, so next Friday come on by.

We have industry experts, people original, oh jeez from the industry, people with 10 years of experience will have some fun, get a food truck potentially. A bunch of people from the beginning of the industry. I’ve got four years under my belt but here in some of the stories of 10 plus years. It’s like blows your mind what they had to deal with.

Steve Blank:         Yeah.

John Comeau:     I mean there’s a whole documentary out there for just the dispensaries and what they had to deal with in Los Angeles County. You know what I mean? Like that’s a 3-hour documentary on all the [crosstalk 00:18:32].

Steve Blank:         Yeah, it’s wild. It’s been some time since I’ve even thought about that but that wasn’t just kind of created the flashback of thinking about like how commonplace it was for dispensaries to be raided on Tuesday and they take the money, they take the register, they take the product, they take everything. Yeah, yeah, I started with that. Yeah, they take it all. And then business owners kind of just operated with the mindset of like that’s what we’re working with now and that’s why I keep an extra safe inside the extra safe at home. Let’s get started on Wednesday and buy some new stuff and get kicked back in. You know?

John Comeau:     Yeah, nobody owns a pot bellies has to deal with that crap. You know what I mean? And even like in the facility’s building. One of the things that really bothers me is like how people think [talking funny] ah, yeah, it’s weed. It would be fun to work … And it’s like it’s so incredibly complex.

Steve Blank:         Yeah.

John Comeau:     Of course, and if you look at just one aspect of like building these facilities, it’s like okay when you build a subway or a populist, you’re not required to see what the yield is or how great the sandwiches that come out of it [chuckles]. It’s just like they build it and they’re on. I mean there’s so much complexity in this industry that people just don’t understand that aren’t involved in it.

And so, it’s like oh I’m interested in it. Great! Give me a job, all that stuff. And it’s like [inaudible 00:20:01] all the time though. But it’s like, “Are you a recruiter? Well, hey, my uncle hasn’t worked in like eight years, can you …” I’m like no, no. I can’t [crosstalk] somebody who’s been– But now it’s worse. Oh it’s like oh wow you’re it. Find me a job for the exact base salary that I make right now. And it’s like holy cow. It’s just really fascinating. It’s just the coolest thing to be involved in right now.

Steve Blank:         How much of what you do is education like that? We talked about it in sort of an extreme capacity but?

John Comeau:     I mean education is huge I know so many different levels. One way in education is educating the employers. Some of these people that are in this industry that are grown these businesses and had success, they are at this threshold that they need to grow in scale. I’ve got to talk to them as to what a search firm does, what an executive staffing firm actually does. Saves you time and money. We’re going to present the best candidates available in the market passively involved that for whatever reason are looking, we typically gainfully employed, and we go on have these conversations to just find the best person in the market who can go and capitalize and grow this thing.

Steve Blank:         You need a podcast.

John Comeau:     What?

Steve Blank:         I said you need a podcast.

John Comeau:     Well! All right, maybe next Friday…

Steve Blank:         Maybe that could be your first episode. You starting your first show.

John Comeau:     [Laughs].

Steve Blank:         [Inaudible 00:21:27] H2 Talent.

John Comeau:     Thanks buddy. Higher, higher.

Steve Blank:         Thanks [laughs] appreciate you. Enjoy the rest of the show.

John Comeau:     See on the yacht.

Steve Blank:         Absolutely, see you there.

John Comeau:     I’m on a boat.

Steve Blank:         I’m on a boat.

To learn more about each to Tallinn visit H2 Talent dot com. To learn more about C-Level Search, visit C-Level Search dot net. As always, please rate, review, subscribe and share. I’m Steve Blank. Thanks again for listening to The Cannabis Today Podcast.

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