Imagine believing in a company so much that you opt to forgo hard-earned pay until the business reaches its profit goals? And then imagine that belief is matched by confidence the goal will be achieved.
For Andrew Grieve, CEO at Zenabis Global Inc.—a subsidiary of Sun Pharm Investments Ltd. and a Canadian licensed cultivator of medical and recreational cannabis—that’s reality.
Forgoing a wage for those sitting in the C-suite isn’t a first. Tech giants Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and the late Steve Jobs of Apple have both made headlines for drawing $1 salaries to bolster global confidence in their respective company and build trust. But as many entrepreneurs are dipping their toes into the cannabis waters, companies that choose to make a bold statement, like what Grieve is doing, demonstrates they’re in it for the long haul.
Taking the reins in January, Grieve’s arrival was accompanied by the news that he’d do without the compensation… at least for the near future. Being his idea, the salary will be based on personal and company performance: both of which must exceed a certain baseline in 2020. Compensation is also affected by the company’s stock price performance: The share price at the end of the quarter (June, September and December 2020, and March 2021) needs to be above the threshold on a 10-day VWAP (volume weighted average price) basis. Currently, Grieve is the only company employee to adhere to this pay structure.
Flower power meets plant power
To some, the outright dismissal of a salary before even taking the helm might seem a gamble, but to Grieve, joining Zenabis—literally, the flower child merger of Bevo Agro Inc., a cannabis propagation and floral business, and cannabis company Sun Pharm—just made sense.
“I began working with Bevo in April of 2018 to find a cannabis partner or acquirer, and we settled on Sun Pharm because there was a family connection and alignment in terms of approach,” he tells The GrowthOp. “By the time the Board of Directors asked me to take on the role of CEO, I had already been working on the project for nearly nine months and I had been a significant part of developing the vision for the business. In addition, I had come to know the founders, the Board of Directors and the members of the management team, and, so, I was excited about working with the team going forward.”
Between Bevo and Sun Pharm, Zenabis has amassed 30-plus years of experience in the industry. Executives, including Grieve and chief growing officer Leo Benne, have been given aggressive targets, but the experienced team is making short work of them.
“As of Q1 2019, we’ve begun transitioning to promising alternative growing techniques; the first harvest using these outperformed design capacity by 47.6 percent,” Grieve says.
Since this past January, the company has more than doubled its cultivation capacity from approximately 6,000 kg to 13,400 kilograms. Zenabis reports it has 3.5 million sq. ft. of available production space between its properties in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and B.C., with an estimated design capacity of 479,300 kg annually once all of its facilities are complete. There’s also an additional 617,000 sq. ft. of greenhouse space for its propagation business that Grieve says could be converted, if needed.
With this kind of space, Zenabis is able to have distribution relationships with government and third-party retailers/distributors in Yukon Territory, B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, N.B., N.S. and PEI. It’s also signed a deal with both Shoppers Drug Mart and Pharmasave to sell cannabis products, and has its eye on weed-infused drinks, which it plans to sell under the brand True Buch, a kombucha-based product.
Moral compass helps guide the way
Really, the company’s moral code and values could be considered the guiding light in what might make or break Zenabis and its goal to become among the largest licensed producers in the world. With a military background and having served in the Canadian Armed Forces, Grieve agrees this past experience is, without a doubt, shaping his management style at the company.
“Leaders [in the military] are expected to take responsibility for all activities that occur under their command,” he says. “In the end, we learn that we have to value country and our people above ourselves, which is delivering stakeholder value and subordinating your personal interests to what is important.”
There are four pillars to the company’s values: excellence, responsibility, compliance and delivery of stakeholder value. “We believe that if any one of our stakeholders is not being treated fairly and responsibly, then the company will not succeed,” Grieve says.
Currently Zenabis employs 700-plus people and has operations in Atholville, N.B.—its first licensed facility, which opened in 2017—and Stellarton, N.S. in Atlantic Canada, and Delta, Langley, Pitt Meadows, Aldergrove and Vancouver in B.C.
Having bicoastal representation isn’t a happy accident, Grieve points out. “While the company began in Western Canada, we saw a fantastic opportunity to increase our production capacity in the Maritimes,” he says. “We were drawn to establishing a presence on both ends of the country because, from a logistics perspective, it allows us the best chance to support our customers efficiently.”
Zenabis has set out to build a global cannabis business that gives anyone in the world (where cannabis is legal) the ability to buy high-quality product.
“We believe that everyone should have the right to consume a form of medicine that works for them, where legal, and to decide on their own recreational experience (again, where legal),” says Grieve.
That being the case, it makes sense that Grieve believes the cannabis industry’s greatest strengths are choice and the utility of the plant itself. His hope is that Zenabis can help create a future where people can easily access cannabis and that, over time, the “anecdotal experience of so many people will be translated into definite research outcomes.”
Still, breaking down the barriers around social stigma is top of mind for both Grieve and the company. “We’re working hard to change these negative attitudes towards cannabis because we believe in the plant and what it can do,” he says. “Our team is built on a belief that our product has a lot to offer to consumers; we wouldn’t be where we are today without this strong conviction,” he emphasizes.
Grieve will have to wait for the earnings reports to know when his next paycheque is coming in, but the hard work has already begun.

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Authored By: The Growth OpArticle category: Marijuana Business NewsRegional Marijuana News: Canada