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This week we have a guest blog from Velvet Kavanagh.  Velvet helps craft cannabis companies streamline operations so they can reduce stress and increase profits with her company Phenologic.  She’ll share some of her tips for better standard operating procedures (SOPs), a crucial part of your Quality Management System.

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are a requirement to be compliant with Health Canada’s cannabis regulations.  However, they are often poorly designed, or may not be specific to your company.  This leads to higher costs, less profit, and more stress for you and your team.  Frustrating all around!

Instead, think about how good you would feel if your SOPs save money, are efficient, and even… enjoyable!  That sounds much better, doesn’t it?  Treat your SOPs like the valuable tools they are and you’ll get there!

In this post, I’ll share some of my 9 SOP Tips for cannabis regulations.  Start with these today to improve your own SOPs.  You’ll end this year feeling more solid, and be on your way to a less stressful and more profitable business!

SOP Tips #1- Why Are We Doing This?

Your team needs to know not only how to do the job, but why it is done a specific way.  This crucial piece often gets left out of SOPs.




When people know why they are doing a task a specific way, it helps them understand the importance of what they are doing.  They will be less likely to take costly or damaging shortcuts.  And if a problem shows up you know they do!- your team can more easily fix the issue, while still meeting the ‘why’ of what they are doing.


Explain, right in the SOP, how it fits into your company’s business goals and compliance requirements, and what is at risk if it is not followed.


With this understanding, the SOP will make more sense and be more effective.


SOP Tips #2- Inputs and Outputs

Every SOP has inputs and outputs: materials you start the SOP with, and what you have at the end. This could be plant material, paperwork, spaces, tools… anything you use or change in following the SOP.



Think of it like running a relay.  The baton that the first runner hands off are their output. When the second runner gets it, the baton is their input. Then the baton becomes their output when they hand it off.

The ‘baton’ hand-off from one SOP needs to be suitable for the next SOP. If it’s not, it takes time to fix. Ten minutes here, 20 minutes there, multiple times a day, week, month… Frustration builds. Costs increase. Quality and profit suffer.

Instead, your SOPs should create one team working together to make the best final output- your product!- you can achieve.



A perfect demo of this… notice how much time is lost.  Keep your eyes on the right. Don’t let another business do this while you are fumbling!


SOP Tips #3- Leadership Does It

Cannabis company leaders- this tip is talking to you!
You are busy and just need to ‘do this quickly’.  Or you skip it because you don’t want to look like you don’t know what you’re doing. I get it.



But then your staff have to fix what you did.  That costs money.  And they think: If the boss doesn’t care, why should I? You lose the respect of your team and erode workplace culture… more money.


Unfortunately, this issue is very common.

You demonstrate the importance of SOPs through your actions.  If you skip it, so will the staff. And you might not know that until a serious- expensive!- problem shows up.


For this Tip, it’s good to have someone from outside your business, like me, to help you do it.  Because of the employer-employee power dynamic, it’s hard on your team to really tell it to you straight.  And it can also be hard for an employer to hear it.


Get more insight into this Tip on this post.


SOP Tips #4- Key Performance Indicators

Key performance indicators (KPIs) are critical to monitor business performance. Create a few KPIs for any SOP that is important in the bigger picture.



Much of it comes down to how much time SOPs take and how to reduce mistakes. Both time and mistakes are expensive!

So much data can be tracked that it’s easy to go overboard or get overwhelmed. Focus on where your business at and what is important to your customers.  Some questions to consider:


  • Do you spend too much time doing daily tasks that take you away from leading your company?
  • Are customers not repeat buying because your product is inconsistent?
  • Is your team frustrated by mistakes?


Create KPIs for issues you want to fix.  Track these to create a baseline, adjust your SOP, then continue tracking. Watch for long-term trends and ratios to see if the changes are effective.


Share your favorite KPIs to track on this post.


SOP Tips #5- Make It Look Good

SOPs are often a big wall of dry text.  No one likes reading that!  We all learn differently, and some of our team may speak different languages.  Sometimes we forget or don’t want to look something up.




This leads to mistakes that cost us money, and inconsistent results… that cost us money and our reputation!


Make your SOPs more effective by adding your company’s personality, diagrams, charts, and icons.  Break the content into easy-to-read pieces.  Display infographics and photos at key locations.  Make it easy for your team to get the info they need at a glance.  This will improve your training as well.


The SOP will be easier to understand and follow, leading to a more consistent product, fewer costs, and happier customers.


Tip #6: Involve The People Who Do It

The best SOPs come from a group effort that includes those who do the job. Externally-sourced or top-down directives are not as effective in creating a culture that values SOPs. Participation in SOP development gives your team an increased sense of purpose and care for their work.

SOP tips - 6

How do you involve the people who do it?  It’s like growing cannabis plants! Here are 2 key points to consider:

  • Create the environment. The right climate is crucial for your plants to do their best. Same with your team. When you’re the boss sometimes people just tell you what they think you want to hear. Make your workplace an environment where everyone is comfortable sharing.
  • You know what happens when you don’t prune, right? A lot of substandard buds! Too many ideas make it hard to focus on what gets the results you want. Improvements need to meet your company’s strategy and your customers’ needs.

Tip #7: Be Specific

Consumers talk unfavorably about batch variation in flowers- consistency can be tough! Yet we can do a lot to maximize that with Tip #7: Be Specific.

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Lack of clear, specific direction leads to serious issues, including increased costs, devastating crop loss, equipment damage, and safety risks, as well as damage your reputation.

It’s easy for experienced staff to bring techniques learned elsewhere.  Sometimes it’s hard to tell staff what you want. But you must.

Pruning, for example, is an art with a big impact on your final product. Someone might ‘know what they are doing’ but their prune style might not give you the flower you want. Now you have an inconsistent product and maybe less weight than you planned. Revenue is lost, and buyers are disappointed.

Being specific allows your team to produce consistent outcomes that matter to your customers and your company.

Tip #8: Verify It

If it might come back to bite you later, verify it! This crucial step prevents mistakes from advancing past critical points, where they increase costs and damage your reputation.  Build verification right into your COP: do not rely on memory or conversations.

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Here’s an example of a verification process from my previous- retail delivery service. It was crucial that our drivers had everything in the truck before they left on their route.  This was our process:

  • Check all packing slips were printed
  • Check all orders were packed
  • Check all orders were packed correctly
  • Check all orders were loaded into the truck
  • Verify all checks were complete and signed off on


I know, it seems like overkill! But we did this because we made expensive mistakes at each step. Not because we were not good at what we did, but because we are people and we make mistakes.  Just don’t let them leave your facility.

Tip #9: Make It Easy

If it’s hard to do, it won’t be done.  Have an effective training program, the tools needed at hand, and a well-organized system.

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Few things in a process are more frustrating than those parts that make you want to skip them because they make you annoyed or seem to waste your time.  Wandering around looking for parts, weeding your way through a mess, or steps that seem to make no sense at all… this is not a good use of your time.

Smooth out the friction points so your SOPs are enjoyable and easy.  They’ll be followed, and you’ll have a much happier workplace.

How To Improve Your SOPs

First, get all 9 Tips here: Download

Next, look for a few of your company’s SOPs that could benefit from being improved, ones that waste time, have a lot of deviations, or have led to a costly mistake.

Pick 1 or 2 of these tips that seem to relate to the issues you are having, and start changing your SOPs from suggested to standard.

Reach out to me with any questions about these Tips, or if you want some help figuring out how to apply them to your business.

About the Author:

Velvet Kavanagh

Velvet Kavanagh helps craft cannabis companies make smart choices to increase profits and reduce stress.

Connect with her at , , or LinkedIn