The workweek of a cannabis recruiter

Despite some challenges, Toronto entrepreneur Brian Sekandi revels in a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity"

Startup founders have infamously unpredictable daily schedules as they work to establish and grow their businesses. What does such an entrepreneur’s weekly, daily, or even hourly routine look like when sometimes there aren’t enough hours in a day? In the Startup Diaries, founders walk us through a week in their lives and show what it really takes to get a fledgling business off the ground.

In June 2018, the Canadian government announced plans to legalize marijuana. That same month, Toronto recruiter Brian Sekandi set his new venture, Careers Cannabis, into motion.

He came up with the idea for a job-search tool for professionals seeking employment in the cannabis industry earlier in the year, after a fellow recruiter posted a callout on LinkedIn.

“He wrote, ‘I just met this fantastic director of sales, and he wants to get into the cannabis industry,’” Sekandi recalls. “‘But we don’t know where to start. Does anybody have any suggestions for how we can find jobs in the cannabis space?’ I thought, Hmm, if a recruiter can’t find what’s available, there’s no way regular folks can.”

Sekandi was already an entrepreneur—after 10 years at a recruitment firm, five of them as partner, he struck out on his own in 2016—but he had limited tech experience, which he’d need to launch the Careers Cannabis platform. His plan was to hire a developer while continuing to recruit for mainstream clients like Dyson and Yum! Brands. But that first step backfired within months.

“Right after we launched our proof of concept, I realized the tech wasn’t working the way we anticipated and there were long delays to fix very minor issues,” Sekandi, a WeWork Labs member who runs Careers Cannabis out of Toronto’s 1 University Ave, says. He parted ways with his initial developer, and the hiccup set his business back three or four months. “What we have now is not scalable from a technology standpoint,” he says. “There are a lot of errors. I have to rebuild the entire platform. The only blessing is that I’m learning this five months into my business, whereas some firms learn a year in and have to unravel a year of development.”

Despite the setback, he’s as confident as ever. “I think the cannabis industry is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for people to really help shape an entire field,” he says. “I get emails from all around the world from people trying to get into it.” With a new developer about to sign on and a junior developer on staff, he expects to have his platform updated by March or April, with his first angel investor onboard by June. “The dream is to build the highway for cannabis jobs globally,” he says. “That is what I want to do.”

Below, Sekandi chronicles a recent six-day workweek.

Sunday

9 a.m. I’ve been out sick the last couple days, and now it’s crunch time. I also need to get to the gym at some point today.

1:30 p.m. Go to WeWork and respond to emails. The development agency I cut ties with is now requesting money in exchange for documents we legally own. SMH.

You can always look back and say, “Hmm. I had so many warning signs.” I think the one thing that kind of prevented me from seeing those warning signs is that I became friends with my developer. And so you give friends the benefit of the doubt.

3 p.m. First time at the gym since November 2018. It feels good—very good—to be back. (Routine: rowing, deadlifts, pull-ups, rows, curls, push-ups, pull-downs.)

4:30 p.m. Curry chicken for $9.

5 p.m. Emails.

6 p.m. LinkedIn research for an e-commerce client. The past couple months I’ve been focusing on the cannabis side of my work. Now I’m doing a bit more regular recruitment so there’s some cash flow, because I’m going to have to start rebuilding the Careers Cannabis platform. The beauty is all my jobs are recruitment-related, so it’s not as if I have to switch gears and do something completely different—I’m not a baker on the side.

“The dream is to build the highway for cannabis jobs globally,” says Brian Sekandi.

7 p.m. Read with dinner and watch a few videos on Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her cult following.

8 p.m. Leave WeWork and take the train back home.

9 p.m. Home. 420. I smoke a lot less than people might assume. I think there’s an assumption—especially for myself, as an African-American with a cannabis company—that I might be smoking cannabis all day, and that’s not accurate. There is no way you could be productive. The other piece that a lot of people don’t understand is that you can smoke cannabis that doesn’t actually get you high. You can smoke cannabis with a high concentration of CBD and a low concentration of THC that helps take off stress and anxiety.

10 p.m. Watch the movie Vice and enjoy some downtime. Staying plugged in to pop culture is important in terms of speaking to our audience. We want to be relevant.

11 p.m. Meditation. I put meditation back into my routine in December. It helps to center me; it helps slow things down; it helps remind me that there are things more important in life than the stresses of day-to-day, money, status, position. Not that those things aren’t important, but it helps to put those things in perspective.

Monday

8 a.m. Morning meditation.

8:20 a.m. Social-media updates on Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

9 a.m. Hot lemon-water for breakfast. I usually don’t eat until after 11:30 a.m., or at least 14 hours after my last meal the night before.

9:10 a.m. Update Facebook for the week via Hootsuite. Schedule 15 posts (three per day) until Friday.

11:15 a.m. Arrive at WeWork and start responding to emails; I bring my inbox down to a manageable number (under 40 messages) for the afternoon. Then I schedule a lunch for later this week with a VP at one of Canada’s largest cannabis consultancy companies.

12:10 p.m. Lunch from Paramount at Union Station, $10 box meal.

12:30 p.m. Daily news reading: Donald Trump, Gillette’s new #MeToo ad, Jay-Z Tidal news, Netflix’s Roma Academy Awards campaign.

1 p.m. Update customer-relationship management (CRM) system. This is the platform I use for my traditional and cannabis recruiting work.

2 p.m. Meet with Fasken, a leading law firm in Toronto. Get lots of insights on how they can help us grow, raise money, connect with key early stage-investors, and develop long-term growth strategies. Great people! I’ve shortlisted two firms, Fasken and Osler, and am doing rounds to get a sense of who’s going to be a good fit to hire.

3:30 p.m. Coffee and chocolate snack back at WeWork.

3:35 p.m. Continue with CRM system update and email client with a search update.

5:15 p.m. Thai for dinner from Union Station. The rice was the best part of meal.

6 p.m. Impromptu chat at WeWork with a CEO who, like me, has had experience with bad developers. Get advice on how to manage this situation. What I did was, when I communicated with the developer, instead of getting into the “you did this, you promised me this,” I just looked at the facts. I keep the emotions out of our discussions, because that’s when these situations get really bad.

6:30 p.m. Set up a Vevo channel for my sisters’ music group, Najuah.

7 p.m. Send out appointment invitations for the week.

7:30 p.m. Gym: deadlifts, farmer’s walk, push-ups, and row, row, row…

8:45 p.m. Back at WeWork to follow up on remaining emails before heading home.

10 p.m. Unwind a bit. 420.

10:30 p.m. Watch one of Kevin Hart’s new movies. Should’ve finished the Cheney movie.

11:30 p.m. Meditation.

12 a.m. Insomnia. Take magnesium pills to help with sleep.

Approx. 1 a.m. Finally fall asleep.

Tuesday

9 a.m. Warm lemon-water for breakfast. Check a few emails.

9:30 a.m. Cut my hair and trim the beard.

12 p.m. WeWork Labs talk: Building your eCommerce Strategy with Justin Holmes, VP of 7Shifts and former VP of Knix. Insightful session.

1 p.m. Lunch: Jerk chicken, $12.

2 p.m. Do more research on Fasken and Osler. Thought I was close to a decision on this, but after speaking to a few tech-startup CEOs, I’m less sure about which firm would be the best partner.

3:30 p.m. Call with my podcast producer to speak about our first show edit. The podcast is going to be our marketing vehicle, where we can talk to a wider audience and hopefully channel them into our career platform. The format is kind of like a breakfast show. It’s a conversation about pop culture, so we talk about things that are not necessarily related directly to cannabis, but are around the culture of cannabis. I think if you’re a cannabis user or in the cannabis space, you don’t want to just talk about cannabis all the time.

4 p.m. LinkedIn InMail messaging for a new recruitment project.

5 p.m. Dinner at McDonald’s. Not a great experience today, food-wise.

5:30 p.m. Respond to LinkedIn InMails, set up appointments, update my CRM, and have an impromptu chat with a few tech CEOs about code, servers, and server migration.

6 p.m. Write an email update to a potential development company with thoughts on budget for MVP (minimum viable product), design work, and the possibility of an angel investor coming onboard as a coding partner. The company that I initially wanted to partner with is now the company I’m in late-stage conversations with to build the tech. They were so busy by the time I was ready to build in June that I moved with this other company.

6:45 p.m. Take a 20-minute break for news and comedy.

7 p.m. Research, emails, set up appointments for tomorrow.

9:15 p.m. Train home.

9:45 p.m. Have some homemade stew and watch the Netflix series Friends From College.

12 a.m. Meditate.

1 a.m. Finally get to bed.

Wednesday

8 a.m. I get a nice email from the old development company. They’re more open to ending the relationship amicably.

8:15 a.m. Social-media updates for Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Read some business news on the RT News app, Drudge Report, and Toronto Star.

10 a.m. Leave for the train.

10:45 a.m. Breakfast from McDonald’s—hash browns and a bagel.

11 a.m. Emails.

12 p.m. Meet with the VP at one of North America’s largest cannabis consulting companies, give him a tour of WeWork, and go to lunch at McEwan’s. At one point, we start to talk about our cannabis use. I think we are both assessing how will we be judged by how frequently we smoke. We have a really good conversation and set up a time to speak again.

2 p.m. Meet with WeWork Labs manager to get his advice on development, legal firm decision, and potential angel partnership opportunity.

3 p.m. Complete two phone screenings for a new client, then respond to emails and set up appointments and interviews for Friday.

4:30 p.m. Early dinner at WVRST.

5:30 p.m. Meet with another lawyer from Fasken.

9:30 p.m. Back home. Have a phone call with a friend who’s looking for some advice on business development strategies.

11 p.m. Catch up on personal emails and plan for tomorrow.

12 a.m. Meditate and sleep.

Thursday

8:30 a.m. Social updates, read some news, and respond to urgent emails.

9 a.m. Meditate and get ready for the day. Respond to some more emails before heading to the train, which is running behind schedule and makes me late for my 12 p.m. conference call.

12:10 p.m. Get to the office, set up my conference call, and get a better understanding of technical capabilities on the new CRM system I’ve been using.

12:45 p.m. Arrive at Constantine at the Anndore House. The CMO of my potential new development agency is waiting at our table; the CTO is running behind but we start to discuss today’s agenda while waiting.

1 p.m. CTO arrives and we discuss expectations for the next couple months.

3 p.m. Back at the office—lots of emails to respond to this afternoon. Finalizing several recruitment interviews for Friday.

3:30 p.m. Set up a boardroom in WeWork for a conference call with a podcast producer outside the U.S. It’s a working conference call on technical podcast strategies to ensure the best audio and audio-interface settings. Set up a Sure microphone and an ATR to audio interface, and download a new version of Audacity.

5:15 p.m. Back at my desk to review emails and respond to urgent messages.

6 p.m. Leave work early and visit a friend for a quick catchup in Yorkville.

7 p.m. Was going to attend an after-party at the Spoke Club for the International Design show but decide to go home early. Thursdays are typically the day I crash.

8 p.m. Watch Netflix.

9 p.m. Get an email from my old development company agreeing to my proposal for parting ways. This is great news and a big stress lifted.

Friday

8 a.m. Meditate and get ready for the day, which is packed with recruitment interviews.

11 a.m. Take train to the office and grab lunch prior to arriving.

1 p.m. Skype interview for a client. Goes very well—I like the candidate and will make a recommendation.

2 p.m. Informational Skype interview with someone interested in the cannabis industry. He has a great profile, excellent education, and is looking for a senior marketing role. He’s with one of the top tech companies in the country, maybe the world, and he’s looking to leave all of that to get into the cannabis industry. So it tells you how much the cannabis industry is having an impact.

3 p.m. Next meeting is in person, for a client. Good candidate, very technical and more analytical than needed for the role, but I like his personality.

4 p.m. Another Skype meeting. This one doesn’t go so well: The candidate wasn’t able to answer questions directly, he didn’t have a good reason for leaving his last two employers, and he did the Skype while sitting on his bed with his laptop on his lap.

5 p.m. Catch up on email, get dinner, and head back to the office for my last meeting.

6 p.m. Candidate delays meeting by 30 minutes. We finally connect at 6:30 and decide that the role is not a good fit for him.

7:30 p.m. Leave the office and head home. Arrive completely exhausted and relax before crashing early at 9 p.m. Eventually, I want to develop a strong enough business that I’m able to spend more time with friends and family, and more time in Uganda, where I’m from and where my parents live. The goal is to be a digital-nomad CEO.

3D technology is radically changing how we think about the workplace

Nick Tucker co-founded a crypto financial-services center with his father to make cryptocurrency more ‘human’

Employees reach out to help in some of the country’s most impoverished areas, with a special focus on children and community support