As part of my series about “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started Leading a Cannabis Business” I had the pleasure of interviewing Dennis Lineberry, CFO of GeoShepard Inc. GeoShepard Inc. developed a Metrc certified Smart Scale technology that utilizes a mobile phone application to capture data from the cultivation facility. The data is transmitted from the mobile device to the proprietary GeoShepard Portal residing on the Amazon Cloud for review prior to real time updates to the State mandated Metrc System. The GeoShepard Pro System stream lines the data entry from hours to seconds. Cultivators have no manual entries which reduce errors and greater efficiency resulting in reduced cost.
Now as an entrepreneur, Dennis’ extensive background in many industries enabled him to capitalize on his skills set to determine when to pivot or hold course. He builds and develops teams to handle problems and provide solutions economically and efficiently.
His diverse experience in Fortune 200, entrepreneurial, and developmental companies enables him to solve problems efficiently. Industry experience includes prescription benefit management, biotechnology medical manufacturing & research, transportation, professional engineering and construction (EPC), web-based medical disease management, commercial office equipment sales & service, appliance manufacturing and big 4 public accounting. Extensive experience in financial automation accounting and systems implementation.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share with us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?
My background is in technology and finance. In 2012, I was at the zoo in Kansas City with my son and realized we left the camera bag behind. My son said, “Hey dad, wouldn’t it be cool if the camera bag could alert us that it was left behind?”. I thought it would be very cool. So, we started a company that utilizes bluetooth for lost items. A few years later, a client called and asked if we might be able to track marijuana plants through a grow. We thought this was also cool, and began working on a technology to do just that. While the original idea was deemed not cost-effective, our idea pivoted into GeoShepard, the phone application that pairs with hardware (a scale, in our case) to better connect cultivators to their grows by helping them to measure how their plants are behaving in order to increase yields. In short, cannabis came to us!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Perhaps the most interesting thing about our family company is that both myself and my sons come from a background that wouldn’t typically yield expertise into the marijuana business. Both of my sons came from both Lockheed Martin and IBM with high security clearances. I am in my 70’s and spent most of my career in a similar role. To think that we’re now running a company for the marijuana industry still blows my mind.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Honestly, we learn lessons everyday. When it comes to pioneering a new industry, you can imagine the speed bumps along the way. For us, I think the funniest thing has been having our family learn all about marijuana together. This is not something we ever planned on, and my late wife would be totally surprised if she were around to see this. Maybe having someone 60+ starting a new business in a completely new industry is a bit funny to some. For us, we knew we could build a technology that would help cultivators and put us in a position to participate in this $1 Billion+ market. We have learned a lot and continue to solve new problems each day.

Are you working on any exciting projects now?
We’re currently working on creating an offline model that will work well for outdoor grows. They’ll be able to utilize our technology without wifi, addressing a big need in the industry. We’re also working on a system that will scrape state databases for pesticides, herbicides, etc. and help growers record which pesticides they’re using and send that information out to state compliance companies immediately. In progress, but a bit further in the future, is an idea to build out a database technology that will allow real-time connectivity between GeoShepard, METRC (our state compliance partner) and the cultivators, allowing us all to upload and download information in real time.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
My CFO and lifelong best friend, Jim Harding, has been an vital part of both the company and my life for years. We’ve known each other since third grade in Iowa. Jim has been CFO for multiple public companies, so his expertise has been a huge help to us. Another dear friend of mine, the late Gary Field, was also instrumental in teaching the rest of us to “always ask for another order.” This school of thought has helped the company grow quickly and has helped our team better understand the sales process.

Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Cannabis industry? Can you share 3 things that most concern you?
Three things that excite me about the cannabis industry? Money, money, money.
Three things that concern me about the cannabis industry? Government, government, government.
The cannabis industry is exciting because it is a new industry with a ton of new opportunities. There aren’t a ton of technology companies tied into the industry yet, so there is a lot of opportunity to enter the market and become a leader.

Can you share the 5 questions you should ask in order to successfully invest in the cannabis industry”? Please share a story or example for each.
1. Are you willing to lose it all?
Marijuana is still federally illegal. Period. At any point, the government could decide to shut us down and all of our work and investments will have been for naught. When you enter this industry, you’d got to weigh your options and make sure you’re willing to go “all in” with your finances, technology and possibly even your freedom.
2. Are you willing to become a public-facing leader and have your technology become the “standard”
As I mentioned earlier, if my wife was still around I’m not entirely sure how she’d feel about us being involved with cannabis. There are still a lot of folks out there, especially my peers, who don’t agree with my participation in this industry. I know that what we’re doing is helping people, and I am OK with not everyone understanding that.
3. Are you willing to be judged for your participation in an industry that was once illegal and taboo?
Similar to the above, entering a market that is still federally illegal can bring on unwanted judgement. If you’re going to enter the marijuana industry, it is vital that you are committed to everything that comes with that: the good, bad and ugly.
4. Can you accept that you don’t know “all there is to know” about the industry?
After a 40-year career, I am used to being the resident expert on my teams. That isn’t always the case with this business. I have learned so much about the process of growing marijuana and still find myself with new questions everyday. It is important to keep an open mind and understand that you are likely not going to be the smartest guy in the room when it comes to entering a new industry.
5. Are you willing to build a company from the ground up in an extremely risky market (both legally and financially)?
Building a company is extremely difficult. Building a company in a market that is federally illegal will make you pull your hair out. With so many hoops to jump through and things to learn, it can take a lot longer to build out a business in a new market. A willingness to take a chance and listen more than you speak is vital in this industry.

This industry is young dynamic and creative. Do you use any clever and innovative marketing strategies that you think large legacy companies should consider adopting?
For us, the proof is in the pudding. Our technology helps cultivators be better at their jobs and stay compliant with very strict state regulations. Our marketing consists of sharing our customers’ stories, something that has proven to be extremely valuable for us. We’re playing in a market where the “experts” are used to being “undercover” and secretive. They trust other experts. Our strategy is to create a product that really works and really helps and let our customers help us sell by sharing their experience.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
There are so many people who have helped us create success. While I can’t pinpoint a certain person, I can say that my prior business experience has been invaluable. Everything I have learned, across multiple different markets, has helped prepare me for this journey. I’ve surrounded myself with extremely competent people and owe a thank you to the entire team.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
The best advice I can give in this regard is to be present for your employees and set a focus on helping them thrive. I like to say: “Touch an employee everyday” that is to say don’t let them waffle or go down paths that aren’t going to meet the goals of the company. Help your employees understand their value and role within the business and support them. Surround yourself with people smarter than you.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I’ve always thought is would be amazing to set up system that gives inner city youth transportation to charter schools. Education is so important and it starts from youth. I think allowing all children to have equal opportunity for a top education can help give less fortunate kids accessibility to out of the societal holes they may be in. (transportation and timing).

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