Cannabis CPAs, book keepers, and CFOs, are among the most desired experts in the industry. But don’t jump in until you understand the unique challenges of the job.
November 30, 2018 4 min read
When Naomi Granger and Andrew Zucker first started their company, Dope CFO, it was to service actual cannabis clients such as dispensaries, grows, and edible makers, who were trying to understand and navigate the complex financials of the business.
However, they quickly realized that there was another gaping void in the industry — training other accountants and bookkeepers in the skills they’d amassed over the years. “There was a huge need for educated accountants in the space because in the last 10 years there have been basically none serving cannabis while it’s been federally illegal,” says Zucker.
So Granger and Zucker put their heads together, did the research, and created the second part of their business: Online courses designed to educate future cannabis accountants/bookkeepers on the ways of weed.
Here’s there advice to those thinking about breaking into the often lucrative profession of cannabis accounting.
1. Have some basic training
While you don’t necessarily need to be a CPA to get into cannabis accounting, you do need to bring with you some sort of relevant skill set, such as a Quickbooks bookkeeper, an EA, or an MBA, before you just jump cold toking into the cannabis business. The industry is hard enough with years of experience under your belt so it helps to know the basics.
2. Don’t expect it to be like other accounting jobs
Even if you have prior expertise, don’t expect cannabis accounting to be like any other job you’ve ever done. “You need someone to give you knowledge of the cannabis business because you won’t have it,” says Zucker. “It’s not something you can just Google. There’s no industry guidance, there’s no GAAP guidance, there’s no Quickbooks guidance. You need the training.” Cannabis training companies, like Dope CFO, can come in handy for this.
3. Educate yourself
If you can’t afford to take a course, you’ll need to go on your own self-guided learning tour and make yourself an expert. Zucker suggests going to the myriad cannabis conventions and events in every major city. “It’s a great way to meet people, learn about the legal rules, the state rules, the accounting rules,” he says. “You will meet CEOs, attorneys, and other accountants.”
4. Find a niche
Identifying an area of expertise will be your secret weapon, according to Zucker. “If you’re an expert, the clients will find you. Trust me on that. And if you’re an expert you’re going to serve your clients way better. They count on me to bring them referrals, business and answer questions.”
5. Find a community
It takes a village to become a cannabis accountant. Says Granger, “You need to have a community of cannabis accountants with different expertise because you might not know something or you might need to partner with somebody to learn something and advance yourself.”
6. Be flexible and fluid
With all the moving parts in cannabis accounting, one thing remains certain: Things will always be uncertain. “It’s not pretty. It’s not easy. It’s not cookie cutter,” says Granger. “That’s kind of difficult for accountants because we just want things to be pretty, in a box and work. But you’re not going to see that in cannabis.”
7. Be overly-organized
Because every state has its own system, you have to be on top of what’s what and stay organized. You also have to be “on top of your clients,” says Granger. “Because they’re transitioning out of an illegal business, they’re used to just doing it however they want to do it because it’s illegal anyway. So you have to be able to train them and help them get used to keeping receipts and documenting every single dollar.”