In yet another example of mainstream executives entering the cannabis industry, 4Front Holdings announced Tuesday that Glenn Backus, a former Trader Joe’s executive, will serve as the cannabis management company’s president for their network of Mission retail operations in Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.
While this move might seem clinical and corporate on 4Front’s part, the company’s founder believes he’s making a choice for the good of the industry that other companies will soon be emulating.
“We’re not just looking to bring in just any corporate bigwigs, but someone that fits with the culture we’re building,” 4Front founder Chris Krane told Cannabis Now. Krane added that he would be very surprised if the industry trend of picking up retail executives from other proven brands didn’t continue strong in 2019.
At Trader Joe’s, Backus was the vice president of buying and vice president of store operations for New York, New Jersey, and Ohio. He also spent time in executive roles at Sunflower Markets, the Texas-based grocery chain HEB and Topco and started his own food company called Revolution Brands, while teaching MBA-level classes at the Lake Forest Graduate School of Management in Chicago, Illinois.
Essentially, Backus’ resume is white-collar enough to make his hiring sound like another example of a corporate monolith moving pieces around the cannabis industry chess board — something similar to former Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner joining Acreage Holdings.
But 4Front has been in the cannabis industry since 2011 (longer than many other large cannabis companies dominating the market today) and Krane got his start serving stints in the leadership of both NORML and Students for Sensible Drug Policy before heading west to help the industry begin maturing in Oakland, California.
As one of the true OGs in the mix right now when it comes to cannabis policy reform, Krane said that his hiring practices over the last few years have emphasized hiring activism- and policy-minded individuals.
“It’s the culture-building thing,” Krane said. “We’re trying to bring in people that will help us build a culture for our businesses that we can be proud of. The Trader Joe’s culture is a terrific culture. People like working there, people like shopping there, people like being in the stores. That’s much more what we’re looking for.”
Krane said it was a deliberate choice to hire an individual who worked at Trader Joe’s, which is known for being a more socially conscious big box retailer.
Plus, he noted that as the cannabis industry continues to mature, it’s going to continue to need to professionalize.
“If you’re going to do that, you need real professionals that understand how to run real businesses and retail operations,” Krane said. “It’s been awesome bringing in people like this and seeing them apply their expertise quickly.”
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