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In business, sometimes it’s better to miss the bus

Elan Sudberg editorial
The CEO of Alkemist Labs explores trusting intuition versus taking on risky business to gain new revenue.

His hands were raised, palms to the sky, shoulders shrugged, facial expression ambivalent as a sound emerged from his mouth which no one can spell, but the meaning was clear. It definitely resided in the genus of "ehhh" or "eeeh," but this species was longer, more certainly uncertain, and went up in tone until it disappeared into the ethers, where it may still be echoing.

That’s the vision I had in my head when reading the 20-page risk assessment I asked my regulatory attorney to execute for Alkemist Labs as we evaluated the wisdom of entering the semi-illegal cannabis testing market. Just like no one will ever tell you with 100 percent certainty that you won't be struck by lightning, a good lawyer will be unlikely to give unequivocal advice on the matter of cannabis testing until the federal laws have changed, as the only thing certain about this market for now is that federal law says it's illegal.

This marked the third "cannabis bus" I have watched speed away because I decided it wasn’t time to buy a ticket for an uncertain destination, or I didn't feel like running after it was a good use of my bandwidth. None of those moments have been because I couldn’t run fast enough to catch said metaphorical bus; rather, it just wasn’t time yet. Some might call me passive or a boring entrepreneur or even risk averse, and that’s OK. I am happy with my work and our company, and that’s what this is all about for me.

Recently I met a team of three well-dressed, well-educated and well-funded gentlemen who have a strong foot in the semi-illegal cannabis business in Orange County. The climate feels like a new era of prohibition, and the energy is palpable. Or is that the burning hole in my pocket? Long story short, the deal that was pitched cannot be adequately serviced by team Alkemist Labs at this time without seriously compromising existing priorities, and for that reason I turned them down. Picture me watching that fourth "cannabis bus" speed away.

The bad news is that, theoretically, we have just lost an undeniably remarkable revenue stream. The good news is that knowing what I know about starting up a business and everything that goes into it, I know we have likely just avoided implosion on both business and personal fronts.

I spent the last 20 years of my life hustling, chasing after that bus, jumping on it, and doing much of the driving. It sometimes seems like the moment you slow down, your competitors sprint past you and that there is no finish line. But I am also committed to work-life balance for my staff and myself, and for all of us to feel secure in our jobs and lives because we’re not handling material that the feds may decide we shouldn’t be. I’m committed to safeguarding what we have built through very hard work and undeniable passion for our role supporting customers and the industry. There may come a day when our regulatory attorney’s body language is more reassuring, and we may buy a ticket for that bus. Today, I’m content.

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