A cannabis CEO who led turnarounds at FAO Schwarz and Patagonia explains why he's looking to poach 'nimble' people from small companies — rather than big-name execs

Ed Schmults, a former executive who spent years at Patagonia and orchestrated a number of turnarounds — including storied toy retailer FAO Schwarz — was recruited by a headhunter to become the CEO of cannabis firm Calyx Peak Capital. Schmults is now building out his team. He said in an interview with Business Insider he's looking for candidates from smaller companies, who can move fast with little support because the industry is "evolving almost daily." "I'm looking for people with the quintessential entrepreneurial experience," Schmults said.

When veteran retail executive Ed Schmults received an out-of-the-blue phone call from a headhunter in July, he had no idea that in just a few short months he'd end up as the CEO of a cannabis company. 

As the new CEO of Massachusetts-based Calyx Peak Capital — a firm that invests in cannabis retail licenses in a number of states — he's now looking to build out his team. 

And he's not looking for big-name executives. 

"Some of our competitors are out there trumpeting their executives from multi-billion dollar companies, and I'm sure those men and women are awesome," Schmults told Business Insider in an interview. "But I think what you really want at the start of an industry are people who've been involved in smaller companies who can work fast, be nimble, and wear multiple hats." 

Schmults said the cannabis industry is evolving "almost daily." That's why he's focusing his recruiting on people who have deep experience in smaller businesses "where everyone's going all out," rather than mega-corporations. 

"You know, I'm looking for people with the quintessential entrepreneurial experience," Schmults said. "I need people who can create the reports themselves and make decisions on the fly." 

To Schmults, that sweet spot between startup and multibillion dollar firm is what he knows best. 

After a stint at Goldman Sachs, Schmults spent seven years at Patagonia in California and Tokyo in the 1990s — while the outdoor-oriented clothing brand was rapidly growing — before he was recruited to turn around another clothing company, Moonstone Mountain Equipment. 

He parlayed that experience into executing a turnaround of FAO Schwarz, the storied New York City toy retailer. 

When the headhunter called him about the CEO position at Calyx, Schmults said it was a "one of those cock your head to the side" moments. 

"I was like 'huh, cannabis?' I'll have to think about that," Schmults said. But the more he dug in, the more he realized that the potential health benefits of the plant were "astonishing." 

"At the end of the day I really liked the investors," Schmults said. 

And the chance to take what he learned across his career to build a team from the ground-up was a "rare opportunity" that doesn't come along so often, Schmults said. 

"I just think it's a fascinating intellectual opportunity and a chance to remove the stigma," Schmults said. 

{ SOURCE: Business Insider }


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