Joseph “Joe” Caltabiano is a respected and important voice in today’s emergent cannabis industry and regularly provides guidance to startups and established companies alike. Uncovering opportunities even during a bear market, Caltabiano draws from his extensive financial expertise in retail, real estate, operations and the regulated cannabis industry. Caltabiano is the Chief Executive Officer of Choice Consolidation Corp., where he is responsible for developing and executing the company’s strategic vision to uncover and advance opportunities within the cannabis market.
Prior to launching Choice, Caltabiano co-founded Cresco Labs, one of North America’s largest vertically integrated cannabis operators. During his tenure, Caltabiano grew Cresco Labs from a startup to a Multi-state Operator with annualized revenue of over $250 million and operations spanning nine states. He was crucial in helping the company expand its footprint into strategic U.S. markets and sourced multiple M&A transactions. In addition, Caltabiano guided Cresco through numerous multi-million-dollar capital raises, including the company’s initial raise. In addition to running all the revenue-generating activities at the company, Caltabiano launched the Sunnyside retail brand and applied its wellness theme to Cresco’s existing dispensaries and their consolidated product offerings. He also led brand building at Cresco Labs, launching the operator’s house of industry-leading brands, including Cresco, Remedi, Reserve, High Supply, Good News and Mindy’s edibles.
As a result of his success, Caltabiano has been in high demand as an expert source of information among media outlets and industry audiences. He is a guest speaker at conferences and a contributor to media outlets such as Vice, Bloomberg, Green Entrepreneur and Marijuana Business Magazine. In addition, he has been invited to share his insight with several investment industry panels.
Before entering the cannabis industry, Caltabiano served as senior vice president of mortgage banking at Guaranteed Rate, one of the largest mortgage providers in the U.S., where he helped grow a sales division from 20 local members to over 1,000 nationwide. During his time at Guaranteed Rate, Caltabiano personally closed over $2.5 billion in loan volume and was ranked in the top 100 loan officers for ten consecutive years, reaching No. 3 in closed loan volume.
Philanthropy has always been an essential aspect of Caltabiano’s life, especially when it involves a cause near and dear to his heart. After being stricken with and surviving leukemia as a child, he vowed to consistently support organizations and projects that assist people in their fight against cancer. His childhood battle with cancer is also one of the primary motivators for his work in the cannabis industry. As a result, Caltabiano has contributed to the Gateway for Cancer Research, the Imerman Angels cancer support network, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and the Ronald McDonald House. He was voted Man of the Year by the Chicago Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in 2008, and he has raised more than a million dollars for their organization.
Our Interview With Joe Caltabiano
Question: What’s the most important thing we should know about you?
Joe Caltabiano: I am a lifelong entrepreneur. I love finding opportunities and the process of creating new businesses. I don’t think I could do anything else even if I tried. This is my life’s work.
Question: Name the most impactful lesson you learned from failure.
Joe Caltabiano: The ability to “fail fast.” Even the best plan will fail if you lack the skills or the experience to execute on that plan. And as you’re executing a plan, one of the most essential skills you need is the ability to see when a plan is not being executed properly. You need to pivot quickly once you recognize something isn’t working. In essence, you need to fail fast so you can reevaluate and move forward to minimize any damage.
Question: What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Joe Caltabiano: In business, I am most proud that I took the leap to become a founding member of the cannabis industry. I cannot imagine what I would be doing if I had not taken that leap.
Question: What did you waste the most time on when you were first starting your career?
Joe Caltabiano: I do not want to downplay its importance, but I used to spend way too much time on all the marketing assets, such as logos, brand names, colors, etc. I’m sure I will get push back on this, but I think all of my effort, energy and time on these issues would have been better spent elsewhere on the business. A robust and well-developed brand brings a lot to the table for an organization, but your success starts with a good product and marketing should not take all of your time to bring it to the marketplace.
Question: Name a tool you use for work that you can’t live without.
Joe Caltabiano: Like everyone else, my iPhone.
Question: What is your favorite hobby and why?
Joe Caltabiano: When I have the time to relax, I love to be out on a boat in the water. It can be peaceful or exhilarating–whatever you want or need it to be. There is really no better way for me to get away from it all than to be out on a boat.
Question: What excited you the most about your industry right now?
Joe Caltabiano: The regulated cannabis industry is inherently exciting because it is still very young and constantly changing and evolving. But the most exciting aspect at this moment is how many new states are working to create and launch regulated legal industries within their borders. I am impressed with how single-state operators in the cannabis industry connect with their consumers and build trusting long-term relationships. These local dispensaries are vying for consumer attention amidst a sea of competition. They are using a tried-and-true approach with a relentless focus on their local market, local employees, local culture and most importantly, local patients and consumers.
Question: What concerns you most about your industry right now?
Joe Caltabiano: We need federal recognition of the industry and the passage of SAFE+ Banking now. Every day, some of the earliest legal cannabis dispensaries are finding it necessary to close their doors forever due to local government opposition to cannabis, high taxes and competition from unlicensed illicit organizations. It is extremely difficult for the regulated industry to compete with the illegal market when the illicit market is allowed to flourish while the legal market is handcuffed by antiquated statutes and policies. This is a problem that must get under control.
Question: What’s the greatest risk you’ve ever taken?
Joe Caltabiano: Taking the risk to get into the cannabis industry.
Question: Name one small habit that positively impacts your productivity.
Joe Caltabiano: Reducing the amount of time spent on calls and in meetings has been a great boon to my productivity. The key is to set expectations–and stick to them–for every scheduled meeting. For example, if a meeting only needs to be 15 minutes long, do not schedule it for an hour. This adds so much time to your day.
Question: What tips do you have for getting a seat at the table?
Joe Caltabiano: You get a seat at the proverbial table by doing the hard work and building your credibility. If you do the work, people will notice and will want your contribution at the table.
Question: What book has made the biggest impact on your life?
Joe Caltabiano: “Failing Forward” by John C. Maxwell made a tremendous impact on my outlook toward work and life. Using failure as a tool to learn and move forward opens up all kinds of possibilities.
Question: Do you value intelligence or common sense more? Why?
Joe Caltabiano: You can be intelligent without having common sense. So I value common sense more because when a person acts using common sense, it also tells me they are intelligent.
Question: What would you consider to be the perfect day?Joe Caltabiano: Any day out on a boat in the water is a perfect day for me.