PLS Provides POS and IT Support to Cannabis Operators: Q&A with Gerson Cedillos

Technology that allows you to streamline operations is essential for any business, but for the Cannabis Industry, it hasn’t always been easy to access. With continued Federally-illegal status, operators struggle to find solutions and partners who are willing to work with a gray market; as a result, innovation tends to be slow-going and difficult to achieve.

Although this perpetual struggle keeps many third-party vendors far away from the cannabis industry, others are intrigued by the unique challenge and eager to help cannabis operators who are struggling to stay afloat amidst constant federal scrutiny. 

One such fearlessly curious partner is PLS: an IT vendor and managed service provider (MSP) dedicated to supporting the national industry with all of its POS/IT hardware needs.

One such fearlessly curious partner is PLS: an IT vendor and managed service provider (MSP) dedicated to supporting the national industry with all of its POS/IT hardware needs.

Leafwire sat down with PLS CEO Gerson Cedillos to discuss how and why the team decided to support the Cannabis Industry, and all of the ways they consistently innovate Cannabis IT.

Leafwire: How did PLS get its start?

Gerson Cedillos: We opened for business in 2015 in the metro Phoenix area in Arizona. Our organization started as a Zebra Technologies Channel Partner, exclusively selling Zebra products, but today, we sell a wide variety of other OEM products and solutions including ELO Touch, HP Retail, Star Micronics, and Epson. 

LW: What sort of clients do you service?

GC: We do a lot of business with the Cannabis Industry in the U.S.—basically any state where cannabis is legal, whether that be medical or adult-use. We also work with more traditional retail and IT-focused customers. 

LW: Did you always know you wanted to work with cannabis operators, or did that decision come later?

GC: That came along later. We started servicing Cannabis operators because we realized there was a shortage of partners willing to work with the industry, and that was for a variety of reasons. Essentially, it’s a really difficult market to learn: every state is different, and most of them have very different compliance regulations. It’s a great market to work in, but it’s not easy.

Despite all of the risk and fear, we were up for the challenge. Once we saw the industry needed assistance and knew we could provide it, we started building our own book of business, calling around and seeing who needed hardware and support. Operators were in need of better-quality POS systems, and we knew we were equipped to bring that to the table.

LW: What value does better-quality POS PCs and hardware bring to operators?

GC: The return on investment (ROI) is much better when you use POS hardware that was designed specifically for high-volume use. Consumer PCs or Macs that are available from traditional retail stores (WalMart, Costco) are all meant for home-use and won’t be beneficial for you in a retail space.

When you’re using a POS system in a dispensary, you and your team are touching and using it for seven, eight, or nine hours a day. And if you’re using those store-bought tools we mentioned, your machine will wear down very quickly. You’ll have to replace it often, and those PCs don’t come with commercial warranties.

If you use an ELO or HP Retail POS PC then you’ll receive a free standard 3-year warranty, along with a more durable touchscreen surface. ELO and HP Retail manufacture their touchscreens using materials like Gorilla Glass, so you can really beat down on them and they won’t break. You might be spending more at the start, but your hardware will last a lot longer than something cheaper, which is more likely to break and force you to replace it multiple times. 

LW: What services do you provide to the Cannabis Industry?

GC: We approach cannabis uniquely because it’s not Federally legal, so the money that our customers have to spend looks different. A lot of our clients don’t even have a line of credit from a bank or investor to work with, let alone regular access to checks or cards. We often have to do cash payments and pickup, which can get complicated. However, we understand it and we’re willing to work with our customers and accept different forms of payment wherever needed. 

LW: How has PLS helped innovate best practices in the Cannabis Industry?

GC: We’ve exposed operators to different solutions from original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) like Zebra Tech, ELO Touch, HP Retail, and Star Micronics, including features like self-checkout kiosks or different types of barcode scanners and label printers. All of this is now starting to be considered “best practice” among our customers, who are everything from MSOs and regional chains to independent dispensaries and mom-and-pops.  

LW: How can other organizations in the Cannabis Industry be more efficient?

GC: Consolidate label and receipt paper purchasing from a single vendor, like PLS. You can leverage your annual order volume to receive extremely competitive pricing, and it makes it easier for team leads and managers to order from one vendor instead of having to keep track of several. It also allows you to consolidate billing, and you can access unique benefits, like Zebra Technologies’ free print head replacement offer. 

LW: What has been the biggest challenge of working in the Cannabis Industry?

GC: The market in a lot of states is oversaturated, and issues tend to arise where people don’t have a business plan or operating capital to begin with. The biggest challenge for us is making sure the industry understands it’s business—not just pleasure. You need to make sure you have enough money to stay open and operating, and to help open with a stable business plan, your best bet is to partner with a company like PLS. We have support resources that help you understand your plan thoroughly—and that make sense for everyone’s budget.

LW: What is the biggest pro?

A lot more OEMs are beginning to view cannabis as a “real” business, and the industry is being taken more seriously as a result. Ten years ago, the Cannabis market was like a joke to many OEMs. You’d talk to an OEM sales rep and they just wouldn’t understand—they’d think it was a fad. Today, we’re seeing it as a real industry and market, and we’re here to provide long-term support. 

LW: What are Managed Services and why should Cannabis operators use them?

GC: Managed Services is the practice of outsourcing the responsibility for maintaining a range of IT processes and functions. In other words, you can hire a third-party like PLS to manage your IT network and hardware verses paying an in-house IT team. 

This will provide operators with improved operations and reduced budgetary spend through the reduction of labor. 

We charge a monthly rate based on the size of your business/endpoints, and it’s a great way to help you manage your IT infrastructure while reducing operating expenses. 

The alternative would be to hire your own IT lead and build your own team, but then you’re having to worry about labor and other expenses. Operators can also handle their own IT, however they will want to eventually delegate this task to an MSP to be more efficient. 

Our plans are very affordable and we simplify the Managed Services process so we can help you grow and expand your business. 

LW: What’s on the horizon for PLS now?

GC: We’re always looking to partner with new Independent Software Vendors in the industry who might want to delegate hardware support and procurement. We’re also keeping an eye on different states as they approve Medical and Recreational Cannabis sales. New states often bring new opportunities, as well as new challenges for meeting specific compliance guidelines. 

If you’re interested in connecting in person, we’ll be at MJBizCon in Vegas from November 8 – December 1. Come and see us in the IT Pavilion: Booth 7412. 

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