Zen Leaf Illinois: Making a Buck and Making a Difference

Zen Leaf Illinois dispensary
Zen Leaf Illinois dispensary

Newsman Tom Brokaw once said “It’s easy to make a buck. It’s a lot tougher to make a difference.”  Thanks to undertaking a series of strategic changes, Zen Leaf Illinois is doing both.

When the multi-state Zen Leaf partnership took over struggling Chicago-area dispensary Union Group of Illinois in November 2017, the company faced a big challenge. The shop desperately needed a new look and a new outlook. First on the to-do list: change the dispensary’s name. “The name change helped bury the negative stigma of the old organization,” said Marketing Director Dan Scheidt.


Next up: Addressing the bland décor. “We reconfigured the floor plan and lighting to make it open and bright,” said Vice President of Operations Anthony Dindia. “By upgrading the public access area with an open, lofty space, it became an enjoyable place for patients to visit.”

But the shop’s problems extended beyond design and signage. “Patient numbers were declining, and sales were low,” Scheidt said. Under previous management, cash register receipts and inventory counts routinely failed to match. Although human error may have contributed to the license-threatening discrepancy, theft wasn’t the issue. “The staff lacked training in many areas, and [former management] hadn’t implemented best practices,” Chief Retail Operations Officer Anthony Marsico explained.

Zen Leaf’s new managers reevaluated how its existing staff could be leveraged to the best advantage. “We trained every member of our team in all aspects of the day-to-day operations,” Marsico said. The retrained staff was strategically deployed to operate at peak efficiency.

Management installed an inventory tracking system, making products less likely to be misplaced or disappear entirely. Point-of-sale protocols for handling cash were introduced. Both inventory and cash variances have been reduced by 99 percent, according to Marsico.

With solid operational procedures in place, Zen Leaf embarked on a mission to change public perception that the shop was out of sync with patients. “We offer discounts to patients who are veterans, minors, and on Social Security and disability,” Marsico explained.

Anyone can offer discounts, but Zen Leaf also realized the importance of taking medicine seriously. Employees now are devoted to creating a positive, comfortable experience for first-time patients by providing tailored consultations and take-home educational materials. After an initial consultation, Zen Leaf follows up to ensure individualized treatment regimens are working.

The physical and environmental modifications have benefitted the dispensary, Scheidt said. “Our social media and Google reviews have shown a complete 180-degree turnaround,” he revealed. Zen Leaf’s sales have tripled over the past year, and the shop experienced a 200-percent increase in registered patients.

But Zen Leaf measures success in more than numbers. “There are patients that bake [unmedicated] cookies for the staff to say ‘thank you,’” Dindia said. “We are consistently receiving phone calls from our patients thanking us and telling us they just feel better.”