Meet our Chief Science Officer and Certified Food Scientist, Scott Riefler, who applied his food and beverage knowledge and experience to create SōRSE, our water-soluble emulsion technology for infusing beverages, food items, topicals and nutraceuticals. Before entering the food and beverage world, Scott worked as an advanced materials scientist in the aerospace industry. By nature, Scott is a teacher; he is a wealth of knowledge on a variety of subjects and is a mentor to many of SōRSE’s employees. When Scott is not at work, you can find him spending time with his wife and daughter, practicing yoga, and making a mean loaf of sourdough bread, which is also a science!
After working in the aerospace industry and at TIC Gums, how did you end up at SōRSE?
Serendipitously. I was at a concert with a friend who had brought a friend, and in chatting, I asked him what he was up to. He said he had left Microsoft and had entered the cannabis space, which I thought sounded pretty interesting. As we continued talking, I let him know that I had recently retired, and I mentioned something about the edibles platform. He then rattled off a whole bunch of reasons why it couldn’t be done. It gets me pretty excited when somebody tells me you can’t do something, so I responded by saying that I had some ideas that might work. That led to lab work, ultimately delivering his version of the impossible. It was revolutionary to the people who were working at the startup, which led to an invitation to join the team.
In your time with the company, what are you most proud of?
I am proud of watching a cohesive team form and exploit the value or the potential value this technology brings. I am proud that we have adopted a food business mentality with everything that goes with it in terms of food safety. I am most proud of the progress the team and my colleagues make.
What do you love about your work, and what do you find challenging?
I love that it’s applied technology into new frontiers. It’s new — we are pressing into the not-yet-possible with incredible speed. At times, I do struggle with setting high expectations and then delivering, so what is most challenging for me is outwardly projecting a realistic level of expectations while keeping my internal, unbridled enthusiasm a bit hidden. I often feel I wish I could be a stronger contributor. I do my best to practice that serenity poem.
At SōRSE and outside of SōRSE, you are a teacher – you mentor scientists, and you give presentations to people inside and outside of the cannabis industry. Why is sharing your knowledge with others important to you?
There are several levels to this. I follow the teachings and philosophies of a few people. In the world of systems, I am a W. Edward Deming disciple. I believe very strongly in his principles. In selling cycles, I believe in spin selling completely — so there are several facets to this answer.
First of all, everybody sells and everybody should be selling 100% of the time. One of the cornerstones for successful selling is first building trust. If you don’t first build trust, it is going to be very hard to get someone to give you their money. Sharing knowledge and educating is fundamental to building trust. For example, if I go to buy a car, and I find out early in the game that I know more about the car than the salesperson does, that person is never going to sell me a car. If the sales manager doesn’t listen to my request to talk to someone more knowledgeable than me, then they have lost my trust. We absolutely need to listen to the customer and hear what they are saying.
I also believe that I practice the idea of leaving it better than I found it. Something that we all inherently have is knowledge we share, particularly knowledge on topics other people may not have. If you can figure that part out, then leaving it better than you found it is become easy…paying it forward, if you will.
Back to selling — we are attempting to build a brand; we are attempting to get our phone to ring. One of the ways to build that brand and earn trust is to have our brand recognized as an authority in our space. Being invited to speak at industry symposiums, trade shows, attendance at our webinars, or even conversations with major customers is an indication that the marketplace sees us and our brand as an authority figure in our space. This is critical, it’s bedrock, it’s the foundation for us to be able to sell our product. Thus, it is incumbent for every one of us to be a teacher.
Then of course there is the burning platform theory — as a company, we need to continually grow and educate our employees, and acknowledge how important it is that employees are always training and learning. You can’t learn through osmosis. Personally, I am constantly reading and attending seminars; I make a personal effort to constantly upgrade my training and then pass that knowledge on to others. I want to help people become “dangerous” and turn them into dangerous players in their space, and for me, that is almost always about knowledge and experience.
If you were to give a piece of advice to someone entering this industry, what would it be?
The first thing I would say is that nothing is special about this industry. Anyone who says that it is, is wrong; they are likely smoking the product. Work hard, never substitute knowledge for familiarity, make sure it is your passion, and have fun.
To end, this is one of my favorite quotes: “If we knew what we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?” Albert Einstein