Parallel (formerly known as Surterra Wellness) is one of the largest privately held, vertically integrated, multi-state cannabis companies in the world with a mission to pioneer well-being and improve the quality of life through cannabinoids. Parallel owns and operates retail dispensaries in four medical and adult-use markets: Surterra Wellness in Florida and Texas; New England Treatment Access (NETA) in Massachusetts, and The Apothecary Shoppe in Nevada. The company has a diverse portfolio of high quality, proprietary and licensed consumer brands and products including Surterra Wellness, Coral Reefer, and Float. Parallel operates approximately 50 retail stores nationwide, including cultivation and manufacturing sites across the four states.
Executive Spotlight: Stevens Sainte-Rose
1) What is your title?
Chief Human Resources Officer
2) How many years have you been with Parallel ?
I have been with Parallel since September 2019. Prior to joining Parallel, I served in senior leadership positions with global companies such as The Coca-Cola Company, Walgreens Boots Alliance and Dawn Foods.
3) Where did you study?
I received my B.A. in Industrial and Labor Relations from Cornell University, and I completed my M.S. in Organizational Dynamics from the University of Pennsylvania.
4) What is your most successful professional accomplishment before cannabis?
In addition to my current role, I am also the Founder and Principal at Chase the Experiences, an executive coaching practice with a focus on creating more successful executive-level transitions and driving better diversity and inclusion. I also have certifications in The Myers-Briggs Company, Certified Emotional Intelligence 2.0 and Certified Professional Executive Coach.
5) What is Parallel’s mission?
Parallel is one of the largest privately held, vertically integrated, multi-state cannabis companies in the world with a mission to pioneer well-being and improves the quality of life through cannabinoids. We follow rigorous operations and business practices to help ensure the quality, safety, consistency, and efficacy of our products and are building our business by following strong values and putting the well-being of our customers and employees first.
6) What has been your team’s most successful achievement to date?
At Parallel our goal is to be the employer of choice in the cannabis and retail industries where we attract, engage, develop and retain top talent at all levels of the organization. This best positions us as a retailer of choice for our customers and allows us to carry out our mission every day to improve their quality of life through cannabinoids.
To do this we focus on three things:
1) World class rewards and well-being benefits programs
2) Top notch professional and management development programs at all levels.
3) Strong culture of shared purpose and engagement.
In 2020, while we made progress against all three areas, we are very proud of our total rewards and well-being benefits programs. We have benchmarked our offerings against cannabis, retail, consumer product goods and healthcare industries. These are largely where we pull our talent. We are the market leader against cannabis and retail industries and very competitive against CPG and healthcare industries. Examples of our offers include:
● 401k with company discretionary match
● Tuition reimbursement
● Employee Relief Fund
● Suite of Life Assistance and mental health programs
● Product discount
● Pet insurance
In addition, all employees have shares of the company as we want all to be part of the company’s long term success. These examples along with very attractive healthcare, dental, and vision
coverage are incorporated within our benefits package. Our offerings are informed by us listening to our employees and surveying them to understand what’s most important to them as
well as benchmarking against other industry best practices. In 2021, we will look to accelerate our portfolio of offers in buckets 2 and 3 with a suite of professional and management development programs and cultural engagement programs to unite our team. Examples of what’s in development include:
● “Homegrown,” our internal management trainee program for hourly associates
● Diversity and cultural leadership programs (led by a Diversity Council with established
employee resource groups)
● Product expertise and certification programs
● “Parallel Cares” program which includes company support of each employee’s charity of
choice through a matching contribution
We will leverage our established monthly pulse engagement survey to verify our activities are
truly impacting and engaging our employees.
7) How did the team execute this achievement?
While our customers and patients are what we get up every morning to serve, the core of what makes this happen is our employees, especially our front-line hourly employees. Our offerings are informed by us listening to our employees and surveying them to understand what’s most important to them. Also, we consistently benchmark ourselves against other industries and best practices to help ensure we are leading the market. Lastly, this cannot happen without leadership support, engagement, and role modeling.
8) What is your team working on right now that is unique in the industry?
This year we really took a step back and took inventory of what type of benefits are most desired by our employees. Stemming from a survey we conducted, we decided to create new programs including pet insurance and tuition reimbursement given that the typical age range of our employees is 30-32 years old. We’re also extremely proud of two new initiatives available for our employees. Our Employee Relief Fund, which is designed to support associates who experience financial hardships and is funded by the generosity of both associates and their leaders. Grants to associates provide monetary assistance to cover expenses like transportation, food, utilities, and funeral expenses that stem from eligible events. This was a system in the works before COVID-19 but is increasingly dependent upon as the pandemic continues on. Secondly, our Better Together program offers a one-time award of Restricted Stock Units (RSUs) valued at 10% of annual base pay, allowing associates to benefit from the long-term growth of Parallel’s values. Both of these initiatives are quite unique not only for the cannabis industry but the American business industry at large.
9) What are your predictions for 2021 in your particular segment of the industry?
At Parallel we are taking the long-term view of our company, and as cannabis continues to become a fixture, we want to be the lead in offering the most competitive benefits. The cannabis industry continues to attract talent from many industries and will continue to do so – talent who is interested in joining the industry today, and may not have even considered it a couple of years ago. We want to be a leader in being the most competitive in how we provide benefits and rewards so we can attract, and importantly, retain the best talent, and help those entering the business or their first job develop professionally.
10) What are your team’s long term goals?
At Parallel our goal is to be the employer of choice in the cannabis and retail industries where we attract, engage, develop, and retain top talent at all levels of the organization. This best positions us as a retailer of choice for our customers and allows us to carry out our mission every day to improve their quality of life through cannabinoids.