Making Cannabis Dispensary’s Best Cannabis Companies to Work For list is no easy feat. Making the list two years in a row, as Nevada-based The Grove has, is an even greater accomplishment.
Ranking once again, despite a pandemic that forced nearly every business to change how it functions, is cause for a deep dive into how The Grove maintained a team that was happy and motivated during a year that was anything but.
“There was a lot of team-building automatically due to the fact we were forced to make these changes overnight, and we did it together as a team,” The Grove’s CEO Demetri Kouretas tells CD. “We literally sat together around a table, figuring out the best plan of action, to follow state mandated changes, all while implementing these changes simultaneously. The team effort was amazing to say the least.”
The Grove's Las Vegas Dispensary. Photos courtesy of The Grove
While there were some staff cutbacks due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the economy, Kouretas notes that the bulk of those departures were voluntary (a few were performance-related). As the CEO puts it, this was and remains a brand-new territory that no one had encountered before, and with each employee’s reality being different, “we allowed them to make the decision,” he explains. “I’m never going to judge someone on their fears. That’s not for us to do.”
While seeing team members go is never easy, those who chose to remain were heartened to see the executive team join them on the front lines. For example, when the state issued emergency regulations permitting dispensaries to deliver orders directly to patients and customers, Tiffany Hoven, The Grove’s director of operations, rallied a handful of dispensary team members at midnight to purchase a fleet of cars from a local dealership to support the business’s pivot to delivery. Additionally, at certain points during the pandemic, Kouretas himself was delivering products to customers under the state’s new delivery system.
Sharing the day-to-day struggles with the team bred a lot of “camaraderie” among management and staff, he says. “It’s a big team effort at The Grove, and that’s how we want to continue showing our employees that that’s how we run things here,” Kouretas says.
A factor explaining why so many of The Grove’s team members chose to stay on during the pandemic is that the company covers 50% of its staff members’ health insurance premiums. The pay rate for dispensary employees also is nearly double the state’s minimum wage: The starting salary for dispensary team members is $13/hour, with the average being $15/hour.
Team members, from budtenders to executives, also have opportunities to earn performance incentives for their work and if the company hits its financial goals. For example, retail associates can receive free cannabis products ranging from eighths to ounces, or company swag, for meeting certain sales benchmarks. Likewise, managers can earn rewards for meeting and exceeding their quotas. Additionally, “we hire from within, so growth is always possible,” Hoven says.
For Hoven, the important part of developing an incentives program is that all employees feel like the goals are accessible. That’s why every budtender has the same rewards goals: meet the goal, get the reward no matter how many other team members also hit that goal. Having an incentive program where only the top three performers get a bigger reward can breed animosity and apathy, she says. Instead, incentives are “always based against your own performance. I’m never going to put [employees] against [each other]. I don’t want that negative, ‘Oh, we’ve got people that just are so good at sales. I’m never going to reach that. I give up’ mentality. I don’t want that ever to be what is in someone’s mindset.”
The Grove's Las Vegas dispensary floor
Both Hoven and Kouretas say the top reason employees are happy to work for the company is that management actually takes time to learn about and from them. Kouretas, for example, knows each of the 100 employees’ first names, and many of the company’s processes have changed thanks to feedback from the team members doing the hands-on work. Both executives credit their employees’ dedication throughout the pandemic as the reason the company navigated the murky waters so well.
Because at the end of the day, as Hoven puts it, “The Grove is our employees. It’s us, as a team.”
Editor's note: The Grove also was honored in the 2021 Best Cannabis Companies to Work For - Cultivation program. Read that story on Cannabis Business Times here.