Meet the Collective is our series highlighting the great people who make up Collective Health. Today, we’re sitting down with James Parr, SVP of Sales.
To hear from James in person, please join our Meet the Collective webinar on February 11 at 11am ET.
Where are you from?
I am originally from Ohio, but have moved around quite a bit for work from Connecticut, to San Francisco, Boulder, Manhattan Beach and back here to the Bay Area.
What happened in your career that led you to Collective Health?
I have seen the industry change over the last 23 years and being on the West Coast working with innovative employers has really opened my eyes to a lot. I’ve seen the shift in the dynamics of what people are looking for, and they want change. And to be fair, it’s not just startups, it’s national accounts, it’s startups that become national accounts, and employers of all sizes and industries are looking for a better experience. It all stems from a desire to make sure employees are taken care of. I have seen how Collective Health has evolved and along the way the company has been proactive in building this organization the smart way and bringing the healthcare ecosystem together.
What excites you most about where Collective Health is going?
I have watched Collective Health from afar for six years and seen the changes. The leadership has been proactive in anticipating where the market is going — understanding the need for flexibility and sophistication, as the dynamics of healthcare change. I would say that the organization has prepared itself well to grow into the future. There’s been really great foresight, and I see this as a momentous time for Collective Health. I am excited for what the next few years will look like for Collective Health and I believe it is building the right solution for where the market is going.
What’s one of the most important lessons you’ve learned in your career?
I would say it is to believe in your strengths — I think one of mine is to see the big picture. So often in anything that happens, people get narrowly focused and may not see all the options on the table. I have found it is valuable to step back and see the big picture.
When I thought about joining Collective Health I was in a comfortable position with a great company that I worked at for nearly 24 years, but I took a step back and saw where the industry was going and how the workforce was changing. That was important in making a decision that drove me to Collective Health.
What’s your favorite thing to do?
I love spending time with my family — my wife and I have two daughters, one in third grade and one in seventh. Coaching has been a huge part of my life, being able to be there and coach them in both soccer and basketball has been such an amazing experience. I’ve come to know their friends, we’ve traveled together and I believe you learn so many life lessons through organized sports.
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? How does that inform what you do today?
I started in pre-med but that didn’t last too long. I wanted to be a doctor or lawyer, and then I realized those professions may not be as glamorous as they appear.
Is there something you’re passionate about that carried through?
I think coaching has been a common thread throughout my life. Whether it’s for my kids or in my professional life; I think my passion for it has evolved throughout my career. And while I do help coach and lead, it’s really about helping people gain more success, being a team player, driving the company forward. That’s another thing that attracted me to this role — I really value the opportunity to serve as a mentor and help people reach their full potential.
What is your history at Cigna?
I started in the service organization in Ohio and transitioned to sales effectiveness in our Connecticut home office — a role that really opened my eyes to the possibility of dealing with customers and prospects directly. I began my formal sales career in San Francisco, and after stops in Denver and Los Angeles I found my way back to the Bay Area. I then took a role on the account executive side of client management — which really helped me to understand how an employer thinks and to own the delivery of what was sold. I worked with large innovative clients, helping them build forward-looking products and solutions in the benefits space. After putting in my time, I finally landed the role I was looking for, consultatively selling to large employers in the West as the National Sales Team lead. Being close enough to see how these companies work and think was fascinating. But ultimately, I noticed many of them were looking for more — often packaging together their own programs, networks, and point solutions while still searching for the holistic overarching user experience for both the employer and the employee. It was then that I finally made the move to Collective Health.
What do you think has been a driver of this change in the market? Is it about the ecosystem and putting it all in one place? And how has this played a role in talent attraction and retention for employers?
Benefits are certainly a talent attraction and retention tool. It’s tough competition for talent and being able to create the slightest competitive edge becomes important. And I think the changes that employers are making have largely been driven by the noise created by existing employees, asking for a better experience.
Many employers provide their members with a variety of benefits but there has been no easy way to see it all cohesively. There has been this massive proliferation of digital health point solutions but on their own sometimes they are solving for super specific things — like a benefit for managing a chronic condition. In some ways, I think the traditional way of doing things with benefits was similar to having a gym membership — with your monthly fee to a gym you will have access to a variety of different types of classes under one fee but some programs may not be truly best in class. Some people forgo going to one gym and prefer going to specialized studios — but there is no way to track or organize all the disparate studios or solutions you have in your routine. In healthcare — Collective Health can be that best-in-class platform that serves as the connector that gives employees a truly holistic view of the benefits their employer offers and enables that ecosystem to work in harmony with each other — across all of their solutions — medical, dental, pharmacy, network, and their point solutions.
What’s your favorite quote?
“Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans,” a lyric by John Lennon. Some people can overthink and over-plan and meanwhile life will just pass you by. I challenge myself to try to live in the moment. I finally had that moment to move over here. It was a big decision but it really wasn’t, I saw the big picture of where I wanted to go.
Was there a single thing about Collective Health that attracted you?
I have watched from afar, pitched in the same room as Collective Health, and have seen the business landscape change — for me this opportunity was right. And, the recent hires from the industry have been impressive. In talking to Ali, the conversation was really honest in how Collective Health has grown and evolved since I first started following the company.
Hidden talents or lack of talents?
My friends laugh at how I always manage to mention that I was once upon a time an All-State Soccer Player and am in my High School Athletic Hall of Fame (did I just do it again?) — but I can also juggle, am a human iPod, and make a mean Moscow mule.