Over 15 years ago now, AFS established our Compass for Excellence. There was a great deal of discussion, debate and contemplation that went into the points on the Compass and in particular the definitions of what was meant by each point for our company. Thinking back to that time, it was really hard work. Even today as I type these words, I find myself getting a bit emotional just thinking about it because that effort was the beginning of something extremely important for our company.  Our Compass for Excellence along with our Core Values established a commitment to who we are and what we aspire the culture of Associated Food Stores to be. Culture is the foundation of any company and I greatly appreciate that our company took the time and energy to define what we wanted that culture to be. The Compass and Core Values are the mirror we hold ourselves up to every day to make sure we stay true to ourselves.  

The symbol of a compass is important because it is a tool that is used to guide the user on their journey. In this case, the intent is to provide guiding principles or standards to use in navigating a decision-making process. In my area of responsibility, we spend a lot of time discussing policy and procedure. But, in my opinion, having sound principles to make decisions by is much more important than policy.  

The order of the points on our Compass is also important. Safety, Courtesy, Experience and Efficiency establish a sequence of filters to be used around decisions that need to be made. If we can answer yes, the decision meets each of those points then it’s a good choice.

  1. North, the first point of the Compass is Safety. Nothing is more important than safety at AFS. No matter the circumstance, nothing should be done if it isn’t physically, emotionally, or financially safe within our risk tolerance.  
  2. Courtesy. We expect that everyone we interact with – our team members, our retailers, our guests, and our vendor partners – will be treated with dignity and respect. We aspire to have a culture and environment that is welcoming to all and where everyone can be who they are and feel like they belong at AFS. 
  3. Experience. When I’m faced with making a decision, if that decision doesn’t create a positive experience or improve a situation, I need to consider an alternative. We always want our team, guests, and retailers we interact with to have a great experience. We pursue excellence in all we do and always work to get better together. It doesn’t mean we will never have difficult discussions but, it must be in the spirit and intent to make a situation better. 
  4. Only after we’ve satisfied the hurdles of Safety, Courtesy and Experience do we consider Efficiency. It may be the most efficient way to do something but, if it isn’t safe, courteous or creates a bad experience we don’t want to do it. Additionally, we seek balance and value in all we do at work, in our families, with friends and within ourselves.  

The Compass for Excellence is a valuable tool for our team at AFS and I believe it is also a great tool in our personal lives as well. If we can stay true to our Compass and Core Values, we can stay on course and make solid decisions. 

Tim Conner is the senior vice president of human resources at Associated Food Stores. Tim joined the AFS team in 1995. When not at work, Tim and his wife, Patty, enjoy gardening and hiking in the beautiful mountains of Utah. Tim returns home to Montana each year for a one-week flyfishing trip with his brother and two nephews.