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The Absolutes

The Associated Retail Stores Absolutes

The Beginning

One year ago, Associated Retail Stores decided we needed to change the way we did business. We needed to change how we think, how we act, and most importantly, how we approach our business. We understood that this meant we need to change our culture. We needed to be better at the basics, better in the fundamentals, and we needed to connect with the guests.

We asked ourselves how can we be different? The answers were obvious; we can develop relationships, solve problems, and alleviate stress. We needed to focus our change on our people as they are at the heart of our business.

So we began our change. We started with something simple; we changed the title of our store director. Instead of calling the people who run our stores Store Directors, we began calling them Store Leaders. With this, we offered training and programs to teach them how to be leaders instead of managers. We wanted problem solvers, not micromanagers. Store Leaders needed to develop their people and improve relationships.

After making this change and seeing positive results, we soon realized that although we had true leaders in our stores, we had no depth in the company. When one Store Leader moved up in the company, there was no one ready to take their place as a leader and developer of people. It was determined that we needed to restructure the leadership in the stores. We created three new positions in each store. These positions were equivalent to each other, and only one step below the Store Leader. Although they had different titles, they were each Assistant Store Leaders in charge of different areas of the store. We call them the Executive Team. This created a pipeline of individuals who were ready to become Store Leaders. It improved execution during the evening and nighttime hours as there were now Executive Team members in the store at all times.

We now had, in essence, four store leaders in each store. We needed a way to train them, to really improve the culture in the store, and to become the best in the industry. Enter the Absolutes. One might ask, “What are the absolutes? What does that even mean?” The Absolutes are fundamental principles. It’s how and why we do things. They are the governing behaviors and the principles that align our vision of the company we want to become. In short, the Absolutes are how and why we do business.

What’s Next?

The Absolutes were first introduced nearly one year ago. Since that time, the culture at Associated Retail Stores has improved drastically, but we’re not done yet. We realize that although we intend to improve the culture and environment in our stores, culture cannot stand alone.

We restructured the leadership in the stores which provides us with an organizational structure and foundation; these are the bones of our operations. The absolutes create the behavioral structure in our stores; they are the skin of our operations. But nothing can live and function with only skin and bones to operate it. Thus we have the experiences of our team members and our guests. These are the spirit and the brain of our operations. Without them we fail.
Associated Retail Stores still has a long way to go.

The ARS Absolutes is only the first step to becoming the company we want to be. Once we have mastered the ARS Absolutes, each banner will tackle and then master their own banner specific absolutes. We need to know who we are and what makes us different. Then we begin the segmentation process where we discover who our guests are and how best to serve them. Lastly we practice entrepreneurship. We go the extra mile, we take calculated risks, and we “be extraordinary”

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