This past November, Phil Stevens was selected as the Exchange’s first chief administrative officer (CAO). Stevens explains his background and priorities for his new position in this Exchange Post interview.
What are your top priorities as chief administration officer?
I was blessed to inherit a great team ̶ capable, diligent and passionate about serving Soldiers, Airmen and their families. Fortunately, even great teams can get better, so the chief administration office (CAO) leadership team and I will pursue every opportunity to make the business of the Exchange as efficient and agile as possible. From policy to procurement to legal reviews, everything we do will add value to the corporate mission. Our strategy is to integrate our efforts with the businesses we support. For example, procedures for procurement and general counsel will be built into the whole process rather than bolted on to the beginning or end.
“Money can’t buy passion or loyalty, but our mission and culture build it.”
Can you explain this new role and how it will enhance Exchange senior leadership?
As CAO, I am responsible for several support functions critical to the success of the Exchange, including the IT Directorate, Procurement, Strategic Planning & Partnerships, General Counsel, Executive Group, and Equal Employment Opportunity, Diversity and Inclusion (EEODI).
While General Counsel’s responsibility may seem unrelated to technology, they share important attributes. Both are positively impactful if they are involved as partners rather than service providers. Procurement seems different from IT, but understanding business strategy and requirements is critical to both. Policy and information security are similar in that both can seem like brakes on progress. A security professional once asked, “How fast could you drive your car if you didn’t have brakes?” My role is to bring experience as a partner, bring an understanding of the business requirements and give the business confidence to drive faster, knowing we can tap the brakes when needed to steer through the twists and turns of a competitive environment.
What will 2018 bring to the Exchange? Will there be any challenges, and how do you see the Exchange overcoming them?
The challenges we have faced for the past few years will accelerate. Strong retail competitors encourage our customers to set high expectations for their shopping experience, but they want the price low. Customers expect us to understand who they are and proactively offer products that interest them. Meeting those expectations requires every associate to be fully engaged through world-class EEODI initiatives. Meeting those expectations also requires us to streamline our processes, allowing business leaders maximum agility and reducing back-office expenses to pay for an investment in customer-facing capabilities. Technology will be critical to delivering those capabilities seamlessly across channels. The CAO team will be at the heart of the mission to serve the best customers in the world.
Can you tell us about your background and do you or your family have military connections?
My father served as a corpsman in the Navy and then transferred to the Marine Corps. One of my brothers followed in Dad’s footsteps by serving in the Marine Corps, but Dad was not too disappointed when I decided to serve in the Air Force.
Is there anything else you would like Exchange associates to know about you?
For me, our mission is the perfect combination of my service in the Air Force with my 20 years of retail experience. Equally motivating is our “family serving family” culture. We work long, hard hours so co-workers become our family. Our customers are the military family so many of us grew up or served in. Best of all, we are not asked to give up the families we leave at home each morning ̶ our culture encourages us to support and care for them first. Money can’t buy passion or loyalty, but our mission and culture build it.