South Country Co-op, Alberta

South Country Co-op (South Country) prides itself on its commitment to creating safe and productive workplaces. The company is known for investing highly in its staff and empowers team members to take ownership and make decisions in the best interests of their fellow employees and their customers. This has paid off enormously for the organization, through staff retention, customer loyalty and, now, winning CAAR’s 2018 Retailer of the Year award, sponsored by Bayer CropScience Inc.

Paul Haynes, interim CEO of South Country Co-op, says fostering long-term, trusted relationships with customers has been fundamental to the team’s success. After hearing about South Country’s win, Haynes was quick to credit the team for the work they’ve done to build and maintain these relationships over the years.

“We have been in these communities for decades and our team members have built great relationships with our local producers,” says Haynes. “By knowing our customers and listening to their concerns, we help them make the best decisions for their farm. It’s not always about price but having what the farmer needs when he needs it.”

We have been in these communities for decades and our team members have built great relationships with our local producers. Paul Haynes

To meet the needs of their customers during the busy season, local producers can count on the South Country team to be available 24-7. At seeding and harvest, the team puts in what Haynes calls “a tremendous amount” of time, ensuring their customers always have access to product and great service.

It’s that kind of commitment to service that earned South Country Co-op its recognition at the CAAR’s Choice Awards. The Retailer of the Year award is presented annually to one CAAR member who continually goes above and beyond, demonstrating excellence in customer service, employee relations, business innovation and community leadership.

In his letter to support South Country’s nomination, producer Ben Wurz says that the customer service that he has received is the best his farm has ever had from a retailer, and he can always count on the South Country team for getting the job done.

“Early or late, they’re always there to service our needs with delivery or the agronomy and hardware help we need,” said Wurz. “It’s satisfying to know that you’re speaking with very knowledgeable people who care about the customer. That they’re community-first is a big bonus.”

Being “community-first” isn’t just lip-service at South Country; one of their core values is to care for and support their local communities. Over the past three years, the company has donated over $700,000 to the communities they serve, providing funding and volunteer support to local non-profit programs, sporting events, community BBQs and gatherings.

“Being part of our communities is what we are about,” says Haynes. “We are the first to always step up to sponsor any community event, and if there is a need for volunteers, our team members are there to help out.”

Serving Southern Alberta

South Country Co-op is a member-owned co-operative with locations in 19 communities across Southern Alberta, with a diverse offering of food, pharmacy, liquor, gas, petroleum and agro. In 2017, the company acquired an agro-fertilizer operation in Foremost, bringing their total locations offering agro services to 10.

The 10 South Country Co-op agro locations are all a little different in the products they offer, and in the services they provide, but the one thing that is the same across all locations is the passionate commitment to their customers and the communities they serve.

As a member-owned organization, South Country also works hard to ensure their members see good value in their membership. Haynes says his team is looking to expand its agro offerings in 2019 to improve efficiencies, which will improve their bottom line and give members greater patronage refunds.

The South Country team knows a lot about growth and, according to Bruce Buckingham, the operations manager of Agro/Petro, they’ve continually risen to the challenge. When he accepted the Retailer of the Year award on behalf of the organization at the CAAR’s Choice Awards, Buckingham said it has been a humbling experience to witness the team’s development.

“Since 2012, we’ve grown exponentially, and it’s been a fast-paced, tough ride,” said Buckingham. “It’s all about the people and, with the support and the tools, it’s amazing what these people can do. It’s been a really great experience.”

Do you know a CAAR member who deserves to be recognized? Click here to download application forms for the 2019 CAAR’s Choice Awards.

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