The Three Amigos

Exemplifying the True Meaning of Solution Provider Partner: An Interview with Kevin Lynch, Mike Grady, and Rex Gillette

loss prevention requirements

EDITOR: Tell us what your current role and responsibilities are.

GILLETTE: I am currently vice president of retail sales for ADT/Protection 1, where I am responsible for retail national account sales. I first started in the industry in 1983 working for Bob Oberosler and Bob McCort at Hecht’s Department Store as a store-level LP associate. I joined Sensormatic Electronics Corporation in 1984 and have worked in this industry my entire career. Over the years, I have held a variety of sales positions starting as a sales rep, moving on to sales management roles including managing director of Asia Pacific operations and vice president of retail national accounts for Sensormatic. I was also part of the Vector Security team for two years before joining Protection 1 in 2010, which then became a part of the ADT team in 2016.

GRADY: I’m approaching my 35th year with Vector Security. During that time, I have served in many capacities, including sales, sales management, general management, and corporate marketing and support. Currently, I’m responsible for leading the Vector Security Networks national sales and CRM effort. Vector Security Networks is the business line within Vector Security that provides single-source solutions for physical security and managed network services.

LYNCH: Currently, I am the executive director of business development for Johnson Controls Retail Loss Prevention Division in North America. I am on the board of directors of the Loss Prevention Foundation, and I am the company’s representative on the vendor advisory board of LP Magazine. I started in 1984 with Sensormatic. We now operate as Tyco Retail Solutions, which is owned by Johnson Controls.

EDITOR: Talk about the LP executive when you began in this business, their priorities and mission, and how it is differentor the sametoday.

GILLETTE: I think the mission has basically remained the same throughout the years, helping retailers control their losses and improve their profits. What has changed is the technology and tools that help LP executives bring greater value to their organizations. Back in the day for the most part, LP wasn’t directly part of the executive-level discussions. Today, the LP executives are an integral part of the overall business.

GRADY: Years ago, the average LP executive concentrated and focused almost exclusively on shrink, physical security, and safety. Today, the risks have changed, and LP professionals are addressing issues and challenges that span the entire organization. Physical security threats, terrorism, and the loss of proprietary information are high-level risks that are beginning to fall under the LP area of responsibility. They are interfacing much more with other teams, such as IT and marketing, within their organizations to become more effective. When I meet with LP executives today, I feel they have a much better sense of the overall business and can identify what is driving their success, and how they can contribute to the bottom line.

LYNCH: When I started in the business, the customer’s title was security director. These individuals were typically retired state policemen or retired FBI agents whose job performance was predicated on how many shoplifters they apprehended. If you see how the title has changed, it reflects a change in the skill set needed to be successful in the retail landscape today. Asset protection vice presidents are now valued contributors in the executive suite. The best LP executives are as concerned about sales and operations as they are about shrinkage reduction. These men and women are return-on-investment business people.

EDITOR: Have you changed how you do your job from yesterday to today?

GILLETTE: No, my job is, and will continue to be, helping our customers meet and beat the challenges they face through innovative technology. I have also focused on forging strong relationships with the LP executives and maintaining those relationships through the years.

GRADY: Since the majority of my career has been in sales and sales leadership, I would have to say that my concentration, past and present, is driving my team to create new business opportunities and grow market share. My leadership style has most certainly changed as I continue to work on developing my ability to lead and manage multiple generations of team members, all with different values and needs.

LYNCH: Today’s vendors that sell to LP departments need to be more tech savvy and solutions-oriented than ever before. The days of making your quota selling EAS tags is over. The way the customer is buying today is based on an expanded understanding of loss. For example, online purchases with in-store pickup now dictate that salespeople need to be up to speed on data analytics, RFID inventory, and more sophisticated video solutions. The constant pressure to reduce costs means the sales person must understand self-checkout, mobile POS, and more. All these new areas bring new challenges to loss prevention executives. They are challenging their vendor partners to get creative on how to combat these avenues of loss.

Rex Gillette

EDITOR: What do you respect most about today’s LP leaders?

GILLETTE: Unlike a lot of industries, our LP executives come from within the industry. Most started out in store-level positions and have worked their way up to executives based on their track record, experience, and knowledge. I respect and admire that attribute in our industry.

GRADY: Without a doubt, I most respect their ability to develop teams that are cross-functional and engaged in multiple aspects of the business. From day one working in the retail space, I have always been impressed with LP leaders’ team building and developmental skills and strategies. They are exceptional head coaches and team managers.

LYNCH: The best LP executives aren’t afraid to step out and try new things. Bob Oberosler using facial recognition, Mike Lamb installing electronic public view monitors in creative ways, and Mark Stinde deploying ClickIt’s Virtual Line Up are great examples of thinking outside the box. In addition, they all evaluate projects based on research, pilot programs, and dashboards.

EDITOR: What troubles you about some of the leaders today?

GRADY: The slow pace of adapting or adjusting to changes in technology. We work in an environment that is networked together, including all the components and devices LP relies on to mitigate risk and protect people and property. LP leaders must get more in sync with the functionality, benefits, and risks of living on the network. They need to develop relationships with their IT teams and have a seat at the table when the CIO or CTO are building a prevention strategy.

LYNCH: I think today’s leaders are doing the best they can. The challenge is that they don’t have the time to really analyze and test solutions. And of course, there is constant budget pressure. Sometimes they leave analysis up to procurement, who doesn’t understand the full value chain. I like to think a strong vendor partner goes “beyond the RFP” for customers we know well. We use our relationship to call out totally new areas of value and savings. I am troubled if time and other pressures mean that our team can’t come to the table with real, integrated solutions, instead of just an RFP bid.

EDITOR: What do you want the buyer or LP executive to believe about you and your company?

GILLETTE: In May of 2016, ADT was purchased by Apollo Global Management and merged with Protection 1. Protection 1’s CEO Tim Whall was named CEO of the combined organization bringing his passion for customer service to the company at a national scale. In less than two years, the company has worked hard to redefine itself and adopt Protection 1’s mission of delivering world-class customer service to our clients. We have brought personal, high-touch customer service to ADT at an unmatched nationwide scale.

Here are a few examples. In most cases, we now offer same-day or next-day service and show up when we say we are going to show up. We offer our exclusive Tech Tracker service that lets our customers know when their service technician will arrive, his or her qualifications, and even a picture of the technician. We have unplugged our automated phone system-people answer our customer calls. We offer dedicated teams in our National Account Operations Center that work together managing every aspect of our national account and enterprise customers’ accounts, from installation and service to monitoring alarm activity and billing. And we now offer dedicated security-only network design, installation, and monitoring along with a host of cyber-security solutions.

Mike Grady, LPC

GRADY: We are a company with strong character and a culture of innovation and leadership. We value our employees and our customers. We can adapt to change and are financially stable. As a one-source solution for managed network services and physical security, Vector Security Networks is a provider who understands your business and can create and integrate the right mix of solutions. This value that we bring becomes increasingly important as LP continues to work cross-functionally within the business.

LYNCH: I want the LP executive to know that I have his or her back. I invented a term that I call the “commutative property of credibility.” This is the notion that if you maintain your “personal credibility” with the customer, then the company you represent will have credibility. I was profoundly affected by the scene in Miracle on 34th Street where the Santa Claus tells the child to go across the street to buy a better-made product at a lower price. I can’t tell you the number of times I have done this in my career. I took a page from Ernest and Julio Gallo and made the comment to customers: “We will sell no system until it’s time.” If it doesn’t work, take it back, and you maintain your credibility with the customer.

EDITOR: If it is not always about price, what should it be about?

GILLETTE: It should always start with customer service and understanding the true needs of the clients and offering leading-edge technologies to meet those needs. If you can meet the needs of your customers with a product or service they need, not just what a company has to sell, then often decisions based solely on price become less prevalent.

GRADY: Value and reputation. As I mentioned earlier, our value is in our ability to act as a single-source solution for managed network services and physical security. We deliver white-glove professional services through a single point of contact. We have the strength of a national company, but remain focused on personalized, prompt service.

LYNCH: It should be about trust. When things go south in the field, you don’t want to have to put out an APB for your vendor. Good salespeople look at the signing of a deal as the start of the hard work, not the end of it.

EDITOR: Give us a story that may be humorous or unique in your career in retail dealing with the LP executive.

GRADY: I’ve been around for a while, so I’ve been fortunate to spend quality time with many LP executives. Most of the memorable humor surfaced after the dinner hour at an industry conference when a small group of execs and vendors would get together and unwind and tell stories and laugh all night. What a great group of charactersyou know who you are!

LYNCH: As a young salesman, I had Marshalls as an account. You, Mr. Lee, had just taken over as the VP of loss prevention with a tremendous reputation coming from the Broadway Stores on the West Coast. You had bought a brand-new Continental Mark VII when you arrived. Maybe the third time I came to the headquarters, you asked me if I played golf. I said “Yes.” You said, “Do you have your clubs?” I said “Yes.” You said, “Well, let’s go play golf.” I was so excited that you had asked me to play golf, when I followed you out of the parking lot, I plowed right into the back of your new Mark VII. I was totally mortified and thought my career was over. All you did was get out of the car, look at me and shake your head, and never said another word about it. I knew then and there we would become great friends.

EDITOR: Had you not been in this career, what might you have chosen to do?

GILLETTE: I started my career in this industry, and it has been a long and fulfilling one, so I really haven’t thought about doing anything different.

GRADY: I’ve always toyed with going to law school and becoming a lawyer. I even took the LSAT. I can hang with the best of themdebate, deliberate, and banterso I think I could have been a decent litigator.

Kevin Lynch, LPC

LYNCH: I would have been a naval officer. I was programmed to have that career. I did it for six years. When I found that people actually shot at you, I figured I could find a better job with better pay.

EDITOR: You three have known each other for years. Tell us the real story about the other two.

GILLETTE: I have had the privilege of working with both Mike and Kevin over the years and am glad to call them both friends. Both are well-respected players in the industry and have made many contributions over the years. As for Kevin, he is one of the best story tellers out there and is always around to give you a good laugh.

GRADY: Early when I talked about a great group of characters, Kevin and Rex were usually among the characters. Both of these gentlemen are true professionals and effective contributors to our industry. I consider them both good friends.

LYNCH: Rex Gillette and Mike Grady are two of the finest guys I’ve met, not just in the business but also in my life. Their empathy for the people they lead and their credibility in the marketplace is unparalleled.

I worked with and for Rex for the better part of twenty years. He is one “cool customer.” Rex is a competitor who plays well under pressure. He is a family man and remembers where he came from.

Mike has been a friend of mine since the 1980s. He has always been an ethical, fierce competitor. He is a true leader in every sense of the word. Mike is the definitive “elegant gentleman.”

EDITOR: Have you had mentors in the business, and what did you take from them?

GILLETTE: I have been fortunate to have had many mentors throughout my career. As I mentioned before, Bob Oberosler and Bob McCort at Hecht’s helped me when I first started in the industry and gave me a perspective on what it means to be in LP from a retailers’ point of view. Industry veteran Jack Brown hired me at Sensormatic and taught me the ropes from the supplier side. Henry Wurtele was instrumental in coaching me into sales management positions, and Ron Premuroso guided me when I worked in Asia teaching me to how to run a P&L. Fast forward to today and Bob Dale continues to help me advance my career.

GRADY: I have had many mentors in this business over the past years and each has taught me many valuable lessons. The one common message I have taken from each is to not promise what you can’t deliver.

LYNCH: If I look at the landscape of people that I have trusted to get where I am today, there are quite a few-Bobby Dale, Jeff Bean, Ed Foley-all have trusted in me and given me sage advice. I think the person who I have had as a customer at Marshalls, worked with at The Network and beside at the LP Foundation is you! Jim Lee is a “Father Confessor” to the best minds in retail loss prevention. Whenever I have a pressing business dilemma or a life decision, you’re on speed dial. I thank you for being there.

EDITOR: If you could offer one piece of advice to industry professionals, what would it be?

GILLETTE: Do your job with honesty, integrity, and never forget to focus on your customers.

GRADY: I would say get involved in our industry. There are a variety of groups that offer valuable opportunities for continuing education and staying abreast of the industry in general. The LP industry is continually evolving, and in order to be successful, you need to stay relevant. Industry organizations are a great way to do that, while forming lasting relationships with peers.

LYNCH: Live every day as if it’s your last because one day you’re going to be right!

EDITOR: Mike and Kevin, you were both founding members of the Loss Prevention Foundation. What has that meant to you?

GRADY: I have benefited a great deal from serving on the board of LPF from the start. I continue to respect and be inspired by those individuals who invest their time to study and prepare for the exams in an effort to strengthen their knowledge and develop their skills. Their dedication will continue to make a difference in the LP profession.

LYNCH: I never thought I would be in this industry for this long. I have met great people, and it has provided financial security for my family. The foundation is a way of giving back and providing a venue for furthering the retail loss prevention profession. The foundation provides a way for individuals to be successful through the certification process. I was proud to be the first solution provider to acquire an LPC. I am honored to have that designation after my name on my business card.

EDITOR: Mike, you are highly respected for your leadership in establishing a scholarship program for young people to obtain certification. Talk about that initiative.

GRADY: This year marks Vector Security’s tenth anniversary of the LPF scholarship program. The program was designed to reward and assist qualified individuals who otherwise may be hindered by the costs associated with obtaining this certification. We are proud to celebrate this successful and ongoing partnership with the Loss Prevention Foundation and value the contributions loss prevention professionals make to this industry.

EDITOR: Rex, not many know that your father was one of the founding members of Sensormatic. Talk about growing up in this business.

GILLETTE: As a teenager, I had summer jobs working in the Sensormatic distribution centers. Ron Assaf founded Sensormatic, and my father was an integral part of the team in the early days of establishing the company that would define an industry and has served so many over the past fifty years.

EDITOR: Kevin, some may know that you are a Naval Academy graduate. Talk about what that has meant to you.

LYNCH: The best decision I made in my life was asking Kathy to be my wife. The second best was attending the Naval Academy. It is a great place to be “from”; however, going through it was no picnic. I learned about the tenets of leadership, teamwork, and ethical behavior. The friends I made there are friends for life. I learned about playing under pressure. It was the most competitive environment I have ever been in.

EDITOR: Gentlemen, thank you for sharing your insights for our readers, and thank you for the long service you have given our industry all the while demonstrating the ultimate professionalism that exemplifies the true meaning of being a “partner” and a “solution provider.”

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