Tim Belka is the senior director of global security at Walgreens. Belka began his career as a US deputy marshal before joining the Central Intelligence Agency as a special agent. In his role with Walgreens, Belka leads a team responsible for the company’s Security Operations Center, executive protection, corporate campus security, international travel monitoring, event security strategy, and emergency planning and response. In his spare time, he enjoys participating in various outdoor activities with his wife and three children. In this interview with Executive Editor James Lee, LPC, Belka discusses professional development and Walgreens loss prevention.
EDITOR: As a senior executive, you have two jobs—your specific responsibilities and supporting the agenda of your boss. What are the challenges of those two roles?
BELKA: It’s easy to lose your bearings but important to remember the perspective of the person you are managing, whether up or down. Senior executives are engaged in day-to-day business, but the truth is that they are necessarily focused on the next period, next set of goals, next set of numbers. It is critical, to the extent possible, to understand the executives’ vision or at least the risk to the future model so that any request or proposal you initiate is relevant. I think the difference to managing down is that it is important to provide context so that the team executing buys into the program. In addition to buy-in, I think giving context fosters an open dialogue that allows the team to innovate and improve.
EDITOR: What programs, educational opportunities, or other experiences would you have liked to have had as you came up in the industry?
BELKA: Generally, I think the industry does a much better job of giving access to training through organizations such as ASIS and RILA and publications like LP Magazine. I think education and training has always been available. I would like to have taken more time to take advantage of these opportunities. Any time you have the opportunity to walk in the shoes of your business partners, you necessarily are better equipped to understand and become a more effective partner.
EDITOR: What qualities set a Walgreens loss prevention professional apart as they climb the career ladder?
BELKA: I’ve had the pleasure to work with a wide variety of people at all stages of my professional career. While there are many attributes that I admire, I think having a passion to understand and to adapt are the attributes for success. I have to remind myself to consider other solutions and ideas so that I don’t get caught by legacy strategy and thinking. This might be gratuitous, but my current boss has consistently challenged our legacy thought processes. It is frustrating at times, but I know it has helped our department become an industry leader.
EDITOR: If you could change one thing about the LP profession, what would that be?
BELKA: I think our profession has progressed significantly in the development of diverse thought and background of the people who pursue loss prevention careers. Our industry is more progressive and challenging than ever before. However, in retrospect, it would have benefited the industry to aggressively pursue diversity of thought and background to make us more effective and relevant.
EDITOR: What work or life experiences best molded you for your current job?
BELKA: I am fortunate to have had a diverse set of experiences that have informed my current role—fifteen years as a federal agent and multiple roles at Walgreens. From the start of my professional career, I have had the opportunity to work with and for professionals from diverse socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds as well as people with diverse life and professional experience. This has given me perspective and allowed me to look at business problems, team members, and strategy in a broader sense. I’ve learned and now better understand that any strategy or directive is executed on the ground by team members who may not have the same perspective or experiences.
EDITOR: You have diverse responsibilities at Walgreens. What is the most difficult part of your job?
BELKA: Focusing on our team’s strategic initiatives while dealing with the obstacles that often impede tactical execution. The Walgreens Asset Protection Solutions team goes through a deliberate and robust exercise to establish team and individual goals and initiatives; however, we are challenged on a regular basis to develop ad hoc solutions to problems that impact our enterprise. It is important to develop programmatic and ad hoc solutions in the framework of our strategy. If the circumstance is significant enough and does not fit within our existing framework, we must be flexible and adapt our strategy.
Visit “Changing Roles and Challenges” to read the full article, which was published in 2016 and includes interviews with three other senior executives in the industry. This article was updated March 2, 2017.