20 Questions with Whole Foods’ Mike Limauro

Mike Limauro

Loss prevention is a lot of things. But, at its core, loss prevention is the people putting in the work and showing up to protect customers, employees, and product, every day.

In this exclusive series, LP Magazine takes a closer look at the people behind loss prevention, and what makes them tick. Where did they get their start? What are they most proud of? What’s their favorite food?

Here, we talk with Mike Limauro, vice president of global asset protection at Whole Foods Market.

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LPM: Tell us about yourself.  

Mike Limauro: I grew up in Guilford, a small colonial town on the shoreline of Southern Connecticut. The town is rich in history and tradition, with many homes built in the 1600’s, 1700’s, and 1800’s. It’s known for its town center or “town green” which really symbolizes the sense of community there. It’s also a town that prides itself on the arts, scholastics, and sports. It was a great place to grow up.

I met my wife, Julie, while earning my bachelor’s degree at Northeastern University in Boston, MA. In the early 90’s we moved back to Connecticut so I could obtain my master’s degree from the University of New Haven. Both schools had great criminal justice programs, which was the closest thing to retail AP most colleges had to offer at that time (it’s amazing to see how far we have come as an industry). My wife and I have been married for 25 years and have two amazing children. Thanks to the retail industry, my family has had the opportunity to live in some great cities across the U.S., including Boston, Virginia Beach, and Austin, Texas.

LPM: What was your first job?

ML: My very first job as a teenager was as a dishwasher at an oyster house called Chello’s. My first asset protection job was as a store detective for Shoprite in Milford, CT. Although I had my BS and MS degrees, it was tough to find a job as I had no meaningful work experience right out of college. I still appreciate the folks at Shoprite today for taking a chance on me. I also had two great mentors there, Donald Stuck and Fitzroy Taitt, who taught me a lot about the fundamentals during that time.

LPM: In your junior year of high school, what did you see as your career?

ML: At that time, I really wanted to be a professional drummer. I was lucky to grow up in a town that had an amazing music program developed and led by Ned Tarantino. Ned, or “Mr. T,” was really one of my first great mentors outside of my family and I still use what he taught me about teamwork, discipline, respect, and leadership to this day. I was also fortunate to have the opportunity to play in bands with so many amazing local musicians.

LPM: How did Ned’s influence play into your leadership style today?

ML: Once I achieved my first leadership role, I tried to model myself after an orchestra or big band conductor rather than a boss or manager. If you think about it, an orchestra conductor has so many of the same traits as a great leader. For example, a conductor needs to select and hire the best musicians — not only the best from a technical standpoint, but also the best fit for the larger group. The conductor selects the music and venue, which, in a way, is similar to deciding upon a strategy or roadmap. Also, the conductor doesn’t try to play all of the instruments; however, they are able to lead 100 performers or more to start and stop together, play at the right tempo and correct volume while making the music sound like one instrument. The conductor is also a mentor, coaching, inspiring, and correcting where needed. Most importantly, the conductor steps aside when the performance is over and gives credit to the musicians.

LPM: What are your favorite foods?

ML: Italian of course, especially if my grandmother made it! She is a great cook and has passed down so many traditional Italian dishes and family recipes. 

LPM: What keeps you up at night?

ML: E-commerce and home delivery as well as having a teenage daughter (not necessarily in that order). All kidding aside, our business is changing in so many ways, including the evolution of home delivery and e-commerce. With innovation taking place so rapidly, I don’t always have the answers and traditional AP strategies don’t always work or apply. Although it’s this change that keeps me energized, it is also what keeps me awake at night.

LPM: What do you do to keep up with current events and retail trends?

ML: I am on the Board of Directors for the Loss Prevention Foundation and on the Editorial Board for LP Magazine. I also participate in the ECR Retail Loss group. In the past, I was the Vice Chair for the AP Counsel at the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and participated with RILA. These organizations help me stay close to all the top industry leaders and experts. It’s a great venue to discuss common concerns and industry best practices as well as come up with new ideas and solutions. Additionally, I read industry publications such as LP Magazine and attend industry conferences whenever possible.

LPM: What do you look for when hiring a candidate?

ML: Obviously an AP technical background and work experience is a must, but I like professionals that can influence and inspire others. We look for candidates that have outstanding interpersonal skills — folks that will make great partners, future leaders, and will ensure their internal and external customers are always a top priority. We’re also drawn to candidates that are innovative and creative with the ability to think differently. Courageous leadership and strong operations, business, and financial acumen are also at the top of my list.

On the other hand, I look for industry engagement and participation. For example: Are they reading LP Magazine? Have they been involved with industry conferences and organizations? Can they demonstrate their commitment to the profession and desire to learn more through certification, such as earning their LPC or LPQ? These are all things we consider.

LPM: How do you measure your success?

ML: It’s important that I achieve the goals and objectives administered by the company I work for. It is also important they feel the team is doing a great job and is adding value that they can’t go without.

Next, I believe you need to enjoy what you do. This doesn’t mean you need to take your favorite hobby and make a living from it — that is not always possible, and it can become the fastest way to take something you love and turn it into something you dislike. In my opinion, “love what you do” means that you should make the best of the hand you have been given. Approach your career path in a way that excites you and make it your own. I’ve spent an entire career creating an environment my team and I enjoy coming to every day while exceling at what we do. I make each program I develop my own and approach things in a way that keeps me engaged.

I also get a lot a satisfaction from creating; however, you don’t need to be an artist to create something meaningful. We create programs, strategies, experiences, solutions, and results on daily basis. With the right approach, this can be extremely fulfilling.

Lastly, impacting others in a positive way is important to me and can be looked at as a sign of success. This industry has treated me well, so I try to give back us much as possible. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of inspiring someone to excel or participate in our industry. Often, it comes in the form of mentoring or helping someone achieve their goals, but most often it’s about investing back in my team. They have made an investment in coming to work for me, so it is important that I invest back by giving them the tools they need to be successful and grow.

LPM: What are the three most important things when building an LP program?

ML: Aside from having the experience and skillset, I would say people, culture, and process. People are at the top of my list. I truly believe that you are only as good as the people you surround yourself with, so hiring great people is always my number one priority when building a new program.

Next is culture. I don’t believe an AP program can be truly successful without creating a culture of asset protection throughout the entire organization. A culture where every team member, employee, or associate is behaving in a way that is conducive to achieving our goals. Think of it as building an AP community where every team member in the company is highly engaged in loss prevention and safety rather than simply focusing on our AP department alone. Therefore, world class awareness and communications programs are extremely important to me.

Lastly, process ties everything together. It is critical to be methodical and organized in your approach to keep change throughout the company effective and earn buy-in. This also eliminates confusion or chaos at store level from trying to do too many things at once or in an unorganized manner. I always look at this like building blocks in a pyramid. The foundation or fundamentals of the program is the largest block on the bottom and then each block stacks on top of the next until you reach the point at the top. If you were to try and balance a pyramid on its point, it would fall over. It’s the same when building a program. You need to ensure each phase stacks on top of the last so that your program will stand.

LPM: What do you like about working for Whole Foods?

ML: The people! Whole Foods team members are unlike any other retail associates I have ever worked with and it’s truly a pleasure to work with them. I am also proud to be a part of our purpose which is to nourish people and the planet. I enjoy working for a company that is not afraid to stand by their commitments, which really shows in our very strict quality standards, our charity foundations, and the commitment to our team members. We also have a solid set of core values and leadership principals which really set the stage around how we do business, and which establishes the roadmap for our culture. Culture here is important and keeps everyone headed in the right direction. The AP team thought it was so important that every one of us became a Certified Culture Champion. In fact, I believe we were the first global team to ever achieve this. I would say that Whole Foods is unlike any other retailer I have worked for. It’s truly a special place.

LPM: Tell us about your team.

ML: I have the best team in the business, and I could not be successful without them. We have been building our program from the ground up over the last few years, which has taken so much hard work and dedication on everyone’s part. The team really takes ownership and goes above and beyond to not only ensure the success of the program, but to ensure the success of one another. They are a close group even though we are spread out across the US, Canada, and the UK. We also have a diverse group. Some of them have a strong background in occupational safety and some in loss prevention. Every one of them has an area that they specialize in or excel at. Whether it’s data analytics, operations, audit, investigations, inventory management, or program creation, everyone is encouraged to work in a space that enables them to use their skills best. We also take a bit of a round table approach, where the team plays a key role in the development of every aspect of our program. It’s what makes the program great. I really appreciate each of them and hope we can get back together in person soon.

LPM: What would you change about your career if you had a magic wand?

ML: Not one thing.

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