After 3 Years, RILA’s AP Conference Is Back and Better Than Ever

The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) is hosting its annual asset protection conference this week, April 24-27, at the Gaylord Palms Hotel in Orlando, Fla.

Brian Dodge
Brian Dodge

The event officially began on Sunday, April 24, with workshops, invite-only meetings, and a welcome reception. Yesterday, the conference kicked off with welcome remarks from RILA President Brian Dodge, as he explained how loss prevention is more important than ever.

“This industry has tripled down on engagement over the COVID-19 pandemic to navigate a myriad of challenges,” Dodge said. “I couldn’t be more confident in our collective capacity to greet oncoming challenges.”

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Next, Lisa LaBruno, senior executive vice president of retail, took the stage to a standing ovation.

Lisa LaBruno

“After three long years, it feels so good to be back together, face-to-face, giving a friend a hug, shoulder slap, a handshake—the excitement in the room, the people here, is proof that we have come out on the other side,” she said. “We have record attendance and a record number of new conference attendees—to me that means this industry is growing. The AP community is thriving and has never been more vital to retail.”

LaBruno continued, touching on the ongoing issue of ORC and the role online marketplaces have played.

“There’s no one solution to stopping crime, but we’re done putting up with this nonsense, and we’re going to go after this from as many directions as possible, and we’re doing it together,” LaBruno said. “My biggest disappointment is our inability to convince online marketplaces to take the necessary steps . . . We’ll continue to push Amazon and Facebook Marketplace. We will continue to speak out until they change their behavior.”

Over the next few days, she said, over 50 retail executives will be on the stage to help attendees, their teams, and their companies navigate the biggest issues in retail today.

She added that they switched the schedule for this year’s conference so that there were more, shorter educational sessions meant to spur discussions between peers.

“Our objective is to spark dialogue, not deliver monologues, so you’ll walk away from each session with something valuable to talk about with your peers, and to bring back to your team,” LaBruno said. “Don’t let the conversation end when you leave the session. Grab a peer, and take the discussion to a place it’s never been before.”

Best Buy Chief People Officer Ray Sliva gave the opening keynote and shared his experiences at the company over the past 23 years.

“Leaders and how they lead—how they make their employees feel—matters,” Sliva said. “There’s been a lot of talk in the press about the Great Resignation, this mass exodus of 27 million people in 2021—the largest number of employees to ever leave in history. Everyone is trying to figure out why, and while there are 27 million reasons why people walked away, many of those reasons are connected to the company’s culture.”

Rather than the Great Resignation, Sliva said he likes to call this movement the Great Awakening, because of how it awakened everyone to what really matters.

“We want to feel value, we want to feel seen, and we want to know that we work for a company that sees us, the human, before they see the employee,” he said. “It’s really that simple.”

Pamela Rucker, president of The Rucker group and instructor for Harvard Professional Development, then gave a general session on Bringing a Strategic Focus to Your Role. She discussed setting clear goals and definitions of what you, your team, and your company are trying to accomplish.

“Redefine your core by looking at what jobs need to be done, what your customers’ job drivers are, what your goal is for your strategic approach to the role, and what your core business is,” Rucker said.

Conference attendees then broke out into various sessions. Highlights included a session on responding to active violence with Eric Conjeski of Dick’s Sporting Goods and Philip Law of Protect His House; tips for leveraging state ORC task forces with Illinois Attorney General’s Office Chief of Investigations Lyle Evans, New Mexico Office of the Attorney General Special Agent in Charge Christopher Kohler, and Utah Department of Public Safety Agent Shawn Thomas; and a session about self-service access to locked merchandise with Loss Prevention Research Council Scientist Cory Lowe, Schnuck’s Markets Director of Security Matthew Redmond, and Indyme Solutions CEO Joe Budano.

Raul Aguilar
Raul Aguilar

Homeland Security Investigations Deputy Assistant Director Raul Aguilar gave the last general session of the day, discussing the federal government’s efforts to fight ORC.

“It’s a lot of work to do, and we love to do it,” Aguilar said. “It’s a pleasure for us to use our investigative capabilities on a different problem set.”

The day ended with a reception in the Expo Experience, which had a steady flow of visitors throughout the day.

“The last 24 hours have felt like a homecoming for this amazing, vital, vibrant, essential community,” LaBruno said in an email at the end of the day. “Today’s sessions all reminded us of how important our personal relationships are to the jobs we do. Technology makes our jobs easier, helps us solve problems, and hopefully makes us more productive; but the foundation of our industry is the trust and relationships we build across companies and communities.”

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