Every retail organization is a unique environment and has its own way of doing things. As such, what it takes to succeed will vary—there is no universal secret to professional development success. Still, there tend to be commonalities among loss prevention leaders who gain recognition within their organizations.
And they’re not always what you’d expect.
Odd as it may sound, one winning strategy to becoming a top-performing loss prevention director could be to “pass the buck.”
And that is not the only counterintuitive strategy for successful loss prevention management.
For example, it may be that technical naiveté can be your friend and that preventing security incidents should a secondary concern.
Offered up by leading LP and security professionals, all the strategies identified below may not work in your specific retail organization—but they’re worth some thought.
1. Does the buck stop with you? Maybe it shouldn’t. Odd as it may sound, one successful career path may be to pass the buck. Asset protection and security is not, ultimately, on the shoulders of the loss prevention department. It’s the responsibility of senior management. “Your goal is to reduce risk to acceptable levels at an acceptable cost. And these are management’s decisions—not yours,” according to Ray Bernard, a leading security consultant and author.
Keeping this in mind can actually help get LP projects passed. Too often, projects are rejected by individuals within organizations who have the authority to say no to funding, but who do not possess the authority to accept the operational risk of not doing the project. Bernard says he “sees it all the time,” and that it stems from a misdirected sense of responsibility. AP and security leaders try to own security rather than putting ultimate ownership on business leaders.
For example, if a risk assessment project is rejected, a possible response may be to say: ‘I’m fine with not doing the project, but I need a senior risk manager to sign off on the fact that we’re not going to do a risk assessment for another year.’
Said Bernard: “Passing the buck can sometimes help to move things along—when you make it a decision about risk and not a decision about funding.”
2. End the end run. More than ever, asset protection and loss prevention hinges on the amount and sophistication of a retail operation’s security technology. But tools like IP cameras come with a bandwidth cost at which an IT department may balk. The conundrum can lead a loss prevention director to seek broad project support from others in the hopes that the technology department won’t be able to squelch the project and will be forced to help implement it.
It’s a tempting strategy, but it’s probably not the best way forward. Even if you manage to get one project through the back door, an adversarial relationship with IT is a long-term loser.
A better mindset, say some experts, is to appreciate that the LP department and IT face similar struggles. Just as the loss prevention director strives to show that LP projects are needed to benefit other departments, IT needs to similarly justify its own desire for network upgrades. In this way, security projects are far from the enemy of the IT department; instead, they may be key for IT to successfully sell a much-desired project of its own.
IT can make do a better job of network planning if they understand how LP would like to use the network. So, if they IT wants the company to investment in a technical upgrade, the department can tell senior management, “Oh, and this will also enable LP’s ability to do this or that.”
Try collaborating with IT over your long-term wish list for security technology, advise experts. It may help both you and IT to gain approval for what you want.
3. Make your limitations your friend. The fast pace of security technology—especially the migration of LP tools to the network—can put career LP leaders on their back foot. We’re used to being the go-to guy for all things security, but developments such as the cloud utilization may be over our heads—pun intended. But if feeling out of your comfort zone forces you into closer cooperation with others, then it’s good to be clueless, said one leading executive.
It’s impossible for leaders today to stay current on everything that it takes to manage LP. Retail trends and technology are simply moving too fast. Leading the function these days is less about individual knowledge and more about adeptly putting together puzzle pieces into a coherent whole.
In fact, if one of your goals is to forge a better LP career, you’re better off knowing less about LP and more about the retail business, suggest some leaders. A next-generation loss prevention director will, of course, have knowledge about security. But they may primarily be business executives that use consultants and specialists to implement their strategic vision.
4. Stop reacting to security incidents. Investigations are critical, but they have a value beyond resolution of the case at hand. Their bigger value is in updating a security plan and informing LP strategy.
“If you want to get projects passed, you need a plan—not a reaction to an incident, and not mitigation steps to address a problem,” said one executive, who suggested that LP projects should not begin and end at fulfilling the goals of LP. When you’re looking at what’s out there, think about the needs of the operation beyond LP.
Said another LP executive: “Do what IT does, which is to look at IT technology and figure out what projects will make people more efficient, make processes better, and so on.”
This post was originally published in 2017 and was updated April 4, 2019.