EDITORS NOTE: Robert “Rob” Holm is senior director of safety and security for the US Operations of McDonalds USA. He began his career in corporate security with Honeywell before holding a variety of security management positions with 3M, Imation Corporation, the Tribune Company, and Navistar. Holm earned his bachelors degree in criminal justice from Bemidji State University as well as numerous leadership certificates from Georgetown University and Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management. He is president of the Restaurant Loss Prevention & Security Association.
EDITOR: I want to start with a question many of us can identify with. What is your first memory of eating at a McDonalds?
HOLM: Well, this is the first time I’ve ever been asked that question. Thinking back to when I was a kid, I was raised on a farm in northern Minnesota just outside of a town of 300 people. We never really went out to eat. I had never even heard of McDonalds until we moved to the big city Minneapolis when I was ten.
In high school I played on the football team, and going to McDonalds was kind of a weekly tradition. Wed load up the car after our Thursday practice or the Friday game and go to McDonalds. We each got a milkshake and those McDonald Land cookies.
EDITOR: I’m guessing McDonalds has changed a bit since then. What is the size of McDonalds today?
HOLM: We have approximately 36,000 restaurants worldwide and serve more than 67 million people a day. Within the United States, we have approximately 14,000 restaurants serving more than 25 million people a day.
EDITOR: You have both company-owned and franchise-owned restaurants. How does McDonalds view the role of the company-owned restaurants?
HOLM: We believe that our company-owned restaurants serve a valuable purpose, and its really about the people. We put people through our restaurants. We train them. We develop them. We want them to mature. We want them to grow. We want them to be successful. In fact, about half our leadership came from restaurants, so we embrace that.
Also, when we want to test and try something new, whatever that might be a menu item, a piece of equipment, a design in a restaurant our company-owned restaurants provide a good location.
EDITOR: You have responsibility for food safety, restaurant safety, and security. With all that, who do you report to?
HOLM: I report directly to Jim Floyd, vice president of strategy and shared services for US Operations. I also report dotted line to Michael Peaster, the chief security officer and vice president of global safety and security. I receive phenomenal coaching and support from my leadership, which I don’t take for granted. Also, I know this interview is geared around security, but I would like to state that I am truly blessed with nineteen wonderful people who make up the entire food safety, safety, and security organization.
EDITOR: How do you divide your time between those different responsibilities?
HOLM: All these areas are important to our business and brand, so its really about finding the balance and giving them the attention they need.
EDITOR: How do you divide your focus between the company-owned and franchise-owned restaurants?
HOLM: Serving and supporting the company-owned and franchise-owned restaurants are both very important. Almost my entire team is located in the field, which provides them a very good opportunity to understand the local business needs and issues. Aligning our objectives with regional leaderships goals helps guide us on our priorities.
EDITOR: We published a very popular feature article on McDonalds last year. One of the important aspects of your organization discussed in that article was having people with varied backgrounds. What is your view of the importance of diverse backgrounds on your team?
HOLM: That’s a very important piece, and I’m proud to say we have a very diverse organization. I don’t mean just diverse in gender or ethnicity, but also diverse in prior experience. I firmly believe in that; always have throughout my professional career.
Since I rejoined McDonalds in 2011, I would say 50 percent of the people are in new positions. They’ve either been promoted, or we’ve brought people in from the outside. Some have a law enforcement background, which is a good thing, but its not everything. We have really valued bringing in people with a diverse skillset from many different retail segments and disciplines.
EDITOR: In order to get that diversity of background, how did you go about attracting talented team members to hire?
HOLM: Traditionally, when you would recruit, you would partner with your HR department or your talent acquisition department. Traditionally , they would reach out to the job market via Career Builder or another job site, and then go through the interview process. Given loss prevention and security are a pretty tight profession, my belief is that such a unique network of professionals knows best who would fit in with the team. So networking and meeting people gives me and my team the opportunity to look at who else is out there. We are able to personally approach them, which means well be able to evaluate whether they have the chemistry to enhance the overall brand. So its really a combination of working with the HR and talent department and networking. Im very proud of the team weve built, and this approach has proven to be successful.
EDITOR: You have a very lean organization for the size of the company. How many restaurants would one of your regional security mangers be responsible for?
HOLM: Well, having a lean organization is a matter of perspective. I have a different point of view. Its not the size of my organization I focus on; its really about the value my organization brings to the company and to our stakeholders. McDonalds is not in the security business; were in the hamburger business. Therefore, we need to be good students of the business and be seen as true business professionals first, subject-matter experts second. If we apply this approach, it shouldn’t matter the number of restaurants. Its really about being smart and leveraging your resources that achieve the best results.
EDITOR: What are the typical kinds of issues that your people deal with? And whats the general approach to addressing them?
HOLM: For any issue, we have a two-pronged approach proactive and reactive. From a proactive standpoint, its all about education, training, and awareness. Sustaining the security and protection of our employees and customers is the number one goal, so we focus on educating our managers on safety practices, crime prevention, and food and inventory standards. We want our training programs to be there to minimize any issues we can before they happen.
Then the other prong is reacting to situations that may arise, whether a crime, accident, or a situation that could impact our customers. We get a lot of attention. Its one of the wonderful things that come with being one of the most recognized brands in the world. But a lot of the focus on us is just a simple result of being deep in the community.
EDITOR: What technologies have you deployed over the last couple of years that have made a major impact? Is there anything new on the horizon?
HOLM: We have a number of technology-related initiatives in the pipeline. We’ve been piloting biometrics with our POS in a few restaurants, and we like the initial results. Later this year were planning to test the proof of concept in a larger number of restaurants.
Were also testing a restaurant risk assessment management program, or as we call it R2AMP, in some of our restaurants as we speak. That’s been fairly exciting. This is a tool we co-developed with CAP Index, and there’s nothing like it in our industry. In fact, we plan on unveiling it during the RLPSA [Restaurant Loss Prevention & Security Association] conference for the benefit of our membership.
EDITOR: Are you leveraging these technologies across the franchises as well?
HOLM: The biometrics with POS has been tested with a couple franchisees, but the risk assessment tool not yet. This initiative is brand new just out of the box. So were using this tool in our company-owned restaurants, where we have the highest priority. Our expectation is that after we’ve proven this tool successful, then well be able to potentially introduce it to our franchisees for their consideration.
EDITOR: How much of your regional security managers workload is spent on employee theft or employee dishonesty?
HOLM: Its becoming less and less, and its hard for me to put a percent on it. As I mentioned earlier, our focus is working with our restaurants proactively to help them identify where opportunities exist. We help them identify and address the opportunities before it becomes a turnover issue.
EDITOR: Given your business and the reality of robbery, what robbery prevention steps have you taken?
HOLM: We have really great and innovative training programs in place. Were doing videos, webinars, face-to-face PowerPoint presentations, having mock exercises a plethora of different vehicles that we use for training. Robbery prevention is always one of those topics that we want to make sure is shared and discussed. Of course, we want to prevent as much as we can.
So when we have a robbery, we have to respond efficiently, effectively, and make sure that were minimizing the loss of cash, but more importantly that were maximizing the safety of our guests and our employees as much as humanly possible. Along with our operations and HR partners, we reach out to our crew members and managers who have been victims of this type of incident to let them know that we care about them, that were here to help them in any way we can.
EDITOR: We’ve talked a good deal about your time with McDonalds. Tell us about your early career that led you to the position you’re in today.
HOLM: I had three older brothers who were in the Marine Corp. One who went in right out of high school and two who didn’t finish high school but did achieve their GED equivalency. They were all Marine military police and got into corrections or law enforcement afterwards.
I played high school football in Minnesota and received a small scholarship, so I went to college. Given law enforcement was in my blood, I chose criminal justice as my degree program. At that point I had the hope of going into federal law enforcement. So in 1983 I had a dual internship with the US Marshals Service and the FBI.
However, I paid my way through college working in the summers as a security officer at Honeywell, which is based in Minneapolis. One night working third shift, I came across a corporate security organization chart showing a director of corporate security. When I got off duty that morning, I called the directors office and talked to his secretary. I asked if I could get on his calendar for thirty minutes and talk about career potential. Two weeks later, I sat down with Mr. Porcaro. That thirty minutes turned into a few hours discussion with him more or less taking me under his wing and talking to me about all the different aspects of corporate security and what I could do to position myself better. He told me, No promises, but well see what happens when you graduate. If I have any openings, you can apply. He also said, By the way, you’re the first person in my whole organization whos ever talked to me about a potential career in security. And there I was, a twenty-year-old kid.
Ultimately, I applied for the US Marshals job, as well as a security specialist job at Honeywell. I was fortunate to be offered both positions. I chose the security specialist job at Honeywell mostly because of what I learned earlier from Mr. Porcaro. Thirty-three years later I’ve never regretted my decision.
EDITOR: Where else have you worked?
HOLM: After Honeywell, I worked with 3M and Imation Corporation, which was a 3M spin-off, before joining McDonalds for the first time as director of global security. After about four years, I was lured away from McDonalds in 2001 by the Tribune Company in Chicago that included the Chicago Tribune newspaper, but also the Chicago Cubs baseball team and other interests. That was a wonderful job that taught me an awful lot. I loved the company, the people. But as you know, the newspaper business has changed dramatically in recent years. The Tribune was purchased, and the new owners eliminated my position in 2008.
As you’ll recall, 2008 was the beginning of the Great Recession, not a great time to be looking for a job. With children in school, I had to do what I could to make ends meet. So I got my license to sell insurance while consulting whenever I could in the security world. That consulting led me to get a call from Navistar where I initially consulted with them before they hired me as a regional security manager.
That period of time between 2008 and joining McDonalds again in 2011 taught me a lot about priorities. Before 2008 my priorities were having a big title, a corner office, and making as much money as I could. Then it all went away. It made me realize that what’s important in life is your faith, family, and friends. Today I realize that the best part of my life is my wife of twenty-eight years and two sons, ages twenty-six and twenty-four, all living here in Chicago.
EDITOR: Your career and your experiences have obviously made you the accomplished leader that you are.
HOLM: Thank you for that. Let me add that what I get my biggest satisfaction out of is seeing my people develop and grow and accomplish and be recognized. That’s what I wake up every morning and look forward to.
In our profession, many of us come from backgrounds that require you to follow a manual, that you see things in black and white. I always try to overcompensate for that mindset. We really operate in a much more grey area than that way of thinking. And to me, that requires creativity, which means its okay to take chances. Its okay to fail. You have to. That’s why I like to reference these sayings: Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new. And, You cant run out of creativity. The more you use, the more you have.
I also like to quote Michael Jordan, given I consider myself a Chicagoan now and fondly remember the great run of Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in the 90s. He said, I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.
EDITOR: That’s terrific, Rob. Here’s my final question. From Billings, Montana, to Charlotte, North Carolina, to London, England, how does McDonalds serve those wonderful fries that basically look and taste the same around the world?
HOLM: [Laughter] I was fortunate in that I was able to participate in a leadership program last year where we were reminded of an analogy that our founder, Ray Kroc, used that addresses your question. He would say that McDonalds operates as a three-legged stool. The top part of that stool, the seat part, represents the entire McDonalds system. The legs underneath are supporting the system. Each leg represents an equally important part because without one of the legs, the whole thing will fall over.
One leg represents the corporation and all of its employees. Another leg represents the franchisee or our owner/operators. The third and equally important leg is our supplier relationships. That includes our farmers who grow and nurture the potatoes in Idaho. Those potatoes then go to our manufacturers who process the potatoes that in turn are shipped to our stores. Then there is the company that provides us with the fryer oil that is perfectly clean and meets a precise formula. Finally, it all comes together at the restaurant with the people there. They train extensively, study in their field, and learn how to prepare our food the way its intended to be prepared and ultimately served and enjoyed by our customers.
EDITOR: Thanks again, Rob. Well see you in July at the RLPSA conference.
HOLM: It should be a great conference this year July 24-27 in San Antonio. I hope all of your readers in the restaurant segment have a chance to come to the conference and network with their peers. Its important for our industry.
Incidentally, one of the things that were doing this year is recognizing some of the individuals who saw the need for an organization focused on loss prevention and safety in the restaurant industry and started what was then called the NFSSC [National Food Service Security Council] in 1979.
EDITORS NOTE: For more information about the RLPSA, visit rlpsa.com.