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From Running a Loss Prevention Department to Running a Marathon

David Lund, CFI, LPC, is the vice president of loss prevention for DICK’S Sporting Goods based in Pittsburgh. DICK’S Sporting Goods operates over 600 authentic, full-line sporting goods stores, 82 specialty golf retail locations, and a handful of specialty running stores and distribution centers in 47 states. Lund is responsible for all of the company’s strategic loss prevention department and shrink-reduction initiatives. With over 20 years in the industry, he has held a variety of field and corporate positions with Polo Ralph Lauren, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Federated Department Stores. Lund is also a member of the Retail Industry Leaders Association LP steering committee and served as chair in 2013.

EDITOR: When did you decide on a career in loss prevention?

LUND: I wanted to get into federal law enforcement, and went to school at York College of Pennsylvania where I earned my degree in industrial commercial security. I thought that would differentiate me from others who were getting criminal justice and law enforcement-related degrees. I had some great professors there who taught me that the private sector had a lot of opportunity, and I learned a lot that has been applicable to my retail career even though our studies were primarily focused on physical and uniformed security. While I was in school, I had a few part-time jobs catching shoplifters at Sears and doing video surveillance for a private investigator.

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When I got out of college at 22, my first jobs were selling cars during the day while working full time as a security officer at night in the Washington D.C. area. I was hoping to work my way up into management at a uniformed company. It just so happened that one of my car customers was Rich Mellor. During the test drive, Mr. Mellor asked me why I was selling cars. I told him about my background and career goals, and he got me a job as an LP agent in a Woodward & Lothrop store.

EDITOR: That’s a great story. I have to ask, did he buy the car?

LUND: No, he didn’t end up buying the car. I guess he knew I’d be a better LP practitioner than I was a car salesman.

EDITOR: So you started at Woodies. Where did you go from there?

LUND: I have been a self-proclaimed job hopper. I have been presented with many progressive opportunities and have been fortunate to have a number of people help me along the way. I left Woodward & Lothrop and went to work for John Bocker at Britches of Georgetowne. That’s where I learned a lot about distribution center security and corporate office security, as well as investigations and things like running cable and installing covert cameras. That’s also where I had my first exposure to integrity interviews and interrogation by sitting in as a witness.

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From there, I got a lead from some mentors from my Woodies days, Tim O’Connor and Michael Llewellyn, and went to go work for Mike Montelone at Stern’s Department Stores. I started out as a corporate investigator responsible for the New Jersey market. Soon after, Mr. Montelone gave me a big opportunity when he gave me responsibility for the New York City region. Working investigations in the city and out on Long Island was a trial-by-fire Feature2-Pull1environment and is where I cut my teeth as an investigator.

Stern’s was where I also got my first corporate role. As an investigator, I often complained about the poor cash shortage reporting we received from the sales audit department. We were chasing our tails for shortages that didn’t exist. Mr. Montelone said, “If you think it’s so broken, then here it is. You fix it.” He gave me responsibility for sales audit as well as managing central investigations and the exception-reporting system. This eventually turned into my first LP operations role. I left Stern’s after four years, just when things were starting to click, when my wife took a job back home in the Washington D.C. area.

EDITOR: So you moved to D.C. for your wife’s career.

LUND: Yeah, she had been gracious enough to follow my career while she was growing her career. We have a great partnership, so I followed her to D.C. and went to go work for Mike Zuege at Family Dollar. I was there a year before Tim O’Connor, who had also left Stern’s, called to tell me he was starting a brand new loss prevention department for a music instrument retailer called Mars Music in Fort Lauderdale. What mid-twenties, kid-less couple wouldn’t want to go spend a couple of years in South Florida? It was a great opportunity to be part of starting a loss prevention department from the ground up. Plus, I love music, and it was a really creative environment. I worked there until the company closed. I’d probably still be there if the company had survived. I learned a lot about leadership as well as the hardship of travel and how to effectively manage that. Unfortunately, I also learned how to close stores; not an experience that any of us want, but still a valuable lesson in career fragility.

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Near the end of Mars Music, I had a lot of job opportunities, but couldn’t find the one that I really wanted. But when I was leaving for the very last time on the very last day, literally right before the door closed behind me, my cell phone rang and Jim O’Connor, through an important recruiting resource, offered me a great opportunity at Bed Bath & Beyond. I learned a lot about “managing up” from Jim. He has an even approach and taught me to deal with some of the tougher personalities that one might encounter in a competitive, fast-paced, corporate environment. He remains a good sounding board today. Two years later, I hooked back up with Tim O’Connor who landed at Polo Ralph Lauren. There I had my first global responsibility for investigations as well as domestic corporate security. After two years of fashion shows and 80-mile commutes to Madison Avenue, I went to DICK’S Sporting Goods and moved to Pittsburgh.

EDITOR: What was DICK’S like when you arrived?

LUND: DICK’S was growing. It was about the half of the size it is today, without any of the subsidiary companies. I came to work for Mr. Montelone again in the newly-created role of senior director of LP operations. There were no promises that promotion would be part of the picture, but it was an opportunity to grow my career, try something different, in a new genre of retail that was really interesting to me. Plus, I got to work for a leader whom I trusted and who had made investments in me in the past. I was traveling extensively and internationally at Polo, which was tough with my kids getting older. It was time to be thoughtful about settling down and finding some good schools. My goal has always been to be promoted, but I wasn’t here even three months before I realized what a great place this was to work and what a great loss prevention department and team we had. I immediately felt that even if I never got promoted, this was home and that would be okay.

EDITOR: But you did eventually get promoted.

LUND: I was given responsibility for the loss prevention department in 2007 and I was formally promoted to VP in late 2008.

EDITOR: You mentioned that your wife was also on a career path. How challenging were all these moves on your wife’s career?

LUND: The moves were catastrophic. With the move from D.C. to Florida, she was able to actually get promoted and grow her career. Then our son was born in 2001 when we were in Florida. We were both going to work every day and just like every parent who has kids in daycare, you get those calls that the kid is sick or he bit somebody and the conversation goes, “Well, I went last time, now it’s your turn.” Unfortunately, your career can suffer when you have to leave the office to take care of kids. We realized that the situation was causing both of our careers to suffer, so we had the really tough family discussion that so many couples have. Her workplace was a little more flexible, and I was traveling about 90 percent at the time, so it wasn’t realistic for me. We made the decision that her career would be the one that would take the hit if it needed to. It was a tough decision because we were both in great places. My wife was able to see the big picture for our small, but certainly growing, family and made a tremendous sacrifice. With that, however, came incredible responsibility for me. There was no more two-salary safety net.

EDITOR: As a manager, what do you tell young people about accepting promotions and moves?

LUND: One thing that any leader has to do right at the beginning of the interview process is be clear that, while everybody aspires to do more and be promoted, the jobs that you’ll be promoted into are rarely where you live today. Sometimes they are not jobs that you ever expected or wanted to have, like sales audit. We had some big moves early in my career where kids weren’t a consideration, and I was fortunate for that. Not everybody has that luxury.

EDITOR: And for those who don’t have that luxury?

LUND: I look for stretch assignments, meaning something that will give an individual the opportunity to grow, give them a chance to learn something new or participate in a different way. That could be leading a project, delivering a presentation, becoming a mentor, or leading an initiative that they may have a passion around. The idea is that the added value they get from those enriching activities will broaden their experience and make them promotable, if not here at DICK’S loss prevention department, then somewhere else. And while it’s hard and they may not realize it at the time, that extra work really is something that’s going to make them better in the long run.

EDITOR: What would you say to individuals going through this dilemma?

LUND: I’ve been given an awful lot of opportunities, but a lot of them I had to go ask for. Fortunately, I have a wife who has been exceptionally supportive and has consistently embraced the risk that comes with change and the unknown. But there are a lot of people who are unwilling to take the risks, because they feel that they may fail, and that failure seems more painful than not trying. If you want your career to grow, you’ve got to make some tough sacrifices, because the fact of the matter is, especially in our industry, more often than not, the job that you want isn’t where you live.

You also have to know when family and stability are more important than salary and title. It may not make sense to uproot and move your family for aFeature2-Pull2 job that may or may not produce what you want. That kind of thinking was impossible for me to comprehend 15 years ago. So, from a leadership perspective, I try to provide opportunities for people to grow through certification and education inside or outside of our loss prevention department, because I want people not only to feel valued, but I know that education will translate to happier people and bigger dividends in what they can do for our company. However, I don’t force it or require it; people have to want to grow.

EDITOR: Let’s take a closer look at your current situation. How did DICK’S get its start?

LUND: DICK’S Sporting Goods was started in 1948 by an 18-year-old named Dick Stack. Dick was working at an Army surplus store in Binghamton, New York, and had a passion for fishing. He was asked by the store owner to come up with some ideas to help get them into the fishing tackle business. The long story short is that he was insulted by the owner who didn’t take his ideas seriously. Dick abruptly quit and went to his grandmother’s house to commiserate. DICK’S grandmother gave him $300, quite literally, from her cookie jar and encouraged him to open a small bait-and-tackle shop on his own. Dick ran and expanded the store for years until one of his sons, Ed Stack, became very involved in the business. Ed, our current CEO and chairman, has grown the business from a two-store chain into the company it is today.

EDITOR: How is the loss prevention department set up?

LUND: The loss prevention department here is a shared-services model. We provide support, not only to the DICK’S Sporting Goods brand, but also to our other retail brands, our distribution facilities, and our store support center. We’re fortunate because senior management here places a high premium on loss prevention. They know that the loss prevention department doesnt just contribute in the sense of mitigating theft, but we also bring the awareness training, auditing, and investigation components.

We are fortunate to have one-to-one LP and operations relationships on both the district and regional levels. Our directors, regional managers, and district LP managers are world-class retail professionals who get deeply engaged in all aspects of the business and happen to have a loss prevention specialty. This really helps drive our business because those managers are looking out for one another and promoting each other’s objectives, which at the end of the day are ultimately to serve our customers and provide a great shopping experience. We also have a talented team of people here at our store support center that support the loss prevention department in general whether it’s the distribution centers, here at the office, or out in the fieldfrom an investigations perspective, business analytics, operations, and other day-to-day functions. Then there is compliance. We sell firearms at DICK’S, and any time you deal with something that’s federally regulated like that, there are a lot of requirements that take tremendous attention to detail. We have some key people who support all those areas for the whole enterprise.

EDITOR: What are some of the projects or initiatives that you and your team are most proud of?

LUND: The most dramatic is probably our migration to IP video. In 2006, the loss prevention department was not in a financial position to deploy IP cameras, but we knew it was inevitable. So, we started positioning for that by wiring for IP and using encoders and decoders with our analog system so when we did come to a place where we could use IP camera technology, the wiring, which is the most labor-intensive component and most disruptive to open stores, would already be there. Because of that, in 2010 we actually started to retrofit some of our stores to accept some of that newer technology at a much lower cost. Just being thoughtful and knowing that you can’t always have what you want right now, there may be things you can do to put yourself in a better position to get it when you can afford it later. The loss prevention department has also broken the sound barrier on analyzing data.

EDITOR: What have you done on the data analytics side?

LUND: In 2010, we had the opportunity to work with a college intern. He was originally interning with our merchant organization and came to work with us because we had some extra work to get done during one of his breaks from school. We found great promise in him and, ultimately, and unexpectedly to him, we offered him a job opportunity in our loss prevention department. That was when our LP analytics department was born. He has specific knowledge about our merchandising and allocations, systems, a finance background, and great Excel skills. He has revolutionized the way we look at data, the way we report data, and how we allocate our financial resources to attack shrink. For example, instead of attacking baseball gloves as a category because we have high shrink in baseball gloves, we can get very surgical and protect the premium brands and/or the price points that are most affecting the shrink. More importantly, now we can go after specific areas that are relevant to individual stores, districts, and regions. This has made us a lot more efficient, and now everything that we do has pretty significant ROI calculations against it.

EDITOR: How do you go about finding new talent for the loss prevention department?

LUND: Because we are growing so fast, it’s been difficult for us to find the top-quality talent as quickly as we need it all over the country. So we started a program that we call the Sales Manager Reserve Corps or SMRC, where we identify store operations folks who have an interest or experience in loss prevention. Like the military reserves, we provide some basic training and then keep them warm with continuing training until we need to deploy them.

EDITOR: What happens after you identify a candidate?

LUND: First, they go through training rotations related to things like taking inventory, conducting assessments, identifying areas of operational shrink and internal investigations; things of that nature that are a little out of their normal scope of responsibility in their store roles. They get a taste for whether or not they like loss prevention, and we get a sense for who they are and whether they’d fit into the loss prevention department. Then, when we have opportunities where they can be interviewed to be promoted into places where they live or where they’re able to relocate, they are ready.

EDITOR: Is the training done internally? Is the LPC or LPQ part of that training?

LUND: It’s all done internally right now, but beginning in 2013, all who were hired through the program were provided with company-sponsored LPQ scholarships.

EDITOR: How do you identify candidates for the training program to work in the loss prevention department?

LUND: We’re working on more formal criteria, but right now we look for managers who have been with the company for a minimum of three years and demonstrate attention to detail and a passion around controlling operational shrink. Having been a manager in our stores for three years, you should really be comfortable with our processes and procedures and know DICK’S Sporting Goods well. Then, we simply propose the concept and recruit them. Now that the program has enjoyed some success, we have more managers approaching us to participate as they see it as an alternative track for growth here at DICK’S. We have found that it is often easier to teach someone loss prevention than it is to teach them DICK’S Sporting Goods.

EDITOR: With all you do at DICK’S and with a relatively small staff in the loss prevention department, how do you have time for the LP steering committee at RILA?

LUND: You have to make time for things that you love and things that matter. I have loved interacting with the other LP executives. Leaders like Dennis Klein and Stan Welch who have led the RILA conference over the last several years inspire others to contribute. I also have to say that Lisa LaBruno and the rest of the RILA staff really make it easy for us to be engaged and contribute without making the work overwhelming. When you see how passionate everyone is for delivering high-quality content and supporting loss prevention, you can’t help but want to be more involved.

EDITOR: You are also a member of the board of directors for the Loss Prevention Foundation. Why do you support that organization?

LUND: The Loss Prevention Foundation is something that really continues to provide a great deal of credibility for our industry and illustrates that Feature2-Pull3loss prevention is a self-sustaining profession. It’s full of people who care about advancing the craft, not only as a career, but as an industry. Now, when you say that you’re a loss prevention professional, or you’re LP qualified or LP certified, you can back that up with rigorous testing and education, which is extremely important.

EDITOR: Before we go, I want to ask you about something most people won’t know about youthat you’re a NASCAR fan.

LUND: That’s true. I gained an interest in NASCAR while I was working for Family Dollar, where a lot of our store associates were enamored with the sport. Before that, like a lot of people, I thought of NASCAR as a sport where cars just drove around in a circle. But as I learned more about the sport so that I could build relationships with the people in the stores, I found that there was a tremendous amount of strategy involved in winning races and building teams. As my interest grew, I saw that it was a sport that I could really connect with. There are a lot of leadership lessons to be learned from sports, and NASCAR is no different.

EDITOR: Something else I know is that you run marathons.

LUND: That’s also true. I run to burn off some steam and try to stay fit given all the hours I spend in the car, on a plane, or at my desk.

EDITOR: How did you get started with that?

LUND: When the 2009 Pittsburgh Marathon was announced in October 2008, DICK’S Sporting Goods was the title sponsor. Even though I had never run more than two miles in my life, I decided to participate. It started out as a bucket list thing and a challenge to see if I could really do it. So, I incrementally learned to run 26 miles in about six months. Based on that experience, I would tell you that anybody can run a 26-mile marathon. They might not run it in two and a half hours, but they’ll be able to finish if they put in the time and energy to training. Like almost anything in life, if you create a plan, and you stick to it, even though you might have some bad days or shortfalls, you can do it. Since 2009 I’ve gone from just trying to finish to trying to run a little bit more competitively, and now I run two marathons a year along with a bunch of smaller races.

EDITOR: Lastly, being the humble, gracious person you are, I know you attribute a lot of your personal and professional success to others. Who would you like to mention?

LUND: I know that this might sound like a clich, but I would not be where I am today without the enthusiastic support of my wife, who has encouraged us to accept strategic, sometime risky changes. I’ve already mentioned Mike Montelone, Michael Llewellyn, and Tim O’Connor, who gave me multiple opportunities to advance my career. There are a couple of other people who have been great sounding boards for me whenever I was considering career opportunities; offering great perspective on the pros and cons of making a move and not being afraid to provide critical feedback. One of those is you, Jim. The other is Walter Palmer. There are many others who have had a dramatic impact on my career. I have been fortunate to work with some great teams and great leaders. I am truly the product of an industry and the many people in it who recognize hard work and reward it with guidance and opportunity. I only hope that I can provide as much in return to those building their careers as I’ve received in mine.

This article was originally published in 2013 and was updated April 5, 2016.

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