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Getting the Job Done: The Go-To People Inside LP

EDITOR’S NOTE: In each issue of LossPrevention, we have conducted an interview of a senior retail executive. For a different perspective, we decided to assemble a group of LP professionals who would be considered among the “second in commands” in their organization. These individuals came together one afternoon during the recent National Retail Federation loss prevention conference in San Antonio. The roundtable included the following:

Jim Carr is senior director of loss prevention administration and training at Pep Boys, reporting to Sam Rowell, vice president of loss prevention. Carr is responsible for the LP administrative duties including liaison to human resources, legal, operations, and systems development, as well as professional recruitment, training, and retention.

John Matas is vice president of investigations and fraud for Macy’s East. He is responsible for directing all investigations and related activities, including investigative procedures, fraud awareness, and technology. Matas reports to Tom Roan, the group vice president of security.

Nick Russu is director of loss prevention services for JCPenney, reporting to John McNamara, vice president and director of loss prevention. Russu is responsible for home office security, security systems, executive protection, LP analysts, logistics security, and safety and hazmat.

- Digital Partner -

John Selevitch is director of loss prevention operations for Limited Brands, reporting to Paul Jones, vice president of loss prevention. Selevitch is responsible for the central investigations staff, the exception reporting analysts, training, audit, and physical security.

Suni Shamapande is the U.S. corporate manager for loss prevention operations for Nike. He is responsible for the entire field LP team as well as liaison to legal, risk management, and operational audit. Shamapande reports to the director of loss prevention, Bill Turner.

Pat Swansick is director of corporate loss prevention at Hollywood Entertainment reporting to Randy Meadows, vice president of loss prevention. Swansick manages the field organization, including corporate physical security, field projects, training and development, budgets, restitution, distribution centers, systems, and an expanding business venture called Game Crazy.

EDITOR: All of you report to a vice president of loss prevention and occupy a make-it-happen, get-it-done position. What are the strengths necessary for you to achieve success in this role?

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SELEVITCH: The biggest challenge is understanding the vision. Paul [Jones] sets the vision and I have to figure out what tactical strategies we need to put in place to get there. Paul’s the kind of person who wants to split an atom. I have to figure out not only how to do it, but how to get it done tomorrow.

SHAMAPANDE: To build on the atom analogy, I think the critical part is understanding the differences between being involved in the big picture and being able to understand the implications of what that means and helping the team roll that out from a day-to-day standpoint. Managing that transition seems easy, but it’s not necessarily as easy as it sounds.

RUSSU: One of the things we did to get everybody on the same page was develop a five-year business plan for loss prevention. The corporate staff worked as a team, and then broke off into separate groups looking at every entity of our business and where we wanted to be. Once our VP endorsed the work product, it was then our responsibility…myself and the director of LP operations…to make sure our direct reports understood the mission and the direction we are heading. Getting people to make and accept change is sometimes the toughest part of the job.

SWANSICK: Five-year plan…I would love to have a five-week plan.Coming out of a traditional big-box retail environment to a company that is extremely fast-paced, my struggle is having to accept less than 100 percent. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day to get to 100 percent. I have to figure out what has to be perfect, and then allow myself latitude to do 75 or 80 percent or make sure I have a backup to pull in the rest. In our business, things change overnight. You have to learn flexibility, or it will drive you out.

- Digital Partner -

Getting the Job Done: The Go-To People Inside LP

MATAS: In order to be a go-to person in an extremely fastpaced environment, you have to have strong leadership skills and the ability to manage situations as they occur. Probably the most important part of my job is partnerships with operations, human resources, finance, and others. In an organization that’s as rich in tradition as ours, it would be very difficult to do my job if I didn’t build successful partnerships with the different organizations that support loss prevention, security, and investigations.

EDITOR: What’s the most difficult part of your job?

RUSSU: We look at things a totally different way now that we are in a centralized environment. We work with many departments, such as merchandising, store operations, and HR, who have their own agendas. We have many new associates that have come from outside the JCPenney company that we need to educate on LP best practices. We have to weave our needs into those agendas and show them the benefits of doing things in a certain way.

SHAMAPANDE: It’s making day-to-day operational decisions that impact people. When you’re making difficult decisions that might result in positions being eliminated, it’s a struggle to make the right business decision, while at the same time keeping your people in mind.

SELEVITCH: I have a different kind of problem based on our recent reorganization [see “Managing Change”]. We’ve effectively doubled our staff with three new directors and a boatload of people in the field, all of whom are very talented. There’s so much energy and new ideas, trying to get them all together and marching in the same direction is where we’re having difficulty. Everybody wants to suggest a better mousetrap, and we don’t want to stifle that. But the bottom line is our VP has set the vision, and we need to make it happen.

SWANSICK: It’s the balancing. More comes in than goes out sometimes so you’re constantly in the battle of “What is the most critical thing facing me?” You look at your 200 emails and that blinking light on your voicemail and you think, “There is a delicate balance here. I’m just not quite sure where it is.” As those days mount up, you really have to pull back and give yourself a time out. Get your balance back. Figure out what’s important. Tomorrow’s a new day. You’re never going to get it all done. So, cut yourself some slack.

The other thing is when you have change of management. If you’ve been around LP a while, you’ve been through some huge management changes. When a new director comes in, it feels like you’re moving back in time, because now you’re into reeducation. At the same time, you have to keep the people in the field insulated from all the changes going on in corporate. You hear a lot of “Is it going to be OK? Is it not going to be OK?” You have to keep them settled down and focused on business.The field LP organization drives the results.

CARR: One of the challenges we have is based on the fact that LP isn’t rocket-science. As leaders, one of our biggest challenges is constantly stimulating our people in the field around our vision, to keep them pumped up and engaged not only in the whole philosophy, but in the day-to-day workload.

EDITOR: Aside from goals and objectives and financial measurement, what does your boss expect from you in supporting him?

SELEVITCH: If you’ve watched the West Wing on TV, I identify with Leo McGarry, the chief of staff. I do all of the stuff that Paul either doesn’t have time for or doesn’t want to be bothered with. Plus, I’m the buffer between the corporate organizations, the field, vendors. Sometimes it can be difficult, but that’s what makes it fun. If this job was easy, anybody could do it.

SWANSICK: Good communication is real critical. Randy [Meadows] wants my feedback from my one-on-ones with the LP organization…what I’m hearing from the operations group. He wants to know if things are really happening the way we planned.

RUSSU: John [McNamara] expects me to be the buffer as well. During the past couple of years, as we have been going through the centralization process, he wants us to think outside the box in all areas of our business. Just because we did it one way for twenty-five years, how can we do it better today? Is there duplication of effort? He wants us to challenge each of the different entities. Why are we doing it this way? Does it really make sense? So, we work with each of the departments, and we think tank on the various issues, such as safety issues, on our logistics issues, or executive protection. What makes sense today when we have fewer hours to do more things?

MATAS: I would say maintaining consistency. We’re a very team-oriented, cohesive group. My boss is very good at soliciting ideas and contributions from the whole team and putting everybody’s opinion on the table. But once we leave the office, we have one direction. Making sure that that one direction is sent out to the organization so that there’s consistency in what’s being told to the team. EDITOR: You’ve all talked about implementing the strategy or vision. Do you have the authority and autonomy to implement your boss’s vision and philosophy?

SHAMAPANDE: I’m in a sports company, so I’ll use a sports analogy. I’m kind of the coach, with the day-to-day hands-on responsibility for running the team. I need to always understand the big picture vision and understand where the general manager’s coming from. But I also need to understand when I need to loop in the general manager versus when I can go ahead and run with it. I think that’s a critical part of the role. So, yes, from a day-to-day standpoint, I can definitely implement the vision. Are there times when I need to lasso him in? Absolutely.

MATAS: Yes, I do. I also think that the ability to relate to your boss is really important. I feel comfortable in any assignment that I’m given that I have the autonomy to use my skills to get it done. When he gives me a difficult task, I know he gives it to me because he knows that I have the partnerships in place to make it work.

SWANSICK: I definitely do. There are times when Randy and I do not have a chance to meet regularly. Sometimes, you have to stop and take that time to get reconnected to make sure we’re doing what we need to do.

EDITOR: How do you go about managing your boss?

SHAMAPANDE: I think it’s understanding what the passion points are for that person and knowing that if you want to influence him, you need to be able to relate those points into a discussion.

SELEVITCH: It’s not just being a buffer, but being a filter. You need to know what problem to surface and when to bring it up. You need to read the environment before you go in with a problem or it might explode in your face. There may be a more opportune time to slide it in quietly so it’s perceived as less of a problem.

RUSSU: I agree. You have to look at those issues that could become a potential problem and get the VP in the loop. Sometimes the timing isn’t right, but he needs to know about the issue. I make sure I have all the facts and try to anticipate his questions and concerns.

CARR: If you think about how much time you spend with your supervisor, either on the phone or face to face, I spend probably twice as much with him as I do with my family. So, you somewhat become family. And, just like I know what buttons to push with my wife and kids, it’s the same with him. I know what buttons not to push and when I just have to mention something in passing and let him think about it for a couple of days before I come back around with more details.

MATAS: It’s important to manage the stress level. You don’t want to create more stress for your boss. And timing is everything as far as how you bring certain subjects up and how you approach him on certain things. You don’t want to create more stress by bringing something up at the wrong time.

SELEVITCH: But, then sometimes you do. [Laughter]

EDITOR: Because of your day-today contact with the organization, mentoring is far more important for you than it is for your vice president. How have you been mentoring to others beneath you?

CARR: Rule number one is you can’t expect anything from them that you’re not willing to do yourself. I can’t preach to them to read books, go to seminars, and work on growing their skills if I’m not willing to do it myself. I’ve had a lot of success mentoring and coaching many great people in the field who have moved up through the ranks, some several times. It’s been the backbone of my success.

Getting the Job Done: The Go-To People Inside LP

MATAS: One of the things I mentor some of the directors on is working smarter and how to handle stress. The team out in the field is involved in so many different things, with lots of people knocking on their door, there’s a tendency to get caught up in the emotion of their position. They need to have the ability to step back and look at their priorities and what needs to be done. I spend a lot of my time keeping the team focused on what their priorities are.

SWANSICK: I think mentoring is the single most important thing I do. If not developing people, it’s giving them options, showing them choices. It’s probably the one thing I won’t compromise that 75 vs. 100 percent issue. Using missed opportunities as a springboard to help someone understand the other choices they could have made. “What did you learn from it? How can you do it differently next time?” The more you can do that, the more they develop their own sense of self-worth.

SELEVITCH: It’s also important to your own development. You need to be able to mentor people because you don’t want to be the number two person forever. So, I need to make sure that I have people who can replace me when I become the number-one guy. That might be tomorrow, or it might be 10 years from now, but when it happens we’ll be ready.

EDITOR: How do you go about providing leadership throughout your organization when you’re not the number-one person in the organization?

CARR: It’s living the brand through the right behavior regardless of what position you are and what your role is.

SELEVITCH: Leadership is not about being number one, it’s about getting people to go somewhere they never thought they could go and enjoy it along the way.

RUSSU: It’s to provide a vision to those we come in contact with regarding where we want to be, what needs to be done, and the opportunities before us. People will hear the same message whether it comes from the VP or myself. If people understand our initiatives, they will know the purpose of the mission.

MATAS: I’ve always been taught that authority is a poor excuse for leadership. You get your point across by the respect factor…you’ve done the job before, you’ve been there, and this is how you did it. But taking into account all the different personalities there are out there, you have to tailor what you say to each individual.

EDITOR: Is there any stigma attached to being number two in the organization?

SELEVITCH: There may be that perception, but I think the reality is different. I think there’s the perception that you are the number two because you lack something, not because it’s a position you enjoy and that you really like being there. You’re just waiting for the right opportunity.

SWANSICK: A lot depends on how the position is sold, too. The number-two position in a large corporation can make a greater impact than many VP level positions in smaller companies.

SHAMAPANDE: Part of being a good number two is understanding that we’re all here because we have certain talents and skill sets. You have to have a degree of confidence around that, so that you know when to step up and disagree because it’s appropriate and when it’s more appropriate to subordinate your ego a little bit because it’s in the best interest of the organization. If you can’t do that, you can’t be a productive number two, because you’ll always be clashing with your number one. Understanding that dynamic is a critical part of succeeding in this job.

MATAS: I agree that you have to balance the ego piece of it, because everybody wants to be number one. But the way I look at is, I’m learning a lot of things by being number two. I’m learning how to be number one someday. Every day I learn something new or I’m involved in something that I’ve never been involved in before. Someday, when I am number one, my decisions will be based on having that experience. You need to balance the ego that you want to be number one with the fact that this is a great learning experience.

CARR: If you get too ego-driven, you separate yourself from the people in the field, and they will see you in a different light. Should you ever become number one, they may not want to work for you.

EDITOR: Is it important for your style of management or leadership to complement your boss’s style?

SELEVITCH: I can only speak for myself. Paul is very analytical, detailed, and he wants everything done yesterday. I’m the jokester. I’m the right- brain guy…the emotional, creative one. We’re similar in that we’re both passionate and driven about what we do, but my management style is the exact opposite of his. I’m the softer side of driving the program, which I believe he likes and thinks it works well.

MATAS: I think that it is very important that our styles complement each other without being the same approach. My boss is very driven, analytical, and detail oriented as well. He depends on my creative approach on many topics. Many times we both approach a problem in different ways, but always end up with the same solution. This type of thought process complements his decision making.

SHAMAPANDE: Maybe I’m getting into semantics here, but I don’t think it’s critical that we complement each other’s style. I do think that it’s critical that we share certain character ethics and certain belief systems. While we may implement and execute in different ways and may not always necessarily agree on what those ways are, as long as we are able to come up with a common vision and blend what we believe with a 51/49 rule, I think it works. My style is definitely different from my manager,but from a character standpoint, we fundamentally believe the same.

RUSSU: I definitely agree. John is a driver. I’m analytical and a visionary. I try to pass on some of that to him when we’re making a decision. I may say, “Let’s sit back for a minute and think about this.” But you’re right, we may end up spinning it a little different, but we’re not going to be talking out of both sides of our mouth in our department.

EDITOR: What’s the most rewarding part of your job or being in loss prevention?

MATAS: I think it’s feeling the passion and excitement of when you first started out. When you’re in the corporate office every day, you can lose sight of it. But when you go on a store visit and meet with an investigator or a detective, they’ll remind you of when you were younger and you used to get excited in that same way. I really enjoy the freshness and excitement in their eyes when they’re asking questions and seeking advice. It’s especially special when it’s someone that you hired or promoted.

CARR: I get tremendous gratification from watching people that I brought in grow up through the ranks. To me, it’s much more rewarding than the monetary piece. Hopefully, I’ll come to a conference like this someday, maybe in another 15 years, and see that I had an impact on 15 or 20 people. You’ve got to feel good about that.

SHAMAPANDE: I would definitely echo that. I don’t think there’s any greater feeling than watching people grow in our organization. One of my most interesting moments was working together as a team with the district LP managers on drafting our mission statement. One of them actually ended up writing the version that we ended up adopting. He was so proud to tell everybody that he had been part of that process. It meant a lot to him to know that he was the critical writer in that document.

RUSSU: One of the best jobs I had was when I was on the other side of the shop as a regional loss prevention manager in Atlanta. Working in the stores with our LP managers, you could see the impact of your visits over time. By identifying their strengths and weaknesses and providing clear directions on improvements, you quickly discovered those that were going to step up to the plate. I found that time period in my career to be most rewarding.

Ryan describes his team in several ways. The first thing that clearly comes through is, he likes folks that challenge the norms and can play the “what if ” game better than most. Individuals that want to “remain inside the box” and stay in their comfort zone probably won’t succeed on his team.
Again an area of agreement— challenging the status quo is the only way to effect change.

Those that are prudent risk takers add great value to any team…the key word being prudent. That’s where the combination of analytical strength becomes key. An analytical risk taker should never cause undo exposure for the team.

SIDEBAR: No Fear of Failure

Once confident in an individual’s abilities, CSK’s AP team is given the freedom to try things, even if the outcome is perceived to be dubious at best. Ryan believes a failed experiment may lead to greater success…his “theory of the Post-it® note.” (Here we learn our useless tidbit of the month. The Post-it note was developed when a formula for a super-strong glue turned out to be so weak that it couldn’t hold paper together. Instead of tossing out the formula as a failure, some outside-the-box thinker came up with what turned out to be a highly successful use for it.)

The AP team at CSK may be found leading or involved in numerous special projects or ad hoc groups looking to better the overall productivity of the company. Ryan wants his team to be an essential component of CSK Auto’s success. Here, too, lies a similarity in approach to other forward-thinking organizations. Loss prevention should be a competitive advantage for the organization.

Have Fun

Finally, Ryan believes the most important thing his team can do is to have fun. His team shares in a sense of camaraderie that comes from common goals. He also believes they appreciate a sense of humor and have a great deal of self-motivation making their efforts that much more effective…and the results that much more enjoyable. When I began work on this column, I thought I’d find some differences in our approach. After all, Ryan’s a CPA from Montana and I’m a wanna be from NewEngland. Are you surprised that with these diverse backgrounds, we would seek out the same qualities in our team? I was.

The bottom line is that quality candidates for multistore loss prevention positions must have a strong business sense and the ability to clearly convey a compelling message. When you combine that with leadership skills, you have someone who will rapidly add value to your team, and progress up that ever-elusive corporate ladder.


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