Moving to the Dark Side: The Transition from LP Executive to Solutions Provider

The loss prevention industry is fortunate to have a strong support network of quality solutions providers. Some of the executives with these companies started their loss prevention careers on the retail side, but have made a successful transition to the vendor side. We spoke with several of these executives to try to understand the challenges they faced and how they became successful in their new roles. The insights they provide are meaningful to both retailers and other vendors.
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Prior to your role in the vendor world, you had a long career as a retail LP practitioner. Why did you make the switch? What were your hopes and fears?

BLAKE: To be completely truthful, being a vendor had never been on my career path. Eleven years ago it wasn’t something that was normally done by dedicated LP professionals. However, the other positions I had been offered necessitated a move, and my kids wanted to finish high school in Minneapolis, so I accepted a position as VP of LP services with Aspect. Being one of the first LP executives I knew to make the transition, I didn’t know what to expect. I hoped for a positive reaction from my peers, since they would be essential to any success I would achieve in this new world. My biggest worry was that the job would be too one-dimensional compared to the ever-changing opportunities in the retail space. As it turned out, this job is every bit as challenging as I desired.

HOLM: In the wake of layoffs and mergers, I was given an opportunity to join a company that I had a great relationship with as a customer. I felt that they had great products, an innovative and talented team, major upside growth potential, and a business plan that was well thought out and ready to execute for the future. I also knew how much USS tried to give back to communities through support of different charities, and these values were also very important to me.

MAY: My transition to the vendor community was a voluntary act based on an idea. I believed that the loss prevention function, especially in specialty retail, could be better served with a combination of both internal and outsourced loss prevention services. That idea led to the founding of LP Innovations (LPI) while I was still SVP at J. Baker. The CEO ofJ. Baker at that time was Alan Weinstein, who was not only very supportive of this concept, but also helped provide our initial funding. That was over fourteen years ago and, though at times it has been fun, challenging, and frustrating, I would do it all over again.

McMENIMEN: I made the switch based on opportunity. Realizing I had designed several solutions that would not only work for one retailer, but that fit well across a variety of retailers, I built a working model of the solution and went to several friends, who happened to also be retailers, and demonstrated the concept for feedback. This “if we build it, would you come?” approach paid off with immediate sales requests. At the time my “hopes” were to be able to make it work and satisfy the immediate customer needs, and the “fears” centered around the unknown in not knowing what may lay ahead that might be a roadblock. I was stepping out of my comfort zone and into an area that left many unknowns. I had less concern for myself or my career at that point as I felt I would have retail to fall back on if it didn’t work out. I was less concerned with “making it big” and more concerned with “making it work,” but I knew that if it did work, then I could help a lot of companies versus just designing a system in-house and working for one retailer.

PALMER: Once I started working at corporate, I had the opportunity to get involved with several special projects in not only the LP arena, but also IT, supply chain, and inventory control. I realized I really enjoy process-oriented projects. I also had a passion for training and awareness.

At some point, I thought I’d like to try making a career in those areas.

ROSENTHAL: I had spent approximately twenty-plus years on the retail side and was looking for a new challenge. As it happened I had recently played golf at an outing with a vendor partner. A few months later I reached out to discuss making the move and decided it was time to try something new. My biggest fear was the unknown and working outside of my comfort zone. I was very lucky and called on a lot of my friends who graciously met with me and, in most cases, became clients.

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