One-on-one with CVS’ John Liesching

Loss prevention is a lot of things. But, at its core, loss prevention is the people putting in the work and showing up to protect customers, employees, and product, every day.

In this exclusive series, LP Magazine takes a closer look at the people behind loss prevention, and what makes them tick. Where did they get their start? What are they most proud of? What’s their favorite food?

Here, we talk with John Liesching, vice president of asset analytics and insights at CVS Health.

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LPM: What was your first job?

John Liesching: That is a difficult question because it depends on what the starting point is. I have always worked, for as long as I can remember. Having grown up near a golf course, my first steady summer job was as a “looper,” working ironically at the same time the legendary movie Caddyshack was released.

Fast forward through at least a dozen odd jobs throughout my adolescence, and I had a rather unique experience upon graduating college. I spent over a year backpacking around the world. Often, to refuel my pockets, I would find various opportunities to work which ranged from being a mandarin fruit picker in Kerikeri, New Zealand to a lift operator at the Tower Bridge (where on the first day I attended an emergency briefing because it was a potential target during the Gulf War) to eventually working at Merrill Lynch in London’s financial district. My 25-plus-year consulting career launched shortly after I returned from my trip.

LPM: What are the top three items on your bucket list?

JL: Aside from catching a foul ball at a professional baseball game and hitting a hole-in-one (both of which I have been inches from on multiple occasions), I would say tour Antarctica, write a book, and complete a Half Ironman Race.

LPM: What do you do to keep up with current events and retail trends?

JL: Very early in my managment consulting career, I failed (and learned) two important things:

  1. Networking: There is quite a bit of turnover in consulting, and most of these individuals are extraordinarily bright and capable, largely landing in leadership roles with other companies. The retail space is a small world, asset protection is much smaller. I quickly learned the importance of networking and maintaining meaningful connections.
  2. Reading: For the amount of travel I did in consulting, I should be among the most read people. I quickly learned that lesson as well—and for many years now, I share a “Friday Afternoon Light Read” weekly with the entire department sharing insights on key priorities and then connecting them to a relevant leadership article. Subtly, I hope I am encouraging others to embrace this opportunity.

LPM: Tell us about a favorite boss of yours.

JL: I do not have a favorite boss. Everyone I have worked with over my nearly 30-year career has helped shape my leadership style. And even today, I am always observing other leaders at all levels to continually influence how I lead. My advice is simple—take advantage of every opportunity to learn.

LPM: What do you look for when hiring a candidate?

JL: In the past, I have often looked for good athletes figuratively—those who can run fast, jump high, and throw far. Yet, the things that are most important are having the right mindset (i.e., be curious, think innovatively, challenge the status quo, always want to learn); and having a high level of engagement (want to make a positive impact, collaborate well with others, build trust and confidence, deliver on key commitments).

LPM: How do you measure your success?

JL: I am going to borrow some advice a former colleague and friend shared with me years ago. His name is Brendon Burchard, and after leaving Accenture he became a bestselling author, globally respected high performance coach, and personal development trainer. In his eyes (which I have adopted), the measure of success at the end of our lives is simple: Did I Live? Did I Love? Did I Matter?

LPM: What are the three most important things when building an LP program?

JL: 1. Creating a vision/strategy that is relevant, executable, and that delivers on all key business and financial outcomes.

  1. Instituationalizing an operating cadence that is powered by a robust set of value-led, data-driven capabilities to tackle profitability leakage proactively (versus reactively).
  2. Developing a high-performing culture anchored on innovation, collaboration, and execution while continually raising the bar in terms of value delivered.

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