Partnering With Retailers

Five Executives Discuss What Makes Vendors Successful Solutions Providers


Patrick Henderson is cofounder of Protos Security and works with their various departments focusing on operational issues.

EDITOR: What is Protos Security, and as a cofounder, how did it all start?

HENDERSON: Chris Copenhaver and I were on a church league bowling team with someone who worked in the loss prevention department at Advance Auto Parts. He mentioned that he wished he could find a guard company he could rely on showing up on time nationwide, as well as a one-stop shop, superb communication, and accurate invoicing. So Chris and I put together a proposal as a master service provider for guard services in which we would manage subcontracted local and regional guard vendors. He gave us the Miami market, and we were off to the races.

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EDITOR: As a graduate of Virginia Military Institute, what were the life lessons in that education?

HENDERSON: Chris and I as well as Cameron Tabor, our [chief technology officer], are class of 1999. VMI prepares students for the real world. The education is important, but it is just one of the three “legs of the stool” along with the military ROTC training and athletics that teach invaluable workplace qualities like time management and a “make it happen” attitude. Another aspect of VMI is performing guard duty during your cadetship, so I guess that was our first experience in the guard business.

EDITOR: As a young man, you had a significant health issue. How did your recovery impact your life?

HENDERSON: In 2002, I was experiencing a lot of back pain. One night while I was in Wilmington, North Carolina, I couldn’t stand the pain any longer and drove home to Roanoke at 2:00 in the morning. My wife, Heather, of three years at the time, took me to the emergency room where an MRI found spots in my back. After a biopsy, they determined that I had Burkitt’s lymphoma, a non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that is generated from the mono virus. That diagnosis of stage 4 cancer with a 20 percent chance of survival led us down a path of months of treatments. After many blood transfusions, surgeries, and extreme amounts of chemotherapy, I was in remission by November. However, I had a setback on Christmas night when I went into septic shock. Apparently, I had picked up a bacteria at some point during chemo. Fortunately, my oncologist chose one of only two antibiotics that this bacteria responded to. So at age twenty-five, I learned lessons many people never get to learn and appreciate. I have perspective on how much my wife loves me. I know what a really bad day is now. And I feel I have had a “near miss” that gives me a sense of confidence to go out and make the most of life.


Carina Lewis is the former vice president of global sales for Sekura Global with over thirty years of experience in the retail security industry.

EDITOR: What is Sekura Global and your role with them?

LEWIS: Sekura Global is a division of Clipper Retail Ltd, a well-established British company specializing in providing retailers with display and labeling solutions. Sekura Global is the security division delivering innovative solutions in the US, Canada, UK, Europe, and Australasia. Until just recently, I was vice president of sales focused on building the North American market and supporting our team here, plus assisting with growth in our other key markets.

EDITOR: Where and what is Tomlinscote, Camberley?

LEWIS: Being a Brit, I was educated in England. Tomlinscote is the equivalent to a US high school and is in Surrey, a county south west of London.

EDITOR: How did you get your start in this business?

LEWIS: My very first experience in loss prevention, or security as it was referred to way back, was with a UK company called AFA Minerva that specialized in fire, burglary, and associated systems. AFA had just entered the business of EAS and were distributors of a hard-tag EAS system. I was referred by a friend that worked there and got the job because I had a background in retail and sales. I didn’t even know what EAS was at the time. In 1991, I joined ID Systems who was purchased by Checkpoint Systems in 1994.

EDITOR: Are there differences in the UK and US buyer?

LEWIS: If you are referring to the retail customer, I would say yes. EAS and security in general is a lot more overt in Europe. Uniformed security guards and EAS are common in most retail stores, and CCTV has been adopted in almost every public space, so the general public and shoppers are used to security and loss prevention devices. The US is adopting more overt systems, but historically, particularly in malls and department stores, EAS has been very subtle.


Pedro Ramos is responsible for managing the Agilence sales team. Previously, he managed the loss prevention and reverse logistics programs for Pathmark, a 141-store supermarket chain. He is a former chairman of the New Jersey Food Council’s LP committee and is active in the Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association, NY Food Industry Alliance, and the Loss Prevention Foundation.

EDITOR: What is Agilence and your role with the company?

RAMOS: Agilence is a software solution provider offering data analytics to the retail, grocery, restaurant, and convenience industries. My title is vice president of sales, but my role is much broader. I’m also involved in helping determine the strategic direction of the company, and like everyone in our company, I’m focused on making sure that our customers are getting the most out of our software platform.

EDITOR: As a former LP executive, what challenges did you face in the transition?

RAMOS: The biggest challenge for me was a change in mindset. I had to work on how to transition my approach to create a broad business case with limited input. As a leader I’ve always been goal driven, but as a solution provider running the sales team, my ability to achieve my goals hits closer to home, which raises the stakes for me.

EDITOR: How has that LP experience transferred to your present position as a solution provider?

RAMOS: My LP and overall retail experience gives me a common ground with prospects. It allows me to understand the perspective of my customers and to explain how Agilence can help them achieve their goals and help improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the team.


Stuart Rosenthal started his LP career as store detective in 1984 and progressed to director of LP. He worked for Rich’s Department Stores, Britches of Georgetown, Ross Dress for Less, Toys“R”Us, and Bloomingdales before moving into the solution-provider world.

EDITOR: What is your role in Checkpoint, and what do you view as your priorities?

ROSENTHAL: My current role as vice president of sales and marketing is much broader than the title indicates. I am responsible for everything Alpha for Checkpoint in North America, including sales, marketing, customer service, and our Canton manufacturing and operations. I have a long list of priorities, but first and foremost is to deliver the best quality and manufactured product. We do this with our own engineering and manufacturing. My other priorities include fiscal management of the Alpha line of business and ensuring my team and I provide the most outstanding customer service and support in the market place.

EDITOR: You had an extensive LP career from store detective to director. What challenges did you experience in your transition?

ROSENTHAL: There are always challenges when stepping into a new role, especially when you are changing career paths. I was fortunate enough to make this move into an industry I love. I have made a lot of relationships over the years, and all of them opened their doors to me when I made the transition. Even though not everyone bought from me, the experience of the meetings helped me grow into this role and move my sales career forward. The biggest challenge I faced was not going to an office and interacting with people each day in that setting. There is a transition period in working from home and being self-disciplined to manage your time like you are in an office.

EDITOR: Did your practitioner peers view you or treat you differently as a vendor?

ROSENTHAL: I don’t think so. I never had anyone call me “a sales person,” and the people I was closest with offered me great advice in my transition. I think the thing that helped me the most was I never forgot what it was like to be on the other side of the desk. The retailers I called on treated me more as a consultant than a sales person. I strived to make my customers feel like I was part of their teams.


Kelli Woelfel started her retail career over twenty years ago and has held positions within financial, inventory, and vendor quality control. As the director of LP for a nationwide retail chain, she selected and implemented a first-generation analytics solution. She has been working in the retail analytics software industry now for almost ten years.

EDITOR: What is Profitect and your role with the company?

WOELFEL: Profitect is a prescriptive analytics software company for retail and [consumer packaged goods]. Our award-winning solution is powered by machine learning and AI. My role has evolved over the past seven years. Originally as VP of industry solutions, my role was to help prospective customers understand how our solution could help solve their business problems. Today, I am VP of strategic business value. My team works with our current customers to monitor, build, and report on business value for long-term success in part by delivering new innovation to customers.

EDITOR: You have an exceptional educational and LP experience. What challenges were there for you in the transition?

WOELFEL: I came from corporate-level positions, which was a pretty easy transition. As director of LP, sales audit, and vendor quality at Linens ’n Things, we implemented an exception-based reporting solution, which we used every day. I understood how data could drive an LP department to become a critical member of the wider operation.


EDITOR: What are the attributes of the ideal retail client?

HENDERSON: First and foremost, someone who desires a true partnership with us and not just what’s in it for them. Most of the features we offer clients came from great discussions and working closely to identify problems and working together to solve them. More of the tangible attributes that allow us to serve a client the best have to do with fulfilling client needs for large amounts of permanent guard services at locations around the country, centralized billing, a need for field LP managers to have visibility into the guard program’s performance, and a desire for complete control of a large, national guard program.

LEWIS: Someone who is open-minded and allows experienced, responsible, and professional solutions providers to understand their needs and offer suitable solutions.

RAMOS: Each retail client is different, and each faces different challenges. However, the ideal client sees the urgency to make quick and informed decisions. They recognize that legacy tools don’t work in today’s fluid retail and omni-channel landscape.

ROSENTHAL: The best customers out there truly believe in a partnership with the vendor. This means open lines of communication, understanding and relaying priorities, and understanding the limitations we have as vendors. The biggest attribute is honesty and transparency in the relationship.

WOELFEL: Our ideal retail customer has several traits. First, they have lots of data and want to get more out of it, specifically, to use it to find out what they don’t know. They want to use data to empower people within their organizations but without requiring them to become data analysts. Most importantly, our ideal customer wants change. They want to use their data to do things differently, to capture the “total retail loss” mindset. They have a vision of using data itself differently and to use it for more than just theft prevention.

EDITOR: What frustrates you most about being a solution provider?

LEWIS: Being unable to have a conversation with a retailer who you feel would benefit from your solutions.

RAMOS: Indecision is probably the biggest frustration, and a lot of that is being driven by our society’s “bright shiny object” syndrome. Although there are some exciting innovations happening, they’re not the solutions for everything, and they create unrealistic expectations. We understand technology and have a very honest approach toward our clients. While I wish I could tell everyone that there is a magic button that can solve everything for them, there isn’t. We try to truly find out as much as we can about the problems each customer is trying to solve, and we give them a tangible solution to solve them.

ROSENTHAL: Not being able to snap my fingers and instantly create every solution a customer wants. The second item that most frustrates me is when you come across a competitor that blatantly misleads a retailer, whether through false claims or innuendo. It is bad for the entire industry, and being a former retailer, I take those things personally. My team understands this is not an acceptable way of doing business.

WOELFEL: Honestly, nothing. I love my job. My only frustration comes from seeing people within retail who know a solution can make a significant impact on the business but just can’t get the support or commitment to make the investment. I was there. I get that.

HENDERSON: Sometimes having to experience a client’s unrealistic expectations.

EDITOR: Do you have any concerns for the future of the LP profession?

RAMOS: I wouldn’t say concerns. I think the LP profession will continue to be an important component of retail. However, it must evolve, and the speed of change around us requires a faster evolution of the profession. I truly believe the LP professionals that broaden their skills will become higher contributors and therefore more critical to the business.

ROSENTHAL: I would not say I have concerns. I see changes in the industry coming, especially with technology. I truly believe the future of LP relies in a joint effort between the retailer and vendor to ensure the most effective products are brought forth in the industry that not only protects the products but also can manage them within the store and through the supply chain. I believe this can only be achieved through partnership and education.

WOELFEL: We all see the evolution of retail, and this certainly impacts the LP profession. LP teams must continuously be learning and partnering as their companies develop new programs and processes. That holy grail of getting product to the customer next/same day, regardless of destination, exposes the company to tremendous risk. LP can be a wise “voice” in this process by being a partner in driving sales, margin, and productivity. If you are only viewed as a department that reduces fraud and catches thieves, you become disposable in the eyes of executives.

HENDERSON: The physical safety of our LP professionals is of big concern to me. With all the safeguards that the profession has already put in place, there seem to be more attacks at malls, churches, and entertainment events. The people perpetrating these attacks seem to be getting bolder. Figuring out how to keep our LP professionals safe needs to remain a priority in our industry.

LEWIS: No, not if the LP industry understands that loss prevention is just one facet of retail. LP needs to enhance all departments of retail to ensure a positive customer experience without compromising the security of vulnerable merchandise. That way, they will be seen as an asset to any retailer.

EDITOR: How do you and your company support the profession of LP?

ROSENTHAL: We support the LPRC [Loss Prevention Research Council] and their research efforts. I am very proud to be a supporter of the LP Foundation. Working with Terry Sullivan, we started the “Demo for Dollars” campaign at the NRF [National Retail Federation] in 2018, where for every retailer that stopped by our booth for a product demo, we donated to the foundation. In 2018, we donated $2,000 at the NRF. We have expanded this event in 2019 to both RILA [Retail Industry Leaders Association] and the NRF shows.

Additionally, we have built a beautiful Customer Experience Center as a working lab for our customers to test and look at the future of loss prevention solutions both ready now, being tested, and whatever we can dream of. It’s a real collaboration center for discovery. It includes a 150-seat auditorium that we will open to retailers to use for meetings at no cost. It has all the audio and visual needs needed for a great event.

WOELFEL: Hosting webinars, attending industry conferences, and encouraging our customers to speak about their success helps to educate the industry on the impact they can achieve. Last year we partnered with the Loss Prevention Foundation and helped them craft an educational session on advanced analytics. We are proud to be a doctorate-level partner with the organization. This year we committed to participating in the LPRC, which is another exciting way for us to be on the forefront of change within the industry. Finally, we sponsor and participate in both the RILA AP Leadership Council and the Supply Chain Leadership Council. Participation in these councils helps us to better understand the challenges and goals of AP and SC so that we can ensure our solutions are aligned to support their success.

HENDERSON: Chris and I wanted to be sure that Protos would be a company that supported not only its community but also the industry in which we work. We support the LP profession in part by attending trade shows and sponsoring LP-specific events throughout the year—trade shows because they offer great value to the retailers through the speakers and breakout sessions, and educational events such as IAI [International Association of Interviewers] meetings held throughout the country each year.

We are also great supporters of LP Magazine, the Loss Prevention Foundation, and the International Association of Interviewers. The magazine offers everyone in the industry great content and information, and the foundation and International Association of Interviewers, through their certifications, help educate our LP professionals so that they can do their jobs to the best of their abilities. We believe in the LPC, LPQ, and CFI tracks so much that a few Protos team members have obtained their certifications so that they can better understand the needs and challenges of our clients.

LEWIS: Sekura values the opportunity to partner with the LP profession and are members of NRF, RILA, LPRC, Retail Risk, and several other organizations that support LP and related industries.

RAMOS: We continue to be supporters of the trade organizations and the Loss Prevention Foundation. However, the way we believe we really help the LP profession is by providing the tools to help LP departments be more relevant within their companies. Most of our customers use our application for operations, marketing, and finance with the application managed by the LP teams.

EDITOR: Have you had a mentor that has been influential in your career? How so?

WOELFEL: I was hired into Linens ’n Things by Frank Rowan, assistant controller, and Bill Giles, controller, as the manager of inventory control. They influenced my career because they were finance and accounting guys who thought outside the box. They encouraged others to work as a team to solve problems and to speak up if you had something to contribute. They did not limit, but fueled, my growth. They believed in me and gave me enough freedom to go where I wanted. Eventually, I was given additional responsibilities, and they continued to support me in a way that built my confidence. They also loved their jobs, their teams, and the company. This was infectious, and I now require this attitude in any company I work for today. I enjoy working in a culture of collaboration and teamwork, where being passionate about your job, having fun, and thinking outside the box are all expected and encouraged.

HENDERSON: My high school wrestling coach, Barry Trent, made a huge impact on me during my developmental years. His ability to lead by example and organize and initiate a well-run practice, as well as interject comedy and levity at the right moments, was very attractive. I experienced firsthand how he had to make tough choices to bench starting wrestlers at critical moments as a consequence for crossing the line on a character issue.

LEWIS: Yes, I have been fortunate to have several mentors during my career. Most notably Ray Higgs and Simon Chapman in the UK whilst I was at ID Systems/Checkpoint and Larry Yeager during my tenure at Alpha. All three have had a huge influence on my career, encouraging me to hone my skills, to be a good listener, be a consultative solutions provider, and, hopefully, a great partner to my customers.

RAMOS: Bob Oberosler. Bob broadened my perspective beyond LP and helped me learn how to approach my job from a perspective of adding value to the business.

ROSENTHAL: I have had several people I would consider mentors to me through both my loss prevention and sales careers. The one that stands out most for me is Walter Palmer. He taught me a lot about the business end of the retail world, and it is not all about catching bad people. He taught me the importance of partnerships and learning the operational and merchandising business outside of loss prevention. This has helped me throughout my career. The second thing that Walter taught me was to call back each solution provider that reaches out to you, whether or not you are going to do business with them or have an immediate need. He always said they have a job to do, and you just never know when you will need what they provide. I took this to heart and built some very strong relationships in my career based on his mentorship and advice.

EDITOR: Are there differences between being a great sales person and an exceptional solution provider?

HENDERSON: Yes. An exceptional solution provider is willing to see the payoff way down the line and has the ability to give their clients things they didn’t even know they needed.

LEWIS: There shouldn’t be. If you are truly interested in your customer, want to solve their issues, and recognize that sometimes that means walking away from a sale to do the right thing, then a great sales person can be an exceptional solution provider.

RAMOS: No, they’re both good listeners and put the customer first.

ROSENTHAL: I believe there is. A great sales person bases success on sales results, no matter how they get there. That is part of the job, and I am not diminishing the fact we are in this to make money. However, on top of being a great sales person, to be an exceptional solution provider you must also have integrity, be a great listener and communicator, and work in a collaborative manner. You need to anticipate the needs of your customer and be one with your customer. By this, I mean what is important to your customer must be important to you. In my career I want every customer I or my team work with to feel we are part of their team and working in their best interest.

WOELFEL: The big difference is that as a solution provider you have to focus on value generation. You can’t just make the sale, sign the papers, and collect a check. If you want to keep the customer, you need to ensure that users stay engaged, build value, and share successes internally. We work with our customers to understand who uses the solution the most, who is generating the most value, and who needs help generating more value. We help document the ROI and its impact on the company. This is very different from a salesperson who only looks to make the deal before moving on to the next customer. An exceptional solution provider builds relationships and stays with his or her customers. The relationship between a vendor and a customer is best measured when things do not go as planned. When everything is great, the relationship grows; when things go wrong is the true test of a partnership. Together, no matter what the circumstances, we are a team. Our customers’ success is our success.

EDITOR: What personal qualities or characteristics do you think most important for a solution provider to possess?

LEWIS: Listen. You can’t understand your potential customer’s needs if you don’t listen. Do what you say you will do, on time, and follow up without being a pain in the neck. Act honestly and don’t be afraid to admit if you don’t have the right solution.

RAMOS: Our approach is to ask questions to understand the needs of the customer first before doing anything else. If we don’t think there’s a need or the right fit, we will let the customer know. The success of our company is aligned with the success of our customers. A good solution provider needs to remember this; otherwise, they’re just selling.

ROSENTHAL: Integrity, honesty, listening, and great communication skills are critical characteristics for a solution provider to possess. If you have all of these and you are good at them, you will be successful as a solution provider and will be the one called for a solution, question, or consultation. One other point: you must love what you do and have fun at it.

WOELFEL: Some basic and obvious stuff is that a good solution provider should be a better listener than talker. They should have a solid understanding of the business and its challenges and need to love building relationships and trust. To be successful, they have to have excellent follow-up and consistency. They need to believe in the philosophy of keeping promises and commitments. Finally, they should be able to develop honest and transparent relationships that ensure win-win situations for both the customer and the solution company.

HENDERSON: I think grit and a never-give-up attitude. Also, a partner or someone to run the race with. I could not imagine doing this without Chris. The biggest compliment Chris and I get is that people come up to us and say that they see us as genuine guys.

EDITOR: Tell us something about yourself that most people in our profession do not know?

RAMOS: I help run a very large youth soccer program in New Jersey. Also, I like cigars, but anyone who has met me probably knows that already.

ROSENTHAL: I am an avid baseball fan and have seen a baseball game in all but four major league stadiums, which includes every older stadium and all but four of the newest. I will get to those in the next year or so.

WOELFEL: I originally went to Boston University for electrical engineering. I chose that major because I loved computers and math. I switched to business in my junior year after I realized that engineering wasn’t people-oriented enough for me. So now I use computers and technology every day in a different way.

HENDERSON: I really wish I could be a stock broker, but my wife says that I do not currently have a very good track record in the stock market.

LEWIS: I am a huge F1 motor racing fan and have visited several countries to watch the races.

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