In every issue of the print magazine since 2001—and now in our digital magazine LPM Online—we have conducted an executive interview with some of the top professionals in loss prevention, retail, and a few outside the industry. These exceptional individuals have much to say about a wide range of subjects. And much of what they say is well worth paying attention to. I recently took a stroll through the past few years of interviews and have pulled together some excerpts that I believe deserve repeating. Please take a few minutes to reread the quotes. And if you haven’t read the full interviews recently, we’ve given you the information to find the interviews in your print library or on our website, LossPreventionMedia.com.
OBEROSLER: I’m not the zero-shrink guy. If you want to try to get zero shrink, hire somebody else. I’m going to aim at getting shrink down below a certain percentage number where we have that careful balance between maximizing sales and controlling shrink. You have to understand the customer shopping experience. You are going to have some shrink if you want your customers to have a great shopping experience.
I tell my people, “There’s not a mistake you can make in doing your job that I can’t help fix. So, don’t be afraid to go out and push the edge of the envelope. That’s how you learn and make an impact.”
In addition to being smart, I really want someone who has a very strong voice. Having a strong voice, being able to express yourself, having confidence in your data, and having the ability to motivate people are all important components of leadership, which, when it comes down to it, is one of the most important characteristics for success—leadership, hunger, and passion.
Vranek: Belk has changed dramatically over the years, and the LP department has evolved dramatically with those changes. We have literally reinvented ourselves three or four different times. So, I’ve not been running the same program for twenty years. The program we run now looks nothing like the program we originally started with. If we hadn’t changed LP as the business changed, I likely wouldn’t still be running the LP organization.
Certainly one of the most noticeable changes in our industry is the pure professionalism of the LP team. Everyone acknowledges that we’ve moved past the focus on catching shoplifters—the old cops-and-robbers mentality. We go through cycles. We’ll focus on shoplifting, then it’s on internal theft, then it’s to ORC. In a year or two, I think we’ll be talking about the omni-channel challenges that will have remade our retail operations and opened up new vulnerabilities for us to manage. The LP team we had twenty years ago couldn’t handle the current challenges today. They couldn’t understand the technology. They wouldn’t be able to master the technology and develop the tools we would need to control losses. Not so with the people we have now. They are very professional. They understand the inventory systems. They understand the technology. I have a great deal of confidence in them dealing with unusual situations and being able to step in and drive shortage down.
Lund: From a leadership perspective, I try to provide opportunities for people to grow through certification and education inside or outside of our 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.
I would tell you that anybody on this planet can run a 26-mile marathon. They might not run it in two and a half hours, but they’ll definitely be able to finish if they put in the time and energy to training. Like almost anything in life, if you create a plan, you’re dedicated to that plan, and you stick to it, you can do it.
Stinde: The expectations of an asset protection executive in this organization will consist of three things. First, you must be a great leader, be good to people, and work well with others. Second, you must have a strong business acumen; not just asset protection acumen. You have to understand why it’s important for the operator to be selling fresh food, understand margin, and understand what a P&L looks like and how to contribute to the P&L. And third, and least important of
the three, is that you are a highly functioning asset protection practitioner.
Early on in my career, I learned to distinguish between a relationship and a partnership. You can have a relationship with someone, and yet you’re not always mutually committed to the resolution of something. For me a partnership consists of shared goals, shared responsibility, and shared accountability. To get there you have to both understand what you’re trying to accomplish, to make sure everyone buys in and is committed to their role in success, and to make sure we are holding each other accountable for the outcomes.
Provost: The thing that I love the most about loss prevention is the ability to be strategic. In store operations, it can be really difficult to plan a five-year strategy and see it through, but in LP, you really can create a solid five-year plan, execute it, and witness the results. It’s very rewarding. We’ve had a lot of success over the years as an organization.
The LP Foundation is the only industry organization that focuses solely on the personal and professional development of the individual. Once I understood that, I was hooked. I am a true believer in the mission and goals of the Foundation. I am extremely proud to be a member of the board of directors, and I preach the word everywhere I go.
Sostilio: Diversity is defined in so many different ways. I like people with diverse backgrounds on my team. I have a woman on my team that runs investigations who is a former prosecutor. I have a woman on my team who is a CPA. I have a gentleman on my team who is getting his masters in technology. I try to bring in people with all different types of backgrounds. I can teach anyone the fundamentals of asset protection and how it fits into our team and into our company. That’s easy for me to do. I’ve been doing it for twenty-five years.
I want people who think differently than I think. I like to be challenged. I focus on diversity in thought, and that’s very, very important. There are still challenges for women in asset protection. There are people who still don’t want to take you seriously. That’s something that I’ve always had to overcome. I dig my heels in deeper and just move forward. I don’t focus on negativity. I surround myself with people who are positive. You need to have faith in yourself.
Halstead: The reason I say that we all have at least one person to lead and that’s yourself is because I’ve run into a lot of people who say that leadership doesn’t come naturally to them. They’re not comfortable with it. I’ve always believed that that was a bit of a copout. I think that people fail to own their decisions and their choices and they just say, “I’m not a leader.” But in reality, they are, because everyone has to lead themself.
Most surveys say that the number one thing that people want to see in their leaders is integrity. That’s true, but the only way to have integrity is to be disciplined, because it’s too easy to not have integrity. It’s too easy to take a shortcut. It’s too easy to not quite tell the whole truth. Integrity can be inconvenient. It can be uncomfortable. But choosing this harder right is what we’re supposed to do as leaders.
I think that more of us should think about the legacy that we want to leave, and the legacy that we are leaving. Because I think what happens is it makes you start to think about your values, and whether your behaviors are reflecting those values. Because if they are, you’re going to touch lives. And when you touch lives you’re going to make a difference. That brings purpose to your life, and what greater position is there to be in than to have purpose?
RETAILER: Another dynamic is how young people think about jobs differently today and have different motivations than we may have had years ago. You can’t just say, “Well, they’re not like me, so they can’t be good.” That’s not true at all. You have to be open to that difference. Anybody who’s in a senior position better pay attention, because this is the wave of the future. You have to keep up.
SUPPLIER: One of the things that I would advise, as a mentor of salespeople, is to always understand and embrace who’s coming up the food chain. The person you have a great relationship with is not always going to be there. When I talk to an LP executive, I always ask, “Who are your best people?” Then I try to build a relationship with their direct reports, their up-and-comers, because someday, I will probably be selling to one of them.
ENTREPRENEUR: I think that it’s critical to have a strong IT partner, just as it’s critical to have a strong procurement partner. Because most of the things that are being installed and purchased today are connected to the internal networks, you have to have a strong IT partner who understands what it is you’re trying to do and can support you in getting the solutions implemented.
Lee: An LP executive who is successful understands why, not just what. Knowing what to do is completely different than knowing why we do something. I think LP executives who understand why you do something are successful.
I think being the top LP executive in any retail company is a hard job, and I think clearly it is often an underappreciated job and often misunderstood by the C-suite. It’s primarily misunderstood because most of the C-level folks don’t take time to get to know their LP executive and understand the strategy behind running an LP program. And as a result, sometimes C-level people change their LP executive out of an arrogance or out of a self-serving motivation on their part because maybe the results aren’t as good as they would like. But it clearly is out of a lack of understanding the LP executive. And sometimes they make a change that gets them no further ahead. They were just as well off having the previous regime in power.
Bearden: Broader business experience is extremely valuable
within the organization. While there is a significant piece of what we impact that is theft and fraud related, there are other completely controllable operational factors. Business acumen is not only beneficial but also necessary as one seeks to change processes and vie for funding.
Belka: Our profession has progressed significantly in the development of diverse thought and background of the people
who pursue loss prevention careers. However, in retrospect it would have benefited the industry to aggressively pursue diversity of thought and background to make us more effective and relevant.
Lazo: The last several years have shown that companies continue to assess their LP
programs. It is the role of LP leadership to continue to seek out opportunities to address challenges that may be outside of the normal LP channels. Retail is constantly changing, and we need to be able to adapt accordingly and show value in our roles.
Peacock: Today I see a lot of great educational programs for someone
starting out in a loss prevention career. I think it is critical to continue to push yourself to stay in tune with what is trending in your field and to be aware of the changing landscape of retail and the new skills sets needed to stay relevant.
Hollinger: The main trend that I’ve seen over the years—leveraging technology, moving away from people catching people toward technology catching people—has been geared primarily toward the shoplifter. I think employee theft is the hardest of the pieces of the pie to have a direct impact on because of that.
When retailers have a highly ethical management team, pay a living wage, give sick leave, provide daycare, provide their employees with the kinds of expectations that one gets in a genuine career, then shrinkage is under control, and profitability goes up.
C-level executives oftentimes tend to look at “what have you done for me lately” or maybe “what have you done for me in the last hour” as opposed to “what is the overall trend” and looking at the bigger picture of how to reduce shrinkage.
Glenn: As well rounded as many of our retail LP and AP leaders are today on the operational aspects of the business—certainly more so than ten or twenty years ago—it’s still a completely different perspective when you have a mentor who is a merchant, CFO, or an operator, somebody that has four-wall accountability and is making corporate-wide decisions.
Speaking of planning and discipline, it’s more than a talking point. People in our industry deal with a lot of high-stress, high-risk situations day in and day out, especially our field and store personnel. As important as everything seems to us at work, which of course it is, you must have a level of work-life balance, or you will not be long for this industry. So my parting advice would be to make time for your family; make time for yourself. You have to make time for the things that you like to do to be able to decompress and have a life outside of work.
Combs: I would agree that nine years ago there were probably only a few places doing much more than physical security. To some extent there’s still a lot of focus on security. But absolutely now things are much more automated. There’s much more data. There are more systems. Now there are more people trying to leverage those to craft a better strategy to look at everything end to end versus just the four walls of that warehouse.
I think that Millennials might possibly change the world for the better. I’m not as pessimistic as other people looking at this new generation. I see things in them that really make me proud. They love their work-life balance, and they see the big picture there. Everybody loves hard work, and they’ll work hard, but they also appreciate friendship and compassion because usually a lot of their relationships have been strong.