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What to Look for in a Solution Provider Partner

To drive success and remain relevant, loss prevention leadership must embrace innovation and creativity at every level. The process that an individual or organization undertakes to conceptualize new products, processes, and ideas—or to approach existing products, processes, and ideas in new ways—helps keeps our programs relevant, meaningful, and productive.

In the world of retail loss prevention, there are many different types of innovation that might be pursued. Whether tied directly to specific products or services, internal processes or workflows, or operational efficiencies, every possible approach must be considered to adapt to the ever-changing needs of the retail landscape.

While every successful leader understands the need for growth and the ability to adapt, it’s just as important that we take the necessary steps to use the right innovations, as well as a solid understanding of how to go about bringing that innovation to life. This is where our solution provider partners become invaluable. Making decisions that are informed, accurate, and productive demands subject matter expertise that is knowledgeable, reputable, and trustworthy.

- Digital Partner -

So, when it comes to exploring these partnerships, what qualities and traits should we be looking for? How do we set the bar for expectations while building meaningful relationships that will most benefit our program and our organization? Beyond a specific product or service, what should we be looking for in our solution provider partners?

To help answer these and other critical questions, we recently sat down with several seasoned and highly respected members of our solution provider community to garner their thoughts and opinions. While each holds a wealth of experience and serves on LP Magazine’s Vendor Advisory Board, each brings a unique but consistent message for both loss prevention leaders and our solution provider partners.

Join us for an enlightening conversation as they share their perspectives on what it takes to be a valued solution provider partner, and what loss prevention leaders should expect from these relationships.

Hedgie Bartol
Hedgie Bartol, LPQ, LPC, Vice President of Business Development, Indyme Solutions
Cita Doyle, LPQ, LPC, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, InstaKey Security Systems
Tony Sheppard, MSM,
 CFI, LPC, Senior Director,
Loss Prevention Solutions, ThinkLP
Robb Northrup, MBA, Director of Marketing and Communications, Siffron


LP Magazine: All of you are considered leaders in our solution provider community. Beyond a reputation or a product, what are the traits or qualities that you feel are most important when identifying a quality solution provider partner? 

LP Solutions

Hedgie Bartol: I appreciate you having this type of conversation. I think it’s critical for the market. It’s rare to find a solution provider willing to commit the time, money, and resources to support the retail industry. They try to take a “Sales 101” approach to dealing with loss prevention professionals, which is a huge mistake. Those days are over. It takes a very collaborative approach. It’s a partnership. It’s so much more than a sales relationship.

I always tell my sales folks, it’s not our job to sell anyone anything in this industry. It’s our job to help them buy what they need—and it might not be what you’re selling. It’s a matter of being able to sit down with someone, have an open conversation, and realize that this individual is responsible for a multi-million-dollar or billion-dollar operation. On top of that, they’re responsible for human beings, the customers as well as their associates. They’re responsible for their safety. They deal with critical situations daily. Their time is extremely valuable, and you must take the time to build a rapport. They work with those they trust and trust who they know.

You have to be willing to commit to the industry. It’s not just a matter of showing up and having a great solution. It’s a matter of establishing your commitment to the loss prevention community. That’s why you get involved in things like the LP Magazine, the LP Foundation, the LPRC, supporting the ORCAs, and being a part of that community. You’ve got to build trust and let them know you’re here to support the loss prevention community.

LPM: Hedgie, looking at some of the things that you’ve done in your career as a solution provider, you’ve always taken extra steps to help educate practitioners and make them more aware of your products and services—not just what they are, but how they can be best used. Why?

- Digital Partner -

Bartol: Because we truly believe what we have is going to impact society, and it’s going to make a difference. Over my career the companies that I’ve represented have been involved in programs and projects that we truly believe can make a difference, not only for the individual retailers, but also as part of society. For example, organized retail crime funds illicit activities such as human trafficking, weapon trafficking, drug activity, terrorism, and other activities that impact our society as a whole. If we believe that we have a tool that can help in that fight, why not be a part of that movement? Providing the product or service and educating our partners on how to best use those solutions is the right thing to do. We are then offering something that can make a difference. Rather than just being seen as a vendor, this defines what it means to be a solution provider partner.

Robb Northrup: I think the key phrase Hedgie used was “partnership.” It’s not just a customer/solution provider relationship, it’s really a partnership. It’s about understanding the entire retail environment. While we’re working with asset protection teams, we must also work beyond that—with the merchants, the merchandizers, and procurement. We must understand the impact that theft and the overall shopping environment have on the everyday customer.

It’s important to take a holistic view of retail and provide total retail solutions, remaining fully aware of the entire retail environment. By working with and listening to our partners, we’ve learned that anything we’re going to implement requires a holistic understanding of the impact on the bottom line. Beyond deterring theft, solutions should help increase sales and create the environment desired for their honest customer. By partnering throughout the retail organization, you can drive a holistic result with buy-in from everyone. This gives you a better chance of success for anything you want to implement. That’s really the goal with all our solutions.

LPM: Robb, you clearly understand what it takes to be a retail partner. You’ve joined our advisory board here at LP Magazine. Why?

Northrup: If we’re going to be that total solution partner, we must be integrated in the key industry groups like the LP Foundation and LP Magazine. It’s important for us to know what our partners are thinking, so that no matter what solution we’re trying to come up with for a customer, we have a well-rounded idea of what’s going on.

We are very purposeful when integrating ourselves into the various communities around different customer segments. That’s why we feel this is a critical partnership for us. It gives us an opportunity to be part of these discussions. The LP community really is a community. There’s a lot of sharing of success stories, to include what works and what doesn’t work. This happens a lot more in LP than almost any other part of retail that I’ve seen.

Tony Sheppard: I was on the retail side for many, many years. I’m new to this side of the business, so I think I have a unique perspective. Retailers may be big businesses, but they have budgets. They’re very critical of every dollar they spend, as they should be. There’s a lot that goes into signing up with a partner. You’ve got other departments involved and depending on what the solution is, it can be a huge commitment. It’s a big decision and a long process.

It’s important to develop long-term partnerships so you can develop long-term solutions. When choosing solution partners, considerations go beyond the product or service. Our practitioner partners want to know if we are innovative. They want to know we are evolving, and willing to tweak whatever solution we offer as things progress.

We all know, in retail, things change often. Sometimes, solution partners underestimate the amount of effort it takes to make that decision. That must be taken into consideration. Our practitioner partners are looking for a long-term solution, and a long-term partnership. There should be a back-and-forth, then you’re solving problems together.

LPM: Looking at your background Tony, you’re a subject matter expert on organized retail crime. Why did your company bring you on board? What do you think was the biggest motivation for them to bring on someone like you as part of their team?

Sheppard: There are advantages to having practitioners on the solution partner side of the business. In my situation, I was brought on board to help develop the product and make the product better for the end user—the retailers. Making the jump to the solution provider side, there is a responsibility to bring your own brand in a way and help establish credibility. Coming from that side of the business, you understand how to have those conversations. Even things like understanding the language can be very important. Trust and credibility are critical to building these relationships.

LPM: Cita, you’ve always had a passion for what we do and how we do it. You’ve been involved in helping develop the industry certifications. You’ve gotten certified through the LP Foundation. You’ve taken part in countless industry initiatives. You’re on the LP Foundation’s board as well. You have really provided a lot of extra value above and beyond what your company does. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Cita Doyle: Absolutely. A lot of it is about giving back to the industry and really understanding what the industry does. Robb, Hedgie, and Tony nailed it. It’s about partnerships, but it’s also about understanding what their pains are, and where you fit into the scheme of it all. We have to empathize with the challenges retailers are dealing with, and what we can do to help.

Sometimes, it may not be offering what your product or solution is. Sometimes, it’s introducing them to another solution provider that can help with their needs. To do that, you really need to understand what they are dealing with and the different challenges they’re facing.

We wouldn’t be where we are today if we didn’t learn to become an extension of our clients’ teams and understanding what we could do to help. That’s really made a big difference for us, and why we’ve invested so much in certification. It’s why we help their teams become better educated as well by providing certifications to them, helping our colleagues and their employees grow.

LPM: If you had to name a common mistake that solution provider partners make, what might that be?

Bartol: An unwillingness to openly listen. Too often we already have our minds made up, assuming we’ve answered our own questions. With any conversation you have, it’s important to listen and be willing to accept a different way of looking at things, or a different way of thinking.

The other thing I would add is the essential need to be open, honest, and willing to have a conversation. I’ve had many folks in the industry that have been very candid and honest with me, leading to some of the best conversations I’ve had. And at the end of the day, we were able to find a resolution. It may not have been the resolution that I would like, but it’s a resolution, and I’m still gratified by having helped get there.

LPM: We’re going to put you on the spot here a little. What do you think is important to look for in a practitioner partner from the solution provider’s perspective?

Sheppard: I think it’s the ability to truly communicate, whether sharing thoughts and ideas or the willingness to actively listen. We as solution partners need to listen to our customers. You’ve got to be receptive. But I think that goes both ways. There’s knowledge, information, and experience on both sides.

It can only add value when retailers are receptive to your suggestions, even if they don’t decide to go in that direction. When they’re willing to listen, we can come up with the best solution that makes the most sense. An unwillingness to consider other options or opinions can be counterproductive, rather than showing the ability to be open to discussions that might ultimately be to their benefit. When we’re talking, we’re not learning. Communication is a two-way street.

Northrup: It’s also about finding the retailer that’s equally engaged in the process. Testing different solutions takes time, and retailers have their own processes and timelines. But those willing to engage in the necessary back-and-forth dialogue, those retailers willing to be open and keep you up to date on the process while keeping their teams engaged in that process as well tends to make for a more successful outcome.

There have been times when a solution is implemented and the follow-through or the communication just isn’t happening. And as a result, the solution isn’t as successful as perhaps it should be. Was it a good solution? Was it not a good solution? In those situations, it can be hard to tell. Finding retailers willing to be equally engaged with you in that process is important and leads to the best possible results.

Doyle: I think that it’s important that practitioners really share what their goals are, what they’re looking to achieve, and what their long-term strategy is. By having those components, they’re going to find a solution provider that is going to listen and really help figure out the best possible outcome. By establishing partners that can provide a long-term ROI and mesh with the overall strategy of their program and what they’re trying to accomplish, we find the best possible solutions for all involved. It’s a big win for everyone.

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