Editor’s Note: Stuart Levine, CFI, CFCI, is CEO of The Zellman Group, an LP industry solutions provider supporting retailers with loss prevention services, civil recovery, field audit, sales audit, employment screening, and customer service shopping. Prior to founding The Zellman Group, Levine was director of LP at Bed Bath & Beyond and held other LP positions with JCPenney, Lord & Taylor, and Limited Brands.
Loss prevention professionals at every level of the retail enterprise need a varied skill set to be successful at their jobs. Both retailers and solutions providers play a role in supporting continuing education in the industry. We discussed this role with someone experienced both as a retailer and solutions provider.
Prior to The Zellman Group, you served as a loss prevention practitioner. Tell us a little about your own experience in loss prevention and when you realized that it had evolved from a job and into a career for you.
While I was a deputy sheriff with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Department, I worked off duty at JCPenney at their diamond sale events. I liked the structure and culture of the company. After my first full-time loss prevention job with Caldor, I moved to JCPenney in New Bedford, Massachusetts, as an LP manager. I learned a lot about retail loss prevention and shrink and was hooked on my new career.
What was the most difficult decision that you faced in your loss prevention career?
When I was the director of loss prevention at Bed Bath & Beyond, I felt that I hit a personal road block on the effect I could have within the organization. I came from an entrepreneurial family and saw an opportunity to offer loss prevention services to small companies that could not afford their own department. I started The Zellman Group in 1997 to fill this industry void.
The retail industry is rapidly changing, and with it the role of loss prevention. What steps do you feel that loss prevention professionals must take to keep pace?
I think that education is the key to LP professionals future growth. Industry trade shows afford the opportunity to attend seminars that offer a different prospective on solving industry issues. I also feel that certification is equally important. Certification with the Loss Prevention Foundation, the International Association of Interviewers (IAI), and others show a person’s commitment to the industry.
Other than providing quality products and services, what additional role do you feel that solution providers can take in supporting loss prevention as a career choice?
Supporting industry trade media, such as this magazine, gives the media outlet the funds needed to continue delivering quality educational articles and information to the industry.
Other than purchasing quality products and services, how important is it for loss prevention practitioners to invest in their relationships with solution providers?
This is a difficult question that has multiple answers. I think that it is just as important for the service providers to invest in their relationships with the retailers as it is for the retailers to invest in the relationships with suppliers. There needs to be mutual trust in both directions. It is imperative that the service providers have values that are in line with the retailers.
As your company is entering its twentieth year in business, your commitment to loss prevention education is greater than ever. Why is that?
I don’t believe it is possible to grow without continuing your education. I am excited that I am starting to study for my LPC certification this month and am committed to receiving the certification in the next few months. The Zellman Group recently became a Doctorate-level supporter of the Loss Prevention Foundation. This support gives us the opportunity to offer LPC scholarships to the retail community. We are also sponsors of the IAI and Loss Prevention Research Council. Both of these organizations are education-based and offer great tools for the LP professional to continue their education.
What is the most important piece of advice that you would share with loss prevention professionals just getting starting in their careers?
Don’t be shy about networking with other respected loss prevention professionals. Many of the issues that you will be faced with have been conquered in the past. As you continue to move up the ladder in your career, always look to hire the smartest person that you interview. By doing this you will have a better opportunity to bring value to the company and make your department an integral part of the team.
What is the most important piece of advice that you would offer a loss prevention professional assuming their first role as a decision maker for the department?
Look, listen, and react. I found that one of the biggest mistakes that I made in my career was that I would look and react without listening. A good LP professional will do everything possible to be part of the company’s executive team and not get tagged as retail police. By being a member of the team, you all have the same objective in lowering shrink while obtaining valuable insight from store operations, human resources, and other departments.