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The Interaction of Networks and Relationships

In the complex dance of a career in loss prevention and asset protection, the steps we take are often measured by the networks we build and the relationships we nurture. With three decades in the field, I have witnessed many connections unfold into meaningful partnerships that have not only shaped my career but also the contours of the industry. This article delves into the subtle yet significant shift from forming networks to fostering relationships—a journey that begins with an exchange of business cards but evolves into a mutual exchange of value and knowledge.

From Networks to Relationships: The Genesis of Professional Connections

My journey into the realm of LP began serendipitously in 1993, with a chance introduction leading to an interview at a small Chicago-based retail company. This company held a consulting contract with WZ, a name synonymous with excellence in the industry. Under the tutelage of WZ and industry visionaries, my foundational professional network began to take shape.

Then there were leaders like Joe Hardman. Joe emphasized the importance of tangible gestures, like the value of a handwritten thank you card, which underscored the significance of relationships over mere networks. These lessons were instrumental in transforming initial introductions into enduring relationships.

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Mentorship and Impact: Cultivating Enduring Bonds

Mentorship plays a crucial role in career development. Walter Palmer, for example, was more than a mentor; he taught me the art of careful decision-making and the importance of looking at situations from multiple angles, embodying the philosophy of ‘stepping backward to move forward.’ These insights were invaluable, turning colleagues into mentors and mentors into confidants.

Tom Meehan and I co-presented at numerous conferences, sharing insights on technology and industry challenges. Our exchanges were a testament to the power of collaborative thinking and the growth that comes from trusted professional relationships.

Leadership and Giving Back: The Art of Generosity in Loss Prevention

True leadership in loss prevention is marked not just by achievements but by the willingness to give back. Leaders like Joe Larocca exemplified this. Joe’s openness to seeking and offering advice helped me appreciate the importance of proactive relationship-building over passive networking.

In my own practice, I mirror this approach and pay it forward through mentoring and sharing experiences and understanding that our industry thrives on sharing knowledge, support, and shared victories. Digital tools like LinkedIn are instrumental in this process, enabling us to connect, comment on each other’s work, and continually learn from one another.

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Beyond Networks: Forging Relationships That Define Success

The essence of our roles in LP extends beyond protecting assets; it is about nurturing a community where giving precedes receiving and where relationships are the basis of progress. As we continue to navigate our paths, let us remember that networks may open doors, but it is the strength of our relationships that will allow us to transcend them.

In this industry, to lead is to serve, to grow is to give, and to succeed is to connect. Our networks are the starting point, but the relationships we cultivate with time and generosity are our true legacy.


Shugan, CFI, is a 30-year retail industry veteran specializing in asset protection, risk resiliency, audit, safety, and supply chain integrity. His career path includes leadership roles at Carter’s and Cracker Barrel Restaurants, among other retail brands. In addition to his corporate roles, he has been a member of both the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) Loss Prevention Advisory Council and the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) Council. David lives in Atlanta with his family and can be reached at dshugan@hotmail.com.

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