James "Jim" Lee is a cofounder and current executive editor of LP Magazine. He has over thirty years of practical experience as a retail loss prevention executive, including senior management positions with The Broadway, Lazarus, and Marshall's. Lee is also the founder and current president of Contact, Inc., a consulting and training company, as well as LPjobs.com, the leading e-recruiting platform for LP professionals seeking employment. He is a graduate of Indiana University with a degree in forensic studies and sociology. He can be reached at JimL@LPPortal.com
I just returned from the Retail Industry Leaders Association Asset Protection Conference. As with every conference I attend, a highlight is always the keynote presentation. Often it is a C-level retail executive, a successful business person, a motivational speaker, or a sports legend. Each in their own way is interesting, and their accomplishments are admirable. All of them try to relate their message to the world of retail loss prevention. Some succeed. But, I rarely walk away saying to myself, "Wow, what a person."
Those in attendance were honored with a keynote from General Ann Dunwoody, who recently retired from the U.S. Army after 38 years with the rank of four-star general—the first woman ever to achieve such a distinction. That achievement puts her in the same class with other four stars, like Washington, Grant, Sherman, Pershing, MacArthur, Eisenhower, Bradley, Patton, Schwarzkopf, and Powell. In our military history only 206 have worn the four stars. General Dunwoody delivered a message on leadership. Her beliefs are best reflected in the following statement:
"Stick to your principles and have the courage to do what you believe in. When you run into resistance, you can either give up and let the bureaucracy win, or you can fight the bureaucracy. And that takes a lot of personal energy and intellect. To change is not easy, and sometimes it requires change to do the right thing for the right reason."
How do you think she did relating her message to the world of loss prevention?
How I Got Promoted
There was another session that deserved the wow factor. Michelle Jennings of jcpenney, David Neisen of PetSmart, and Monique Sorrell of AutoZone—each LP executives in their respective companies—spoke on the theme, "I Just Got Promoted; Here's How I Did It." Each spoke about pieces of their journey, their sacrifices, commitments, and passion for loss prevention. Here are some of the excerpts from Jennings, Neisen, and Sorrell.
■ Leverage your strengths, build off your weaknesses.
■ Humility plays a role in your development.
■ Always be looking forward.
■ Senior leadership is willing to help those who ask for help.
■ Learn about three areas of your company outside of LP.
■ Seek certifications.
■ It is critical to have mentors and to become one yourself.
■ Disposition matters, be optimistic.
These three executives are perfect examples of the title of this column. Never, and I mean never, has retail loss prevention been consumed with so many bright, passionate, dedicated professionals.
LP in the Boardroom
Now wait a minute, hold your horses. I have seen it in print and heard it said publically that loss prevention is losing jobs; that LP executives are not doing as good a job in the boardroom with C-level folks as in the past. Granted, there are companies that go through challenging times, with cuts and downsizing. It takes place across that company, not exclusively in LP. And we have seen companies go out of business and many jobs of all kinds have been lost. At the same time, many other companies have added jobs, and new companies have surfaced creating many LP jobs.
Now I ask you, do you have any openings in your company? All levels? I submit to you that when it comes to jobs, we are in need of people to fill the openings. In the past we would get up on our soap box and speak about the LP person who crossed over to stores or operations and became a C-level executive. Those are wonderful achievements by those individuals, and they point out the work values gained from the LP experience.
Conversely, for many years companies have been reaching into the stores, operations, administration, and merchant ranks to move individuals into LP positions. We have not given those companies or those people their deserved due. In fact, two of the LP executives I mentioned in this column came from stores and operations. Many companies have seen the value of moving bright, passionate people into LP. That happens because the company sees the value that the loss prevention function brings to the bottom line.
As for the statement that LP executives are not doing as good a job in the boardroom, look around at all the directors, VPs, and SVPs that exist today. Look at the innovations made in data, analytics, and technology. The C-level knows that the LP and asset protection departments today are profit enhancers and every bit as vital to the success of their company as any other function. Never, I mean never, have times been better for the loss prevention community.
Answer: Is it where all LP associates are evaluated on last year's personal performance and held accountable for shrinkage? Or is it where some are just evaluated on their performance and not held accountable for shrinkage?
It's a trick question. The real answer is, it is the NCAA basketball tournament where people like me fill out our "brackets" picking enough winners to perhaps win a pool of money. Right on, basketball fans!
I am a basketball fan, born and raised in Indiana where basketball is a way of life for six months out of the year. I will be at the NCAA tournament rounds 2 and 3 this year in two different sites. The games will be great, the players fun to watch, and the coaches...ah, the coaches. I think watching the coaches is like watching a leadership seminar. Whether you are a fan of basketball or not, you can learn from some of the great coaches' leadership principles. Let's look at two and some of the building block statements that they lived and coached by.
The first is the legendary John Wooden, a man who coached ten championship teams at UCLA and was perhaps viewed as much for his leadership qualities as his trophies. Here are a few Woodenisms:
■ Don't mistake activity with achievement.
■ The people who turn out best are those people who make the best out of the way things turn out.
■ Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there.
■ The true test of a person's character is what they do when no one is watching.
■ If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have the time to do it over?
■ Never make excuses. Your friends don't need them and your foes won't believe them.
■ You can't live a perfect day until you do something for someone who will never be able to repay you.
■ It is amazing how much can be accomplished if no cares who gets the credit.
■ Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.
■ Don't let making a living prevent you from making a life.
■ It is what you learn after you know it all that counts.
The second coach is Jim Valvano, a man who won a championship at North Carolina State when no one thought they could and later died way too early from cancer. In his memory the Valvano Foundation has become one of the greatest contributors to cancer research. Perhaps you have heard his final speech given just days before his death:
"To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. And number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that's a full day. That's a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you're going to have something special."
Valvano was also often quoted saying the following:
■ How do you go from where you are to where you want to be? I think you have to have an enthusiasm for life.
■ I asked a ref if he could give me a technical foul for thinking bad things about him. He said, of course not. I said you stink. And he gave me a technical. You can't trust 'em.
■ The reason people find it so hard to be happy is that they always see the past better than it was, the present worse that it is, and the future less resolved than it will be.
■ Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath.
■ I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
Those are some pretty impressive thoughts from two legends of leadership, but I am not done with leadership and life statements. A couple of years ago some very bright regional LP managers wrote for the magazine. Here is some of what they said:
■ You must carry out your duties with honesty, integrity, fairness, ethics, and professionalism.
■ You must be willing to surround yourself with talented people and challenge them to get better.
■ You must create an environment where everyone's thoughts and ideas are respected.
■ I learned by watching, listening, and taking notes of others doing their work.
■ There is significant value in learning the business from an operational standpoint.
■ It is important to be a part of an organization with integrity, vision, and upward mobility.
■ More important than money is enjoying the job and quality of life
■ The company is important, but more so the person you work for.
■ My career has historically edged out over my personal life. As I have gotten a better comfort level with my position, I have achieved more home balance.
■ I am fortunate to have a very supportive spouse who understands my career is important to us.
■ I consider LP the greatest job ever.
Pretty powerful statements by two great coach's and some astute regional types. And it is all under the banner of March Madness—what a great country.
I'm still working on two articles for the magazine that I mentioned in the last issue. One is the advice Crash gave to Ebby, and how it is important in LP. Crash's advice as some know is based on fear and arrogance. This is so prevalent in LP that I have more information than needed and am editing down the article.
The other task is a new ongoing column called "Executive Files." If anyone reading this column wants to write an article from the C-suite perspective, send me an email. You don't have to have something written, just have a topic, and we will figure it out from there. And you don't have to be a good writer; heck, I have been writing for years with a good editor.
In the meantime, this is a special column for me. I have known since late fall that two of the industry's best executives were retiring. These two gentlemen were executives on the vendor side who served the retail community for many years.
You likely don't know that Jeff Bean retired after 33 years with ADT. Very few of you would have ever met or known of Jeff. That was his style. However, those inside ADT knew him well, respected him, and were rewarded for his tenure at the company.
Jeff had many positions over the years, but retired as the group VP of national accounts, North America. That means he was responsible for all sales and marketing that affected retail loss prevention. If your company has any ADT products, it fell under Jeff's responsibility—a big job.
I was privileged to know Jeff for many years. Here is some of what I learned of him. When playing golf with him, he was more interested in whether you and others were having a good time and less concerned with himself. When having dinner, the conversation was typically about LP executives—what made them tick, what were their priorities, what they appreciated and respected from a vendor. He really wanted to understand his customer. In a business meeting he was a good, analytical listener who turned to others on his team for opinions. He always made his customer feel comfortable.
I asked Jeff for some of his favorite memories of his career. He described others like this: "A true gentleman." "Very fair person who understands and gets it." "A very sharp mind and to the point." "A strong leader and kind man."
When I asked about his life after ADT, he made it clear he was planning to stay busy. Those who know Jeff, know that he has been involved with several associations that help others not so fortunate. You can expect that's where he will spend his time.
Color outside the lines, don't make customers jump through hoops, build a winning team, and show others you care. You likely have heard these blueprints for success before. Larry Yeager is one executive who lived by these principles.
Larry recently decided to retire from his position as VP and general manager of the Alpha division of Checkpoint and go "hit golf balls off the beach." To many Larry has been the face of Alpha, but did you know that he was a co-inventor and patent holder of Spider Wrap®. He built a reputation of being an innovator and creator. Something else you likely don't know is he was a pilot in the Vietnam War as well as a race car driver; a little bit of a free spirit.
When you talk to Larry about his career working with retailers, he focuses on relationships and the progress LP has made as a profession, not about himself or about his products. He really likes this business and the people in it.
Apart from driving around the city of Charlotte in his Corvette, what's in Larry's future? I bet it will have something to do with helping others, community service, or even politics of some kind.
Thanks to You Both
This business will miss both Larry and Jeff. I speak for the industry when I say, "Thanks to both of you for making it a better place."
We have many outstanding leaders on both sides of the aisle—practitioner and vendor. These two are examples of what Teddy Roosevelt is quoted as saying: "In the battle of life, it is not the critic who counts, not the one who points out how the strong stumbles or where the doer of a deed could have done better. The credit belongs to those who have actually been in the arena."
It is sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I have this major task of authoring a column called "Parting Words" for LP Magazine. Throughout the life of the magazine, I've bumped into colleagues who tell me they regularly read this column and occasionally like it. Well, to all of you—lower your expectations for this issue, if that's even possible.
Peak season is a very busy time in retailing and, although I am no longer engaged in the active loss prevention activity of the season, I am "thinking about" all of you out there giving it your all. And due to all of that thinking, I am brain tired and can't write about things I have been thinking about writing about.
Like what, you ask? Well, how about—the three biggest lies in loss prevention. Or, how about—the three most dynamic LP executives followed by the companion column of the three biggest pains in the rear LP executives. (I wonder if the six of you know who you are, and, more importantly, which list you're on.)
Oh, there are a couple of more I am thinking about working on. How about—what advice did Crash Davis give Ebby Calvin LaLoosh, and why is it useful in LP? And lastly, how about—what vendors spend their time on during peak season.
After the holidays I will get back to those articles. But for the present I thought I would tell you what others have challenged the magazine to write about in 2013. All of these suggestions came from our October editorial board meeting.
How about—an article on the LP iPad app and how it is being utilized at Sears for things like intelligent audits, store visits, CCTV, and training access.
How about—mobile POS and all of the challenging scenarios associated with it. How does the industry train and educate the new-wave LP associate to deal with smart technology?
How about—laser tagging products; who is doing it and what is happening?
How about—facial recognition and identifying known deviants in the store.
How about—next generation LP leaders and what exactly that means.
How about—a continuing column on international aspects of LP.
How about—the evolution of competencies to be an LP executive.
How about—a day in the life of an LP manager.
How about—a new regular column by a leading LP executive, perhaps called the "Executive Files."
How about—more content for the younger LP associate.
How about—an ongoing column titled "Ask the Expert," which might be written by leading vendors.
There were many more ideas that came out of the meeting, but these mentioned here are all terrific ideas we hope to deliver in 2013. By the way, you do not have to be on the editorial board to offer up a suggestion or two on content. Just send us an email stating—"How about..."
These are exciting times at the magazine, and we have a lot of expectations to fulfill in 2013. For now, let us all get through peak season safe and enjoy the holidays. How about—go be a blessing and make an impact on someone's life.
Bob Vranek has been vice president of loss prevention at Belk, Inc. based in Charlotte, North Carolina, since 1992. He began his retail loss prevention career in 1972 as an investigator for Mervyn's where he worked for ten years. He moved to Maison Blanche in 1982 to serve as director of LP for ten years. Significantly, Vranek earned his bachelor's degree in business administration in 2000 while running the LP organization at Belk. He has served eighteen years on the LP advisory committee of the National Retail Federation.
Like many others, I have been associated with the Loss Prevention Foundation since its inception. I have seen the growth of the Foundation, the development of the course work, the hard work that the staff and board of directors have completed, but most of all the success of so many in the industry who have obtained either LPQ or LPC certification.
There are many significant accomplishments, but rather than my going through them here, please take five minutes to visit losspreventionfoundation.org and read just the home page. It's pretty impressive.
In the beginning I wondered if I would go through the LPC coursework and take the exam. I finally came to the conclusion that I should. I was blown away by the quality of the information, the many things that I had forgotten, and the many that I had managed to miss learning. It was all a good read.
Upon completion, the only thing I thought was missing were some fun questions on the quizzes. So believing that every day you can laugh is a good day, here are some questions I would add to the coursework, just for the fun of it.
As a store detective or investigator the best way to get promoted is?
- Catch a lot of shoplifters
- Kiss up to the store manager
- Tell your boss about all the theft you have prevented
As a district LP manager, the most important person in reducing shrink in your district is?
- Your store managers
- Not a person, but your EAS system
As a regional LP manager, you spend the most time on?
- Traveling from store to store
- Trying to fill LP openings
- Looking for jobs with other companies
As a director or VP of LP, your blood pressure rises dangerously when?
- The annual shrinkage results are about to be announced
- Your cell phone rings at midnight on Saturday
- The CEO of your company wants to see you first thing Monday morning.
You have had a great day when you have a message from?
- A recruiter saying he has something very confidential to discuss with you
- Your spouse gets a big promotion and is making enough money for you to quit
- Legal saying your bad-stop law suit has been settled with a gift certificate
As a professional LP executive, I can contribute the most to the bottom line by?
- Getting vendors to pay for my dinner
- Buying low-grade gasoline for the company car
- Helping customers find more merchandise to purchase
In order to maximize your attendance at a conference or convention you must?
- Dance, eat, and be merry
- Be able to check your email and text during sessions that are boring
- Talk to as many colleagues as you can about yourself
What are the tell-tale signs that you are getting the "business" from a vendor?
- They have their fingers, arms, and legs crossed when speaking to you
- They tell you the perfect solution for your company is in research and development
- They want to hire you
If you are unhappy and thinking about looking for a job, where do you turn?
- Only those people who can keep a secret and help you
- Those who can't keep a secret and the word will get back to your boss that you are unhappy
- The only person who can help you is in the mirror
If you want to get ahead, what additional training or education will help?
- On-line newsletters, print offerings, and non-LP training programs
- Certifications of any type
- Any kind of higher level learning
Okay, so these questions are not likely ever to appear on any certification exam, but after you spend hours and hours going through content and preparing yourself for a professional exam, it is a good thing to step back, relax, and poke a little fun with the work. Good luck to anyone and everyone who makes the commitment to better themselves through education.