As a young person in loss prevention...yes, at one time I was...one of my greatest thrills was to attend my first national conference. It was a big deal for me. St. Louis was the city, and my good friend Jim Giese and I bought weekend tickets for three baseball games. We arrived three days before the conference began and found that the players had gone on strike, and all games were cancelled. We walked around a lot, ate a lot, and waited with great anticipation for the conference to begin.
When the first speaker took the podium, we were pretty fired up and feeling very important to be there. How impressed I was as the leading practitioners and vendors of retail made presentation after presentation. This was really cool. I felt a part of something big and good.
That was a lot of years ago, but I suspect that the young people attending conferences today have the same feelings I had then—cool, big, impressive leaders. It's an on-going challenge to make conferences special and enlist the top executives to take the lead on making presentations. The recent RILA conference achieved that goal. Here are some of the highlights for me:
- Mark King, CEO of TaylorMade Golf, making the pitch to everyone to "lead or lose...be willing to make radical changes."
- Chris Canoles of The Home Depot telling the story of the Joplin, Missouri, tornado and admitting they thought they had the best of plans, but you can always make them better, so don't become complacent.
- The story of Lowe's senior vice president of distribution, Steve Szilagyi, and the vice president of LP, Claude Verville, having many challenging and adversarial moments until they came together in a partnership for success. With names like that how could anyone doubt their passion for safety.
- Mark Stinde speaking about leveraging technology to support the sales, customer service, and profit of 7-Eleven, and Rite Aid's Bob Oberosler explaining how to build a diverse and productive LP team. These two executives are so good that they could have done each other's presentation.
- Paul Stone of Best Buy and Frank Johns of the LP Foundation were exceptional in discussing ethics and compliance issues. What do you do when someone makes allegations against you? What do you do when you are told to stop an investigation?
- Walter Palmer, Stan Welch, Ken Amos, Libby Rabun, Brand Elverston, Dave Zulawski, Chris McDonald, Cheryl Blake, and Dennis Klein, all leaders in the industry, giving of their time and expertise to help young and first-time attendees feel special and passionate about their profession. Way to go people.
Since I began this column by reminiscing a bit, allow me to speak about two professionals in this business that do not get enough credit for their contributions—Pete Schmidt and George Luciano.
Pete is an executive with 3VR. Over the years he has become an accomplished expert in video and analytical intelligence. He was not always a vendor. Pete started his career at Montgomery Ward after attending Indiana University majoring in police administration. One of the early leaders in LP with Wards, he was a special breed back then with a college degree on his resume. Pete was the top LP executive with three companies before moving into the vendor world with Security Tag and helping all of us get "inked with EAS." It's always good to see and speak with Pete at these conferences.
George Luciano is retired...sort of. I say "sort of" because he has retired at least three times that I know of. So, maybe he is, or maybe not. George was a founding partner of Civil Demand and Associates, which has been around for over twenty-five years. However, George has been around longer than that. He was the top LP executive at Zody's, Clothes Time, and Petco, as well as a consultant to many in LP. I will tell you that a lot of that consulting was without payment, but with much passion. I personally experienced this when, as an LP executive, I needed help on some problems, and George was there. There are many who have been lucky to know and get to appreciate this man. Thanks to George and Pete, and all the other unselfish leaders, for giving back to our industry.