Roadmap for New LP Executives
By Mike Nagyhazy, CEO
LP Executive Consulting, LLC
Questions or comments can be emailed to email@example.com
When Gus and I spoke about various articles that may be helpful and beneficial, we landed
on a series of articles designed to help a newer Loss Prevention Executive in his/her new role.
Having spent time as a Loss Prevention Executive at Target Corporation, Mervyns, Harbor Freight Tools, and now
with 24 Hour Fitness, I've been fortunate enough to experience LP in a few very different settings.
I'm excited to share my experience with you all, and hope that you find (at least some!) of the information
Within the next couple of months, I will be writing brief articles that touch on the following areas of LP Leadership: Setting your expectations, assessing your team, effective communication, prioritizing and aligning your goals and objectives with the company's, establishing strong partnerships - both internally and externally, budgeting, and a few others that should get your wheels turning!
So we're all clear early on, these articles won't be the "holy grail" of all Loss Prevention Leadership. They will be written to hopefully complement what you great leaders are already doing today, and to provide a basic roadmap to those who may be assuming their first LP Executive role! Often times, we are thrown into a, "here's your office, now make good things happen!" type of situation. This series of articles should give you a starting point to help build your foundation, utilizing your own style.
I look forward to sharing my experience (both wins and fumbles!) with you all - thanks for reading!
Part 1: Meet, Greet and Candidly Assess
So you've accepted a new role as a Loss Prevention Executive - Congratulations!! Now what?! The first few steps that I've taken in the past after accepting a new LP role have been extremely helpful to me, and have helped to set the stage for years to come. First thing that should happen - especially if you have a remote team spread across the Country, or globally - is to meet your direct reports. Whether it's a 15 minute call to each of them (assuming they're remote), or an in-person team meeting, it's important to connect with your team very early on. You are more than likely going to be very curious about your team, and I promise you that your team is going to be just as curious (if not more so!) about who their new leader is. Rather than have it be a mystery, break the ice right away, reach out, listen to what your direct reports have to say, and start the open line of communication as early on as possible. This will put your team at ease during a time of potential uncertainty, and will also give you an idea of who your players are.
Once the introductions have been made with your team, identify some of the key, non-LP players within your company. Some examples may be the head of HR, CFO, General Counsel, SVP of Operations, etc. Making the time to sit down with these key executives is critical for your future alignment and success. These proactive meetings should be the forum to find out what the true opinion and perception is of your company's LP Department. It is important to invite and encourage honest, candid feedback about the department, in order for you to digest and develop the best road map for improvement! Look, given you are new to the role, you shouldn't be hailed as making the department great, nor should you be blamed for any shortcomings of the department. Don't take the initial feedback personally or defensively, and you will gain invaluable knowledge in a very short amount of time, which can be put to work for the benefit of yourself and your team. Now that you've met your team, heard what they have to say, you've met key executives to truly learn what the perception of the department is, you need to take those dozens of thoughts... and make them actionable items! In upcoming articles, we'll discuss how to prioritize those thoughts, how to get the buy-in from those that matter, and how to make things happen quickly, effectively and efficiently. I truly look forward to writing Part 2 of the "Roadmap for New LP Executives", and hope that you will enjoy reading it!
Part 2: Understand What's Being Done
If you've been following the introduction and first article of the Loss Prevention Executive Roadmap series, you've learned that meeting your team should be your first priority after assuming a new Loss Prevention Executive role. Once those introductions have been made, it's time to learn and understand what your team is doing. I often-times over simplify things, so I'll explain where I'm going with this.
From analyzing data, to investigating, to auditing, to new store projects, you should quickly grasp what your direct reports do on a day-to-day basis. It's amazing what you will learn by asking your team what their priorities are, and by spending time with them to truly "see" what occupies their day. You will gain immediate understanding as to the level of consistency (or lack thereof!) amongst your team. The obvious goal is to learn that everyone within the same role has the same priorities, but don't expect it. That's why you're in your new role - to make that happen for the department, and for the company.
On top of measuring the "consistency barometer" for your team, this next part is critical, and will immediately align you with most CFOs and Finance Executives. Once you've determined what's being done on a day-to-day basis, it's time to white board those actions, and ask yourself a few questions: 1. Does this action need to continue? 2. Is there a better way to do it? 3. Is there a better person to do it? The first two questions are somewhat self-explanatory. Many people continue to do things simply because they haven't been asked to stop. If you learn that you have resources completing meaningless tasks - ask them to stop! If it's an action that is critical and needs to continue, you're being paid to assess the process and streamline it for the company - one example may be the team completing operational audits via paper/pen vs. auditing via an iPad/tablet. Now the third question (is there a better person to do it?) is very important, and can be a game-changer for you. It doesn't necessarily mean "changing the people on your team" as much as it prompts, "does this action match what the company is paying this person to do?" Is a Regional Loss Prevention Manager (who is probably your highest compensated position) completing actions or tasks that an Analyst/Coordinator/Specialist should be completing, and vice versa? It's critical to match what needs to be done with the appropriate skill set and pay rate amongst your team. Ideally, higher salary should equate to more strategy-based output. Entry-level positions should be tasked with more of the "nuts and bolts" part of the job.
To summarize, make sure that your highest salaried employees aren't burning their fuel on things that an entry-level position could easily complete for the department and for the company. Again, your Sr. Executives, specifically in Finance, will truly appreciate this evaluation and realignment. Your team will also appreciate these adjustments, as they will feel valued for now being responsible for contributing at the level in which they should be!
Part 3: Learn the Company Priorities
As a new Loss Prevention Executive, and per the prior series articles, you've met your team and various executives, you've learned what your team does on a day-to-day basis, and you've gauged the overall level of consistency amongst your team. Now it's time to truly learn what your company's priorities are, so you're not fighting an uphill battle with the Loss Prevention department. The best way that I can describe this is by giving you some realistic examples, based on my experience. I will keep these examples fairly general (for the sake of a manageable article that won't put you to sleep!)
In partnership with the most strategic (and high-level) executives within your company, it's critical to understand what the overall company metrics are, and quite candidly, "what keeps people up at night?" A bit of a creepy question, admittedly, but most executives will know exactly what you're asking - I promise. Is it high shrink numbers, low sales numbers, supply chain infrastructure, serious incidents and brand reputation, messy and costly litigation? Maybe it's a combination of all of those things! Whatever the answer is, it's your job to find out what your team of Loss Prevention Managers and Agents should be focusing the majority of their time on, to align best with the business. At Target and Mervyns (both big box retailers) it was very clear that the focus was on internal and external theft - shrink control. Thus, the Loss Prevention strategy was how best to deter and apprehend shoplifters, as well as, deterring and detecting employee theft. In my most current role, in the fitness industry, shoplifting - as an example - is an extremely small fraction of what we spend our time on. I quickly learned that injury and incident reduction, brand reputation, and upholding best-in-class physical security controls within our clubs' day care centers is what my team and I should be focusing on primarily. These are also the topics of many LP/Ops discussions, as they are constantly on everyone's mind, within the company.
To summarize, Loss Prevention is not a one-size-fits-all business. When done right, it's a very robust industry that requires its' executives to have very "wide blinders". The days of stopping the shoplifter and catching the person stealing $10/day for their lunch money, although still important to detect, are often-times trumped by deteriorating brand reputation, extremely costly litigation, and loss of customers or members due to traumatic incidents occurring. One of the most interesting questions that I like to ask field leaders during my travel is, "If this was YOUR store/DC/gym/etc., and it was YOUR personal investment, what would you want the Loss Prevention team to focus on, in order for your business to be as profitable as possible?" It's amazing how quickly and candidly people answer that question. Many times it has nothing to do with what the department's focus is. If that's the case, it's probably time to reassess the department's priorities ASAP. Again, the power of company alignment and consistent direction will immediately yield professional respect and value toward your department.
Part 4: Lights, Camera, Action (Plan)!
If you've been following the "Roadmap for New LP Executives" series, we've covered a handful of topics that you can also reference via the link at the bottom of this article. You've tackled the numerous introductions, learned what your resources do on a day-to-day basis, and hopefully you're thinking about any realignment that may need to take place within the department. You've also learned what your department's priorities should be, in order to be fully aligned with the company's direction.
Now for the action plan! This part may be a bit tricky, as it requires a lot of patience, strategic thought, and accurate timing. You have dozens of things that you want to tackle immediately, but you have to be realistic about what's most important, what resources you have to help you, and what's going to yield the best results for your department and for the company. My two cents on how to get started with an action plan is as follows: Put your thoughts on paper - whether you work best on a white board, paper/pen, computer/tablet notes - document everything that you've picked up on that may need some overhauling. Once your fingers feel like they're about to fall off, you're ready to prioritize them - again, whatever method works for you - 1, 2, 3; A, B, C; High, Med., Low - it's your system. Obviously the items that are potentially the most damaging to your department and to the company should be your highest priority items. A few examples of this may be: Inconsistent and unethical investigative/interviewing practices, potential breaches with your CCTV network and disciplines, communication styles and habits that may put the company at great risk, and people that may put your company at risk. Your job is to assess how to triage, contain and remediate the various areas that may cause the most erosion to your company's brand and profitability. A lot to take in, I know. Don't be afraid to take various partners to help you prioritize your action plan. Talk to the Chief Technology Officer about what you've observed with the CCTV network, meet with your General Counsel and Human Resources Executive about investigative/interviewing practices, include your VP of Operations in the conversation about the disciplines (or lack thereof!) that you've noticed during your field travels - and how those correlate with the company's P&L. Bottom line is that there are usually a lot of very smart people that, when asked, will share their expertise with you, and will help guide your Loss Prevention Plan of Action. You'll also learn a lot along the way, which is always a great thing!
To close, take your time and draft your action plan strategically - don't rush through this, as this should be a living document for many, many months, if not years! Prioritize it based on big-picture, potential risk, find the best partners to help educate you on their area of expertise, assign realistic timing to the various action items, and with the right team supporting you, you will be in great shape! You will also demonstrate that, once again, you have the "wide blinders" that we've talked about, and that you're improving the profitability and overall brand for your company!
Part 5: Visibility, Accountability and Recognition
To those who have been following the Roadmap series - thank you! Hopefully you're enjoying the information thus far. We've covered many topics, and there's more to come! If you haven't been following the series, feel free to click on the link at the bottom of this article to get fully caught up. This week, we're focusing on visibility, accountability and recognition for the new department that you've recently adopted.
This is a topic that may be somewhat controversial, as different LP leaders have different opinions on their department's metrics and productivity. We will discuss that a bit further in the article. The first thing that must be determined is, what metrics actually matter? It's a good idea to make sure that the metrics that are being collected, analyzed, measured and distributed are somewhat universal amongst your company - meaning, a DM or RVP cares about similar numbers that a LP Manager cares about. Again, it's that, "not swimming upstream" mentality to help everyone work collectively. Examples of various Loss Prevention measurable metrics may be: Shrink numbers ($ and %); Apprehension statistics; Serious incidents; Security guard budgets; critical POS metrics (returns, markdowns, overrides, etc.); Cash over/short. These metrics are dependent on your company's priorities, your department's structure, and what the executives feel are important to monitor and contain. Developing a Loss Prevention Dashboard is a great way for Loss Prevention, District Managers, RVPs and various corporate executives to be completely aligned on what LP is doing. Personally, I like a one-page dashboard cleanly designed to highlight the high-level, critical statistics. If someone requires more data, then you can share the supporting data that makes up the dashboard.
Now that you have the critical metrics determined, you've created a departmental dashboard, and that dashboard is being distributed to a broad audience, it's time to make sure that everyone on the team is contributing to those great numbers! Certain metrics (shrink, overrides, security guard budget as a few examples) are fairly easy to assign firm goals to. The more controversial metric is apprehensions and dishonest employee statistics. This is definitely a topic that you should discuss openly with your Human Resources and Legal teams, to get their buy-in. I fall within the camp of not setting firm productivity apprehension goals for a Loss Prevention team. I feel that firm apprehension goals lead to bad stops, costly legal disasters, and desperation to spend $3k in LP resources to determine who may be stealing .50 cent sodas out of the employee break room refrigerator. If you have the right people in place who take pride in their career, then a few will automatically lead the team in productive apprehensions, and the rest of the group should naturally want to chase and not be bottom of the pack month-after-month. This eliminates the need for official (or "unofficial") goals (or quotas!), and with the right people in place, keeps your team naturally productive. Be sure to tactfully recognize those who are remaining productive, as that recognition should keep the team productivity moving in the right direction. For those who remain at the bottom of the dashboard, month-after-month, they will stand out and a move will have to take place when you feel the timing is right. This is only fair to those who work hard to be a productive member of your team. Stay tuned for more articles designed to help guide the New LP Executive!
Part 6: Alignment Through Communication
We've covered quite a bit with the Roadmap series, and we're not stopping yet! This week's article covers aligning your team through communication. This is especially critical when leading field teams, as it often-times takes a conscious effort to ensure that the field folks are all aligned via your communication.
You've probably all played the game, "Telephone". This is where you get a group of friends or co-workers together, one person tells a short story or phrase to the person next to him/her, and you anxiously await the returning story! Typically, what starts off as your Saturday BBQ story ends up as you bowling on a Tuesday night - amazing how that happens, but it usually does. Keeping this simple, but often-times failing exercise in mind, I always make it a priority to communicate the critical items to as much of my team as possible, directly. The method in which you do this is, once again, your own style. For me and my current team, the cadence that works well is a weekly conference call with the entire LP team (keeping in mind that I have a very manageable number of field LP folks). I also have a weekly leadership conference call with only my direct reports. This allows the leadership team to discuss critical topics that should be ironed out and eventually discussed on the all-hands call, in a smaller, more intimate setting. It also allows for more dialogue about departmental strategy, company and team changes, etc., without the concern or fear of voicing one's opinion in front of the entire group. Obviously the size of the team, geographic location and overall cadence of the department should be considered with your method and style of communication. Also, as simple as it sounds, always create a conference call agenda prior to the call. We've all been on those nightmare conference calls where the call leader is jumping around between topics, more than likely texting, emailing, and has numerous interruptions throughout the call. Do your best to prep, to create prioritized topics, to fully focus, and to make each call as efficient and fulfilling as possible. Quite honestly, no one is dying to give up time in their day to listen to a dysfunctional and confusing message from their leader.
In order to be able to provide the most updated and important information to your team, you have to have the information yourself! Now that you've met various, key executives amongst the company, you'll usually have to do some fact-finding (no problem, you're a LP person!) into what information is distributed from the various, corporate teams. Many department heads don't just default to adding LP to their department's news. Whether it's personnel announcements from HR, inventory information from Finance, pricing/promotional news from Category Management, or new policies/procedures from Operations, it's your responsibility as a Loss Prevention Executive to get on these email lists, to wedge yourself into meetings, and to appropriately and professionally share company news and updates with your team. On that note, here's to staying informed!
Until next week, friends...
Part 7: Evaluating Your Structure
Often-times in Loss Prevention, you hear from various people that the department is purely a company expense, or just a cost center. Those are dreaded words to any Loss Prevention Executive, so let's discuss a few different structure options, in order to hopefully steer you clear of hearing those terrifying comments. When I was offered my first LP Director position, I was quickly reminded by the head of HR, that "pigs get fat and hogs get slaughtered". One can argue quite harsh first words, post-promotion, but I'm very glad that the phrase continues to resonate with me throughout my career. My take-away from that particular comment was to constantly be mindful of not unnecessarily building a "LP Empire", if not absolutely needed (and justified). Loss Prevention is a constant balancing act - payroll, travel expenses, shrink numbers, equipment cost, risk mitigation, brand protection - and the list goes on and on. I never want to be the department that jumps off of the page, when the President/CEO/CFO reviews the company financials. It can lead to unhealthy discussions, quick decisions, and a potentially unhappy (or unemployed!) LP team. A major part of your responsibility as a Loss Prevention Executive is to determine what balance is best for your company, and the financial goals, and to put the smartest and most efficient structure in place.
One structure, as an example, may be influenced by external shoplifting that continually needs to be combatted within your company. In this example, having a heavier band of hourly LP Agents may be justified, in order to keep up with, and to control the external activity. You're going for a bit of a "show of force" in this situation, in order to push the shoplifters to one of your competitors. Let's be honest, this is a major part of LP - how NOT to be the most enticing victim, right?
If external activity is not prevalent, and the goal for the LP department is to assess and improve overall company operations through audits, you clearly won't need the large band of entry-level Agents. You would reduce headcount, possibly increase the salaries of those who remain, and create a very solid audit team that neutrally assesses the company's controls, and reports accordingly - different skill set than an Agent tasked to catch shoplifters.
Another one of the many options possible may be a blend between geographically-based LP folks, and functionally-based folks. This model gives you the benefit of having boots-on-the-ground (the geographical portion), and also gives you consistency of having a few subject matter experts (the functional portion). An example of where this model can be extremely successful is with new store construction. Would you, as a Loss Prevention Executive, rather have eight RLPMs developing the CCTV plans for new stores across the country, or one or two HQ-based LP experts developing consistent plans for the eight regions, where the RLPMs just have to run the play? Hopefully you see where I'm going with this, as centralizing certain parts of your department's responsibility can add consistency, increase efficiency, and reduce cost at the same time. I'd say that's an overall win-win for not only you, but also for that President/CEO/CFO who's reviewing the company's P&L - Congrats!
Part 8: Define Your Platform
One of the most exciting things about being a Loss Prevention Executive, besides constantly working alongside various people and personalities, is assessing and implementing your physical security platform. This takes a lot of time, a lot of homework, utilizing your business relationships (both internally and externally), and usually involves a healthy chunk of capital. Determining the physical security structure is not a one-size-fits-all fix. It really should be tailored to the needs of your company, and realistic for your department to oversee. Now we're not going to go into detail about locks, keys, cores, etc. For the most part, an interchangeable core is an interchangeable core. Get a quality platform that's scalable, cost-effective, and don't get too wrapped up in the minutia there.
Let's talk CCTV strategy for a little while. This is, by far, typically the most expensive portion of a standard physical security platform. It's also very easy to get wrapped up in the "bells and whistles" and bright, shiny objects within this arena. The first thing that should be assessed is, what are you solving for, with your CCTV platform? Is it deterring external theft, internal theft, injuries/lawsuits, critical incidents, protecting diamonds, cash or daycare centers? In many cases, the answer could be "YES!" to most of these. Start by prioritizing what you want/need your CCTV platform to do for you, and go from there. Involve a few different vendors who do this daily for various customers, and let them pitch a solution that they feel would meet your needs. Why not ask for help and get suggestions or ideas that you may not have thought of?
Once you have your strategy in-mind, don't be shy to ask vendors to set-up a "Try-Buy". A Try-Buy is essentially an agreement that you make with a vendor to try a specific piece of technology, or platform for a specific amount of time (30 days, 60 days, 90 days) before you potentially buy it. This allows you to test specific items, learn about the technology, and truly see if it's a good solution for your environment. It's also extremely inexpensive, initially, and you only pay for the "solution" should you decide to keep it. If not, the vendor removes it after the negotiated time frame, with minimal investment to you - maybe a few dollars for installation labor, at most.
So you've figured out your strategy, completed a few Try-Buys from various vendors, and you know what direction you're going to take with the technology. My recommendation, once you've taken the right executive partners to share your strategy, is to involve someone from your Procurement/Purchasing department, in order to help you with the pricing. Procurement usually purchases items from forks to forklifts - cameras shouldn't be too taxing on them! Guide the Procurement Rep. on what you're after and what vendors to contact. Let them take a large stab at the pricing, and remember that numerous vendors bidding, combined with a bulk purchase (volume!) equals best pricing for you! Making the smaller, individual purchases are costly in all ways; your time, Procurement's time for POs, vendor paperwork being processed, shipping costs, etc. It's just too many touches for a few thousand dollars. Get the quantity pricing every time, if you have the capital at your exposure. Hopefully this gives you a good start to making the best decisions possible!
Part 9: Budgeting 101
Budgeting can be one of the most intimidating areas, after assuming your new Executive LP role. You've gone from being a RLPM, or another leadership position that may have just "inherited" the set budget each year, to now being the one fully responsible for the entire department's budget. But where do you start?!
Admittedly, we won't be able to solve the LP World's budgeting dilemmas in one D&D article, but here are some starting points for you, to lessen the fear. Firstly, find out who your Finance support person is, and meet with that person early on. Most companies have Financial Analysts/Planners assigned to the various department heads within the organization. Once you learn who supports Loss Prevention, meet with that person to go over the actuals (actual, previous spend) for the department. Most Financial Analysts are happy to go through this at a high-level, or line-by-line (this is what they love to do!) My recommendation is to go through the previous budget/actuals line-by-line, to fully understand what was built into the LP budget, and what spend will hit your budget. Your Financial Analyst may also have a company template already set-up that assists with annualized budget planning. Use it if they offer it!
When assessing the labor (headcount/payroll) portion of your budget, unless you're planning on making major changes to headcount, this is actually a fairly easy section to budget for. The Finance Dept. typically has a model already laid out, as far as general salary increase %s, bonus potential, benefits, etc. Again, ask them first, before recreating the wheel on your own. If there are changes that you're planning for (adding headcount, promotions, reductions, etc.) you'll want to bake those in - especially adds! You will want to have solid justification for any adds in headcount.
The other two major parts of a typical LP budget are travel and capital expenditure (CAPEX). We will discuss travel in this week's article, and CAPEX in next week's article. Depending on your future rollout plans, you'll want to review the current travel spend/actuals, and make adjustments (either up or down) based on your vision and strategy. Ask yourself, will the field LP team be traveling to your company's locations more frequently, less frequently, or the same amount? Will there be any all-hands meetings where multiple people will be traveling to the corporate office? You may want to have your direct reports travel in a few times per year, in order to fully align the team. Maybe your team hasn't experienced a team-building event in many years, and you'd like to plan one once the dust settles a bit. All of these things need to be thought out, budgeted-for, and once again, justified. It's always best to budget for a bit more activity, and not use it all, versus the opposite. Keep in mind that most company's annual budget process goes through a few executive reviews (and cuts!) as you near the new fiscal year. Have a plan in the back of your mind as to where you'd be able to "give back" some dollars, if asked.
Next week, we will discuss CAPEX budgeting, as this is critical for a Loss Prevention Dept. In the meantime, Happy Budgeting for 2016!
Part 10: An Overview on CAPEX
In Part 9 of the Roadmap for New LP Executives, we discussed general budgeting, and went into some detail about the expense side of the house (operational expenditure, or OPEX) - labor and travel. This week, we'll go into detail about capital expenditure (CAPEX). One of the first conversations that you should have with your Finance team is to learn what the threshold is for CAPEX spend within the company. I've worked at some companies where the threshold is $1k+ and other companies where the threshold is $3k+. This is important to know, as you'll need to be savvy about CAPEX spend vs. OPEX spend. As a general rule, there's usually more scrutiny and sensitivity around expense purchases vs. CAPEX purchases. As you may know, CAPEX spend is typically for a fixed asset that has a useful life (i.e. a DVR/NVR that has a useful life of 5-7 years).
When you're building your department's annual budget, there are a few things to think about when mapping out your capital spend: What new LP/physical security equipment will you be purchasing for the company? Who handles capital purchases for newly-built locations? (Usually the Construction dept., but you should confirm this.) What existing equipment may have to be replaced next year due to age and wear-and-tear? These are a few of the big questions that need to be thought out and discussed, in order to set you up for budgetary success!
We briefly touched on bulk purchases in a previous article, but I wanted to highlight a few of the benefits of negotiating a bulk, CAPEX purchase. Hopefully your company is open to sensible bulk purchases:
● More aggressive pricing when you buy in bulk (think bulk, warehouse store vs. grocery store)
● Less administrative work related to obtaining vendor bids, POs, approvals, shipping costs, etc.
● Quicker turnaround for replenishment of new product
● Consistent product type purchased
Those are a few of the selling points for a bulk purchase that should help guide your conversation with Sr. Leadership, as to why you'd like to go this route. Keep in mind that when you're buying expensive, electronic items with software and warranties (DVRs/NVRs), you should have detailed conversations with your provider about when the warranty time starts. If the product's warranty starts as soon as you take control of the product, you may not want to purchase 3 years' worth of NVRs. The warranty will have expired before you deploy the product to your locations! Talk to your provider/vendor about options that will help you - possibly extending the warranty period; phasing the shipment dates, so you don't take control of all of the product at one time - find the sweet spot as to where you will benefit from the bulk purchase, but you won't be sitting on years' worth of inventory. Always remember that your vendors should happily provide you with tiered pricing options that will help you make the smartest decision for your company!
Part 11: Document Your Journey
As a new Loss Prevention Executive, you will get a TON of things thrown your way. Some may be projects from other company executives, your boss, things that you observe yourself - it will hit you from all directions, at times. That's why you're in this role; because you're strategic, you have the right attitude, and you can handle it!
It's important that you document what you've accomplished in your new role, as it happens. There have been many times that I sit at my laptop during the company's self-review process, trying to think back on what happened 3 quarters prior. With everything that we handle within Loss Prevention, remembering projects and improvements accomplished from 3 quarters ago can be quite taxing!
Now that you're at a different level of Loss Prevention Leadership, your reviews and your compensation plan have hopefully forced you to take the process very seriously. Gone are the days of externals and internals - now you have to creatively earn your seat at the table each and every day. Having said all of this, it's important that you Document Your Journey. This can be as easy as an ongoing Word document, Excel spreadsheet, notes on your tablet, or a good ol' fashion notepad - whatever your style may be, make quick notes as things happen. This will assist you during 1:1 meetings with your boss, it will help with quarterly business updates, and it will certain help you write your review, in order to maximize your personal financials. A few examples of brief notes/accomplishments may be as simple as:
Aug. 2015 - Created Company Shrink Awareness Program, along with Marketing Team, yielding a 12% shrink reduction trend (may be something that you're still monitoring through the year, but document its' inception, anyway!)
Sept. 2015 - Engaged and assisted Procurement Team to renegotiate bulk CCTV pricing, reducing annualized spend by 8% ($47K)
Oct. 2015 - Implemented auditing via tablet for entire LP team, resulting in office supply spend reduction of $32k
Etc., etc., etc.
Your list is your list. It should mirror the hard work that you're doing, it should reflect the cost savings that you may be bringing to the table, and should highlight the strategic projects that you've worked on. When it comes to self-reviews, and sharing your hard work, sell yourself! Don't be shy and don't hold back. You're at a level where others may not overtly praise you on a regular basis, and no one will know what you've accomplished like you will. Make great things happen, and Document Your Journey!
Part 12: Integrate Yourself for Success
Loss Prevention is an interesting field - I'm sure that's why most of us are in it! The infamous cat-and-mouse game that smaller teams of LP folks often battle with larger groups of employees and shoplifters. It's quite a unique industry with all of us always being right, right?
I joke a bit, as I write about this topic. It's a topic, like many others - that can make you or break you as a Loss Prevention Executive. Having started my career in individual retail locations, it was engrained into me that things were very "black-and-white", no grey. Either they did it or they didn't do it. Let's face it; you need to be darn certain that your apprehension/detention is a legal one, right?! My fear is that many people bring that same, "all-or-nothing" mentality with them as they climb the corporate ladder. As you distance yourself from the day-to-day apprehensions and investigations, and you are soon surrounded by Marketing executives, Human Resource professionals and artistic Merchants, you are immediately tossed into an environment rich with grey... and red, blue, green - everything! This can be overwhelming for someone who was programmed in, and who spent many years in the field.
Now I'm definitely not suggesting that anyone lower their expectations, stomp on your moral compass, or risk tarnishing your ethical credibility. What I am suggesting, however, is that you try your best to put yourself in the shoes of those who you work with on a daily basis; the creative folks, the folks who are truly energized by co-workers, the folks who program I.T. code all day. We are all in very robust environments, with dozens of different personality types - make the most of it! Take the time to try to understand what makes people tick, and what the goals are of the various departments who you work alongside. At the same time, find a more casual, positive (non-authoritative) way to explain what you're all about, and what goals you and your department have for the company's success.
A lot of the time, Loss Prevention is focused on apprehensions, investigations, and brand-degrading incidents that occur. That's part of the job, and it will always be part of the job. I'm willing to guess that the majority of your co-workers have a general sense of what Loss Prevention does for the company - no need to beat it into them repeatedly. As a Loss Prevention Executive, spend your time and energy strategically and creatively trying to tie your department's efforts in with your corporate peers. Once people know that you're open-minded, willing to listen, willing to admit that you're not always right, and willing to operate in the grey once in a while, you will immediate notice open doors and healthy dialogue in your new role. Give it a shot, and happy maneuvering!!
Part 13: Landing Your Dream Job!
If you've been following the available/open Executive LP positions at the bottom of each Daily, you've noticed quite a few job openings - some new, and some open for many, many months. As leaders change, and as people look to potentially make their first move into a LP Executive position, I wanted to share a few tips on how to hopefully land that LP Executive job that you've been gunning for!
I'll preface with the fact that a lot of this information is only my opinion; it's what I've gathered over the years and after talking to many recruiters, LP Executives and company leaders. During those conversations, the topic of resumes has been quite common. My two cents on resumes is as follows: Firstly, check your resume a dozen times for potential typos! If grammar and spelling aren't your strong points, then have someone else check your resume for you. The last thing an employer wants is to hire someone who can't seem to get their own resume dialed in, plain and simple. I keep my resume to a max of two pages, and I've since omitted my jobs that don't fit on those two pages. Quite candidly, no one cares about my part time sales associate job at Radio Shack back in high school. If I'm asked for prior experience, I'll share whatever I'm being asked for, but keep your resume relevant and accurate. Also, keep in mind that many others, outside of Loss Prevention, will be reading your resume, so keep it digestible by a dynamic audience. General, staffing recruiters may not know what "CCTV, internals, BA/FA systems and ORC" are, so try to style your resume universally for those in HR, LP, Ops, Finance, etc.
Once you conquer the best two-page resume that you can, you're ready for the interview process! One of the biggest challenges that folks find when transitioning from a field position to a corporate position is the change in mindset from tactics-to-strategy. Now I don't mean that ALL field jobs are purely tactical, and that ALL corporate jobs are completely strategic, but there usually is a noticeable difference. I've mentioned it a few times in past articles; our commonly-known field statistics aren't as relevant to a corporate-based position. Most CFOs, as an example, won't care about how many internals and externals someone apprehended while in the field. What they care about, however, is what global, LP program you're going to implement, how you'll be able to influence others (who don't report directly into you), how you're going to reduce company spend, shrink, and keep the company out of hot water. Having said that, part of your overall strategy may be to assess the department's current internal and external procedures, so you'll need to be able to demonstrate the difference about what your program and approach may look like, vs. what your "statistics" looked like.
Also, learn about the company that you're interviewing for, and have a few questions at the end of your interview. There's no excuse, in today's day and age, to not fully research the company that you're interested in, public or private. Take the time to do your homework, showing that you're serious about "that" particular job - not just any opportunity that happens to present itself. Know your audience, as far as who you're interviewing with, and have a few relevant questions in mind for each of those people. I try to gear the questions to my audience. I won't typically ask the CFO a Human Resources question; I'll ask him/her a finance-related question, and I'll save the "people-related questions" for the HR professional who I may speak with. Show that you're interested, that you may not have all of the answers, but that you'd like more answers. It always concerns me when a candidate doesn't have any questions at all, at the end of their interview. Having no questions demonstrates either: 1. a lack of caring/interest, or, 2. that the candidate feels that they know everything already. In both cases, I'll kindly pass and move onto the next candidate until I feel a strong connection.
Part 14: Supporting vs. Coddling
If you were to have a conversation with my LP Leadership Team, they would more than likely share with you my thoughts on supporting company processes/projects vs. owning the non-LP processes. This was a lesson that I learned early on, primarily by a CFO mentor of mine. It was an invaluable one for me to learn!
Something that I've seen more than once (and have been guilty of myself!) is a LP leader who felt the necessity to fully "own" everything that he/she was involved in - even if it wasn't LP-related. Where I'm going with this, quite candidly, is perhaps having insecurity about a LP department, boss, business partners, company culture, etc., that may eventually lead to wanting to own too much. Taking on the POS project, the inventory scheduling, the new store opening, the technology rollout - whatever example hits home for you; there are many of them. Often times, we feel it necessary to show our value by emulating the jack-of-all-trades scenario, and forcing ourselves to quasi-own projects that really don't fall within LP's scope. We take on 10% of this project, 15% of that project, 8% of that project, and the list goes on and on. Pretty soon, we may lose sight of what we're really here to do.
Simply stating my point here, ponder the idea of, "doing what LP does, really, really well!" The problem with hanging your hat on owning and trying to coddle projects that don't belong to LP is that the original project owners can quickly resume full ownership of that project, almost disarming LP of their value to the company. I tell my team, quite often, that we should always support, offer feedback, inject our LP expertise where needed, but don't feel the need to do other departments' jobs for them. Everyone gets paid a salary to do a specific job within the company - let people do what they are paid to do. While they are doing their job, LP should continue to fine tune their expertise with investigations, shrink reduction, incident response, efficient auditing, brand protection, and so on.
Please don't mistake this message for one of operating in a silo, not being a good business partner, or anything remotely along those lines. I pride myself on being a strong business partner, and I ask that my entire team do the same thing. In my opinion, where a LP Executive really earns his/her seat at the table is by ensuring that his/her team doesn't inherit dozens of other people's jobs, that they aren't a pawn for incompetent folks, and that they keep the pathway clear for the passionate LP folks to do what we all love to do - LP work! It's not always that easy, but if you remind yourself to always try to do your job better and better every day, it will set you up for longer-term stability, and won't pigeonhole you as the "extra headcount who will naively take on the company projects that others won't touch".
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go install an I.T. server, brand a marketing ad, clean a backstock and repair a HVAC unit...
Part 15: Taking a Risk
There's a quote floating around out there from Richard Branson - "If someone offers you an amazing opportunity and you're not sure you can do it, say yes - then learn how to do it later." Although I'm not a huge "quote guy" by nature, I'm really drawn to this one - especially within loss prevention.
As loss prevention professionals, we know that there are many different areas of expertise within LP: retail, supply chain, corporate security, ORC, etc. They're all very interesting, but they can also be quite intimidating if you haven't spent years in that particular field. The truth is, most LP professionals fall into the field of loss prevention, and most of us are really good at just figuring things out. As I reflect back on my LP career for a few minutes, I am quickly reminded that the majority of my more memorable LP moves have followed this pattern: holy crap, I don't know how to do [insert new opportunity here], but it seems so exciting, and obviously someone above my pay grade feels that I'd be a good fit, sooo... I'll do and figure it out along the way!! It's a bit scary, but if you approach things with the right attitude, do your research, ask plenty of questions and involve your mentors, it's usually a home run. As an example, I had no clue about supply chain loss prevention, and instantly inherited 4 regional distribution centers overnight when the Target/Mervyns split happened many years ago. It was one of the scariest times in my professional career. After a lot of research, many conversations, and daunting site visits, I came to my conclusion with this new, intimidating opportunity - I'm just trying to keep company 'stuff' within these four, large walls... When you take a step back from the flurry of worries, incidents, meetings, projects and static, it really helps to just level-set your mind, establish your purpose, and learn a new aspect of loss prevention - even if you don't have years and years of experience with it.
To follow-up with the initial quote, if someone believes in you, trusts your leadership style, and feels that your personality and skill set would be a great fit somewhere (whether within your current organization, or not), consider it! Don't let doubt or insecurity block the opportunities and close doors for you. Make educated and strategic moves, but don't let the lack of experience keep you stagnant. After all, VPs didn't start their career as VPs, directors didn't start as directors and managers didn't start as managers. Nearly everyone started in entry-level positions; they gave it their all, accepted offers that made sense, and took risks at the right time. It's a great way to submerge yourself in a variety of experiences, to build a diverse and interesting resume, to make more money, to meet more business partners, and to establish yourself within the world of loss prevention!
Part 16: Increased Communication = Decreased Speculation
I've already shared a bit about communication in a previous Roadmap article, but I think that this is an important topic, warranting a bit more air time. I remember being a District Loss Prevention Manager, touring stores with my District Manager and Human Resources partners. There were topics that were discussed (by my DM/HR peers) in the car - whether revolving around operations, talent assessments, new policies, etc. I felt so out of place because I didn't know, first-hand, what the heck they were talking about. I hadn't heard the most updated company direction. It was actually a very uncomfortable and disconnected feeling; especially with all of us working in the same territory - for the same company!
This lack of communication, knowledge, and clarity often-times leads to unnecessary phones calls, questions, gossip, speculation, and being forced to try to put the missing pieces of the puzzle together - on your own. It's not a healthy way to operate, needless to say; especially in a field where we typically like to have most of the answers.
Being loss prevention professionals, folks expect us to have the majority of the answers. After all, we have access to cameras, reports, technology and other resources that most don't have access to. Why wouldn't we know the basics about the company that we work for?! Well, the bottom line is, unless the department head of LP (and his/her direct reports) communicates these updates effectively, clearly, and in a timely manner, we won't have those answers. It will cause rumors, inconsistent messaging, lack of respect for the department head, and an overall disgruntled workforce. I don't think that's what any LP professional wants amongst their team. I certainly don't.
So as a newer LP Executive, as you get pulled into numerous corporate meetings, conference calls, vendor pitches, and everything else that may make your head spin, always take the time to assess the information that you're receiving to determine what information your field team should have. Your goal is to arm your team with the same knowledge that the other field support teams receive, in order to spark balanced conversation in that "car scenario" that I opened this article with. This will lead to less speculation, more engaging dialogue, consistent execution, and an overall stronger and collaborative LP team!
Part 17: Knowing Your True Role
I can't tell you the number of times that non-LP professionals have made comments to me about the "wanna-be cop" mentality. Luckily, the majority of the comments revolve around the LP department not conducting itself like a wanna-be police department within the company. There's a very fine line between respectfully and professionally detecting and resolving dishonesty that may occur in the workplace, and conducting yourself like a police officer looking for the next bust.
One of the challenges of being a LP Executive is finding that perfect middle ground - carrying yourself in a confident and professional manner, and not over-stepping into an arrogant, "I'm gonna catch the next perp" way-of-life. As I've said in previous articles, usually people know exactly what "LP" signifies within a business environment. At times, LP folks really fail because they constantly have to exude why they're in-place, and what they may have to do. The bottom line is that people know what you do, and the more you downplay the "sexiness" of the profession, the more you may find yourself to be highly respected and valued by other business partners. Sure, we all have stories, we've all investigated that employee who took the company for a ride for years, and most of us have struggled with a tough, career shoplifter "just before the sidewalk's property line". Part of being a great LP Executive is keeping a lid on most of the stories, not getting distracted by the continual drama, and using your intelligence and strategic edge to constantly keep the company out of trouble, and your team safe and valued.
So my two cents on the matter is as follows: If you're not in a role that actively apprehends shoplifters, leave the metal, clip-on badge in your desk drawer. If you started this wonderful LP journey in the private security sector (as I did!), you're no longer in a uniform - you're a business professional. If your claim to fame is the total amount of investigations that you've resolved, and your aspiration is to become a LP Executive, quickly shift your focus to the other aspects of LP. An extremely small percentage of being a true Executive is handling day-to-day investigations. It's obviously priceless to have all of this life experience - none of it is wasted. At some point, when one decides to make the leap from field management to a corporate-based role, there needs to be heavy reflection, often-times a change in mindset, and at the end of the day, playing things cool. Many eyes are immediately on you as the department's conductor - and the metal badge will only distract people.
Part 18: Ringing in the Holidays!
Many of you may be thinking the same thing as I am - “I can’t believe we’re already in Q4 of 2016!” This year has flown by, and for everyone in a retail environment, the fun is about to start! Foot traffic in your locations drastically increases, holiday music consumes the P.A. systems, cash flow spikes, oh, and internal and external theft takes over your life…
For loss prevention executives, October really should be the month where you take a step back from the constant noise, and quickly assess your overall LP program. Everything from physical security measures, CCTV systems, staffing alignment, and setting your priorities for the holiday season. For larger departments, it’s a good idea to create a Holiday Checklist to ensure that you are fully prepared, and reduce the unnecessary surprises from occurring. Some of the items on your checklist may include:
• Ensuring that all DVR settings are consistent and maximized for your environment
• Ensuring that your field LP managers assess their camera angles and fine tune as needed
• Ensuring that your company’s opening and closing procedures are well-known and executed
• Ensuring that staff knows about cash pick-ups (when and how to execute safely)
• Ensuring that key controls are in place (are proper keys assigned, are there back-up sets available for lost sets? etc.)
• Alarm systems needing to be reviewed for extended holiday hours
• Assessing parking lot lighting and holding landlords/property managers accountable for poor lighting conditions
• Reviewing robbery and burglary procedures
• Reviewing shoplifter procedures (i.e. store employees not apprehending shoplifters)
The list goes on and on, and the examples above are only a sampling of what can be reviewed before the holiday season hits us all. The bottom line is to take advantage of this time - most folks are back from summer vacations, and it’s still typically business-as-usual throughout October. A little bit of discipline to complete a pre-holiday assessment of your department, team, equipment and procedures will reduce some of the mayhem, and will allow you to sleep better at night. Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions or comments that you may have, and I wish you all a very safe and successful Q4!!
Part 19: The Responsibility of Solid Leadership
Whether you're a manager leading two part-time LP Agents, or a Senior VP who oversees an International operation of hundreds, leading people is a big responsibility. Although I'm hoping it's not true, my guess is that many of us have worked for leaders who just don't understand that point. They don't understand how the most basic communication, setting of expectations, guidance and feedback can be the determining factors between major disaster and major victory.
Take the classic passive-aggressive personality, as an example. The "leader" (and I use that term loosely) who assumes that his/her team knows exactly what the team's mission is. The leader who doesn't feel that constant communication to his/her team is critical to the team's success, and the leader who only communicates when something has gone wrong. Most of us are thinking of a past leader (or leaders) who have had the classic passive-aggressive style of leadership, and who were nearly impossible to work well with. Although we can't change someone's horrible leadership style, we can definitely work toward not letting the pattern continue.
There are hundreds of books on Leadership - many of them very helpful, and some of them quite cheesy. In my opinion, solid leadership can be easily broken down and sorted through quite quickly. Take a few moments to reflect on what you truly appreciate and value in a great leader (or mentor) - maybe it's proactive and regular communication, brutal honesty, genuine recognition, a consistent demeanor, a tactful sense of humor, confident guidance and support - the list is ongoing. Once you reflect on what you value, what you appreciate, and what makes you work even harder for someone, ask yourself if you demonstrate those strengths and characteristics toward your direct reports. If the answer is no, there's no need to flip a switch overnight, but start to consciously incorporate those strengths into your day-to-day routines with your team.
Whatever your idea of a strong leader is may vary from my idea of a strong leader - and that's OK! I'm hoping what most of us agree on, is the fact that none of us want a leader who is an enemy sniper, who doesn't communicate clearly, and who only looks out for his/her best interest. Take a few minutes to ponder what you truly value, what you may not value at all, and candidly assess what bits and pieces you can eventually build into your style. At the same time, very briefly reflect on those substandard leaders who we've all had in the past, and constantly remind yourself to phase any of those bad habits out of your repertoire. Leadership is a huge responsibility, and you and your team will all benefit from your interest and investment!