In the last couple of decades, the Retail LP/AP industry has evolved from being focused on only catching shoplifters, with limited impact, to being critical to business profitability with as much innovation and sophistication as any other business unit, earning a seat at the decision-making table. This is due, in part, to the evolution and creativity of LP/AP leadership building diverse teams that can tackle today’s business challenges.
Last week, we were lucky enough to glean some valuable perspectives from some of the industry’s top leaders who also happen to be female. We would like to share some of the most important takeaways from Women in Leadership: An LPF Learning Day, sponsored by Sensormatic by Johnson Controls. This was a panel-style conversation with insights from our very own, Cita Doyle, LPQ, VP of Sales & Marketing; Meredith Plaxco, LPC, VP of Loss Prevention and Safety at PetSmart; Sue Read, LPC, Director of EHS and Loss Prevention at FleetPride; Lisa LaBruno, Esq., Senior EVP of Retail Operations and Innovation at RILA; and Denise Wynn, LPC, CFI, Assistant VP Director of National Investigations at The TJX Companies. This panel discussion was moderated by another impressive industry leader, Kris Vece, LPQ, VP of Strategic Accounts at Protos Security.
Topics ranged from the evolution of the LP/AP business unit and what it takes to be a successful leader to insights about today’s most pressing LP/AP challenges and how to tackle them. If you are considering a career in LP/AP or if you are working on career advancement, this is a very exciting time to do so. Here’s the most critical takeaways from that discussion, to keep in mind as you build your career.
The Evolution of Loss Prevention/Asset Protection
Most industries and professions look differently now than they did 20 years ago. Of course, that’s true for retail LP/AP. There used to be a heavy focus around just catching shoplifters. Now, the focus is much boarder and far-reaching, with technologically sophisticated, customer-centric tactics that support business operations and profitability.
Along with technological sophistication came the need for a more diverse workforce with fresh perspectives and new ideas. These human resource advancements have brought together all kinds of people from all kinds of different personal and professional backgrounds. Not only are the people themselves more diverse when it comes to race, ethnicity, gender, etc., but skillsets are more diverse as people with skills in, for example data science, are being drawn to the profession, even from other internal business units. A culture of diversity and inclusion across retail organizations has proven beneficial both for businesses and employees and this continues to support the evolution of LP/AP teams as critical business partners. As this continues, top talent will always be the way to the future.
Organizations will always need a solid, up-to-date and forward-looking foundation in the LP/AP discipline. From a relevance perspective and from a standpoint of how to get business done and make sure that LP/AP is never something that can be deprioritized, good leaders (female or otherwise) continue to succeed in that space. To the extent that there’s been more intention around inclusivity and diversity, that ought to naturally happen if we’re doing a good job trying to understand other perspectives that will help us win.
Meredith Plaxco, LPC
VP of Loss Prevention and Safety
What it takes to be a leader in Loss Prevention/Asset Protection
Undoubtedly, AP/LP teams have become more diverse, and that will continue to be the case moving forward into the future. But, what about the leadership of those teams? With more diversity on teams, comes more diversity in leadership.
The panelists were asked about what it takes to ascend to leadership positions like theirs and each agreed that while everyone’s path will look different, there are some key areas to focus on that can help drive you toward leadership opportunities.
Invest in yourself.
Start by educating yourself. Of course, a college education can be very beneficial in opening doors in any profession, but you should strongly consider getting an education that is more specific to your role. In an LP/AP setting, becoming LP Certified (LPQ, LPC) can make a big difference. These certifications can offer a fresh perspective with relevant information on a variety of disciplines required to run an organization. It can also support your knowledge and ability to ask better questions around the way things are done. It can give you a new understanding and ability to challenge assumptions to make better decisions.
Serve your network, serve yourself.
Dive into the LP/AP network. Relationships inside and outside of your organization will be very important to your professional and leadership development. Networking can help you build relationships can be educational, but this will also help you find people to have in your corner that can help you achieve your professional objectives. This industry is full of people willing to help you.
Invest in your team.
Leadership success does not come without investing in your team. You need to have the ability to identify and develop talent. The smartest leaders surround themselves with people who are smarter than they are.
No one person has all the answers. If you are running this alone, you are doomed to either fail or eliminate everybody who is great in your organization very quickly. It is important to build teams to fill in the gaps and bring in resources to include the knowledge and skillsets that you don’t have.
Sue Read, LPC
Director of EHS and Loss Prevention
Not only do you need the right talent on your team, but you must continuously serve and develop your team members. If you haven’t fueled them by either moving things out of the way or by developing them to continue to make what you do relevant, that absolutely will become a roadblock to success. Are you engaging and enrolling others in your strategy? Are you building mutually beneficial goals with your team members to deliver sustainable results?
Step up and work hard.
A willingness to work hard and produce tangible results is what you will inevitably be judged on. Focus on solutions that provide real results. View challenges as opportunities. When we do those things, anybody, regardless of who you are, you will be noticed and inevitably that will lead to more promotions into leadership roles. Work hard, work ethically, and do a good job. You will be rewarded for that.
How to tackle today’s top challenges in Loss Prevention/Asset Protection
The past year has been full of LP/AP challenges that were born of a global pandemic and business-threating civil unrest happening simultaneously. Both “essential” and “non-essential” retail designations have had their own unique challenges, but there has been a tremendous amount of learning and growth within LP/AP teams as these challenges have been addressed.
While having strategic focus is important, being agile, adaptable, and scalable is critical. Keep an eye on the threats and opportunities, but make sure that business decisions are being made before they become critical. Be ready to scale resources to make sure that you can continue to support a business that may shift at times and also have the resources available to take on new things as they come up. In a nutshell, get comfortable being uncomfortable.
To produce and support a solid strategic focus that is agile, adaptable and scalable, you’ll need a diversity of perspectives and ideas. Sometimes this diversity can come from outside of your organization, so be open to it.
What has really been compelling for me during the challenges of the past year was to experience the spirit of collaboration in this industry. There are countless examples of people working together, competitors helping each other with their leadership practices, their experiences, and their protocols. Anytime somebody spoke up and asked if somebody else had a solution for handling X, Y or Z, 20 hands would go up and everyone started sharing how they made it through a nuanced challenge. We have all been in this together and that’s just the spirit of the industry.
Lisa LaBruno, Esq.
Senior EVP of Retail Operations and Innovation
These executives had so many important insights to share. Check out a recording of the full LPF Learning Day event here.
Don’t miss out on opportunities to continue learning and advancing the profession. Get involved with the Loss Prevention Foundation today.