Author Eric Hoffer wrote, “In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” Darwinism and strict theories on evolution may not always work when examining living organisms, but survival of the fittest appears a solid principle in business. History demonstrates that business practices evolve both on the macro and the micro level.
Once, every executive employed a secretary to type, file, and take messages. Today, most of those functions are either automated or managers learned to do their own word processing. Businesses that once faxed information, now email it. Local storage has become cloud storage. And companies that sold sugary sodas, now sell “pure” bottled water. Change is a part of the business environment and those prepared survive—those who aren’t prepared or won’t change become, as Mr. Hoffer wrote, “equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”
Loss Prevention has changed, but in retrospect, it is a function that has been changing for decades. Once, the threat of “professional” shoplifting was considered small. The big concern was the impulse or amateur thief. Today, the issue of organized retail crime has grown to warrant discussions in Congress and with the FBI. Once we believed that our biggest problem was dishonest customers. Today we recognize that although they are fewer in number, dishonest employees cause the majority of loss. And once the answer to loss prevention was to hire an army of LP agents to play a “man on man” defense against thieves. Today, we realize that such resource battles can’t be won and that “zone” coverage works best.
Evolution of thought and process is nothing new to the loss prevention profession. Still, change is difficult and while most will embrace new technology to assist in the process—new approaches in behavior and actions are often resisted. There will always be those who don’t see the evolution. Sometimes it’s big companies like AT&T who suddenly realize “oops the future is not long distance, it’s cellular.” And sometimes, it small companies that discover too late that the market for velcro wallets has disappeared.
Loss Prevention is seeing such an evolution, mostly in terms of personnel resources. There is an unwillingness to spend on large teams or sometimes any team. The function is and always will be required. Dishonesty in customers and employees is not likely to go away. How the function is performed, however, is where changes must occur. The new structure requires an evolution of thinking for the Loss Prevention professional. A line of thinking that focuses not on armies, or captures, or pseudo-law enforcement processes, but one that is results orientated - results being lower loss and high profits with less costs.
It’s a difficult challenge and one that perhaps not all can accommodate. But whether we like it or not—to evolve we must embrace the change and be a part of the change. Loss Prevention in the future will have no place as an expense line…it must learn to operate as a pre-paid asset. A measurable function that provides results easy to see from the location level to the board room level.
I call it the New Loss Prevention and there is good evidence in the historic shrink numbers that many are embracing it. The profession is finding new ways to deliver results through more efficient and effective methods. An evolution, created by real economic challenges on Main Street, is resulting in a transformation of thought in methods and approaches to protecting company assets. It’s a good thing. It means on the other side, loss prevention will be comprised of professionals who take a big picture approach and who know how to manage resources in the smartest and most efficient ways. Loss Prevention will become a proactive not reactive function…or it won’t be a function at all.
If you’re interested in reading more on this evolving industry and the components for the future, download our e-book The New Loss Prevention. After all, no one wants to be uniquely prepared for an industry that no longer exists.