Many years ago, a 13-year-old little league baseball player received the dreaded news that he would be traded from one team to another, two-thirds of the way through the season. Because it was not a common practice at that age, the young athlete felt as though the worst had just occurred. “My coach at the time traded me for a pitcher to have a better chance at winning the little league championship. I was devastated. I didn’t understand at that age why it was happening,” he recalls. That player was Gene Smith, a pioneer in loss prevention education and president of The Loss Prevention Foundation (LPF). In the first game with his new team, Gene hit two home runs that drove in six RBIs. When it came time for his new team to face his old team, Gene hit a home run to help win the game. That was when he first learned that no matter how awful a situation seems, a positive mindset can help you through. “It was a shattering event that ended up being a positive experience. I realized that you may not find the silver lining right away, but you will eventually understand it.” These events molded Gene into the optimistic, upbeat loss prevention professional that he is today. “Every day you wake up, you have an opportunity to choose if it will be a good day or a bad day,”
The loss prevention industry is lucky to have Gene’s genuine and ethical principles that have shaped the way for education and certification in the industry. Through the Loss Prevention Foundation (LPF), Gene has drastically revamped the image of the LP industry. “A lack of common knowledge in LP and a lack of industry specific certification – these things were preventing us from evolving from an industry into a true profession,” Gene explained. He realized these missing elements early in his career when he saw that colleges lacked an understanding of the sophistication and complexity of LP. By allowing avenues for LP professionals to become either LP Qualified (LPQ) or LP Certified (LPC), Gene has elevated the image of loss prevention into a positive professional industry. He emphasizes the importance of continued education for all loss prevention professionals, whether they hold a two-year degree, four-year degree, or professional certification. “Develop a plan of continued education and get as much knowledge as possible because the value of education doesn’t ever stop; it’s a life long investment” he advises.
Gene Smith appreciated everyone’s participation in the Devonshire Elementary Adopt-a-Bike event.
Being the advocate for education that Gene is, he was thrilled to have the opportunity to work with Lowe’s Loss Prevention and Safety Department on the USS Foundation’s Adopt-A-Bike program. “The Loss Prevention Foundation likes to support worthwhile charities throughout the year. Adopt-A-Bike inspires children to attend school and achieve academic success which is similar to how LPF works to elevate the industry through education, so it was a perfect fit,” Gene explained. Gene, along with Claude Verville of Lowe’s, Walmart, Food Lion, Family Dollar and many other partners raised over $10,000 for the students of Devonshire Elementary in Charlotte, NC. The event was a unique experience for Gene, as he recounts some touching moments from the bike giveaway. “A little girl came up to me and started to cry. She asked for help in finding her a pink bike. I set out to find the pink bike with her name, and instantly was overwhelmed from her emotion of receiving the bike.” He also met a student to whom he personally donated a bicycle, along with his parents. The child’s father seemed a bit distant while Gene introduced himself. Later during the event, the father approached Gene with tears in his eyes, expressing his gratitude. “The father said to me, ‘I never thought my son would have a bike, let alone a new bike. There simply just isn’t enough money. This is going to be the best Christmas that he’s ever had.’ These moments are what the program is about. I can’t express how meaningful the experience was for me,” Gene said in describing the Adopt-A-Bike event.
Gene’s professional journey began when he was recruited into retail LP by a retailer after graduating college. He was blessed with the opportunity to take on many unique assignments and challenges along the way. He took on risky assignments and made countless sacrifices, including having to relocate his family. Gene is grateful to have built lifelong relationships with mentors that he met early in his career. “I learned from true visionaries who showed me the value of encouraging and helping others reach their full potential,” he said. His most influential mentor, however, has been Jim Lee, executive editor and owner of LP Magazine, LP Jobs, Contact Inc., and a founding LPF board member. “I relate to him because we share the passion of elevating the profession,” he said of Jim. After years in retail LP, Gene made a daring decision to transition into a recruiter advisory role, in which he studied the strengths and weaknesses of LP professionals but also of the industry.
Gene wisely observed that his mentors held a passion for sharing their knowledge, and he credits them for his nurturing abilities in sharing advice with others. Through working with people who were passionate about teaching others, Gene became a firm believer in paying it forward. “As a recruiter, I believed I should do more than just place jobs. It’s really an opportunity to give career advice and share my knowledge with others. If anybody was willing to listen, I was willing to share,” he said. As part of his recruiting role, Gene has interviewed hundreds of individuals seeking jobs in retail LP. When asked what characteristics create a successful retail LP professional, he explained, “Someone who is inquisitive and interested in determining why things occurred. A person who has a sense of doing what is right and expects others to do the same. Most LP organizations have professionals who are dedicated, have a strong work ethic, and a competitive desire.”
A Devonshire student stops to thank Gene and colleagues for his new bike.
Although still strongly motivated by giving advice to LP professionals, after 17 years as a recruiter he chose to make the daring move to The Loss Prevention Foundation where he could use his background and passion for helping others to add more value to the organization. Gene explained, “This was the most important professional decision I had to make. It was fate that it happened the way it did. Had I not decided to seek another challenge, I would have missed the opportunity.” Although Gene admits he has truly loved every job he has experienced, he enjoys his current position most because it allows him to have a much wider influence by helping to develop people across the globe. “We receive countless letters and emails about how we are helping people and changing their lives,” he said. “It’s a fulfilling thing to be doing, and I am one of the happiest people in our profession because of it.”
When asked where he sees the future direction of LP going, Gene mentions that traditional LP approaches should be challenged and replaced by technology. Key areas for loss prevention are video analytics, CCTV, integrating emerging technologies with traditional EAS and implementing facial recognition. Because technology quickly changes the course of LP, Gene keeps current on technological advances with constant reading. He reads the LP Magazine, LP Insider and the LP Mag app religiously. He also attends eight major conferences a year, sits in educational sessions and keeps up with social media involving topics on education and technology.
Aside from being an advocate of education in the loss prevention profession, Gene has also gone to great lengths to help build a program that will provide jobs for veterans. After noticing a drastic decrease in the number of veterans being hired over the years, he wanted to help veterans find civilian careers. As a result, he worked with the Military Officers Association of America and retailers across our country to create the Hire-A-Vet Program that assists veterans in entering the loss prevention field. Hire-A-Vet helps them to learn the business quickly through training, orientation and certification. The LPF attends conferences, creates literature, and seeks out veterans and soon-to-be-veterans to make them aware of the LP industry options.
Gene cherishes spending time with his wife of
Gene is a professional leader and an advocate of education, but what drives him most are his roles as father and husband. He has enjoyed many hobbies in the past, including golf, but he prioritizes quality time with his wife and two adult children above all else. “There is nothing more exciting than getting a call from my adult children and being able to help them whenever possible,” he mentioned enthusiastically. He appreciates time with his wife of 35 years, who has always been the primary supporter of his career. Gene’s love and dedication to his family can be seen through the many sacrifices he has made for them. He has done everything in his power to be available for his wife and kids, even if it meant driving an hour and a half to be at their school events and then driving an hour and a half back to take a phone meeting in the office.
“I look for every single opportunity to spend time with them. We try to plan a yearly vacation together. Most recently we hiked all the trails in Red Rock Canyon and the Valley of the Fire. We make sure we try to talk or text daily, somehow. You have to make sure your family knows you love them and
Gene’s positive character allows him to remain dedicated to his end-goals, whether in LP or with his family. “There are things I haven’t done; there are things I haven’t seen, but what I really want is to spend every chance I get with my family. It’s important for me to do everything I can for them,” Gene said of his personal goals. Years ago, he set out to evolve our industry into a profession by providing more education for loss prevention and now there are industry specific professional certifications that are academically accepted for bachelor and master degree credits. “When you set your mind and sights on a goal, you achieve it. Nothing compares to that sense of accomplishment,” he explained. His incredible achievements have been and continue to be a blessing within the loss prevention industry.