Jerry Blum: Going the Extra Mile
In more than 5,300 AutoZone stores in the U.S., Puerto Rico, Mexico and Brazil, the number one job for AutoZoners is to provide “Wow! Customer Service.” And AutoZone’s security focus is no different, says Jerry Blum, Director of Security Services for AutoZone. The security team’s focus is on more than just customers. There are vendors, employees and other business partners, too.
To secure a business partner’s needs, Blum’s team will work with them to protect theft-prone products while still keeping them available to the customer with anti-theft devices or placing the merchandise in a well-monitored section of the store.
“The potential for risks like workplace violence incidents or data breaches, are not just limited to retail, but with retail stores, you face additional challenges like shoplifting and, of course, employee theft, return fraud, organized retail crime, online fraud, and traditional burglaries and robberies,” Blum says. “We deal with store operations, legal, finance, HR, merchandising and the supply chain; it’s just an environment where hard work and cooperation really pays off.”
Blum wears many hats within the corporation, including overseeing management, operation and maintenance of all security-related equipment; business continuity and disaster recovery; security officers; corporate investigations; international due diligence; and services, including executive protection.
He has to be mindful of unique business and security challenges for AutoZone’s international locations as well, advising senior management on international security issues and monitoring domestic and international travel for employees. With stores in Puerto Rico, Mexico and Brazil, as well as the U.S., he says: “We face issues of importing and the supply chain concerns – getting merchandise from point A to point B – have become much more complex. Mexico and Brazil both have some unique challenges. Each country has unique requirements, and the coordination with local authorities in the presentation of cases has presented some challenges.” To address some of these concerns, Blum and his team work with the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) and ASIS International for intelligence gathering and information sharing with other retailers, and AutoZone has a security team in Mexico that Blum describes as robust and in-tune with local issues.
Open lines of communication with employees and stakeholders is one of the keys to Blum’s workplace violence mitigation strategy, including awareness campaigns and a workplace violence hotline where AutoZoners can leave confidential concerns before an incident takes place.
“As far as the C-Suite is concerned, I think they would consider our security team unobtrusive, yet highly responsive to their needs. We are engaged in all aspects of the business, and we don’t impede anybody in providing great customer service,” he says. In fact, AutoZone’s Store Support Center’s Alarm Services Group recently received one of the company’s highest internal awards – the Extra Miler – which is presented to an individual or group of employees who demonstrate outstanding performance. The team earned it by implementing a new program in which some members worked three weeks straight without a day off, Blum says, to ensure that the program was implemented effectively and best served the company’s purposes.
In return for their dutiful service, Blum and other AutoZone leaders work to invest back into their teams.
“We have a training department here that has a library that everyone has access to, and much of those materials are around leadership, management, effective communications and presentation skills, we expose our teams to these on a regular basis,” he says. “To be a leader in this organization, you have to be committed to building a diverse and high-performance team, and we’ve been very successful in that. If we have an individual who is lacking in a certain area, we identify that area, address it with them, and purposefully focus on developing that necessary skill.”
Within loss prevention measures and even supply chain security, crisis management is key. Blum is also responsible for emergency preparedness training, which includes tabletop exercises with every department, but the structure of the company helps as well: “We have a pretty flat structure, which allows us to be nimble and make decisions quickly and on our own. AutoZone really empowers its people. We train them to make the right decisions. We allow them to make decisions, and we support them.
“Our managers know that I’m available to them at any time and they can come to me for advice. Likewise, I know that my VP is available, and I can consult with her whenever I need,” he adds.
Prior to joining AutoZone, Blum served 27 years with the Memphis Police Department, where he retired as a Deputy Chief. He has earned numerous awards, including the Memphis Police Department Medal of Valor.
- Annual Revenue: $9.8 billion
- Security Budget: $28 million
- Workplace Violence
- Asset Protection/Theft
- Supply Chain
- Regulatory Compliance
- Supporting Business Growth
- Drug Testing
- “Customer Facing” Posture
- Business Resiliency