How has being intentional impacted you as a business leader?
DL: I remember listening to a Jim Rohn audiotape years ago, and he talks about how every business is going to have a culture. It was being intentional about our culture at Defenders that really set us up on this journey. It was about making choices and being purposeful instead of leading an unconscious life. A lot of businesses just go about their day never thinking about this stuff. That doesn’t mean those businesses don’t have a culture. It just means they get the one they get, and they don’t intentionally choose it. You can’t have a business without a culture, so that moment has probably been the fundamental that set this very intentional path for our business.
You have an innovative way of organizing the way you want your people to grow. How did that come about?
DL: I asked, “What are the 20 to 40 key experiences we want every employee to have?” Let’s put them on this Monopoly board and let’s give this Monopoly board to every employee on their first day on the job, and tell them we make a commitment to putting them around this board. They make a commitment to take on these experiences and to grow themselves.
“A lot of businesses just go about their day never thinking about this stuff. That doesn’t mean those businesses don’t have a culture. It just means they get the one they get, and they don’t intentionally choose it.”
You’re being intentional, but you’re asking them to be intentional as well.
DL: Exactly, and it takes both of us, because we’re not going to browbeat people. Some people go around the board very quickly. It should take about three or four years, and each side is about a year, but some people are very intentional. They want to get around it in two years. Others have been here six, seven or eight years, and they still are only halfway around the board. But those are the shared experiences we want our tribe to have, so we’re being intentional, saying, these are the experiences that make us unique. It creates a shared lingo, a shared identity, These are all things that we’ve found develop the whole employee.
They’re not just a bunch of technical squares of how to install security systems better, how to sell a security system better. It’s not about that, because that happens outside of this board. This board is about the employee and their growth.
How have you been intentional about building culture at Defenders?
DL: What I’ve always found is good strategy is looking at what’s already happening and recognizing it and getting more of it. It’s an inside-out approach. Instead of asking, “What possibly could we want to do at Defenders?” you look inside and ask, “What are the things that are making us succeed?” I remember being at my desk one time and I was reflecting on what are we passionate about as a company, and I sat back and came up with four passions:
- Self-Improvement. Everybody that I see at our company who’s growing and making this place happen is passionate about improving themselves first. It all starts on the inside of us and works its way out into our team, into our families, and ultimately into our business, so that’s the first passion.
- Systems are the solution. The second passion was and is systems. This is rooted in learnings from Michael Gerber about systematizing our business, but I noticed the people who were improving themselves were then systematizing it. It could be a checklist; it could be a script. And what does a system do? It allows them to continue on with that improvement, it ingrains it. It also allows them to share the improvement with others.
- Developing leaders. The third is building and developing new leaders, because as we start to share it with our families, with our friends, with our coworkers, we are building and growing other people. And if we keep doing that repeatedly for a while, we get to our fourth passion.
- Ever-expanding influence. We just want what we do to ripple out and for these improvements that we’re learning about, that we are systematizing, that we are sharing—we want to share them with our families, with our nonprofit partners, with the world.
How has all of this made a difference in your business?
DL: This is just one aspect of our success but it has definitely played a role. We’ve outgrown our competitors over the last 15 to 17 years. We have grown our people faster than our competitors have grown theirs. A lot of people market and sell the same product we do. There are lots of ADT dealers, but what has been different and unique about us is we’ve grown our people and when we grow our people, they in turn have turned around and grown our business.