The Yes! attitude

How Defender Direct has grown 70 percent year over year and isn't stopping now
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Wednesday, July 1, 2009
INDIANAPOLIS--What’s the secret to becoming the country’s largest ADT dealer? It just might be Defender Direct’s investment of $16,000 in training for each of its employees during the first four years of employment. At 1,500 employees and counting, that’s a major outlay, but management said it’s paid off in the long run. 
Surprisingly, the Defender Leadership Advantage training program does not focus on technical or job-based training. It’s focused instead on helping employees do things like manage their personal finances, set goals and develop healthy habits. 
“The unique thing is that no job training is involved in any of the training programs. We believe that businesses don’t grow, people do,” said Marcia Raab, chief marketing officer and a partner at Defender Direct.
The company believes that if employees are happy and successful in their personal and home lives, “this will lead to success in business and in their communities,” she said. Defender is convinced that support at home is crucial, so it spends part of the $16,000 to pay for employees to bring a guest to different training programs, including a volunteer trip to Mexico.
Does the training pay off? 
“It’s hard to argue with 70 percent growth year over year,” said Raab. Defender has been in business for 11 years. It sold 100,000 accounts in 2008 and is “well over a 10,000 run rate per month” this year, Raab said.  “We feel like this philosophy is the core of our success and what drives that kind of growth.” The program has grown organically over the years, and includes in-house training and events, formal programs that are outsourced, reading certain books, volunteer programs “and some fun things,” Raab said. Some of the formal programs Defender employees attend include Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University and Truth at Work Academy with Ray Hilbert. Defender runs its own Time Management Workshop. 
Sending employees to these kinds of training programs may not be that unusual, but it’s generally done “with a top down mentality,” Raab said. “Companies will send C-level employees, and expect they’ll wave a magic wand over everyone else. We take a ground-up approach.
In their third year of employment, employees are selected to attend a Leadership Day with Defender president Dave Lindsey. During these all-day offsite meetings, a group of 25 to 30 people “sit down with Dave and discuss his philosophy on how to build a business,” she said. It’s something a lot of business executives would love to be able to do, Raab said. In the fourth year, employees and a guest are sent on a volunteer trip to build homes in Mexico. 
Other “fun stuff” includes a family day at a theme park. Defender has 160 offices around the country. Those employees can take their families to local theme parks. Books include: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey; You, the Owner’s Manual, by Oz/Roizen; and The YES! Attitude, by Jeffrey Gitomer. 
In addition to building great employees, the program helps with retention. Raab, who also runs the sales program, said she “hasn’t lost an employee that I didn’t want to lose for the past four years.”