David Lindsey, the founder of Indianapolis-based Defender Direct, the nation’s No. 1 ADT dealer, recently stepped down from his position as CEO to focus on philanthropic mission work and encourage other companies to do the same. He said that will not only help companies do good—but it will do good for their business by increasing things like company dynamics and productivity.
Lindsey is one of the founders of Companies With A Mission, which its web site describes as “a movement dedicated to helping business leaders create opportunities for employees and their families to reap the rewards of service.”
At Defender, which he founded in 1998, Lindsey has had a more informal focus on mission work. Over the past five years, he said, Defender has sent several thousand people down to Mexico to help build 125 homes for the needy there.
Now Lindsey is formally devoting himself to philanthropy as Defender’s chief missions officer. “I look at much of what I’m doing as still an extension of the Defender story,” he told me. “We’ve always been a giving and a missional company and I’m trying to just continue to focus on that piece right now.”
He called Companies With A Mission a “ministry” and said, “We’re taking a lot of things that have been a blessing and powerful for our company and sharing them with other companies …right now our main focus is on U.S. companies [and some Canadian as well], but we do see it as a worldwide effort.”
One plan, he said, is to take as many as 100 business leaders and their families on mission trips to Mexico or the Dominican Republic by the end of the year, “so they can have a mission experience.”
A second objective, he said, is a “service challenge” the ministry is extending to companies. One challenge is in Indianapolis and another will be in New Orleans this fall, he said.
Companies are challenged to put teams together to go out and do community service work at nonprofits, then submit short videos of their work and answer three questions on the ministry’s web site to win prize money for their favorite charities.
In Indianapolis, Lindsey said he expects as many as 100 teams to compete for $100,000 in prize money.
Obviously the charities benefit, but how does that help the businesses?
Lindsey said he knows philanthropy helps companies because Defender tested the service challenge among its own employees before taking it citywide.
“It was a huge success,” he told me. “We worried that during the time we had everyone out doing projects, we’d have our sales go down but actually we’ve had six record months since we started the contest, the two months that we were in the contest, and then the four after.”
He added: “What we attribute that to is we just changed the water cooler conversion at our office. Everybody was buzzing and talking about their service project” [and what other teams were doing] … There’s nothing like the workplace going out and serving together—what that does for the work dynamic is really almost unbelievable.”
He said about half Defender’s teams are continuing to do community service on a regular basis. “It just brings a life and a spirit into our company that’s making a difference, and we want to share that with more companies and help them see that increased productivity, as well as the retention, recruiting and loyalty … that has been enhanced by this,” Lindsey said.