Businesses Don’t Grow, People Do
By Patrick Sells
Dave Lindsey built a company to change the world, one life at a time. Starting with a big vision in a spare bedroom in his home in 1998, he’s since grown DEFENDER Direct into one of the fastest growing companies in Indiana and an industry leader in the fields of home security and residential services.
Born and raised in Toledo, Ohio, Dave’s family relocated to Zionsville when he was in high school. His dad was a career banker with First Indiana Bank, and now serves as Chairman of DEFENDER; his mom was a homemaker and volunteer, and has since become a Stephen Minister. Dave’s sister, Julie, has remained in Zionsville, where she now lives with her husband and two sons.
“Our family is, and always has been, really close,” Dave says. “I was blessed with wonderful parents who taught me many things. They are the launching pad from which DEFENDER and my own family have taken flight.”
As a young man, Dave harbored aspirations of a career in either law or business. During his high school years, he kept busy by playing tennis and basketball, participating in the speech club and holding down a part-time job.
After receiving his diploma from Zionsville High School, Dave set his sights on Indiana University, where a five-year course of study enabled him to earn his Bachelors degree with honors in business/finance in 1991 and a Masters in marketing/finance in 1992.
“It was great to take MBA classes as a college junior, and complete undergrad and MBA programs in five years total,” he says. “I was provided with great exposure to world-class professors and smart student peers at an early age.”
While at IU, Dave was a member of Theta Chi fraternity and interned with Texas Instruments. He also studied in Singapore as part of an exchange program, an opportunity that allowed him to visit 15 multinational corporations and travel throughout Southeast Asia.
“Overseas study made the world feel smaller,” he remembers. “I was able to stretch myself and also learn from so many international business leaders during corporation visits that were part of the curriculum.”
Dave credits his IU experience with sparking his passion for entrepreneurship and leadership, skills that would serve him well in the years to come.
As a teenager, Dave worked his way through a number of part-time jobs, including bagging groceries at Marsh, working at McDonald’s as a cook, lifeguarding and waiting tables. Thanks to these hands-on positions, he learned that the harder he worked, the better the rewards.
Early on in his professional career, a position at Ingersoll-Rand/Von Duprin instilled in Dave the value of time management and prioritization.
“I realized that I could not get it all done, and that my boss didn’t pay me to get everything done—he paid me to get the most important things done!” Dave says.
A role in new product development at Hillenbrand Industries/Medeco Security Locks followed, helping Dave hone his drive, vision and high-performance thinking. In 1998, he launched DEFENDER, now a leading dealer of top brands in residential home services including ADT, GE, DISH Network, Carrier and Honeywell.
The beginnings of the business were modest. Dave managed DEFENDER out of the living room in his own home, using $20,000 in seed money from the sale of his Ford Explorer to fund the start-up.
“My wife and I shared a Nissan Sentra for the first 12 months and saved all year to purchase a $99 gas grill,” he laughs.
Steadily and surely, DEFENDER took off. The enterprise reported revenue of $400 million in 2012, making it the 26th-largest private company in the state with 2,400 employees in 140 offices across the country. His particularly pleased to report that one thousand of he employees live and work in Indiana.
“DEFENDER is a place where people are able to
reinvent themselves and the company for the better,” Dave says. “We’ve always tried to feed the focused passions and dreams that our key employees have brought with them as they’ve joined our team.”
Under Dave’s leadership, DEFENDER has been named the No. 1 ADT Dealer, a Top 5 Dish Network Dealer, one of Indy’s Top 25 Fastest Growing Private Companies and one of Inc. 500’s Fastest Growing Companies.
“We have very intentionally built a culture that asks our employees to work harder on themselves than they do on their jobs,” Dave explains. “We understand that businesses don’t grow; people do. Our business exists to grow leaders, and we believe that everyone is called to be a leader in some role in their lives.”
In 2012, Dave transitioned from DEFENDER’s CEO into a set of new responsibilities as the company’s Chief Missions Officer, a role that would provide his family the chance to embark upon a six-month mission course that included a stint of service in rural Japan. Dave retained his majority ownership of the company and his seat on the board of advisors, and in August 2013, he returned to his role as CEO.
Dave’s own professional accomplishments have also gained notable recognition, including an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award. He’s also made Junior Achievement’s Best and Brightest list, and been named one of the Indiana Business Journal’s 40 Under 40.
A self-professed man of faith, Dave remains humble in the face of such achievements, and is proud to call himself blessed and loved.
“I define success as growing myself, and multiplying that growth into others,” he says. “I believe in developing leaders, and discipling others.”
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