Hi folks! Thanks for tuning in to a fresh episode of The Leader Show with Lou Carter. We are delighted to have David Bywater, the CEO of Vivint, join us today. Vivint is a well-renowned smart home company operating in the United States and Canada. It has recently been recognized as a Most Loved Workplace®.
So, without any further delay, let’s find out what makes it one.
Lou kicks off the conversation with David by asking him about his first day as the CEO of Vivint and his perception of the company’s culture.
David reveals that when he joined Vivint as the COO in 2013, he was initially skeptical about the company due to his lack of familiarity. But upon his first visit, he was immediately struck by their energetic and purpose-driven environment.
He highlights that from the very first day, the company’s vibe was unique, characterized by a strong sense of pride, purpose, and joy among its employees. Despite having around 6,000 employees at that time, everyone seemed aligned and committed to disrupting industries that needed innovation.
David also mentions that this unique vibe persists even now, eight years later, despite the shift to remote work during the pandemic. He concludes by reiterating that the company’s success can be attributed to its ability to attract and retain high-quality personnel.
Next, the speakers discuss Vivint’s core mission and how it impacts their work culture. According to David, Vivint’s purpose is protecting families, homes, and the Earth, primarily through its smart home systems.
Its customers interact with these systems an average of 11 times per day and have an average of 15 devices per home, ranging from monitoring sensors to cameras. This interconnected ecosystem makes homes safer, more efficient, and more enjoyable.
On that note, he shares how its system and staff saved a family from a potentially fatal carbon monoxide incident. Such experiences underscore the company’s impactful mission, giving employees a strong sense of purpose, even as they also work on solar and other eco-friendly solutions.
For David, this sense of purpose is palpable across different roles in the company, from product design to sales. His team collectively works towards bringing high-quality products to as many people as possible, making a meaningful difference in people’s lives.
Lou reiterates the significance of Vivint’s life-saving work, and David concurs, adding that their mission also includes making homes more efficient and enjoyable.
Lou and David continue their conversation, touching on Vivint’s community outreach programs and charitable work, particularly in STEM education. David outlines the company’s “Vivint Gives Back” initiative, through which employees raise over a million dollars annually, which it matches, to support community projects.
A key focus is providing resources for underprivileged elementary students. For example, it funded and distributed 30,000 backpacks across numerous states and sponsored many STEM classes to introduce these students to science, engineering, and math at an early age.
David further mentions that he has a team dedicated to helping their 12,000 employees engage with their local communities. Currently, they are participating in a “Sub for Santa” initiative for 70 elementary schools in underprivileged communities, which David notes is a highlight of their year.
Moving on, David talks about why employees enjoy working at Vivint. Beyond competitive pay and benefits, the sense of purpose and mission in its work makes the employees feel like they are contributing positively to society. The company not only focuses on these aspects but also emphasizes respect and personal development.
David stresses the importance of fostering a community where supervisors and peers take a personal interest in each other’s career advancement. He shares his experience of benefiting from mentors throughout his career and aims to replicate this supportive environment across Vivint. This approach, he believes, can help counter feelings of isolation, especially for remote workers.
Additionally, Bywater highlights the importance of knowing employees on a personal level and showing genuine interest in their lives and career progression. While he acknowledges that it’s not always perfect, he believes striving to improve every day matters a lot.
Subsequently, the speakers discuss the disruptive nature of Vivint’s approach in the smart home industry. David suggests that it aims to create billion-dollar solutions by addressing significant challenges. He shares his personal experience of replacing a high-end home automation security solution in his house with a more efficient and affordable system from Vivint.
David mentions that the company aims to provide premium smart home solutions to the masses, moving from infrequent interactions to an average of 11 daily interactions per customer. Its ultimate goal is to deliver immense value to customers who would otherwise not have access to such solutions.
At Vivint, employees love the challenge of problem-solving and looking toward the horizon to see what needs to change. They embrace a culture of taking risks, challenging the status quo, and being customer-centric. David considers this as the company’s most viable strength.
Moving on, David highlights that Vivint has a highly opinionated and valuable salesforce, which provides primary data vital to its operations. Additionally, it has deep thinkers who can interpret and use this customer feedback to generate new ideas.
This combination of feedback and deep thought is harnessed in an environment that encourages risk-taking. This approach has served the company well so far, and David emphasizes the need to never rest on their laurels but to continue improving.
Furthermore, he mentions the necessity of constant reinvention of the company’s products and customer interactions. Failure to do so could quickly turn them into a “dinosaur” in the industry. Drawing on the saying that “only the paranoid survive,” David explains how they use this sense of ‘positive paranoia’ to drive ongoing innovation and evolution at Vivint.
Comparing the company today to its state five, ten, or fifteen years ago, David notes the drastic changes that have occurred. He concludes by expressing their commitment to ongoing ‘constructive destruction’ and forward-thinking change.
Thank you for your time!
Lou Carter : Great to have David Bywater, CEO of Vivint here with us today. Hi, David. Nice to see you.
David Bywater : Hey, Lou. Pleasure to be here.
LC : Congratulations on becoming a Most Loved Workplace.
DB : It's a great distinction. I'm proud of that and proud that we fill that on a daily basis. So thank you for the recognition.
LC : Well, you absolutely do. And being CEO, you've done an outstanding job of fostering this culture, sustaining the culture, enabling it. And what I love about what you do is you live it since the first day you walked in and you sort of understood that vibe. Tell me about what it was like when you walked in the first day when you were CEO?
DB : Well, you know, to be fair, I'm the recipient of what's been happening for a long time before I showed up. But I was recruited to the company as the Chief Operating Officer back in 2013. And you know, at different times we get recruited, you know, you're a little leery about the companies and what they say and, and what they tell you their company's about and what their purpose is.
And so I was a little leery, leery. I just, I hadn't, didn't know much about Vivint at the time, knew some of the leadership, and I was impressed by them.
And so they finally got me to come down. And I remember the day I walked into Vivint, it was it must have been in the spring of 2013. I was just struck, there was this kind of, this buzz.
I mean, at the time they probably had maybe 6,000 employees. And I went into their corporate headquarters and there was just this happiness, I mean, from the first person that greeted me at the receptionist to the folks in the elevator going up and down to every department that we walked through, it just felt like people had a purpose to what they were doing. They were proud to be part of the company. There was a lot of joy and just laughter and, you know, I mean, it was from the lunch rooms where we provided free lunch for folks and, and just kind of that environment. But the purpose of their job and what they're doing, I felt like everyone was aligned and they were pulling to do something great. They were trying to disrupt industries that needed to be disrupted and do it in a new type of way.
And, I felt that the entire time I've been in the company now, this company and the sister company, been in solar for eight years, and I still feel that same sense of pride and ownership. And even during the pandemic when people had to work, you know, go home and work from home, I still feel it today, whether we're together or we're separate, there's still that identification of being with a company that cares about them as individuals that has a purpose to go do great things for our customers and to disrupt industries that need to be disrupted with new ways of doing business and do it in a delightful way.
So, it's always been the vibe. I've always said, what's made the difference in our company is the people that we're able to attract and retain.
LC : It's a great way you had said. It's really the alignment of values, a huge part of what we do in the Most Love Workplace index. I can see how you scored high on that also around creating a systemic collaboration, your culture, positive vision for the future. I can see really, you're getting high marks on all of those, you know, being a purpose-driven company, how does that help you overcome challenges?
DB : You know, it's just interesting because you know, for us, we're about really protecting families and homes in the earth. So, you know, we're in we, we've helped redefine the smart home arena in the home. How do you bring an ecosystem that we own proprietary, bring it to a home where people are safe, their homes are more efficient, and they're more enjoyable to interact with.
Our customers on average, interact with our system 11 times per day, which is incredible. It's a very engaged, smart home. And on average, we have 15 devices in a home. Everything from monitoring sensors to cameras and everything in between, that helps a home be really smart and efficient. So, you know, I think first off, our employees really said, Hey, how do you protect families and make sure they're safe? On average, we have 40 life-threatening events that occur per day.
And I was on the call with a customer just last week where, you know, our monitoring agent got an alarm that there was carbon monoxide in the home, and our barning agent called the family, woke them up, let them know there was a concern. They kind of dismissed her, but Tammy was very persistent and said, no, there's an issue here.
And she called the ambulance and the fire department, and they came and they found out that that family most likely would've passed away, you know, and so just that experience of really having to save a life, what could be more important than that, I mean, for an employee who's not a doctor or a fireman, but can actually enable that to happen. Pretty powerful. And then we do other things as well in our company around solar and other things that are trying to help people, you know, interact with the earth and their families in an efficient way.
And we have several products that we bring to the market and having a purpose behind that of why we do it you can see it from our people who design product and really being passionate about designing really innovative product to people who install and service to people who sell. You feel that what you're doing matters of bringing very high end products to the masses so they can afford it and benefit from it. And you feel that, you feel that with our people, that they know that they're doing something that matters. And when they feel that and know that you can do great things together as a group,
LC : I mean, saving a life, what better purpose than that?
DB : Yeah. You know, you're gonna be hard pressed going home at night feeling better, feeling really good about what you did that day, when you know, you've been saving lives or making homes more efficient or more enjoyable. It's just, we have a great, great platform to make a difference in people's lives.
LC : You also have things that you do for the community and stem educational, so many other things that make it so attractive to employees.
DB : You know, Lou, thanks for bringing that up. That's the other thing about the culture is we have a “Vivint Gives Back” culture. I mean, it's significant. We raise over a million dollars a year from our employees that we match and we go and do great things for the community. One thing that we're really passionate about is STEM. You know, this year we raised the funds for 30,000 backpacks for elementary students.
And we distributed that across, I can't remember how many sites, but multiple, multiple states. And you know, we're just trying to help give the foundational tools for elementary students to build in underprivileged communities to, you know, have the resources to begin their education. And then we fund a lot of STEM classes for kids, once again, underprivileged kids, to be exposed to the sciences and engineering and math, trying to help them have an interest and exposure much earlier in life where they can go a big difference.
And then, you know, that's what our company really is kind of heavy STEM when you think about the technology we bring. So, you know, we do that on an ongoing basis. We have a dedicated team that helps our 12,000 employees engage with the communities where they are and be part of those communities. And that, that “give back” culture has been more palatable here than almost any company I've ever worked for.
And I'm proud of that culture and I'm proud of our employees for how personal they make it. Right now we're do a sub for Santa, for 70 elementaries. I think it's 70. I think we do it for 70 each year. And that is our favorite thing of the year when we're the Santa for these students in these underprivileged communities. And the outpouring of donations and involvement by our employees is without a doubt the highlight of our year of being in the community, doing great things with kids.
LC : That's outstanding. I mean, from this kind of palpable culture that you feel when you walk into a purpose-driven culture of saving a life and then now paying it forward and giving back, you're doing the right thing, and that's good for business, and it's the right thing to do.
DB : It's the right thing to do. You know, we've always said be customer-centric, right? Delight your customer, do what's right for the customer. And then really good things happen for companies and for our employees. But you know, if you're outward focused and focused on others and have a great business model to allow you to do that, it's a win-win.
LC : Outstanding. Let's go to the last, which is around sort of, you know, why do employees love working for your company? What do you think it is that other than the drive and the feed forward, you know, what is it that, that the sense of Most Loved Workplace when they walk in and they do their work, you know, what is the drive around that that you see beyond all of this?
DB : You know, it's a great question. It's no one thing for sure. I mean, you always have to be competitive in your pay and your benefits. That's table stakes. It kind of goes back to what I said earlier, Lou. I think when you have a purpose and a mission of what you're doing, and people feel like, you know, we've all got finite time and we spend so much of it at work, you want to feel like you're doing something good for people.
And, you know, our company is really focused on that, but then it goes beyond that. I mean, if you can get those two things, you have a pretty significant advantage over your competition. But then it really comes down to how you treat each other. If you have peers and if you have supervisors that are taking a personal interest in you and helping you actually advance in your career, and they feel like it's personal.
I mean, in my life, in my career, I've benefited from five mentors that are still my mentors. You know, all these years later, 30 years into my career, I'm still in contact with my mentors on a pretty regular basis. And I felt like they really moved mountains to allow me to have opportunities throughout my career and still gimme advice today. And to the extent that you can replicate that across your company and have people be genuinely interested in the development and progress of their employees upward and downward, then I think you feel like you're part of a community.
And especially in today's environment where, you know, some of us are working remote and you can kind of feel isolated and you can feel like you're out on an island to the extent that you have a culture that it feels personal and you're far part of that community, I think it makes a difference.
And people feel it, and it matters. You know, it matters when you get in the elevator. For me, it matters, you know, that I try to introduce myself to as many people as I possibly can, and that my team does that, and their teams do that, right? The first name matters. Knowing who their spouses matters, knowing what they do and how their career is progressing matters. And you can't do that with perfection every time, but that should be your aspiration, and that should be the case more often than not. So I think those things really make a difference.
LC : Those are great. They're palpable, they're tactical. You can see them happening each day, and it's so connected to respect. So connected to respect as each day, you're treating each other as if they'd be, you'd like to be treated. They'd like to be treated golden and platinum rules, right? [Laughs]. And…
DB : It's just, you know, it's you wish it was the case every time. Unfortunately, it's not the case every time, but if that's the case, the majority of the time, I think that you are just heads and shoulders above their next best alternative to work. And that's what we strive to do. We're imperfect, but we sure try to be better every day. And I think people give you the benefit of the doubt when they see you trying and striving that they wanna be part of that.
LC : This is fantastic. Vivint, such a fantastic company, incredible culture. I do want to give you a chance to talk about disrupting industries. Vivint has done that and been so innovative in doing so.
DB : Well, we feel like that's what we're after. I mean, we're always trying to create billion dollar companies and solving big big challenges. I'll give you an example. Like for me, I had bought a home before I joined, and I had a kind of a higher end home automation security solution that had been installed, and it was a pretty significant price tag. And when I came here, you know, as we had our smart home company, we developed that platform and delivered it. I was like, for a fraction of the price, I get better features and functionality and much better service.
And so I ripped out that old system and, and it was a sunk cost, and I put in our system and, you know, bringing eloquent solutions, smart home solutions to the masses, and working very hard to delight them every day is awesome.
I mean, in our old, you know, 10 years ago, if you enact our system once or twice or three times a month, we were delighted. Today, we interact on average 11 times per day per customer. You know, so to make that transition to be just relevant and valuable every day, multiple times a day, for us, that's disruptive, right? Premium product to the masses and highly relevant in protecting families and enabling families to enjoy their homes better. Like, we're very passionate about that. So, you know, we really focus every day.
And then in our other verticals, we're trying to do the same thing, but it's just really trying to say, how do you bring immense value to the customers that for the most people could not have access to? And if we can crack that problem, if we can crack that model and make it available to everyone, then you're onto something. And that's what, you know, when we say go slay giants, go disrupt industries. That's what we're all about. And our people love solving problems.
They love, absolutely love looking on the horizon and saying what needs to change tomorrow? And that culture of taking risk and challenging the status quo and trying to really be customer-centric and solve big problems, that DNA of what our people stand for is what I consider to be our most viable, our most viable strength of our company.
LC : And it sounds like something that really drives you and is your passion, which is terrific to see.
DB : Yeah, it definitely gets me up early in the morning and puts me to bed late, late at night.
LC : Sure. Final thing, what I've noticed is, you know, we look at Elon Musk, Tim Cook. One thing that they do all the time is stay up to date, right? And push new technologies in a way that customers can receive them, right? In a very user-friendly experience. I see you as that as well in that you're always staying in front and in increasing and in and enabling new technologies that are right at the forefront of absolutely home security of solar. And you're right there in front of the industry.
DB : Well, that's what we're trying to do. We have a great Salesforce that is very opinionated, which, you know, I love, we're always trying to capture that, right? Because they give us great primary data and then we've got some, just some deep thinkers that, you know, you can marry those two together, the customer feedback and the kind of deep thinkers. And if you can find a venue where you can take those and distill what it really means, and then have a risk taking culture to go try those out, you know, good things happen, good things happen. So I think we've done a really good job at that, at the company thus far.
My challenge and our leadership and all of our employees challenge is to keep doing that and to never rest on our laurels to get better tomorrow. You know, I think everyone knows here that if we don't continue to reinvent ourselves and reinvent our products and reinvent how we interact with our customers, then we are a dinosaur and we've become a dinosaur almost overnight. So, you know, as they say, only that paranoid survive. And we try to use that paranoia in a positive way and just continue to innovate forward and continue to evolve our company.
It's a very different company today than it was even five years ago, definitely 10 years ago, night and day from 15 years ago. So, we have to keep doing that and be very open and be the proponents of constructive destruction and forward thinking change.
LC : So glad to have you in our top 100 well-deserved, and I know you'll only grow even more with you at the helm. And a wonderful culture to boot.
DB : Well, we got great people, Lou, so thank you for your hosting me today. And all the best to you.