There is perfection, and then there is excellence.

My teenage daughter sometimes accuses me of being a perfectionist, especially when I’m trying to have her clean the kitchen floor including the area underneath the table, or fold laundry a certain way to avoid wrinkles in the clothing. She is likely to say, “Mom, it doesn’t have to be perfect.”

I wince. I don’t want her to be perfect; there’s no such thing…or is there? So I looked up the definition of perfection. One of its meanings is “being in a condition of excellence, as in a skill or quality.” I looked up the definition of excellence — “to be better or greater than.”

Although one word relates to the other, most people think of perfection as having zero flaws. We all know that a state of having zero flaws is not possible, whether it’s in a business process or in a household chore. But in a way, people can achieve perfection by striving for excellence.

As an example, look at the three individuals featured in this month’s cover article, “Aiming the Spotlight,” written by associate editor Heather Klotz.. We are honored to be able to profile the winners of the 2008 Central Station Excellence Awards, a program of the Central Station Alarm Association, which SDM sponsors. This annual awards program was created to recognize any UL-listed central station and outstanding personnel who perform in the highest professional manner.

Winner of the Central Station of the Year, Alarm Detection Systems, was first in the nation to achieve Level II certification of all its operators. Alarm Detection Systems practices enhanced call verification, has begun to use video technology in the verification process, and follows a false alarm analysis program. Alarm Detection Systems was honored with the 2008 Police Dispatch Quality award. “Our efforts to reduce false dispatches have given ADS one of the lowest false dispatch rates in the country,” the company stated. “We average less than 0.5 dispatches per account, and we monitor over 25,000 accounts.” The company’s central station also holds the Five Diamond certification, which signifies five points of excellence being met.

We can best paint the picture of why Anita Ostrowski was chosen to be the 2008 winner of the Central Station Manager of the Year award by quoting from a letter written by Michael Grady, senior vice president of Vector Security: “In the national accounts service arena, a company’s central station monitoring services are the hallmark of communication with the customer. With that in mind, our central station strove to provide services that would outperform our competitors from the time our national accounts division originated in 1992. In order to do so, we had to develop an outstanding team of individuals who could perform professionally right from the start. The challenge was that our people had no qualified experience in that aspect of the business at that time.

“We found that level of professionalism, leadership, creativity and persistence in Anita Ostrowski, who eagerly took on the challenge to build a world-class national accounts services central station from the ground floor up.

“Our award-winning central station’s unique industry ranking, range of certifications and approvals, outstanding operator training and tenure, and ability to reduce false activations and ultimately satisfy over 50 of the nation’s top multi-site retailers are testament to Anita’s value to our organization…”

The 2008 Central Station Operator of the Year, Mary Ann Ivy, has been employed with Monitronics for eight years. Mary Ann has a record of perfect attendance, with not one single tardy or absence. She has many other accomplishments to her credit, but one thing that stands out about Mary Ann is a comment from her supervisor: “Mary Ann helps keep morale up; she shows what a good work ethic is; and she shows what teamwork looks like.” She’s been involved in several instances where her quick response saved the day; but primarily she was selected for this award due to her spirit of excellence.

Perfection can be found in the striving for excellence, whether it’s working towards and achieving a certification, creating a process for improving the rate of false dispatches — or even just taking time to fold the laundry more carefully.