When we do a photo shoot for the SDM Dealer of the Year cover, I always eagerly await the proofs from the photographer. The photos taken are a vivid snapshot of the company — both of the physical location and the people.

When I received the proofs the photographer sent for this year’s Dealer of the Year, The Protection Bureau, one shot was particularly arresting. The photograph (on this month’s cover) shows The Protection Bureau’s president, Matthew Ladd, and his sister, executive vice president, Karen Baker, outside the company’s headquarters with one of the service vans. The entire background behind them is filled by a magnificent tree in all its fall glory. The cover doesn’t do it justice.

The vibrancy, life, growth and strength of the tree were mirrored by The Protection Bureau in 2010. Beneath the surface, there’s another connection. Here’s an interesting fact about trees: While small trees start with a main taproot designed to anchor the young tree into the ground, as the tree matures the small taproot tends to be replaced by a complex system of lateral roots. Those lateral roots can extend outward at least two to three times the radius of the leafy branches above. For example, if the radius of the tree canopy is 20 feet, the roots could extend out as far as 60 feet or more, providing a tremendous anchoring system and a large area for gathering vital nutrients. In fact, researchers have found that the surface of the root system can be larger than the surface of the leaves!

The Protection Bureau has a similar growth pattern. After starting out with a single focus as a traditional burglar and fire alarm company, it branched out, growing into a full line integrated company with a complex support system of product offerings and services. Those offerings, like a tree’s roots, helped anchor The Protection Bureau during the recent recession.

Another fact: Roots don’t actually seek out water, as commonly thought. Instead, roots are opportunistic, naturally growing wherever conditions are favorable. Likewise, in an unfavorable economy, The Protection Bureau was still able to find market sectors for products and services that were favorable and capitalize on them. You’ll find more about those services (including weProtect, a suite of enhanced managed services that offer alarm monitoring, video verification, access control and intercom communication) — as well as the many other reasons for The Protection Bureau’s selection as SDM’s 2010 Dealer of the Year in the cover story, “Strength in Connection,” page 54.

Like The Protection Bureau, all of this year’s applicants showed a resilient, often creative, and most definitely opportunistic approach for success in 2010. Those applications are a snapshot of our industry, and it was encouraging to see the powerful root system the industry has grown in both old and new offerings.

It speaks well for the future. I’m already looking forward to next year’s photos.