Transformation is rarely instantaneous. It generally starts with one small initial change — repeated over and over.  For Protection 1, small changes in every area of the company have produced remarkable transformation, resulting in a year deserving of the SDM 2012 Dealer of the Year award.

This year, for the first time, I ran a half marathon. My entire life, running a single mile has been an achievement in and of itself. I think running three miles (gasp!) may have even been a New Year’s resolution more than once, so the idea of converting myself into a runner capable of running 13.1 miles seemed, initially, a bit ridiculous. My training started with a commitment and that first step on the track. After that, I followed a training regimen that strategically built my stamina up run-by-run, step-by-step. Today I’m still running, three miles is my easy run for the week, and I have a new goal to run a marathon. It is the way most transformations begin — small.

Protection 1, Chicago, was struggling when it was acquired by GTCR, in partnership with Timothy Whall, but it has shown remarkable transformation over the two years since. When Whall was named CEO he took over with a new vision and began a total overhaul of the processes, the metrics, the culture and the company’s focus. But while he demanded transformation and success, he didn’t expect instantaneous or radical changes. Instead he guided the company through a series of achievable goals.

When you begin reading this month’s cover story, “Targeted Transformation,” on page 44, you will see a photo of Whall in Protection 1’s Dallas call center with Tabulah Coleman, national account monitoring representative. Today Protection 1 handles 100,000 calls across its call centers each week and answers each one within one ring — by a live person. It is an incredible feat, but it wasn’t the case when Whall took over. At the time, the company used an automated attendant, but still had excessive call waiting times.

“We didn’t set huge goals the first day and say, ‘No call will go 59 seconds in our call center.’ I’d have lost everybody’s attention. We just started measuring what the longest call was and saying, ‘We can do better than that’ and made a goal for lowering that number. Once we reached that goal, we set a higher goal,” Whall told me when I interviewed him.

I was impressed by Whall’s vision for Protection 1 and his transformational leadership style that came across during my conversation with him. I was equally impressed by how passionately his management team and every employee across the company embraced and executed the changes. Today the market strategies and operational practices Protection 1 has put in place are admirable for the impact they have on security industry professionals and end user customers alike. It is an honor to be able to recognize and add the company to SDM’s Dealer of the Year roster. 

Protection 1 is not the only company we are honoring this year. Once again, Security Networks LLC, West Palm Beach, Fla., is the SDM Dealer of the Year Honoree. After a strong year last year, Security Networks followed it up with even more outstanding growth, as you’ll read in “Master of Sustained Growth” on page 55. The company’s growth and commitment to its dealer affiliates deserved recognition. 

Each company demonstrates the industry’s best in many ways — and we’re excited to share their stores and best practices with you.