Just in time for Father’s Day, Michael Sanderson was able to nab a national award for the small business his dad started.

On Thursday, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce awarded landscape services firm Sanderson Stewart the 2014 DREAM Big Small Business of the Year award. The competition recognizes companies for their exceptional business practices and their community involvement.

“Sanderson Stewart’s outstanding leadership, track record, and operating style truly set it apart and make it a prime example of what it means to be a successful small business,” said U.S. Chamber President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue. “America needs successful small businesses. They are the driving force behind stronger economic growth and job creation, and they are keeping the American Dream alive and perpetuating our system of free enterprise. Successful small businesses are the reason we remain the envy of the world.”

Sanderson Stewart was started by Sanderson’s father Robert Sanderson in 1969 in Billings, Montana.
Michael Sanderson and two partners bought out the elder Sanderson in 2002. Today, the company has five locations in Montana, North Dakota and Colorado and provides civil engineering, landscape architecture and land planning services for both private and public clients.

Sanderson said he was overwhelmed when his firm was announced the winner, but pleased that his team of 70 was recognized for its hard work.

“It takes a lot of hard work from people who work here. We had a vision for being a different, more innovative, 21st-century kind of company,” said Sanderson.

He said most professional services firms tend to be pretty run-of-the-mill when it comes to their business practices, but he’s tried to encourage his team to punch above its weight class.

“I talk about being a world-class customer service organization. I look to companies like Nordstrom and Ritz-Carlton and Zappos and look at what they are doing in the world of customer service,” said Sanderson.  “They’re thinking about customer service as something you do first that’s baked into everything they do, not a reaction when they screw something up.”

As for his father, Sanderson said he’s still working for the company as a project manager – and couldn’t be happier with the award.

“He’s obviously very proud, and proud of the company. He started it as a local business and told me, ‘I never would have imagined we’d be doing things at this level,’” said Sanderson. “He’s real proud, but he’s a man of few words when it comes to these things.”

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