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2017 Award Winners

Customer Service Excellence: Leif Welhaven

Chasing Perfection: Billings Chamber of Commerce 2017 Business Excellence Awards By BRENDA MAAS “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” -Vince Lombardi


he great football coach, Vince Lombardi, was known as an incredibly demanding leader who continually pushed his athletes in their quest to win. That is not to say that the team never lost. But it was Lombardi’s drive to constantly improve, to continually be better than before that defines his legacy. By definition, excellence is “the quality of being outstanding or commonly good.” One may logically conclude then that the Billings Chamber of Commerce’s annual Business Excellence Award recipients stand above others in their respective fields. Interestingly enough, all four award winners in 2017 followed a common theme: People make the difference. In an era when technology changes seemingly at the speed of light, many businesses may feel the need to keep pace, emphasizing digital techniques and online presence to increase revenue. However, these award winners prove that the person behind the device remains the differentiating factor.


2017 Billings Chamber Business Excellence Awards

With 15 years in the restaurant business and another 15 in the rapidly-changing mobile communication industry, Leif Welhaven knows that networking and customer service cannot be overrated. In his current position as director of business development with EEC, Welhaven brings that extensive experience to the design-build construction industry. “Obviously, customer service follows the old adage: Treat people the way you want to be treated,” Welhaven said. But he takes it a step further. Welhaven models that behavior at every venue as he networks, from Chamber events to the Home Builders Association, to the Billings Area Association of Realtors to Big Sky Economic Development. He also contributes his leadership skills to community organizations like the Family Tree Center, the Montana chapter of the American Diabetes Association and the Exchange Clubs of Montana and Idaho.

Being “plugged in” as Welh showing up—it’s being mentally event—and the resulting relation that can lead to business. Quentin Eggart, president a the value of Welhaven’s relation “Leif always has a smile on hi 300 hours a day,” said Eggart. His humble but happy person place to do business, Eggart add “I think in order to be good a you have to be a giver and server have to give without expecting a will then happen.”

Supervisor/Manager of the Year: DeDe Ston

DeDe Stoner started working as a lending officer in 2008—the said Stoner of managing, “inst compassionate.” year the housing market crashed. Alexis Williams, an employe “That year taught me a lot—about how to be a true sales person, about how to live while working on commission, about how the first one to tell you that you ar to build relationships and, ultimately, about myself,” said the work is appreciated. Because of h portant.” First Federal Bank and Trust loan officer. “It’s important to be able to r Stoner believes that demonstrating trust and projecting confidence are important leadership traits. She points to the recent er said. “It’s not about I’m the b Chamber of Commerce’s leadership class, NextGEN and other about ‘we are in this together.’” sales-based seminars as making a difference in her managing Like many great leaders, Ston style. In addition, Stoner credits personal and professional coach liefs, making it part of her lifest Emily Petroff, along with the book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Habitat for Humanity in almost Leadership, as sources of instruction and inspiration. from building a house, to mento “Emily taught me to step outside of a situation and look at it recently, serving on its board. for what it is, look at it from the perspective of the other person,” “It’s important to me that I, a

Employer of the Year: Billings Federal Credi Billings Federal Credit Union’s charter dates back to 1935. That sort of longevity creates its own track record, including a service attitude that extends beyond the nearly 9,300 members to the more than 40 employees. “One of the biggest perks of working here,” noted Debbie Strever, vice president of human resources, “is that we as a leadership team truly appreciate and respect our employees—we work for them. They are the face of our business.” Strever goes on to note that most open positions at the credit union are entry-level because the high positions are almost always filled from within. When we hire, she explained, we look at a person’s potential, not that he or she will always be a teller. “Being small, we are able to have that personal touch with our employees; it is face-to-face, look them in the eye and ask what do you expect from us?” Another effective strategy, job shadowing, allows an employee to take time from regular duties to “shadow” someone in a different position—rather like trying it on. The result of that trial

gives the employee direction and “We empower our employees to help our members,” Strever s this reg and that reg, we demons helping the member to think big save for college or consolidate y person and not the procedure.” Nicole Brown, a BFCU emplo ments her employer. “They truly care about their e managerial and social experience me, training me in that side of the b While BFCU employment in features atypical ones, too, such miums and a 401(k) in which BF ployee does not. The list goes on ties for online classes during bus to attend local training such as

n, EEC

Chamber Breakfast

haven calls it, is more than just y and emotionally present in that nships built into those situations

and founder of EEC, recognizes nships with clients. is face, and it seems like he works

na adds to EEC’s brand as a good ded. at customer service, deep down of people,” he emphasized. “You anything in return. Good things

CASEY PAGE, Gazette Staff

ner, First Federal Bank and Trust

Join the Chamber in celebrating these winners during “A Championship Vision: Chamber Breakfast 2017 featuring Emmitt Smith” on March 30th at the Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark. Prior to Smith’s presentation, the 2017 Business Excellence winners will Courtesy Photo receive their awards. The Keynote speaker, event will run from 7:00 Emmitt Smith – 9:00 a.m., with doors opening at 6:00 a.m. Tickets can be purchased from the MetraPark Box Office or learn more at

tead of internalizing, rather be

ee under Stoner noted, “DeDe is re doing a good job and that your her, I feel that my job here is im-

relate to your employees,” Stonboss – you are the employee; it’s

ner believes in modeling her betyle. She has been involved with every aspect since the late ’90s, oring recipient families to, most

and those I manage and mentor,

LARRY MAYER, Gazette Staff

gain the confidence to think for themselves, to ask questions and to take risks,” she noted. “Therein lies the reward.”

it Union

d goals. s to think and to stretch in order said. “We don’t just teach them strate how to think beyond that, gger, like ‘how can we help you your debt?’ We think about the

oyee of nearly five years, compli-

employees here,” she said. “I had but they were willing to invest in business to help me gain success.” ncludes typical benefits, it also h as paid medical insurance preFCU contributes, even if the emto accruing time off, opportunisiness hours and encouragement s the Chamber’s NextGEN and

LARRY MAYER, Gazette Staff

Leadership Billings classes. Strever simplifies BFCU’s philosophy by saying “It comes back to this: we are here to help people—employees and members. When we keep that top of mind, naturally the business will follow. We care about our members and we want them to succeed. When we help them succeed, we help ourselves succeed – it’s a circle.”


of thE yEar Billings Federal Credit Union is honored to have been selected for the 2017 Employer of the Year by the Billings Chamber of Commerce. Many thanks to our dedicated staff for bringing their positive attitudes to work every day. 760 Wicks Lane • 2522 4th Ave. N • 32nd & King Ave. W 2017 Billings Chamber Business Excellence Awards


Business Person of the Year: Harvey Singh, Singh Contracting, Inc., Outward Media Group and Seva Kitchen Harvey Singh is not a Montana native. But Billings is truly his home. While many see the now-familiar lion’s head brand about town, residents are just as likely to see Harvey himself, along with his preschool-aged son, at various community events and fundraisers. From promotional events for the Yellowstone Kelly Interpretive Site, to helping hundreds of youngsters paint and pound shingles on a house at the Polar Express fundraiser, Singh builds community as surely as he built three businesses in less than five years. Singh Contracting, Inc. was born from an extensive background in the construction industry coupled with the May 2013 hail storm. Singh saw a need for more quality, local roofing contractors and jumped at the opportunity. While promoting his brand through video commercials, Singh eventually developed the concept, and the professional team, for Outward Media Group, which now produces Singh Contracting’s advertising and marketing. “We want to offer building a website right here, on site, sitting down face-toface,” he said. “Outward Media Group is evolving into a full package firm.” While Singh does not miss the traffic and the smog of his former urban home, he feels that Billings could use a wider variety of food and music. This spring he will open Seva Kitchen at 313 N. Broadway, in the

LARRY MAYER Gazette Staff

former Broadway Deli and Café building, which will serve a variety of ethnic dishes. The word Seva is Sanskrit for “selfless service,” which helps define Singh’s attitude, leadership and philanthropy. “Through sponsoring, donating and networking I’ve met every kind of person, and staying in touch with the community is the key to our success,” he said. “The difference is that we give back.” While Singh’s three businesses are truly evolutions, he keeps that personal piece in a prominent position. “You have to invest in your people,” he said. “We have monthly team-building sessions and do lots of things together. I don’t want employees who just show up to work; I want people who see the bigger picture.”

LEGACY & AG AWARD WINNERS Bill and Merilyn Ballard were honored during the Chamber’s Annual Meeting in September with the Legacy Award. Bruce MacIntyre received the award for Agricultural Excellence during the Ag Appreciation Banquet in January.


Bill & Merilyn Ballard

Bruce MacIntyre

2016 Legacy Award Ballard Petroleum

2017 Agricultural Excellence Billings Chamber

2017 Billings Chamber Business Excellence Awards

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Billings Chamber Business Excellence Awards 2017  
Billings Chamber Business Excellence Awards 2017