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Mike Sanderson: Lessons for Young Leaders

This column by Andrea Dobbins appeared in the November 2, 2017 Dalton Daily Citizen News. 

We have new faces in town everyday — engineers, educators, medical associates, business professionals and others choosing to make Dalton their hometown. To our new friends, there are several local groups which can connect you to area leaders, offer cultural and volunteer activities, and entertain you with social and networking events.

The Emerging Leaders Institute, put on by the Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce, is a leadership skills training program. The set of courses concludes with United Way’s Boardwalk, a one-day training about serving on a nonprofit board of directors. This program is held once a year and meets over the course of several months. Check out the chamber’s website for an application.

Another group is Young Professionals of Northwest Georgia. They host the Screen on the Green movies in the summer and fall months in Dalton Green Park. The group has a Facebook page, where you can find a list of social events for members throughout the year.


If you are looking to give back, you might consider joining the United Way Young Leaders Society, a donor circle of those 45 and under who donate $365-plus to improve education, basic needs and health in the community. One of their signature events is the Rule of 3 wine competition that was held earlier this month. This event was modeled after Cincinnati’s Bacchanalian Society event of the same name. YLS also hosts a lunch with leaders series where you meet with influential individuals from various sectors of the community. Last week, I attended one such event featuring Mike Sanderson, vice president of marketing at Engineered Floors. If you weren’t there, here are a few lessons that Mike offered the group.

No. 1: Go where the road takes you. Mike was born in Florida, then lived in Tuscaloosa, Ala., before moving to Long Island, N.Y., where his Dad worked in finance. Mike lived there through high school. It was in Long Island where he gained his passion for lacrosse, a sport that he has been working on developing in Dalton for the past six years.

No. 2: Career planning might be a bit of trial and error. Mike’s first college experience was at Indiana State University where he wanted to be a professional pilot. He later transferred to the University of Alabama, where he changed courses and studied history and in the summer gave sailing lessons. After graduation, he had jobs selling extension cords over the phone and then odd hotel positions, before his then-girlfriend Brandee — who he had met at Alabama — encouraged him to apply to the flooring companies in north Georgia, where she grew up.


No. 3: Recruitment does not happen at planned meetings. Mike went home with Brandee that year during Thanksgiving and was wowed by The Farm Golf Course community and standard of living that the carpet industry afforded Dalton. He realized that there was opportunity here. Soon after, Mike was accepted into a training program at Queen Carpet.

No. 4: You can’t be over something unless you’ve been through it. He traded his Volvo sedan for an extended Ford Arrow Star minivan. A new carpet sales rep, Mike took a territory in Monterey Bay, Calif., where he moved to a two-bedroom apartment filled to the ceiling with carpet samples. His career later took him to Phoenix and then Tucson, Ariz., to work in the builder division. The heat eventually had him looking to move back to the corporate headquarters in north Georgia. Queen Carpet was acquired by Shaw Industries, where Mike became a product marketing manager and worked in various positions in marketing over the next decade in Dalton. In 2015, Mike was recruited to Engineered Floors by Danny Freeman, who asked him to meet with Mr. Bob Shaw about a new opportunity.

No. 5: Make family and community a priority, and have integrity. Mike put on a coat and tie and went to visit Mr. Shaw, who had birthed Engineered Floors in 2009 after his retirement from Shaw Industries. Mike met with Mr. Shaw at his downtown Dalton office on Pentz Street. During the interview, Mike was surprised that Mr. Shaw told him to focus on two things: his family and community. He told him to sell with sincerity. Mike got the job. Over the past two years, Mike has developed the Engineered Floors brand, which now also includes Dreamweaver, J&J Industries and most recently Beaulieu. Mike shared one of the most valuable lessons he learned from Mr. Shaw: When you score a touchdown, don’t spike the ball. Hand it back to the referee and go to work on the next play.

Andrea Dobbins is the executive director of the Floor Covering Industry Foundation. Learn more at