Editor’s Note: Chief Executive is kicking off a new annual tradition this year by celebrating every sizable (over $100 million in annual revenues) standalone company turning 100 in 2023. Check out the rest of this year’s class for tips, insights and, above all else, the inspiration you need to keep going….and going.
FRANK L. BLUM CONSTRUCTION
HQ: Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Revenues: ~$250 million
Blum Construction’s greatest challenge in its first 100 years came not during the Great Depression nor the 1970s oil crises that caused costs to skyrocket—not even the housing collapse of 2008. The company’s real moment of truth came when founder Frank L. Blum died suddenly of a heart attack in March of 1954, leaving no documented succession plan.
Fortunately, his will gave employees the right to continue working at the company and to use its name. “They banded together, navigated the challenging time and emerged even stronger,” says Mike Lancaster, who became CEO in 2018, following four years as president.
A People Business
“Construction is a people business,” says Lancaster. “Talented people who are skilled at their craft and understand how to super-serve the customer—Blum has been blessed with an abundance of these people throughout our history.”
Its first project in 1923—a tunnel under Northwest Boulevard in Winston-Salem connecting Reynolds High School and its gymnasium—still stands, decorated with the artistic expressions of generations of senior students who are encouraged to leave their creativity on its walls.
Lancaster also credits Blum’s complementary business divisions for its continued success. “Following the global financial crisis, we diversified to have a portfolio that split between public and private,” he says. The company diversified geographically as well, adding offices in Greensboro in 2015, Raleigh in 2016 and Asheville in 2017 to build the necessary regional muscle to compete against larger nationals.
Looking into the next century, Lancaster says his top priority will be focusing on the values that made Blum great from the start. “High performance, building strong relationships with clients, partners and teammates, and being committed to continuous improvement have always been at the core of who we are and how we have been successful,” he says. “My predecessors exemplified those things and kept those fundamental principles in focus. I intend to do the same.”