Growing a Family Business and Spurring Community Development
Founded in 1957 and headquartered in downtown Winston-Salem, Flow Automotive remains a family-owned company. Current CEO Don Flow has helped expand the company from one to 39 dealerships across nine cities.
“We’ve centralized processes to make it easier to operate dealerships,” said Don Flow. “With the consolidation coming to our industry, our goal is to significantly grow in the next 10 years.” Flow is also a pivotal player in development projects happening across Forsyth County.
INVESTING IN THE FLOW WORKFORCE
Flow Automotive describes itself as a purpose-driven, people-centric and community-engaged company. The company’s mission includes a deep commitment to the flourishing of each of its 1,700 associates. Flow Automotive provides college scholarships for its associates’ children, on-site nursing and counseling, financial literacy courses and an employee emergency fund.
“Our goal is to be a creator of societal value by contributing to the common good of our communities,” according to Flow. “We want our presence to make a positive difference because of the way we engage in the community and invest in its future.”
INVESTING IN THE COMMUNITY’S FUTURE
Nearly 20 years ago, Flow and a group of civic-minded peers created the $20 million Millennium Fund to invest in downtown Winston-Salem and spur commercial development. “The last 20 years in this city have been about bringing together large, diverse groups who work in a collaborative way for a common vision,” Flow said.
Momentum has carried as local leaders continue to invest time and money in development projects. Most recently, Flow redeveloped the 18-story 500 West Fifth building, serving as the new headquarters for Flow Automotive and an entrepreneurial hub.
INVESTING IN FUTURE LEADERS
As much as Flow invests financially in Winston-Salem, he invests in the next generation of leadership. “People were kind to my wife and me when we were young, and now it is our turn to invest in young people,” he said. “If you want to get involved, put your hand up. That’s all you have to do in this city. There’s no inner ring, no place you have to belong to. You just have to want to improve the area.”
When Don Flow had the opportunity to centralize Flow Automotive’s operations by relocating business services to a downtown Winston-Salem office tower, he dared to envision something much more significant than a corporate relocation investment project. Flow Automotive only needed part of the space in the 18-story former GMAC building. When he began to collaborate with the community about what to do with the remaining space, innovative ideas took flight.
500 West Fifth is now home to dozens of companies, educational institutions, and three major entrepreneurship programs, helping elevate Winston-Salem’s reputation as a hotbed for startups. Winston Starts gives new entrepreneurs a longer runway for success, providing office space, mentors, and programming aiding a company in their growth phase. Flywheel and the Center for Creative Economy are accelerator programs, with entrepreneurs often taking advantage of two or more of the community’s entrepreneurship resources as they scale.
“Everyone is open to new voices and new ideas here,” said Flow. “Let’s see what we can do next.”
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