Carolina Core Automotive Leader Doubling Growth of Business, Spurring Community Development
Don Flow is growing his family business and the local community all in a day’s work.
Founded in 1957 and headquartered in downtown Winston-Salem, Flow Automotive saw Don Flow join the family business in 1978 and he has helped grow the company from a single dealership to 21 automotive manufacturers and 39 franchises across nine cities.
“We’ve centralized processes to make it easier to operate dealerships,” says 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 the development projects happening across the Carolina Core.
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.
The company even pays employees’ hourly wages for the time they spend volunteering. “All employees, regardless of their position, deserve to experience what it means to invest one’s personal time in the community. We want to remove any obstacles that keep our associates from doing that,” Flow adds.
Flow Automotive has experienced high retention rates among its employees, with many people investing their entire careers with the company, and it continues to seek out new ways to create more value for its customers, employees and communities. “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 of who work in a collaborative way for a common vision,” Flow says.
Momentum has carried as local leaders continue to invest time and money in development projects. Most recently, Flow began redeveloping an 18-story building that will serve as the new headquarters for Flow Automotive and an entrepreneurial hub.
“We plan to fill the building with vitality and young people who want to start companies, who want to take risks and want to imagine a different future,” Flow says.
Flow’s collaborative efforts to boost Winston-Salem’s profile and economy have also included attracting the Davis Cup, the premier international team event in men’s tennis, to Winston-Salem and relocating the Winston-Salem Open, an ATP Tour 250 tennis tournament, to the city.
Investing in Future Leaders
As much as Flow invests financially in the Carolina Core, 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 says. “If you want to get involved, put your hands 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.”
That open invitation is true across personal and professional growth areas in the Carolina Core. “Everyone is open to new voices and new ideas here,” says Flow. “Let’s see what we can do next.”