Mashburn Construction Co. founder: Hire smart, ambitious people with integrity

More than 40 years ago, Harry L. Mashburn started a construction company in the study of his home. He built Mashburn Construction Co. into one of the state’s largest, with offices in Columbia, Charleston and Greenville.

Recently, Mashburn, 75, announced that his sons, Paul and H. Lee Jr., will take over the company’s two major leadership roles. He will remain chairman of the board. Paul will be CEO while H. Lee will be president.

We asked Mashburn five questions about his time with the company, its future and his plans.

“We are extremely grateful for the opportunity to follow in our father’s footsteps,” Paul Mashburn said in a news release. “To use a building analogy, he has created a solid foundation that we can build on. … The lessons we’ve learned from our father about perseverance, hard work and dedication to our people and to our clients have made a lasting impression on us and are our guiding force in moving the company forward.”

1. How were you able to build Mashburn Construction from a startup company to one with major local and statewide influence?

First, you must establish organizational charts, procedures, information systems, and all the other things to make any business run, but it really all boils down to people. You have to choose smart, ambitious people with integrity, and most of all, you must be a good delegator – knowing they are going to make mistakes, but if you pick the right people, they will learn from their mistakes. Along with integrity, I also chose teamwork, quality and creativity as the four cornerstone values for the company. Our employees exemplify these values and I entrust my sons, Paul and Lee, to continue this hiring practice because the family atmosphere in our offices fosters the quality work in which we all take so much pride.

2. What projects has Mashburn Construction been involved with that you’re are most proud of? Why?

For me, personally, it had to be my first project, a small retail building on Beltline Boulevard close to Richland Mall that is now an Ace Hardware. I remember standing on the roof of it when it was framed up and raising my arms Rocky style and thinking, “This is my company.”

There have been many much more impressive buildings that we have built over the years, but the ones you remember the most fondly are the ones on which you worked with a good team of owners and designers. Those are the ones that give us the most satisfaction. A good recent example would be the new Corporate Office Addition for Southeastern Freight Lines, a beautiful building, and an absolute pleasure working with the Cassels family and W.T. Brogden, who handled their construction along with Jumper, Carter, Sease Architects.

3. How has Mashburn Construction helped to improve our community and state?

I have always believed in community involvement. Over the years I have been involved with the United Way of the Midlands, state and local chambers of commerce, and many other organizations; we also encourage and allow time for our employees to become involved in the community as well. We strive to do good, charitable work in the community. We’ve been involved with the Free Medical Clinic, Sistercare and other similar projects.

Supporting downtown Columbia has always been important to us. Our first two offices were located at 1404 and 1410 Laurel Street in historic homes that we renovated. In 1998, we purchased a vacant building and renovated it into our corporate office located at 1820 Sumter Street. We continue to contribute to the revitalization of downtown Columbia by refurbishing numerous buildings on Main Street. I was also a founding board member of the City Center Partnership, and my son Lee continues to help improve downtown Columbia through this organization.

4. What does the future hold for Mashburn Construction?

I think the future of Mashburn is unlimited. It is now in the hands of the next generation, consisting of my sons and a great team of leaders that they have put together.

5. What do you plan to do in retirement?

Well, I will still have an office here and my assistant of 42 years, Jane Andrews-Nicol, who will be helping me with mostly personal business part-time. In addition to that, my wife Betsy and I intend to travel a lot more while we still can. We have vacation homes at Litchfield Beach and in the Blowing Rock area in the mountains of North Carolina and we intend to spend more time at both.

Harry L. Mashburn

Age: 75

Family: Wife, Betsy Stem Mashburn; three sons, Paul, Lee and Pat; seven grandchildren

Education: N.C. State University, 1964, civil engineering

Professional/community honors: Past president and life board member of Associated General Contractors of America; former president of Columbia Contractors Association; winner of annual SIR Award (service, integrity, responsibility) of Columbia Contractors Association; director, S.C. Chamber of Commerce; Committee of 100, Columbia Chamber of Commerce; Carolinas AGC 2001 Pinnacle Award; March of Dimes 2003 Real Estate Award recipient