Executive Spotlight: An Interview with Michael Rankin, President of Crain Construction

Professional portrait of Micheal Rankin smiling in a suit

The skyline of Nashville continues to change, but among the crowd of cranes and new buildings remains a familiar fixture. Founded in 1933, Crain Construction has executed hundreds of projects across Music City. At the heart of the company, it’s not the projects or profit that continue propelling business, but the people you’ll find at Crain. The person responsible for implementing the “people-first” approach at Crain is company President, Michael Rankin. 

“We care about each other, we care about each other’s families, and that just creates a bond among all of us here at Crain,” Michael explained. “Several of our employees, as well as our subcontractors and clients, have been with us for decades. The Executive Committee is made up of five of us, and the shortest duration of employment on that committee is 23 years.”

Michael himself is on the cusp of celebrating 30 years with the company. He credits the culture at Crain with the “incredibly low” turnover rate. 

There are several unique incentives that help strengthen company culture while also serving as retention tools. For starters, there’s the corporate chaplain who makes weekly rounds to get to know and check in with team members. The chaplain is on call 24/7, providing a valuable and trusted resource for anyone in need of help. There are also marriage retreats offered to employees and adoption fundraising support, where Michael offers to match any funds raised, dollar for dollar. 

“Adoption is a phenomenal opportunity for both the adoptee and the parents, but it is an expensive process. So we wanted to make it accessible,” Michael said. 

The matter of adoption is one that’s very close to Michael’s heart. Two of Michael’s three kids are adopted. He and his wife adopted their daughters, Lilly and Mary Katherine, from China when the girls were infants. The 12 and 9-year-old have an older brother, Spencer, who’s finishing up school at MTSU and occasionally comes home to babysit the girls. 

“Life is full. But our kids add an enormous butterfly effect to our lives, and we just cherish them,” Michael said. 

Michael was just a kid himself when he started in the construction business. At 14, he was digging ditches and pouring concrete. He says that’s when he started developing his work ethic and leadership style.  

“I was fortunate enough to work with my father, who was a phenomenal servant leader. Unbeknownst to me, he would tell the superintendent of any job site I worked, ‘Look, don’t cut him any slack. You treat him harder than anybody else, hold him accountable more than anybody else.’ So with that mentality, combined with dad’s example of servant leadership—that was the base I used to build my own model.”

Michael gets asked a lot to name his favorite Nashville project, but he says he can’t single it down to just one. The reason for that might surprise you.

“You can build the exact same building side by side, and you’re going to have different challenges, different successes, for one main reason: people. It’s challenging at times, but the “favorite projects” don’t stem from the most beautiful builds. The favorite projects are the ones where you’ve faced challenges and people came together to overcome them. And in the end, you wind up forging these relationships that will last forever.”

If you’ve noticed an underlying theme in this spotlight, you’re onto something. 

Michael didn’t talk much about the business of building. Our conversation centered around the people in Michael’s life: his kids, his wife, and the team at Crain Construction. Sit down with Michael and you’ll quickly learn he embodies the purpose that’s driving the culture at Crain, “People over profit, community over competition, build relationships and structures to last a lifetime.”

 

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