Edgar J. Wiley was well known in the Central Virginia area for his creative engineering approach to problem solving. He already had many inventions and patents under his belt when on March 1, 1901, he placed an ad promoting his mechanical and electrical engineering services in the Lynchburg News-Herald newspaper. That fittingly modest and service-oriented advertisement was the birth of Wiley|Wilson.
The next 120 years would be quite a ride. Thousands of employees and clients would contribute individually and collectively to the ever-changing company. There would be good times and challenging times. There would be a sale that would (thankfully) fall through at the last minute. There would be many ownership changes, with the final change being the transition to being employee-owned in 2000.
The average lifespan of a U.S. S&P 500 company has fallen 80% in the last 80 years (from 67 years to 15 years) and only about a half a percent in the last 100 years — that’s five companies in 1,000!
Yet here we are, defying all the odds as we mark our 120th anniversary!
So, what’s the secret for Wiley|Wilson?
When we were about 10 years into the rebirth of the company as an ESOP, we spent some time studying this as part of a rebranding effort. Consultants came in and asked us countless questions about the company, our history, our present, and our dreams for the future.
After all the questions were answered and all the research was complete, the consultants presented their final recommendations to the Board of Directors. They started their presentation by highlighting two simple words, “Constant Progress.” To them, these two words resonated strongly, serving as a single guiding principle that has remained consistent throughout the firm’s history.
“Constant Progress” is more than just a tagline. It’s a philosophy we have embraced and embodied for more than a century. This is perhaps best explained in an excerpt from our Perpetual plaque, which was developed during the rebranding process and now hangs in the lobby of the Lynchburg Office:
Wiley|Wilson proudly burns our figurative torch in blazing color. This torch reminds us to reflect upon the past and look enthusiastically toward the future – recognizing the vivid continuum that connects the two.
As we reflect on the past 120 years in business, we think Mr. Wiley would approve of how the company has grown. Here’s to many more years in the A/E/C industry!