Danos: How one company has kept it all in the family for three generations

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

When Allen Danos Sr. partnered with his brother-in-law, Syriaque Curole in borrowing the then-substantial sum of $2,000 to form Danos and Curole (now simply named “Danos”) in 1947, he probably never dreamed that he had embarked upon a venture that would last 71 years and span three family generations. He probably also never imagined that the services his company provides would come to be so highly-regarded that its original customer, Gulf Oil, would remain a customer – in the form of Gulf’s successor company Chevron – in 2018.

Three generation family-owned companies are a rare thing in any business, and the oil and gas industry is no exception. The passing of a business from a founder to his or her children is fairly common, but things become more complicated and difficult as the generations progress. It is a rare thing indeed to see such continuity of business be passed along to and absorbed by a third generation, but the Danos family has managed to do it.

Another major long-term customer came into the Danos and Curole portfolio in 1970 in the form of Shell. Danos and Curole played a major role that year in response to the Shell-operated Bay Marchand well blowout, which was at the time the largest blowout event in Gulf of Mexico history. The company began work for Shell almost immediately following the blowout, but the work was done on the basis of a handshake for several months until a contract was finally signed in mid-1971.

1970 was also the year when 21-year-old Hank Danos and his 24-year-old brother, Allen Danos Jr. inherited the business when Allen Sr. passed away. When asked about what it was like to suddenly come into management of this kind of enterprise at such a young age, Hank Danos chuckles and says “As I reflect on that – which I have oftentimes - I think that sometimes it’s great to be young and naïve and sometimes it’s good to not know what you don’t know.”

“Danos at the time was a successful but much smaller company,” he continues, “and it was doing business in a more forgiving environment to some extent. We had just a few staff members who decided they would give me and my brother a chance, and a couple of customers who were loyal to my father who also agreed they would give us a chance.

“There were a lot of anxious moments, but my brother and I bonded and felt like we couldn’t fail because we were carrying on something our father had started. We worked hard and we had customers who really backed us up and gave us a chance, and fate was on our side.”

Since inheriting management and ownership of what in 1970 was a Larose, Louisiana-based service company focused on the Gulf of Mexico and its inland bays and marshlands, Hank has seen the company grow into a global business with a diverse offshore and onshore service offering and more than 1800 employees. Headquarters is now just 25 miles up the road in Houma, Louisiana but Danos now also boasts of “11 offices in Louisiana, Ohio, Texas and West Africa, and operations across in the Gulf of Mexico, the North American shale plays and Equatorial Guinea, West Africa.” That’s a lot of growth in 48 years, both in the size of the business and its service offerings, but also in the fields of expertise that must be on-hand within the organization.

Original article featured on Forbes.com June 10, 2018 - Contributor: David Blackmon