You Know the Drill: Diversified Drilling
Since taking over the family drilling business in 1992, Danny Flynn has watched Flynn Drilling Company grow from just over 20 employees to around 50. His father started the business with just one drilling rig and a pump truck back in 1954, in Troy, Mo., hoping to take on water well drilling and pump installation. Now the company runs five rigs every day on average and services across the state of Missouri include: water wells for residential, commercial, irrigation and public water supply; geothermal drilling, pump sales and service; mechanical piping for water treatment plants; directional boring; televised underground surveys with downhole cameras; well cleaning; and commercial well inspection.
Flynn says his two stepsons, which he prefers to call “bonus sons,” help him run the company and are taking it to the next level. The key to growth and success up until now has been diversification. “It’s an old saying, putting all your eggs in one basket. I spread it out to where if we’re slow in one division the other division can carry it and we don’t get ourselves in a financial bind,” Flynn says.
Q. What do you do and what keeps you coming back every day?
A. I am responsible for the day-to-day operations of my business because I’m so involved in everything we do. I’m hands-on with all my employees, all my jobs. I try and know a little bit about everything that’s going on so I can help. Even though I’ve got a lot of great employees and great key people, my job is to help them. It includes but isn’t limited to: customer-employee relations; sales and service; oversight, whether it be on the job or off the job; I help schedule the work; I help keep safety compliance. Sometimes you might even include taking out the trash. It just depends. I enjoy every aspect of being the owner and realize that the secret to our success of the company has been the work ethic my parents instilled in me.
I have not been on the back of a drill rig or operated a drill rig in 30 years. Growing up as a kid I worked on the rig during the summer during my high school years. But I realized working a drill rig wasn’t all that fun for me because I couldn’t talk and interact with people. Drilling really takes a special kind of a person and that wasn’t for me. I know the business, I love the business, but as far as getting on the back of that rig, it just wasn’t my thing. … I get very involved with [site visits]. I’m very big on public relations and building a rapport with our clients. Just getting to know them personally is very important to me. There are a lot of jobs that, when you deal with commercial and city clients, they just want low dollar in a lot of instances. But I build clients in Missouri that we build relationships on and it’s not always about the bottom dollar. It’s about service, it’s about doing a good job and with my company it’s about building relationships. I’ve been very blessed in that department.
The thing that keeps me coming back every day is twofold. First is the desire that my mom and dad are proud of the status of Flynn Drilling Company and the accomplishments. Even at 50 years old, I still long for their smiles, their approval. Second is my personal desire to provide the entire state of Missouri with the most comprehensive water well services available, thus providing my clients with unsurpassed knowledge, experience, service and dependability I feel they deserve. In a nutshell, the friends I’ve made and a personal relationship I’ve built over the last 30 years in business — that’s what keeps me coming back every day is the personal side of things.
Q. What does a typical workday involve?
A. I’ll use this morning as an example. I was up by 5:30 a.m. I was in the office before 6 a.m. I only live four minutes from my shop; I don’t have much to drive because I drive all day long if I’m not in the office. At 6 a.m. usually I meet with my sales and service department, and discuss the day’s drilling and work schedules. Then usually by 6:30 the crews start to roll in; that’s anywhere from the drill crews to the pump crews to the geothermal crews. They come in and get their daily schedules. So I interact with the guys pretty well on a daily regiment, unless they’re out of town, and I interact with them on the phone every morning, either simple texts or phone calls. Every day I assess how my jobs are going. After 7 a.m., until usually 5:30 p.m., I do not leave the shop or the jobsite. I perform the duties of meeting with clients, engineers, suppliers, going to jobsites, anything that involves running the business. Travel-wise, I go anywhere in the state of Missouri. So I’m involved in all related aspects, from employees, customers, marketing, insurance and development. My day changes every day, but it’s always related to whatever projects we’re working on.
Q. What does it take to succeed in what you do?
A. Definitely hard work and dedication and a desire to be the best is a key element to being successful. With the desire to be the best, my customers see that in me and that builds that relationship that really makes them feel comfortable. Providing a very diversified range of services, too, has helped the company succeed in this volatile and changing market. I don’t think you can put it in one word or even one sentence, but the ultimate key to my success — when you summarize that it takes one thing, surrounding myself with great employees has been the ultimate key to the success of my business. I can say everything that I do, but at the end of the day it’s what my great employees do that makes me successful.
Q. What do you wish you knew when you started?
A. I wish that I would’ve had the knowledge I have now without learning from my mistakes. I was talking to one of my employees yesterday — he’s a new employee — and I said, “You can make a mistake with me and that’s OK, but the key is learning from your mistake. As long as you don’t make the same one twice, we’re good.” That’s true. If I would’ve had the knowledge I have today, I wouldn’t have made all those mistakes. But I guess that’s why they call it the school of hard knocks.
Q. What tool can you not imagine working without?
A. Equipment is equipment. There are all types of equipment and some might make you more efficient than others, but one thing I couldn’t work without today would be the cell phone. With all the capabilities of it — being able to receive email, sending texts — that is such an integral part of my business anymore for communication. It’s just unbelievable. If you want to say the “Water Well Handbook,” by Keith Anderson. I reference that weekly just to verify different characteristics and designs and guidelines of the industry. It’s just a good tool. It’s like the bible for the drilling industry.
Q. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
A. There are probably three things that stick out in my mind: don’t burn bridges, treat people the way you want to be treated and, as my older brother always says, don’t eat yellow snow. (laughs)
Q. How would you describe the present state of the industry?
A. I am the chairman of the board for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources for the well installation board. I help regulate the rules and regulations that the whole state of Missouri has to abide by — my board does just that. ... I think the present state of the industry demonstrates the desire for the protection of our groundwater. That’s important to me. With the continual education they offer in regards to knowledge within and of our industry, the present state looks good.