Natural Succession

March 1, 2018
Bandera, Texas, drilling & treatment company uses three generations of expertise to help customers

About the author: Michael Meyer is associate editor for WQP. Meyer can be reached at [email protected].

Bandera County, Texas, is located in the Texas Hill Country, approximately 40 miles northwest of San Antonio. Despite its proximity to the city and significant population growth in recent years, the county remains relatively sparsely inhabited (25.9 people per sq mile, according to the 2010 U.S. Census), so access to high-quality well water is critical to many residents of the area. Fortunately for them, the Keith family has been providing expert well drilling service to the county and surrounding areas for 40 years with DK Drilling & Water Systems (formerly DK Drilling Co.).

Left: Stanly and LeAnna Keith (with son Keaton). Right: Dale Keith Sr. (left) taught his sons Dale Jr. (center) and Stanley (right) everything he knew about the well digging business. 

A Legacy of Service

Dale Keith Sr. founded DK Drilling Co. in Bandera, Texas, in 1978 after relocating from Odessa, Texas. He learned the business from his father, Cleo Keith, who operated a well digging company in West Texas when Dale Sr. was a young man. Dale Sr., who fronted the country music band Dale Keith and the Starlite Ramblers in his spare time, had six children—three sons and three daughters—to whom he introduced the world of well drilling at a very early age.

“Their parents used to actually put them in playpens outside of the rig,” said LeAnna Keith, wife of Dale Sr.’s son, Stanley Keith. The couple now co-owns DK Drilling & Water Systems. “The ones who couldn’t walk yet were in playpens and the ones who could were raking mud. They’ve been doing this their whole lives.”

“I was born into to it, so it’s all I’ve really ever known,” Stanley said. “There’s been three generations of us—that I know of, at least. I don’t know if it goes farther than my grandfather.”

Dale Sr. concentrated on the basics of the business—drilling wells and setting pumps—and the company experienced success serving Bandera and surrounding counties. DK Drilling did not need to spend much on advertising because satisfied customers spread the word themselves, and the company became an integral part of the community.

In 2009, Dale Sr. turned the company over to Stanley and LeAnna; shortly thereafter, Dale Sr. passed away. Since then, Stanley and LeAnna have worked to honor Dale Sr.’s legacy by using what he taught them to provide the same high-quality service. However, DK Drilling has evolved in other ways since they took over.

“We literally do everything, from drilling to service to storage tank systems, constant pressure systems, windmills, solar systems, water filtration—if it has anything to do with water, we do it now,” Stanley said. “I don’t like to leave anything out.”

The company’s marketing strategy also has evolved, thanks to LeAnna’s efforts.

“[Dale Sr.] really didn’t have a lot of advertisement out there, but now that we took over, my wife has definitely expanded that,” Stanley said. “Signage, Facebook, the web—you name it, she’s done it.”

Left: Before moving to Bandera, Texas, Dale Keith Sr. dug wells in Odessa, Texas. Right: One of the first trucks used by DK Drilling.

Staying Small

DK Drilling & Water Systems has four full-time employees—Stanley, LeAnna, Stanley’s brother Dale Jr., and Stanley and Dale Jr.’s cousin John Garvick. Because the crew is so small, everyone in it stays very busy, but that does not mean that they are willing to compromise on quality.

“It’s pretty stressful at times, but we just want to keep it in the family,” Stanley said. “When people call us, they actually get us—you get the person with the license showing up to your place. We keep it like that because we have a lot of pride in what we do, and we want to make sure everyone’s taken care of. When people call us for service, I want to make sure that we provide them with the absolute best that they can get, so that’s why we’ve always kept it small and kept it strictly family.”

The population growth in DK’s service area has challenged this philosophy. Since DK Drilling opened, the population of Bandera County has more than tripled. In 1980, it was home to 7,084 people, and in 2016, it was home to approximately 21,776 people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau—an increase of 307.4%. Because of this, DK Drilling’s reputation for providing exceptional service can be both a blessing and a curse.

“The biggest challenge I face seems to be trying to get to everybody in a timely manner,” Stanley said. “With so much growth coming out this way and there being so few of us that run this company, it’s really hard trying to make everybody happy and trying to get there in the timeframe they want, because we do stay pretty stacked up. That’s a challenge for me—just trying to make sure that we get to everybody as soon as we can.”

The Keiths are considering expanding the company’s staff—“I think about it every day,” Stanley said—but they are extremely selective when evaluating candidates because of the high levels of knowledge, ability and commitment they feel the job requires.

“We’ve just got to make sure that the quality of the workmanship is there, and that’s something that’s hard to find nowadays,” LeAnna said. “We know it’s going to happen at some point, but it’s just making sure that those people meet the expectations of us and our customers.”

Left: Dale Keith Sr. (left) prepares to dig a well. Right: Dale Sr. introduced his children to well digging at an early age. Here, Dale Jr. assists him in the process.

A New Generation

DK Drilling’s commitment to the Bandera County community does not stop at well digging and water treatment. In 2017, the company began a program designed to help local single mothers by teaching them basic carpentry skills and then paying them to help build pump houses. In addition, DK Drilling donates to charities that provide clean water to communities across the globe.

The company also supports SlamaMoJama Matthew 4:19, a non-profit organization established by Stanley and LeAnna’s son 13-year-old Kenton in memory of his uncle, Craig Honaker Jr. (LeAnna’s brother), who passed away in 2016. Kenton also has established a business in which he and his employees deliver lemonade around town on bikes, and he aspires to become the youngest licensed driller in Texas, which would make him the fourth generation of the Keith family to join the drilling business.

“We’ve already taught him entrepreneurship since a very young age, so he already knows a lot about business,” LeAnna said. “He wants to [join the business], and he comes with us so we can give him the everyday experience of what it’s going to require.”

By studying the way DK Drilling conducts its business, Kenton is learning not only the value of hard work, but also the satisfaction that a job well done can provide.

“I always stress out 100% on making sure that we do absolutely everything we can for each and every customer we have,” Stanley said. “I sleep very well at night knowing that I have done that.” 

About the Author

Michael Meyer

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