It has been an incredibly challenging year in the industrial space. Even so, Louisiana companies are making waves for their ability to grow and thrive in the face of some pretty daunting odds.

They’re routinely found on national and regional rankings for their pace of growth or sheer size, as well as their innovative approach to tackling problems.

Nationally, for example, the Inc. 5000 ranks those companies by rate of growth, whereas the LSU 100 and Roaring 10 lists take a decidedly local approach by ranking the fastest growing LSU graduate-owned or graduate-led businesses.

Representatives of a diverse mix of South Louisiana industrial standouts: Tyler Abadie with engineering firm Abadie-Williams LLC in Metairie, Mark Danos with oilfield service company Danos in Gray and Thad Rispone with electrical/instrumentation contractor ISC of Baton Rouge recently shared their recipes for success, and discussed the challenges and solutions they’ve discovered along the way.

In the end, their comments seemed to converge around a central theme: Corporate success doesn’t start at the top, but begins with a strong foundation. Note: Comments have been edited for clarity and space.

How might you best sum up the reason for your success?

Tyler Abadie, CEO, Abadie-Williams: We’ve been fortunate at Abadie to hire great people and let those people do great things. We’ve been open to big challenges and bullish on pushing the limit of technical application, paired with an enthusiastic approach to complex midstream projects by everyone on our team.

Thad Rispone, executive vice president, ISC: The cornerstone of a successful business is hiring great people and creating a culture in which they thrive. From the beginning, we focused on the principle that every decision will be made with the highest degree of integrity. As a result, ISC’s culture is one of genuine concern for our fellow team members, customers and community.

Mark Danos, owner-executive, Danos: Our purpose and our people are what make us successful. By way of our compelling purpose, “Honor God. Develop Great People to Solve Big Challenges for Our Customers and Communities,” we have built a strong culture and a great team focused on delivering excellent customer service and committed to fulfilling our purpose.

During the pandemic, what were the biggest challenges to your business model?

Rispone: The wellbeing of our associates and their families has always been our priority and the pandemic brought new dynamics to our approach. We had to make a number of extremely difficult decisions in a timely manner to ensure the safety of our work environments. At the same time, we had to come together as a team to effectively position the company to handle volatile market conditions.

Danos: Overnight, the pandemic changed our engagement model with both customers and employees, forcing us to reinvent the way we connect. Technology was vital in our communication transition. Because face-to-face interactions were no longer an option, we switched to web-based video meetings and countless personal phone calls with the simple intent of connecting with our team members and customers to see how they were holding up and how we could support them.

Abadie: COVID-19 still proves to be a monumental black swan event for both industry and society. While recovery is starting to be seen, the return to normalcy has been slow. Our business had two major challenges that had to be addressed early. One was a disrupted collaborative work environment where engineers, designers, and project leads interacted daily, and the other was a complete reduction in consumer demand for crude oil. We were fortunate enough to follow global news and trends with our current project work and began to take note of the events being reported from China. Our team members who were traveling in January and February were taking precautions through the early use of PPE, sanitizing consumables and social distancing, even before federal recommendations by the CDC or government guidelines. We were proactive to begin preparing for a shift to work-from-home by implementing expanding remote server capabilities, purchasing equipment for at-home integration of company computers and leveraging existing software. Our management team worked closely with their direct reports to develop practices that worked for the organization and share those in real-time as the benefits were realized.

Did the pandemic force you to change in a positive way? And how?

Danos: We clearly faced some challenges that we didn’t anticipate but grew through the adversity and came out stronger. We learned new ways of communicating and engaging with our employees and customers, and our leadership team stepped up in a big way. It was a year of tremendous teambuilding. We finished the year with our second-best safety record ever. That’s pretty remarkable considering all of the uncertainty.

Rispone: Our team was well prepared and had already implemented critical systems that allowed for an efficient switch to remote working environments. This not only enhanced productivity but ensured compliance with strict COVID safety guidelines.

Tyler Abadie

Abadie: We are now fully integrated as a “work from anywhere” engineering firm and are excited for continued refinement of that business model. Regarding a reduction in consumer demand of crude oil … we took aggressive steps to optimize our organization, hire experienced business development personnel in areas outside of midstream that complimented our skill base and pushed ourselves in sectors that had large similarities to oil in gas. This evolved into services provided to and within shipyards, sustainability and financial due diligence.

Looking ahead, what are you most excited about?

Rispone: The events of 2020 expedited the adoption of emerging technology in all industries. For the industrial manufacturing sector, a major driver of change is our customers’ need to enhance their global competitiveness. The need for safer, more efficient operations will be achieved through automation and controls. ISC is excited to leverage its proven experience in successfully designing, installing and maintaining these complex systems.

Danos: I am excited about the strategy we have developed to meet the energy transition and technology opportunities ahead. We’re actively pursuing energy transition opportunities that support our customers’ goals and we’re deploying technology solutions that are transforming our approach to workforce training and competency assurance. It’s energizing to be a part of a team that sees a potential challenge as an opportunity for our organization to evolve.

Abadie: We sacrificed a lot to keep as many people as we could during the series of events: COVID19, depleted oil demand and market retraction. Across the entirety of our organization we’ve seen an increase in company pride, comradery and motivation to get back to pre-COVID project levels. We anticipate this enthusiasm will be directly observed in our work product.

Any big changes to geography, service offerings and/or personnel that could position you for further growth?

Danos: We see tremendous growth opportunities in technology-based training and competency through our partner company, iCAN; comprehensive materials management services through our newly launched service offering, i2ms; as well as lots of potential in wind energy and coastal restoration projects on the horizon.

Thad Rispone

Rispone: ISC has built loyal, trusting partnerships with leading global manufacturers. We have a well-recognized reputation for safe, quality work which has afforded us the opportunity to successfully execute projects throughout the U.S. This experience has allowed us to expand while enhancing our service offering.

Abadie: We are working diligently on building a state-of-the-art telecommuting office/work space to allow employees the opportunity to work at home but also experience an in-office environment when appropriate. This investment will allow us to expand and compliment the current work-life balance many have gotten used to, while also increasing productivity during project life cycles. We are extremely excited for our future workspace and its utility in employee retention.

Future challenges?

Abadie: There is a large narrative to have a direct and immediate shift to renewable energy sources. This is proposed in changing investment guidance, proposed regulations and signed executive orders. At Abadie, we believe there’s a partnership for both renewables, nuclear, fossil fuels and future innovations to power America and the world in the most efficient way possible, while considering the environmental and social impacts of these technologies. There needs to be a continued, honest conversation about the cumulative impact of all technologies and resources, both in their consumption but also their mining, extraction or origination. … Each energy source has great utility and areas where their use may not be the best choice. It is a dialogue and partnership that is set for the next decade, regardless of anyone’s personal belief, as both infrastructures are being developed and optimized for the effects of climate change, population growth and energy demand.

Danos: A couple of future challenges … are energy transition and the rise of technology. I’m excited about the strategy we’ve developed to position us to capitalize on both. Our strategy involves optimizing what we do well today and redeploying those core competencies to meet our industry’s changing needs.

Rispone: We are not looking to the future as a challenge, but as an opportunity to evolve and innovate. Consumer demands and expectations will drive what and how industry produces. ISC is well positioned to capitalize on opportunities that enhance our customers’ global competitiveness.