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Dallas 500

Meet the Dallas 500: Charles Dannis

The senior managing director of National Valuation Consultants talks about his company's growth, overcoming the economic collapse of the 1980s, and participating in the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon.
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Chuck Dannis has been a real estate appraiser and consultant since 1972. He co-founded the firm Crosson Dannis in 1976, and for 35 years, it provided the top commercial brokerages with appraisals throughout the United States. Dannis is also a longtime real estate professor at Southern Methodist University. Now, he helps lead National Valuation Consultants, one of the largest privately held appraisal companies in the United States.

In Dannis’ extended 2023 Dallas 500 Q&A, he talks about his company’s growth, overcoming the economic collapse of the 1980s, and participating in the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon.

Birthplace: Fort Worth

Education: Southern Methodist University (BBA)

First Job: “I drove a moving truck in high school and college. I packed and moved personal belongings of military families before their household goods were shipped. I learned to interact with all kinds of people, with different backgrounds, at often very trying times of their lives.”

Best Advice: “It’s not necessarily advice, but I try to live by the credo espoused at the end of the Saving Private Ryan movie, when Ryan, kneeling by the grave site of the soldier that saved him, turns and says to his wife: ‘Tell me I have led a good life. Tell me I am a good man.’ I hope that when I ask, the answer is in the affirmative.”

Dinner Party: “I would love to have dinner with Ray Hunt, Harlan Crow, and Ross Perot, Jr. I have known all three since I started in the business and believe anyone of the three could and should run for president. They stepped out on their own and created deeply admired and respected companies through ingenuity, hard work, and respect for their employees, clients, and investors. Their philanthropy and dedication to the city of Dallas and its citizens are unparalleled.”

Destination of Choice: “I love Colorado in the summer. We have so many great times with the kids in Vail and Aspen.”

Hobby/Passion: “In my more youthful years, I did a lot of endurance events like marathons and triathlons—many with my wife. As I morphed into my older age, most of my free time is allocated to my philanthropic endeavors. And, for almost 20 years, I hosted a live talk show each Saturday morning on KRLD. That was a lot of fun.”

A Better DFW: “We need to try to make how much money one makes not the metric of a successful broker, developer, or lender—but, having said that, I marvel at the number of successful real estate folks that are deeply active in our community, and generous in their philanthropy.”

Local Fare: “You can’t beat the Katy Trail Ice House cheese burger.”

Do-over: “I am a blessed man: the mistakes I made are just part of the fabric of my life. The good days have far outweighed the bad.”

Fun Fact: “I was one of the first—maybe the first—Dallasite to complete the Ironman Triathlon in Kona, Hawaii (1982). That was the year ABC’s Wide World of Sports covered the race and Julie Moss crawled across the finish line in second place. After that show aired, they had to go to a qualifying system to control entries.”

Go-to Advisor: “I am lucky to be surrounded by close friends that are not only astute businessmen in their own rights, but also great family patriarchs and honest to a fault. They know who they are.”

Toughest Challenge: “I co-signed a bunch of notes in the 1980’s with partners that were in theory indemnifying me. When the collapse came, it took every resource I had to make things right.”

First Car: “1964 Ford Fairlane. I always got my dad’s trade in. It was this lime-ish green color that really did not look so good on SMU’s campus.”

Proud Moment: “We have experienced great growth in revenues and head count, in a very competitive market for our services.”

Industry Change: “Like most major metropolitan areas in the U.S., we need to continue to focus on our public schools. I have been asked on numerous occasions, ‘What could cause housing prices in the Park Cities to decline?’ I respond: ‘An average SAT score of 1300 in DISD.'”

Pivotal Moment: “In 2014, my business partner of almost 40 years announced his retirement (and then his un-retirement). I needed to decide my own course of action and how to handle the employees of the company. I merged the company into a national platform to create one of the largest privately held appraisal companies in the U.S. It has been extremely successful and a perfect fit for all.”

Walk-up Song: “‘I Can Only Imagine’ by Mercy Me makes me focus on what is important in my life and remember all the people that helped me get where I am today.”

Must-read: Lone Survivor explicitly details commitment and perseverance in the face of the worst of adversities—and how an ancient noble custom saves a life. It has nothing to do with business, just grit.”

Spirit Animal: “I am torn between a lion (I am a Leo) and a sloth.”

Alternate Reality: “If I wasn’t in my current profession, I would be an ER doctor. I would love the chaos and the opportunity to help people when they need it the most.”

Biggest Risk: “Not thinking of financial risk, I would say: Teeing up to do the Kona Ironman back when no one knew anything about triathlons. Or, later, jumping off the Hornblower cruise boat into the freezing—supposedly shark infested—waters to swim from Alcatraz for the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon.”

Bucket List: “I’d love to go back with my family to the place I grew up in France-Orleans—where we lived in my dad’s military base housing.”

Key Leadership Strategy: “Honesty. Do what you say you will do, when you said you will do it.”

Future Forecast: “As a teacher for the last 35 years, I am excited about this generation of young people. I believe they have an eye on the environment and seek a stronger work-life balance than my generation. I have been known (okay, faulted) for being the eternal optimist, but I believe in the youth of today (my kids included).”


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