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Company focus Nov 13, 2022

In conversation with Todd McBride

In conversation with...

Todd McBride

General manager at IES Group in New Zealand
A Reliable Controls Authorized Dealer since 2015


Tell us about yourself.
I’ve been in New Zealand for 7.5 years. I worked with Innovative Electrical Solutions (IES) in Canberra, Australia. We came over to Christchurch post [2011] earthquake recovery. It was only supposed to be a temporary move; I came out with my wife and 6-month-old, with a second child on the way. It was a big thing, to move away from family.

Todd McBride, general manager at IES Group in New Zealand


Our company does mechanical electrical installations and building management system controls; offering the full package makes it easier for us to work on projects (vs just selling the product). Reliable Controls has been a big part of our growth. I’ve worked with them for 13 years now—it’s been really cool to work with the legacy products right the way through to the RC-FLEX family.

I’ve had a bit of a journey to get to where I am now, having started in the air conditioning and refrigeration industry, then moved into electrical and the controls side of things. I feel fulfilled now in what I do. The controls industry is so complex and keeps evolving. Having the technical background has helped me get to where I am now.

Do I have hobbies? My wife would say work! I really like playing around with automating things, reading about new technologies, and following trends on LinkedIn. I’m passionate about where the industry is going, about renewable energies… it’s exciting to be in the midst of such an important change for everyone. The industry is what I love, so it’s hard for me to switch off from work. I have a couple of controls at home to do lighting and air conditioning. It’s cool to bring it home and understand the products in a practical way by using them myself.


Tell us about the work you do.
I’m the general manager. We have a staff of 10 in the south and two on the north island. I make sure we have enough workload but also do the majority of the engineering of the Reliable Controls products. 

We do electrical for mechanical, so we do all the wiring for the HVAC system as well as the other side of the businesses—the Reliable Controls side. By tying that together, we can offer a full start-to-finish package, from switchboard drawings to engineering the job and installing the product, then handing it over to the client. Through our service team, we continue the journey of optimizing the building with the client.

We’re keen to give back to the industry by training apprentices. We’ve had a few who stayed with us for their entire apprenticeship. Giving them access to the Reliable Controls online training platform is a really good tool for our younger guys as well. They can do the tutorials, learn about the products, and understand the bigger picture and what we’re selling.



What attracted you to the building automation industry?
I guess it’s because it’s so dynamic. It’s never sitting still. Now that I’m in automation, I understand a lot more about the refrigeration side and other industries I’ve worked in. Before, I turned something on and it worked. Now I understand that there’s certain inputs and outputs and programming that goes with it. It has really opened my eyes to that side of our job and the opportunities for us to do anything, really. We can move our business and focus on different industries and different clients, and be sustainable into the future. 


Define success. 
To me success is shared. Success means we’re all growing and we’re all evolving together. I feel humbled when we succeed in projects. We’ve had a few good projects where the clients saved heaps of money from a controls upgrade. It’s knowing we’ve done the best of our abilities to achieve the ultimate results. 


What does sustainability mean to you?
It’s exciting to me that we sell a product for the lifetime of the building it’s installed in. Backward compatibility is a real win! No one’s left behind. It’s nice to sell somebody something, knowing they won’t have to replace it in 5 years’ time. That’s a great thing to say. With everything today being so disposable, it’s nice to know that if the product fails we can send it back to be fixed, reused, or recycled. Reliable Controls actually cares about the environment. I like understanding why they use certain materials and how they focus on the sustainability side of things—for example, using aluminum because it can be recycled forever.

For us as a business, we’re doing whatever we can to avoid using pen and paper and printing things. In this day and age there are so many tools available that help us work as a team online.

Todd with regional sales manager Jason Duncan


Why are you and Reliable Controls a good match?
We have shared values. We both have our clients’ best interests at heart. IES always tries to demonstrate what we say we’re going to do because we’re also reliable.

I’m passionate about trying to get the most out of the product and doing things a little differently or trying new things. Knowing the product—knowing programming and understanding holistically how the system works and improvements that can be made—and using my background in air conditioning is probably leaps ahead of others who are purely ins-and-outs focused. Having clients who are on board with that is exciting. And I know I can lean on Reliable Controls for support.


What sets Reliable Controls apart from other brands?
Reliable Controls products are excellent. When other people work with our stuff, they say it’s one step ahead—the programming software and the platform are easy to use. Everything molds together: installation setup is quick and easy, which makes our overall job easier, more profitable, and less stressful. We heavily promote the backward compatibility aspect—the fact that products will be maintained and nothing gets left behind. I appreciate that Reliable Controls listens to the dealers, that they’ve got our backs and have our best interests at heart. It makes me feel part of the family.

I’ve been to two of the dealer events (Queenstown and Hobart) and do miss them. It’s awesome to catch up in an environment like that, to hang out with Levi [executive vice president of sales] and Roland [founder and former president of Reliable Controls], and to talk with other dealers around Aussie. It was great to share challenges and offer Roland feedback directly and have him take notes and really listen. It makes it all worth it to know they’re really invested in the company, in their products, and in the people—in us!


When you meet with a client, what’s your desired outcome?
Well, the obvious one is to get product in! We want to get Reliable Controls devices into as many projects as possible because we know they always deliver what we promise. When there are no problems and the client is happy, that’s good advertising for the next deal.

In New Zealand there have been a lot of rebuilds since the quakes. Reality is that often the cheapest [brand] wins, and it doesn’t matter what product is shipped. It’s taken us a long time to get to the point where people select IES and Reliable Controls because we do a good job. 

Our last few jobs we worked together with a mechanical contractor; they do all the installation of the ducting, and we come in and do the electrical and the controls. We get asked along when someone wants an upgrade. The client’s current system might only be 7 years old, but they are already being told they need to upgrade the computer, software, and controls, and it’s going to cost them $50,000. I come along and am so passionate about our product and what we can do that I can usually get it across the line. I sell clients on the graphics—the graphics are awesome and show them other sites we’ve done, the animations, the reporting and energy savings when we did an upgrade. It’s all key to getting that final tick.

It’s hard in New Zealand because there’s a big market for Siemens controls. We recently removed some Siemens stuff from the Les Mills Christchurch project and put Reliable Controls in, and we saw 30 percent energy savings. It was pretty remarkable! Looking at graphs of a 4- or 5-month period, you could see exactly when we took control. We are very proud of those achievements. The client is saving $4,000 a month. They’re now achieving better air quality and enjoying comfortable and consistent conditions, and it’s all doing good for the environment.


How does Reliable Controls come through for you?
The technical support is awesome. They always answer calls quickly and efficiently. We once had an issue on a site 5 hours away. One of my guys went to the site and we Teams called in, but then I had a problem with software licensing on the server. It being a secure site made it hard to access. So I sent an email to the Tech Support team at Reliable Controls, and within 5 minutes I got a response. Lyam offered to do a screen share, so he took control of my computer and took control of the other guy’s computer (at the site), and we were able to get the problem resolved. It’s pretty awesome we were able to achieve the results and not have to worry about waiting 16 hours for someone to get back to us. It was pretty instant! I’ve dealt with Lyam a few times now, and I never get the feeling that a question is too stupid. Tech Support is always there to help, which is a huge thing. As a dealer, you want to be able to reach out anytime, or lean on them, which I do a lot. Being remote in New Zealand, we never get to see these people. Having the video calls is kind of cool.

Todd with Ian Giles, Reliable Controls vice president of sales for Asia Pacific

I’ve also got to praise our regional sales manager. Jason is a welcome soundboard. He’s always trying to empower us to do better and succeed. It’s exciting to have him on the journey. Even when he was on sabbatical he would reach out, keen to offer support. It makes life a lot easier knowing he’s there for us. I know he gets paid for what he does, but I think he would do it regardless. He’s really good at his job and is just a really good person. Hopefully he’ll be able to visit us here in in New Zealand soon.