The Interview: Brendan Bain, Logical Services
Brendan Bain of Logical Services has spent decades building one of Australia’s most respected security integration businesses. He talks about early challenges and motivations, his passion for robotics and automation, and offers advice for younger techs on where they must focus to ensure their own success.
JA: How did you start out in the electronic security industry, Brendan? And how did your career develop?
BB: I completed an apprenticeship as an industrial electrician and then immediately started my own business to follow my passion for a higher level of cutting-edge automation. I designed and built robots (before you could buy them off the shelf), process plants and many bespoke automation and control solutions, which was certainly mentally rewarding and bucket list satisfying.
The migration to the emerging electronic security world was naturally easy and necessitated by my need to remain in a highly technical field but also to not be so personally relied upon for my ‘crazy’ creations keeping multimillion dollar company lifeline systems running. The middle of the night call outs to cold, damp factories to repair automated systems was taking its toll! I realised if I had any chance to remember my wife and children’s names I needed to find an appropriate work/life balance industry to work in.
JA: Could you put your finger on a single event, decision or time period that led to your current success?
BB: I certainly can. I was at a party in my teens at a very palatial home and listening to an entitled conversation about a substantial inheritance. I had a financially poorer but love richer upbringing but realized I was probably not going to be lucky enough to inherit or win any money. However, I was fortunate enough to have functional arms, legs and brain, and therefore able to work as hard as I possibly could to build a business and future. More than 20 years later I need to pinch myself at times when I realise what I have created.
JA: What’s the greatest business challenge facing security integrators today?
BB: I don’t believe we have too many sales challenges in the actual electronic security space due to the current heightened security climate and resulting industry growth, but I do believe there is a real increasing challenge in keeping overhead business costs and therefore customer costs down. A perfect example is the widespread good intention regarding all aspects of compliance and as this is now heavily outsourced to the for-profit sector, there is a real lack of industry coordination and many double-ups in fees for different third-party compliance companies for the same certification. What used to be a simple group email with insurance renewal certificates and updated WHS policy to our clients taking less than 1 hour per year, now costs $A25k+ per year and it’s rising.
JA: What’s the thorniest technical problem you’ve ever faced in the field?
BB: We love engineering and delivering our high end, technically challenging and multi-faceted systems but definitely our thorniest technical challenge is trying to explain this wonderful engineering to our clients before their eyes glaze over….
JA: Which installation so far, are you most proud of?
BB: John, I’m not one to kiss and tell when it comes to security applications but I’m very proud of all the projects my fantastic staff complete where we receive a genuine customer thank you and praise for mitigating a previous problem.
JA: How important is training in the security industry now – do you think the industry is up to scratch or does more need to be done?
BB: Super hard question this one. In access control alone there are now so many control panels, so many options and so many new products constantly. I believe the majority of current training may in fact focus on the wrong job-ready skills. As an employer, I need valuable staff members with a minimum confident level of on-the-job safety awareness and installation skills.
I’m not sure teaching budding technicians too early how to programme a complex system controller is beneficial to employers if the employee cannot confidently install the entire system, or appreciate how a field device they are programming actually works in a real world environment.
JA: Which breakout new technology is generating the most interest among your clients for its ability to streamline operations and increase efficiencies? If it’s more than one (say, analytics and biometrics) please expand!
BB: We must have a very diverse range of customers and we find each customer is interested in different technologies and is focused on solving their own immediate security needs. A common feature, not so much of a breakout new technology, is remote accessibility of systems via consolidated PC and mobile device applications. Number plate and facial recognition technology is certainly gaining some traction lately, too.
JA: Logical Services has a super client list – what’s the secret to winning and maintaining blue chip customers?
BB: Ha ha, no secrets to this unfortunately, though I wish there were. Just good old fashioned analogue-flavoured professional advice, service and support, which still works – even in the digital age!
JA: Something that’s a bit different is that you don’t contract out services, so the customer is always dealing with the Logical Services team. How important is the capability to integrate all the services you offer?
BB: Sadly, this is just because I am a control freak! We are just more comfortable owning the project from end-to-end and therefore controlling our own destiny. It’s also just safer for me to summon one of my project manager’s into my office without any witnesses.
JA: Apart from handing over after a successful commissioning, what’s your favourite part of an installation?
BB: For me it is mainly the thrill of the chase and taking all the credit at the end! My staff will happily tell you they believe I physically installed my last system in 1997 when I started the company and started to employ staff. That said, the proud look on the faces of staff and the customer satisfaction at handover provides great validation we are on the right track.
JA: What single practise is most likely to ensure a successful application of security technology? (For instance, process management of the installation; listening to the client, the capacity to adapt to changing needs on the fly, etc).
BB: Competent project management from planning through to end user training. No surprises here and it just takes a lot of hard (and sadly sometimes unappreciated), work.
JA: What do you wish you had known when you started out as an electronic security technician?
BB: A master’s degree knowledge base in human psychology!
JA: Which tools have you used the most over the years installing security – are good tools worth the investment, or is it possible to get by on the basics? What’s the one tool you could not work without?
BB: I haven’t touched many tools since 1995 but a quality, high resolution multi-meter is always a must, even for the most basic of work. For tasks above the basic level, a quality laptop with a good graphics acceleration card is certainly advised and is personally the most important piece of kit for me.
JA: Generally speaking, which clients are your favourite clients – do you prefer customers who are prepared to get right out on the bleeding edge of technology, or those who make incremental changes to thoughtful applications?
BB: My favourites are definitely the customers that pass the decent person test and you just get along with to solve a problem together. Such people can be leap of faith types, incremental change types or those who want no changes but just servicing. I have some valued personal friendships with customers that are more rewarding to me than money.
JA: If you weren’t a security integrator, what would you have liked to be?
BB: I would be in the legal profession – I love a good debate and calling out BS when I smell it!
JA: What advice would you give to young technicians starting out in today’s market? What should they focus their efforts on in order to become successful?
BB: All the clichés really, be reliable, be hard working, present your appearance well, think ahead and most importantly, only give your close family your work phone number – leave your personal phone at home!