June 9, 2014
By Amos Maki
In 1986, the father-and-son team of Robert and Bob McBride bought a fledgling small business called State Systems.
At that point, the company had just two employees. Today, State Systems Inc. employs 114 people and has around 5,000 active commercial customers.
The family-owned business has been providing fire protection services to Memphis-area companies for decades and is constantly evolving to keep pace with the latest in technological, fire safety and security improvements.
The McBrides take seriously their role as being the final line of defense between a raging fire and catastrophic damage. The company’s motto is “Protecting Life and Property.”
“We want to make sure people are protected,” said Bob McBride. “We recognize it’s a great responsibility, and we take it very seriously. It’s always gratifying when you hear a news report about a fire and they say the system worked and put the fire out and you know they did not lose property or people were injured.”
That focus on quality and safety filters down to employees in the field.
“Our employees take it very seriously,” said Bob’s brother, Tyler McBride. “When they’re out doing service or maintenance, they get the big picture and recognize that this is about saving lives and property.”
The company installs, maintains and services all the equipment it places in a business.
State Systems’ longest-standing and best-known services – fire protection equipment, training and cleaning services – have been enhanced by new technology services, such as network integration, structured cabling systems and wireless support.
The company added a fire sprinkler division three years ago to go with its fire protection, low voltage, cleaning services and technology divisions.
Bob and Tyler said operating each division as its own company has helped manage the day-to-day operations.
“That really allows us to focus on quality and making sure we’re delivering the right services and products to our customers,” Tyler said.
Bob said having the different divisions run as their own distinct business empowers managers and helps maximize the profits within each division.
“It makes it easier to have the managers report to me and they run as separate profit centers,” Bob said. “We run them as if they’re different business silos.”
State Systems serves companies within a 150-mile radius of Memphis, and clients include Smith & Nephew, the University of Memphis, Burger King, Sonic, McDonald’s and Wendy’s.
State Systems recently introduced a new product that could help restaurants dramatically cut down on costs. Called Safety Shield, it uses sheep wool in filters to trap around 95 percent of grease vapors. Traditional filters collect 30 or 40 percent of the grease and other material emitted from kitchens, allowing the rest to escapes to roofs, kitchens and HVAC systems.
“(Our system) saves time and money because most restaurants pull their filters down on a weekly or daily basis,” Tyler said. “With this, they only have to pull them down once a month.”
The fire protection division includes sprinkler systems, fire suppression systems that are utilized when water could do more harm than good, fire extinguishers, emergency lighting and signs.
For companies with information technology infrastructure to protect, State Systems can install a suppression system that will extinguish the flames while protecting the data.
“The doors will shut automatically and the room would fill up with a gas to extinguish the fire without damaging the systems,” Tyler said.
The company’s pressure-washing division can be particularly useful for restaurant equipment and vent hood cleaning.
The technology division includes structured cabling systems, wireless connectivity, and telephone and surveillance systems.
The low-voltage division includes fire alarm systems, wireless connectivity, CCTV systems and access control systems.
The addition of the low-voltage division allowed State Systems to move into the security business, so in addition to offering fire protection and detection services, the company can also provide security, including CCTV services.
State Systems allows customers to bundle all of the different systems, making it a one-stop shop for companies’ fire protection and security needs
“You can deal with one company and one point of contact, and that’s been a great plus for us,” Tyler said.
State Systems also uses a Web-based system, BuildingReports.com, which allows customers to gain automatic access to all their fire protection and safety data. The system will tell business owners where each fire extinguisher or smoke detector in a building is located and maintenance information on each piece of equipment.
“It’s a differentiator,” Tyler said. “We’re the only one in the market who has it, and our customers love it.”