From a car boot to multi-millon dollar firm, cultural points bolster Newcastle company

Succession plan: R&D Technology CEO Steve Preston, right, with the company's engineering manager David Jordan and financial controller Jenny Dugley
Succession plan: R&D Technology CEO Steve Preston, right, with the company's engineering manager David Jordan and financial controller Jenny Dugley

You’re CEO of R&D Technology, in Cardiff, which marks 25 years in 2018. How did it start?  

Dallas Stokes and Richard Gordon saw an opportunity in 1993, they left their jobs, money was very tight in those early days when setting up the business so Dallas commandeered his wife’s Toyota Corolla, leaving her at home with a new born baby boy, and worked bloody hard to get things started. Some mining engineers even today still recall the time when Dallas once rolled onto the mine site in the little Corolla.  Today they employ 20 staff, have a multi-million dollar turn over and partnerships with some of the world’s leading brands. While Dallas and Richard are no longer active in the business their legacy of hard work, partnerships and customer focus remains.  I have a senior management team plus other team members together managing the business under Dallas and Richard’s motto of  “strengthening business through partnerships”.

We knew that without having our team working together success would be most difficult so we sat down and developed a set of “rules”.

Steve Preston

 Your company provides electrical engineering services to industries across Australia. What is your bread and butter trade?

R&D provides electrical engineering services and products to a wide range of industries across Australia from its Cardiff headquarters and also from Brisbane.  The company’s bread and butter comes from the mining sectors providing electrical safety equipment and servicing. The mining sector today is still a large portion of our business today.

 How has it diversified? 

We identified that to survive and continue to grow the business, before the mining downturn, that plans were already well underway to change the direction of the business and steer it into new and diversified markets. This wasn’t an easy process but the management team knew it was necessary to change otherwise reliance on this traditional market would place the business in a commercially risky situation.

Business plans were created to launch entire new products and services which all aimed to take the business into a new diverse range of markets. Sure, this wasn’t easy, however applying the sound business practices that underpinned the original growth of the company we soon established new customers and partners.

We developed a service and automation departments that took us into sectors such as health, utilities, local governments and emergency services providing specialised product design, engineering, manufacturing, site service and commissioning.

 What has diversification allowed you to do?

Stabilised the company’s performance and allowed the company to promote its products and services into areas across Australia and New Zealand where is was once completely unknown.  

Biggest challenges in the past five years?

The mining downturn was a challenge, and creating new products and services to diversify into new markets.

 How much of your business is exported?

We do little direct export, our customers do the exporting.

 Dallas and Richard still own the business but have opted to develop the company’s senior leadership team, including yourself, in view of succession. How much involvement do the founders have and how will that succession play out?

Dallas and Richard first stepped back from the business a few ago empowering at the time a senior management team (all sourced from with the business) to run the business. The succession planning of the business commenced at the same time and is well advanced.

 The company has a Points of Culture agreement – what is that?

The solid foundation set up by the original owners was based on establishing true partnerships with customers, suppliers and especially staff. We have captured the core values of the organisation in what we call our Points of Culture and they guide our dealings with all of our stakeholders, but particularly with each other. We have a great record of longevity of staff and a high degree of engagement and we take pride in both. We are also proud of is the unique work / life balance that employees enjoy.

 Why the need for it?

Many years ago we knew that without having our team working together success would be most difficult so the team sat down and developed a set of “rules” on how we would all work together. These Points of Culture are the bedrock of how the business is run and how our team interacts. 

 The company has signed a distribution deal with General Electric. How significant is the deal?

Achieving the exclusive partner for GE Uninterruptable Power Supplies is a synergy between the two organisations. It allows us to enter new markets with their products and our services for Australia and New Zealand.

Pressures are on your markets at present?

There will always be pressures but the fact that many of our customers see R&D Technology as a true business partners and trust us to create a unique engineering solution means we are often operating in a unique position far from mainstream standard “out of the box” suppliers.