Chris Wade: from one red barn to another

F-1-T-CP-Chris-Wade-C-copyBy Phyl Newbeck

In 1980, Chris Wade started the first iteration of his business in a red barn in Hinesburg. In 2003, Red Barn Media Group (RBMG) moved to Charlotte but there was no need to change the name. Thankfully, iconic red barns are still plentiful in the Champlain Valley.

Wade has a background in heating and air conditioning (HVAC) and Red Barn Media Group is a software company specializing in that field. Specifically, RBMG helps makers of high efficiency HVAC products train their contractors and market those products in North America. The company’s primary clients are manufacturers but they also work with wholesalers and contractors who are spread out across the United States and Canada.

Wade grew up in Hinesburg and lived in New York for a few years after graduating from college. When he returned to Vermont he stated a company which eventually became an HVAC wholesaler. It was during that time that he realized companies like his needed resources to help promote their products. Wade began to devote his time to that endeavor and eventually left the wholesale business behind. Red Barn Media Group employs six people including a programmer who started with Wade as an intern out of Champlain College.

The barns may both be red but there are many differences between the business started 35 years ago and the current one. Initially RBMG’s products were printed materials, but in the late 1990’s they began to produce CDs for customers to load onto their hard drives. In 2003, the company began their internet presence and for the last three or four years, their work has been app-based. Likewise, when Wade first began RBMG he was on the road at least a quarter of the time with five or six trips a month to places like Atlanta or Chicago. These days, it’s rare he meets a customer in person thanks to screen-sharing applications. When he does, it’s generally because they are both attending the same trade show.

Red Barn Media Group does a lot of work for heat pump manufacturers. Wade notes that there has recently been a good deal of press coverage about heat pumps but his company has worked with the technology for over a decade. In fact, the converted barn where the company is based was retrofitted with a heat pump during the conversion.

Because RBMG fills a small niche, Wade does virtually no advertising. He gets most of his clients by word of mouth. That word will pass more readily since the company won two major awards last year for one of their products. One award was presented at a ceremony in New York and the second will be awarded this winter in Chicago. “We create products that are effective for improving the lives of people in the HVAC business,” Wade said. “We do some fairly complicated programming.”

Wade has lived in Charlotte since 1991 and likes that the town hasn’t changed much from the way it was when he was in grade school. Although he enjoys skiing, hiking and snowshoeing, he admits that his main hobby is his job. “I don’t see myself retiring,” he said. “I love my work.”