Followmont looks to the future as it celebrates 40 years of success

The story of Followmont Transport started in much the same way as many other transport businesses did, with just the one truck.

It was an eight tonne Hino flat top FF. Today that’s grown to a fleet of over 170 prime movers, around 250 rigids, 430 trailers and 181 forklifts operating from its 24 depots – and travelling a combined total of 130,000 kilometres each day.

It was way back in 1984 that Bernie Tobin and Alan Salpietro laid the foundations for this transport success story.

Flashback: Bernie and Alan in Rockhampton, where they had just purchased three adjoining blocks of land to build a new depot. Image: Followmont

“They started the business off the back of a rail strike. They had just the one truck and drove it from Brisbane to Cairns, delivering magazines to newsagents,” said Mark Tobin, who took the reins as CEO of Followmont in 2013, before purchasing the business together with his brother Ben Tobin in June 2016, to carry on the legacy of their father and his business partner.

“A big thing we always say at Followmont is never forget how we got here.

“We show and work with respect and that is what drives us forward. My father and Alan worked very hard to build the business up,” Mark added.

One of Bernie’s early trucks. Image: Followmont

“Those first 10 years were really hard work. It wasn’t until about five years in that they were able to construct their first building. Before that they were working from beneath a house.”

Now 48, Mark has been with the business for 33 years, however it’s been part of his life for even longer. “I was only eight years old when they started Followmont. I’d ride my push bike here after school and be in the trucks every weekend. I worked in every aspect of the business before becoming CEO.”

The house Bernie and Alan originally worked from was located at Stones Corner in Brisbane, before they moved to a depot in Geebung, where the business stayed for many years until moving to the current location at Eagle Farm in 2009, which brought with it exponential growth.

“From there, we just exploded. We’ve done two renovations to double the size, including a massive reno eight years ago. In the last 10 years we’ve had massive growth,” explained Mark.

“I’ve been running the business for 15 years now but it’s the effort dad and Alan put in at the beginning. Their philosophy was that we never don’t move something because the truck isn’t full.

“One of the biggest things I’m proud of is that we still do the small deliveries for the mums and dads.

“They can drop something off here and we will take it. We have accounts that spend millions with us, and then others that just need something small delivered.

“To this day, our philosophy is all around service to the customer no matter the obstacle. We go to every town in Queensland and New South Wales daily, no matter how big or small it is. At Followmont, we look after each other, your word is your word.”

Two generations mark the company’s 40 year milestone. Image: Followmont

Of Followmont’s 24 depots, 20 are located in Queensland and four are in New South Wales, ranging from as far north as Cairns all the way down to Sydney.

“We have a number of different revenue streams off the back of that – including 3PL, our specialised logistics business and a large refrigeration business,” explained Mark.

“Every cent we make from a truck all goes back into the business. That secures us for growth and sustainability.”

Adding to that, Followmont builds all of its own sites through its building arm called Bootooloo Property, which was launched in 2017 – though Mark revealed they’ve been building all of their own depots for the past 20 years. Currently, the company’s property portfolio is valued at approximately $95 million.

“We own everything here – we have all our own workshops, our own sites, trucks and recruit our people, we don’t use many sub-contractors. That means we can control our service levels and our destiny,” added Mark.

“From bricks and mortar to workshops and fuel. Everything is in-house.”

Regardless of how big it’s grown, at Followmont, its people have always been at the heart of the business and are what keeps the wheels turning. The company now employs approximately 1000 people.

Followmont’s people have always been at the heart of the business. Image: Followmont

“It’s been an amazing journey, but at the end of the day we don’t own the business, our people do,” said Mark.

“I’m big around open communication to all people in our business. Everyone knows how we’re going and where we’re heading.

“I’m not a process driven CEO, it’s all about the people, the values and empowerment. I have a very good team around me that I reckon are the best in their fields and our industry.

“Bernie and Alan worked really hard, now I want to get the best out of our people. So we have our own training and development business for our people, a future leadership program and an intern program. That’s all run internally. It gives our people the opportunity to develop and grow.

“It’s about leadership and empowerment and creating a true family business, where we’re using our values in training and development.

“At Followmont, we cherish our relationships so we can flourish. It’s our relationships and values that set us apart from our competitors. One of the main things for our family is that we put a lot of time and effort in making sure that mine and my brother’s relationship is number one. We will not let anything happen to that.

“I’ve had great mentors, but I’ve mostly been self-taught. I’ve really worked hard on leadership and how to be the best version of you. You’ve got to put the business first, the team second and yourself third. You never put yourself first.”

These Volvos are among the newest additions to the ever-growing fleet. Image: Followmont

Part of Followmont’s growth strategy is acquiring businesses that align with the company’s values. The acquisition of Towers Transport in 2018 brought about the move into the NSW market. This was followed in 2023 by the acquisition of Bradco Transport in north Queensland and JPL in Mackay.

“I aim to do an acquisition every two years,” revealed Mark. “I’m very big on that because it pushes my team to be the best. Refrigeration was a big thing for us. We got into that about 20 years ago.

“That division has since grown to about 50 per cent of our business over recent years, and is now one of biggest on the east coast. We travel everywhere. We have trucks doing 9000 kilometres a week. We run B-doubles each night from Townsville to Mt Isa.

“The east coast is the ultimate goal of where we’ll play. That’s where we put all our energy, servicing regional communities throughout the east coast.”

Mark Tobin has been CEO at Followmont since 2013. Image: Followmont

Some of the most recent builds for Followmont have included a $15 million extension of its Townsville depot which brought it to double its size, $7 million to build new cold rooms and build a new transport terminal at Innisfail and a new facility at Warwick.

“We spend about $20 million on our sites each year. Everything has to have solar and water harvesting – that’s at all our new sites. Everything we do and everything we build is about sustainability and how we offset our carbon emissions,” explained Mark.

“We’ve also just bought land around our Queensland depots, so every site has room for 10 years’ growth, so we can’t be land-locked.”

While Mark still plans to be with the business for a long time yet, he’s already looking well into the future. “I plan to be here another 20 years or so. But my brother Ben is much younger than me – he’s 32 – so because of that generation gap, Ben is the future of our business.”

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