Growing a state-wide business with a focus on service and culture – the expansion of Fork Truck Specialists

Posted on November 27th, 2019 by WLF

Operating a successful family business is much more than just a job – it involves care, commitment and of course a lot of hard work! It’s also important to establish your goals early, and this shouldn’t be limited to just your financial goals. For real success, you need to consider the organisational culture you want to achieve and develop a shared understanding across the team of what you are all working towards.

For Virginia Chilcott, Managing Director of Fork Truck Specialists (FTS), these goals are clearly defined. “World domination isn’t on our list” says Virginia “but being the largest family run forklift company in Tasmania as well as being the first call, the first time and every time is very much what I want for us.”  

And the personal side of business, and happiness of the team, is also a top priority. “Without a doubt the proudest moment for me is the symbiosis between knowing that the team is unified, happy, genuinely interested and caring for each other and the work place environment that comes from that.  I am proud of the team. Everyone and their families working for us means a lot to me.”

Acquiring and growing the business

Virginia purchased FTS in October 2015, as part of a broader decision to diversify from her main industry of farming. The business had started in a small garage with just one apprentice, and been operating for just over 25 years.

Since its establishment the business has grown significantly. Today, FTS is a one stop forklift, telehandler, ATV and warehouse cleaning shop. The team do sales, hire, repairs and maintenance servicing, as well as supplying parts and providing 24/7 breakdown repairs.

With offices located in Hobart, Launceston and Ulverstone FTS is well equipped to service the whole of Tasmania, with an on-the-ground presence that is invaluable for building strong client relationships.

Virginia says she has been delighted with the responses received following the recent opening of their Launceston office, “We are having an immediate positive impact with the local businesses in Launceston and that is truly rewarding. Hearing positive feedback from customers that we have made a difference in their businesses is also a very significant reason why we go above and beyond” she says. 

The FTS team now consists of 13 people, with Virginia, General Manager Peter Brewer, a service manager, hire and sales, administration and service technicians.  And as the team and number of offices has increased, so too has the client base. 

“We have a customer list that is extremely diverse to say the least!” remarks Virginia. “From mining on the west coast, fisheries, vineyards, manufacturing, warehouse distribution centres, farming and even the Antarctic program. We can be the go-to company for all industries requiring forklifts, telehandlers, warehouse equipment and everything to do with them.  We do from time to time have the call out to fix loaders, farm tractors and other interesting machines that have had a breakdown or need a service.”

Focus on core business

When you are running an SME, it can be easy to get caught up in paperwork and find yourself spending too much time away from the core business. Building positive business relationships with professionals who can essentially be part of your broader team is a great solution that allows you to keep your focus where it needs to be.

At WLF, we have been working closely with FTS and are delighted to have been able to help with their expansion and witness their continued success. From the start of the relationship it was important for us to get to know FTS, with Partner Simon Jones and Advisor Matthew Kiernan seeking to understand the needs of the business and how we could deliver what they needed.  

“Establishing, and agreeing on, how we could add value to FTS and assist them in moving forward and meeting their goals was really important to us” explains Matthew. “Over a relatively short time, I feel that we’ve built a great relationship with Virginia, Peter and the team. Simon and I are both really proud of what they are achieving, and it’s satisfying for us to have the chance to make a small contribution to that.” 

Virginia and Peter share a similar point of view. “I can honestly say that I appreciate the fact that between Matthew and Simon they have got our best interests at heart and cover all the bases to help run FTS from a financial point of view” says Virginia.

“I have enjoyed watching them become a part of our business and they genuinely care. Now that we know each other, I have confidence that the data Matthew produces for us is relevant, accurate and can help make significant decisions within the business and going forward into the future.”

As with any business relationship, there are also times when the not so popular recommendations need to be made.

“Matthew is like a stepfather…” says Virginia. “He tells you what you need to hear whether you want to hear it or not. But he won’t get crabby with you if you don’t listen and do it anyway. He then tries to figure out how to make it work.” 

Where to next?

Four years on from purchasing FTS, Virginia remains enthusiastic about her role and the business. “I enjoy the diversity of my role and no two days are the same. I get a huge buzz from seeing the team support each other and seeing personal goals inside and outside of work achieved.”

And as to goals for the next three to five years?   

“I see us being the happiest and largest family run forklift company in the state and having an extra 3-5 people in the business”.


Photo courtesy of Fork Truck Specialists

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Growing a state-wide business with a focus on service and culture – the expansion of Fork Truck Specialists

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