Only nine months ago, Tom Fogarty joined Bestpass as CEO via Zoom, bringing with him 11 years of fintech leadership experience from another fast-growth company that eventually combined with a division of Moody’s.
During a recent Fuller Speed Ahead, FreightWaves President George Abernathy interviewed Fogarty about his aspirations for growth and innovation at Bestpass — the Albany, New York-based comprehensive payment platform provider and leader in toll management solutions.
Bestpass runs the gamut in terms of offering better discounts, fewer violations and instant registrations to its 13,000 fleet customers, including 70 top 100 fleets and thousands of owner-operators driving all classes of trucks. With nearly 700,000 of its transponders on the highways and processing over $1 billion in tolling, the company is doing very well, but Fogarty is helping it chart a more “planful approach” to its growth.
“You have to take a step back from the pressures of the day to decipher how to build a business at scale and make it seamless for our partners, the tolling authorities and our customers,” said Fogarty. “Innovation every day is a theme we talk about, whether you’re in accounting, customer service or technology. I want folks to be challenging the status quo.”
Fogarty’s first initiative was a product-lead focus based on customer needs, which led to expanding the product team, tripling the capacity on the development side and growing the Bestpass team 25% — from 90 to 115 employees.
While half of Fogarty’s efforts to scale center on innovation, the other half have been about ensuring integrity. “We’ve got to have the same accuracy moving money around that a bank would have, so that requires constant updates and upgrades. Working with our providers, there’s a lot of back-office changes that are going in the toll network and staying on top of that and building a system that’s nimble enough to move as they move.”
Bestpass works with nearly 50 tolling authorities, which provide 100% coverage of all major U S. toll roads and some coverage into Canada. Its most recent network additions were the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority, which connects Wellesley Island, N.Y., with Hill Island, Ontario, and the Southern Connector in South Carolina. However, Fogarty said that Bestpass has a vision beyond toll.
“The ability to go with a single transponder coast to coast, provider to provider and make sure that the billing is accurate is really key,” said Fogarty. “But we have our eyes on providing value beyond toll. We do some of that today in violation management citations. But if it’s on wheels and it needs to make payments, ultimately we want to be able to support that. In today’s world, that means tolling into road usage, charges, mileage-based charges, expanding into ferries, truck washes, fast food and fuel stations.”
One of the reasons Fogarty believes Bestpass can transform from good to great is due to the business’ favorable market tailwinds. Tolling, as well as public-private partnerships, have the power to make changes in infrastructure and traffic bottlenecks, while trucking fleets recently proved their ability to reroute supply chains to maintain a decent economy during the pandemic.
“Even now with the challenges of distributing the vaccine, fleets are taking a lead and I’m both thrilled by the reaction and follow-through by our truck fleet partners, but also the role that we’ve had in making sure that we enable it and simplify that whole equation.”
Fogarty has managed to implement these growth initiatives and outcomes without ever meeting most of his team face-to-face. In five or six weeks, depending on the COVID-19 case numbers in Albany, as well as vaccination saturation, he hopes to maintain a regular office presence.
“The hybrid model makes sense, but it has felt a little bit like one arm behind the back at times in terms of really being able to get to know everybody and inspire a culture of moving from good to great,” he said. “I’ve got to get people back in the office for our culture of collaboration and innovation, but not a five-day week. We’ve proven we can be productive while we’re collaborating on a remote basis. It’s a recruiting advantage for us as we move forward.”