The right-sized company

Features - Secure Destruction

California’s Shred Works Inc. understands the importance of information security for customers of all sizes.

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Kari Talvola Verduin, president of Shred Works Inc., with corporate offices in Burlingame, California, and a 20,000-square-foot plant in Oakland, California, says she recognizes information security is a concern for customers of all sizes. That’s why Shred Works offers on-site and off-site confidential destruction services to a variety of clients—from individuals to multilocation corporations.

Her father, Richard Talvola, started the business in 1993 as Recycling Works. Realizing the potential that secure destruction services offered, he specialized his service offering in 1995 after purchasing a large plant-based shredder and installing a video monitoring system for security purposes. He renamed the company to Shred Works Inc. in 2001.

Today, the company operates a plant-based shredding system supplied by Ameri-Shred, Alpena, Michigan, as well as five additional Ameri-Shred shredders and a hard drive shredder from the same company. It also operates five shred trucks and 10 box trucks to service accounts.

Verduin joined the company in 2007, having formerly worked in human resources (HR) for an engineering firm. Her father had promised her at the time that she would never be bored if she joined him at Shred Works. “He was correct.”

When he retired from the company in 2018, Verduin was appointed president. It’s a role she dreamed of since she was young.

Formative years

“When I was 10, I dreamed of being a businesswoman,” Verduin says, adding that she told her father she would be president of his company one day.

She studied business in college and went into HR after she graduated in 2006, but quickly grew bored, Verduin says. That’s when her father mentioned an opening at his company was available. But, he said, she would have to start at the bottom. Verduin says she worked in logistics before transitioning into sales and then upper management.

“He was a good mentor,” she says of her father. “He really believed in me and my vision to go into business.”

While Talvola died in June, Verduin says that whenever they would get together, they would talk about her vision for the company. She says he offered “good input. He’s a good sounding board.”

In addition to her role as president of Shred Works, Verduin also serves as president of Fibre Trade Inc., a business that her father established in 1987. The company exports recovered paper, pulp and mineral products to paper mills worldwide, and Shred Works is among its supplying customers.

The company first received AAA Certification from the Phoenix-based National Association for Information Destruction (NAID) in 2003, claiming it was the first plant-based operation in California to do so. Today, Shred Works’ NAID certified services include plant-based and mobile destruction of paper records, micromedia, computer hard drives and nonpaper media.

Expanded range

Verduin says she spends much of her time thinking about how she can improve or expand her family’s businesses.

For Shred Works, that means being flexible. The company offers on-site and off-site document destruction services as well as product, hard drive and uniform destruction services to customers in the Greater San Francisco Bay Area and to those with locations nationwide. “We have affiliates we work with across the country,” she explains, to provide this coverage.

“We’re one of the only companies in the Bay Area that offers uniform shredding for security firms that want their uniforms destroyed for security purposes,” Verduin says.

But the company doesn’t stop there. “If you have a logo on it, we’ll destroy it.”

Verduin says hard drive shredding also is an area of focus for Shred Works. When clients want computer screens and mice recycled, Shred Works will collect them and partner with e-scrap recyclers to process these devices. However, she adds that paper accounts for 90 percent of the material Shred Works destroys.

Shred Works offers same-day service and purge jobs to its document destruction clients, which span a number of industries from health care to retail.

The company’s clientele ranges from individuals (through a walk-in service at its Oakland location and numerous other drop-off sites throughout the Bay Area) to multilocation nationwide companies, Verduin says. “You don’t have to have 100 bins in one location. You can have one bin,” she adds. “We diversify from big tech firms to one-bin doctor’s offices.”

Shred Works brands itself as “The Right-Sized Company,” noting that it “will provide secure and reliable document destruction and information management services as an essential part of your ongoing efforts to protect yourself and your business.” A video on the company’s website, www.shredworks.com, describes Shred Works as “small enough to remain customer-centric without investors to worry about and large enough to accommodate the needs of any size company.”

Verduin says Shred Works prioritizes customer service by offering flexibility and accessibility. The company’s focus on customer service has earned it a good reputation in the Bay Area.

Verduin says Shred Works also has grown through acquisition and continues to be on the lookout for such opportunities.

What started as a two-person, one-truck paper recycling business has grown to operate 15 trucks and employ 25 people full time, including 18 people who work in the plant or as drivers and seven office staff.

Future focused

“For me, it’s all about the future,” Verduin says. “We increase the number of employees based on where we are going in the future as opposed to where we are now.”

Right now, Shred Works is focusing on upgrading its plant-based shredding system to make it more efficient, she says, and upgrading its truck fleet.

On-site destruction services pose a challenge in the Bay Area, Verduin says. “We’re looking for trucks that make it easier to park.”

But, Verduin says, she approaches business challenges one at a time and accomplishes her goals for Shred Works by putting good people in place around her who can help her come up with and execute ideas that lead to growth.

The author is editor of Recycling Today. Bob Sandrick conducted interviewing and reporting for this article. He is a freelancer based in Cleveland.