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March 2010
Mission Critical
By Carol Gifford

     Today the protection of confidential business and client data is mission critical.

     All businesses discard confidential data. Customer lists, price lists, sales statistics, drafts of bids and correspondence, and even memos contain information about business activity which would interest any competitor. Every business is also entrusted with personal and credit information that must be kept private. Employees and customers have the legal right to have this data protected.

     Without the proper safeguards, sensitive documents end up in the dumpster where the information is readily, and legally, available to anybody. The trash is considered by business espionage professionals as the single most available source of competitive and private information from the average business, as well as a significant source of individuals’ personal information.

     Any establishment that discards private and proprietary data without the benefit of destruction, exposes itself to the risk of criminal and civil prosecution, as well as the costly loss of business.

     That’s where Automated Shredding, Inc. comes in. It makes it very simple and affordable to dispose of sensitive data protectively and easily by providing mobile on-site secure shredding.

     “Document shredding used to be just a best practice,” says Bob Korkos, vice president of Automated Shredding, “but now it is the law.”

     “We provide a convenient, secure and environmentally sensitive solution,” says Barbara Korkos, the company’s president.

     “We’re large enough to serve corporate clients with the best state-of-the-art equipment but still small enough to serve small and mid-size businesses and residential customers.   We can compete with anyone in our industry because of our experience and the flexibility of our operation to adapt services and pricing to meet our clients’ needs,” she continues.

     Automated Shredding’s state-of-the art shredding equipment has the capabilities of shredding anything from paper, plastic, microfilm, and x-rays, to electronic equipment including CDs, hard drives, PDAs, and retired cell phones. On average, a shredding truck can shred up to 5,500 pounds per hour.

     Additionally, the company is industry certified and all employees undergo extensive background investigations and drug testing, and are continuously trained on secure policies and procedures to provide shredding service that complies with industry best practices.


Disposed to Charlotte

     Veterans in the shredding business, the Korkos’ first owned and operated a shredding company in Milwaukee which became one of the largest shredding operations in southeast Wisconsin and one of the first nationally certified.

     In Wisconsin Bob Korkos was selected by Shred Tech, the leading manufacturer of both mobile and stationary shredding equipment, to field test the first MDS 35GT mobile shredder model before general release. Since then, he has continued to serve as a consultant to the company and on its focus advisory boards, helping to review new shredding truck needs.

     In fact, it was a Shred Tech consulting gig that brought Bob down South in the first place and during his trip he drove around Charlotte.

     “I called Barb and said we need to look at Charlotte for our next shredding business venture,” says Bob.

     “We thought Charlotte looked like a great place—with a great climate, especially in comparison with Milwaukee winters—and a good business environment,” says Barbara.

So, in 2007, they moved the whole family to Charlotte.

     With an initial investment of about $500,000, the couple started networking and reaching out to the community. They became members of the Chamber of Commerce, the Better Business Bureau, the Executives Association and the Hospitality and Tourism Alliance.

     Utilizing the proven business model they had developed in Milwaukee, the Korkos’ launched their new business.

     “We needed to make a presence in a new market and adapt to changing trends in media,” explains Bob. Believing the yellow pages and direct mail to be outdated and ineffective for their marketing needs, they went online.

     “We developed an online marketing strategy with local marketing firm,” continues Bob, “and supported it with radio and signage campaigns to create a strong brand and build a recognizable presence.”

     “When we are contacted by a new customer, we offer a free evaluation of their needs, even if they were already using a competitor service. We ask to visit the workplace and look around because we know we can save them money and offer a secure quality service,” says Barbara.

     For customers who choose routine scheduled service, Automated Shredding provides secure locked containers ranging from 95 gallon bins to laminated executive consoles and underdesk personal shred bins.


Facilitating Disposability

     “We were using another shredding company during a period when we were transitioning from paper to electronic medical records,” says Pat Phillips, administrative supervisor with Cleveland Urologic Surgery in Shelby. Her practice was in the middle of a big clean out and called its shredding vendor to request service with a four-day advance notice. The vendor could not provide service for a week or so, recalls Phillips.

     “I saw Automated Shredding on the Internet and called to ask for service,” says Phillips. “They came out the next day and took care of shredding six to seven years of old paper documents all that day. We thought they really wanted our business and did a great job.”

     Phillips, who is now a regular customer of Automated Shredding, has four containers in her offices and the sensitive information is picked up and shredded every two weeks. She has been with Automated Shredding for a year and a half now.

     “It doesn’t make sense for us to shred on our own,” she says. “It wouldn’t be cost efficient for us to buy a shredder or waste the money and benefits we’d pay to an employee to do this work. This service works out fantastic for us.”

     Sal Balsomo, co-owner of Barrister’s Title Services of the Carolinas in Mooresville, chose Automated Shredding over other services because of a price difference.

     “Automated Shredding was willing to charge us by the visit versus a monthly fee,” says Balsomo, whose office has the choice of calling and cancelling if a pick-up if not needed.

     Balsomo explains how the shredding process works: “Automated Shredding provides a locked shred container for us to temporarily store our materials to be shredded. They come once a month and dump the contents of the cabinet into a large trash receptacle and then wheel the receptacle out to their large truck.

     “A mechanized arm picks up the receptacle and overturns it into the sealed shredding hopper on the truck. We are able to view the shredding process with a large color monitor mounted at eye level on the side of the mobile shredding truck to assure that our documents are safely and securely shredded onsite in our parking lot.”


Security and Certification

     Security is top priority in the data destruction industry, which has its own professional association, the National Association for Information Destruction, or NAID, a non-profit watchdog group founded in 1994.

     Bob Korkos, a former Harley Davidson district and regional sales manager, started in the data destruction industry “when it was just a fledgling in early 2000” and learned early on of the need to offer secure, reliable service to customers. He serves on NAID-related committees and is a regular speaker at annual conferences.

      Automated Shredding, Inc. is one of the few AAA-certified NAID companies in the Carolinas, meaning it has been independently audited and meets certification requirements for destruction of paper media and hard drives.

      “Shredding companies that refuse to submit to NAID audits are asking you to trust them to regulate themselves. And that’s simply not good enough,” explains Bob. NAID conducts annual professional audits of Automated Shredding and could arrive for unannounced audits at any time.

      Certified companies are also required to maintain a $2 million general liability insurance policy, in addition to the NAID-required insurance. Automated Shredding also carries professional liability insurance, known as errors and omissions insurance as extra protection for their clients.

      “Offering a green solution is another benefit to customers,” says Barbara. “Automated Shredding recycles 100 percent of its waste. This provides additional security as the shredded paper is reduced to a liquid pulp fiber that is used to produce high grade paper towel and toilet tissue. The mobile shredding truck can hold up to 10,000 pounds, or five tons, of compacted shredded material and each ton of recycled paper can save up to 6.7 cubic yards of landfill space.”

     To make it easier for customers, all paper waste can be placed in the secure containers without removing metal such as paper clips, binders, staples or even metal rods from hanging folders. The shredding process and recycling process will dispose of and filter out any metal impurities.

     Bob says shredding helps reduce trash removal costs for the customer, in some cases, up to 50 percent. On average, the company shreds 65 to 70 tons of documents each month, resulting in 130,000 to 140,000 pounds of recyclable paper product each month.


Shredding Is a Success

     Despite stiff competition in the Charlotte market, Bob Korkos says his company is thriving. Since its start in the Carolinas, Automated Shredding has serviced close to 2,500 customers including regular routine route, one-time purges, residential and drive-up individuals.

     Automated Shredding has also cultivated partnerships and grassroots marketing ideas to offer the service to consumers at non-traditional locations.

     “From November thru January, we hosted a drive-up shredding at different Showmars restaurants in the Carolinas every Saturday,” says Barbara. “We set up in the parking lot and offered a 50 percent drive-through discount to shred personal information and give out a $5 gift card for Showmars.”

     Even during last year’s economic slump, the company increased revenues for regular routine route customers by 49 percent, according to Bob. He attributes the company’s success to hard work, exceptional customer service, flexible pricing programs and adapting and responding to client needs.

     “He may be a Yankee from Wisconsin, but Bob is a friendly, conscientious guy who does a lot of the pickups himself. He wears a uniform and is proud of the work he does,” says H.A. Thompson, president of Rose Chauffeured Transportation in Pineville, who is a regular customer. “He has adapted well to Charlotte and I see him at many civic functions. He’s a part of the community—but he doesn’t eat grits!”

     Automated Shredding has plans to expand this year. “We plan to add additional trucks and drivers,” says Bob, noting the company is operating close to capacity now.

     “It is very important that we manage our growth; quality of service must be maintained. At a cost of $250,000, each truck is a major investment for us, and we want to make sure that the quality of service is never compromised as we grow.”

     “We believe in Charlotte and expect to continue our growth based on customer recommendations and referrals.

     Charlotte has been very good to us.”




Carol Gifford is a Charlotte-based freelance writer.
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