When Tim Oberst established Ohio Mobile Shredding in the state’s capital of Columbus, he realized he was stepping into an untapped market. He says when Ohio Mobile Shredding opened in 1988, his company was the first in the area to securely destroy confidential documents.

“Canada was the forefather [of the secure destruction industry in North America] because of the timber industry,” he says. “It was slowly catching on in the U.S., and I heard about a guy in St. Louis [operating a document destruction company], and realizing I was in the capital city in the state of Ohio with governments, Fortune 500 companies, etc., I thought we had a market.”

Oberst describes his entry into the industry as “cost-effective.” He explains, “You had to put together your own shred trucks at first: It was a generator with a shredder, and you had to hand-feed the shredder.”

He adds that, “Nowadays, it’s completely opposite—you have to get a lot of capital, a lot of equipment.

“Back then, they only had office shredders, and 20 horsepower was the largest they made,” he continues. “I had to figure out how to put it on a truck, go to companies and ask them if they had any confidential material.”

Oberst continues, “We used totes to compact it, and after a few years, I realized I needed someone to help. I hired my first employee in 1990, and he just retired after 28 years.”

Ohio Mobile Shredding received coverage from local news stations, and Oberst says it was one of the first companies to join the National Association of Information Destruction (NAID), the Phoenix-based association for the secure destruction industry that was founded in 1994. Through these efforts, he was able to grow his business into what it is today.

Ohio Mobile Shredding now owns seven trucks—four of which are designed for mobile shredding.

Staying on top

The name Ohio Mobile Shredding comes from Oberst’s desire to be straightforward. “Well, we’re in Ohio, we’re mobile and we shred things,” he says. That directness, he says, allows the company to adhere to his business philosophy: “to be the very best and most trusted in the industry.”

While Ohio Mobile Shredding began as a mobile shredding company, seven years after its launch and by growing and gaining the trust of its customers, the company began providing off-site destruction services as well.

Today, Ohio Mobile Shredding works out of a 20,000-square-foot facility and focuses on document, electronic and product destruction.

“We’ve been viable for 31 years, we’ve had ups and downs and we’ve been growing steadily,” he says.

Oberst says customers still receive NAID-certified secure destruction services, and the company can run night, weekend and holiday shifts with its 14 full-time employees.

“We have a combination of workers who like 40 hours per week [and] mostly younger workers who volunteer to work shred events, work over or come in on a holiday or weekend if we get behind or if we want to get ahead,” he says. “There’s a lot of flexibility.”

Ohio Mobile Shredding has a relationship with Allegheny Shredders, Delmont, Pennsylvania, that began when the company started. “I started with a 5-horsepower shredder we still use today,” Oberst says. “It only does about 900 pounds per hour.”

Oberst purchased a grinder in February from Allegheny for its product destruction line and also uses a hard drive shredder manufactured by the company. Ohio Mobile also uses an auto-tie baler it purchased in 1995 from International Baler, Jacksonville, Florida.

“I just bought the biggest [baler] you could get,” he says. “I bought a baler that allowed me to grow and do over 200 tons per month now.”

He says the company has outgrown its baler and plans to buy a new one using money set aside for this purpose. “You should always have a reserve of capital to buy new equipment.”

To manage his business, Oberst says, “We don’t have a certain commercial software we use. We don’t use bar coding because it’s up to the driver to scan things properly [with bar coding], and it needs a backup system if it breaks down.”

Instead, he says, routes are planned the day before, and job tickets are made for each task. When a driver comes in, the day’s routing information is available.

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A growing customer base

Ohio Mobile Shredding serves customers within a 75-mile radius, Oberst says, and subcontracts with other NAID members outside of Columbus. “Because we’re a small business and cater to small businesses that appreciate that personal service, that’s what sets us apart,” he says. “We’ve been here the longest, so we’ve gained a good reputation.”

The business segments Oberst services also have expanded in the past 31 years. “Thirty years ago, it was banks, government and buy-in insurance companies,” he says. “Nowadays, it’s everybody.”

Oberst attributes his business’ growth in customers to Columbus’ unique market. “It always survives the very worst economies because of OSU (The Ohio State University) and the government.”

Because of the economy’s stability and the increasing popularity of online shopping, Oberst says his company will continue to grow.

“That’s why I’m buying new equipment, hiring a new sales person—it’s going to keep our business growing,” he says of online shopping. “More and more stuff is being shipped to warehouses. A lot of these products are being returned through warehouses, and it’s cheaper to destroy them than repack them and put them back on the shelf.”

Regarding the area’s economy, he says, “New businesses are growing, and businesses are moving here.”

Planning for the future

As Ohio Mobile’s business grows and Oberst ages, he recognizes the need to plan for the future. “The challenge I face today is how do I stay open for the next 30 years,” he says. “I’m not going to stay here for 100 years. I want to grow it and then walk away and enjoy my life.”

Three years ago, Oberst began what he calls his “action plan.” Ohio Mobile became a limited liability company with three owners—Oberst; his son, Taylor; and wife, Paula.

While he doesn’t plan to retire anytime soon and still takes care of the company’s financials, he wanted to begin the process of transitioning the company to his son.

“I need to share my knowledge with the next generation,” Oberst says.

Taylor Oberst graduated from Ohio University in 2001 with a computer science degree and decided to join his father’s business after a few years of working in the corporate world in information technology. Oberst says his son helped put the company’s routing systems into place and to digitalize office functions.

Like they need it

Oberst says his action plan will allow him to walk away from the business he founded when the time is right without having to worry about the Ohio Mobile Shredding’s longevity.

“I think there’s sustaining life for this,” he says of the company and its role as a secure information destruction provider. “I think as long as there are businesses, they are going to have information that needs destroyed.”

As an example of the opportunity that exists for secure destruction service providers, Oberst mentions increased use of cloud-based storage that requires warehouses populated with servers that eventually will need to be destroyed.

“Don’t run your business like it’s a commodity,” he advises newcomers to the secure destruction industry. “Run it like they want [the service] and need it from you.”

The author is the assistant editor of the Recycling Today Media Group and can be contacted at hheavilin@gie.net.