“I called Allegheny and right away found ‘The Allegheny Attitude.’ Everyone was helpful and encouraging to someone just fresh in the business.”After returning from the Middle East, where he worked for a number of years as an accountant, David Walsh became a financial director for a large waste disposal company in the United Kingdom. While with the company, he saw firsthand the growing need for secure destruction of confidential documents.
“Then, when I returned to Ireland in 1998,” David says, “I saw a niche market for a professional confidential data destruction company. The good thing about such a company in Ireland was that it satisfied the need both for security and care of the environment. Together, these attracted me as good grounds for a business.”
True to his accounting background, after renting an office David began thoroughly researching the contract shredding industry in the area. “I analyzed my competitors,” he says. “I found out who they were, what they were offering, what they charged, how they were operating, and what they did that was good and bad. I determined that I could do at least as well, if not better. I did know that if you want to do something better, you need to offer better service. That’s what I went for from the beginning.”
While most of his competitors were giving out black plastic bags to customers for collection, David ordered top-quality cabinets from Canada. When the cabinets arrived, he assembled them himself, working in a room in his home. “I knew that the cabinets were a proper way to collect because they were a real piece of furniture—they were secure and professional. A plastic bag in a cardboard box just isn’t secure.”
Still without a shredder, David began marketing his services to customers. He placed several cabinets in the administrative offices of a hotel. “I thought that would be a good trial,” he says. “Lo and behold, I got a phone call after a week saying that the cabinets were full and the company needed more. They were very pleased that people were putting documents into the cabinets. That was the first test to see if the business would fly, and I saw then that there was a market. I ordered more cabinets and rented a factory, or a ‘facility’ as it’s called in the United States.” Since he hadn’t yet purchased a shredder, he simply stored the bags of documents, keeping them safe and secure.
He had seen the shredders that were in use in Ireland and wasn’t satisfied with their quality. “If you want a good service,” he says, “you need reliable equipment. I didn’t want to spend time and money on machinery that would break down. It frustrates the customer and the workers.”
He was familiar with Allegheny from previous contacts. “I called them and right away found ‘The Allegheny Attitude.’ Everyone was helpful and encouraging to someone just fresh in the business. I worked in particular with Evelyn Jefferson, who was always eager to assist and give advice.
“When you’re on this side of the Atlantic, you need a reliable machine or you’ll be in big trouble. I knew that Allegheny was the most reliable way to go, and I’ve been proven right. It’s excellent equipment. I bought a reconditioned 30 Hp shredder, and it hasn’t given me any trouble. It’s as good as a new shredder, in my opinion.”
Once David had his equipment, he could start shredding. “I bought a shovel from a grain store and shoveled the shredded paper into the shredder. Then, the shredded paper started making a huge heap in the corner of the factory. I didn’t have any way to deal with it, so I just kept shredding, letting it pile up but keeping it secure. All along, I looked for new customers, working seven days a week—picking up paper, shredding, talking with new customers, and of course, meeting with the banks to raise finances”
His facility was 3,000 square feet—good enough, as he says jokingly, “If you don’t have any customers or any business.” By that time, he had about 30 tons of paper shredded and stored. Clearly, he needed a baler.
With the success he’d had gathering new customers, he felt that he was in position to meet with a bank and receive a loan for the purchasing of a baler. “I told them that I had determined there was a need for this type of company. I persuaded the bank that it was good business, and I was enthusiastic, which I think was very important. Based on that, they loaned me the money. I bought an Allegheny baler and conveyor, which completed the loop.”
He was finally able to bale all the paper he had been shredding. He established relationships with several recyclers that purchased the bales, exporting primarily to China and Indonesia.
He then began in earnest to grow his business. “The first customer is the hardest. As you get more, you gain credibility. Then when you get big customers, you use them as a base. We were covering Ireland from the North, South, East and West. There were a few companies before me, but they weren’t doing things properly and professionally. There’s a big difference between collecting waste and collecting confidential paper. I let my customers know what I was doing, and that made the difference.”
There is a keen and growing awareness of environmental issues in Ireland, and David uses that to promote his business. He’s able to provide data to companies about the quantity of paper they have recycled over the last quarter or six months. They can include that information in reports to appropriate government departments, shareholders, and other companies with which they do business. David knows that many people are tying to imitate him. “But I’m a firm believer that if you offer the best service at a reasonable price, it’s hard to compete against. That’s the way I operate, constantly upgrading my services. I now destroy whatever customers want —computers, monitors, anything. I try never to turn someone away. Whatever the customer wants, within reason, I’ll destroy and whenever possible recycle.
”David Walsh, Managing Director
Datastroy, Summerhill, Ireland