The Shred First Story Minimize
Principals: John E. Bauknight IV and Nick Wildrick 
Locations: Spartanburg, S.C. (headquarters),  Charleston, S.C., and Dallas, TX are full processing locations. There are sales offices in Charlotte, N.C., Charleston, SC., Birmingham & Mobile, AL., Dallas, Tx and Atlanta, GA. The Spartanburg complex sits on 14 acres of land and includes a 39,000 sq. ft. destruction/recycling facility and a 14,000 sq. ft. records storage facility. 
Number of Employees: 95 
Truck Fleet: 14 mobile shredding trucks; 5 tractors (and more than 60 trailers); and 10 straight/collection trucks 
Shredding Equipment: Variety of equipment made by Allegheny Paper Shredders, Shred-Tech, Vecoplan LLC, AmeriShred, SEM and several prototype product destruction machines designed in-house 
Services Provided: On-site and off-site document destruction; product destruction; recycling of many different grades of paper and plastic; records management (separate operating company known as Total Records and Information Management)

Founded: October 1997
Sold: August 9, 2006
At a Glance: Shred First, LLC

John E. Bauknight IV and Nick Wildrick readily admit that their master plan was somewhat sketchy when they created Shred First LLC in Spartanburg, S.C., in 1997. But planning on the go and making adjustments as needed have been key management strengths for the duo, who have guided their company to growth and diversification, even during what were lean years for the overall U.S. economy.

John and Nick have been friends going back long before Shred First was created in 1997, having gone to the same summer camp as children and having pledged to the same fraternity at Wofford College in Spartanburg. Now they are tied together "for better or for worse," they joke, because they are married to two sisters (Laura and Cile, whose former last name was Chappell.)

Although each has a background in sales, they divided management up somewhat so that John oversaw sales and marketing while Nick administered the operations and finance aspects of Shred First.

While they ultimately cooperate, both John and Nick are athletes and sports fans, and they enjoy the competitive aspect of how they have divided up their duties. Nick compares it to a story he read several years ago about the wine industry’s Gallo brothers. "One said he could make more wine than the other could sell, while the other boasted the opposite," he recalls. “ I said I could shred more than he could sell…. I lost that battle”

The duo also credits their employees as a key to their success. "We’re really fortunate with the people we’ve worked with," says Nick. Adds John, "We’ve learned to surround ourselves with good people and to delegate. At times we probably waited too long to delegate things."

John and Nick started Shred First in 1997 to service a banking customer with on-site shredding services. From this start the company quickly gained customers in other sectors typically served by document destruction companies, including in the records storage and engineering sectors.

Some variety was introduced into the mix the next year, when a music and software company became a significant new customer. "They gave us a small amount of material to destroy for study purposes, and when we found we could do it, it leap-frogged us into product destruction," says John.
After this initial success in destroying fully packaged CDs and software, Shred First gained additional product destruction clients, and by 2000 product destruction was making up 90 percent of the company’s business. "In the fall of 2000, we hired a sales force to start growing the paper and document destruction side of the business," and "We invested the time and money into them and in return they produced.” Notes John. Vice president of Sales Ray Barry lead his team to be the envy of the industry and played a large part in landing the company on the Inc. 500 list in 2003 and 2005.

With the passage of the Hippa and Facta laws the industry began to grow at a rapid pace. While such market conditions may allow less scrupulous and less efficient operators to earn market share at first, Nick and John say they did several things to help separate Shred First as a premiere service provider in their region.

The company received it’s NAID certification, which held the company to the highest standards in the industry with routine audits and annual certification. The company also invested heavily in insurance to make sure that both the customers and itself were covered during and unfortunate event.
Movie, television and comic strip writers have found a rich well of dark humor in the bureaucratic, oppressive and stratified conditions that can exist in office workplaces.

But John and Nick have gone to great lenghts to ensure that people at their company’s enjoy their day at the office, rather than dreading it. 
"It’s almost like a fraternity house," says Nick, which is not too hard to believe, since Nick and John’s friendship goes back not only to their childhood days at summer camp, but also to a stint as fraternity brothers at Wofford College.

They have brought that frat house feeling into the sales office, where, Nick worries, "Our sales team has too much fun sometimes." The fun atmosphere is evident to vendors such as Mike Boehringer of routing software supplier EZshred LLC, Chagrin Falls, Ohio. "It’s like a party there," Boehringer says of the Shred First office. "The salespeople bang on file cabinets when they get a new account," he notes.

Boehringer best sums up the core philosophy of the two. "They pretty clearly made a decision that if they are going to run a company, they are going to have fun and build a business at the same time.”

The Shred First Timeline

March 1997: John Bauknight reads article about Shred It in Success magazine and gives it to Nick Wildrick
July 1997: Shred First, LLC is incorporated.
October 1, 1997: Shred First opens for Business with a 35,000 lb. cleanout from the local hospital and a 14,000 lb. on-site job that took 3 days to do on a 7.5Hp shredder.
We are a 2-person operation with one truck and a 7500 sq. ft. facility. John sells and shreds paper and Nick drives the truck.
March 1998: We land our first 2 big accounts (Fluor & Spartanburg Regional) and hire our first driver Roosevelt Brownlee.
August 8, 1998: Shred First does it’s first product destruction job for BMG Direct. The total of the bill was $75.60.
October 30, 1998: Shred First begins destroying CD-Rom for Bmg-Entertainment

1999

  • Shred First destroyed 7.7 million pounds of CD-Rom
  • Shred First processes a total of over 15 million pounds of material
  • July Shred First places order for a100 hp paper shredder
  • August Shred First places order for the first Product Destruction Machine.
  • September Shred First moves into new 20,000 sq. ft. state-of-the-art facility.

2000

  • Shred First destroyed 8.9 million pounds of CD-Rom
  • Shred First processed over 25 million pounds of material
  • Shred First installs an in-ground conveyer to feed the shredding system, cutting our labor in half.
  • Shred First purchased  first Shred Tech truck.
  • Shred First breaks ground on expansion to the building
  • Shred First hires 4 salesmen for Document Destruction

2001

  • Shred First processed over 33 million pounds of material
  • Expansion of building is complete and new baler is installed
  • The new baler weighs over 80,000 pounds and is capable of baling over 20 tons of material per hour.
  • John Bauknight is elected to Spartanburg Chamber of Commerce Board
  • July Shred First lands 3 year contract with BlueCross BlueShield.
  • Shred First custom builds a collection truck for BCBS

2002

  • Shred First processed over 44 million pounds of material.
  • John Bauknight was elected to the National Board of Directors for N.A.I.D.
  • Shred First purchased second Shred Tech truck.
  • Document Destruction revenue on pace to triple.
  • Signed 2 year contract with SCANA giving Shred First the 2 largest accounts in the state

2003

  • Shred First Processed over 47 Million pounds of material
  • HIPPA goes into effect
  • John Bauknight was elected to president of the board for N.A.I.D.
  • In October 2003 we were selected by Inc. Magazine as the 92nd fastest growing company in the US.
  • In November we were selected by the State chamber and Elliot Davis LLP as the 17th fastest growing company in South Carolina.
  • Shred First opens a second location In Charleston, SC.
  • Office expansion completed
  • On November 1, 2003 Shred First expanded its services by opening sister company Total Records and Information Management (TRIM).  The record center and vault hit the ground running as its first contract for storage was 67,000 boxes.

2004

  • Shred First Processed over 52 Million pounds of material.
  • Shred First begins to Service the Atlanta Market and signs Choice Point and Equifax as two of it’s first customers.
  • Shred First received a contract that started February 1, 2004 that doubled the revenue of the company.
  • Shred First opens Shred First of Texas with 2 additional partners that have a minority stake in the business.
  • The FACTA law is signed.
  • Shred First begins to divest itself of it’s paper recycling business

2005

  • Shred First Processed over 54 Million pounds of material
  • Shred First enters an exclusive agreement with Sonoco to market their paper. In return Sonoco installs a two hundred and fifty thousand dollar baling system
  • Shred First is selected to appear on the Bloomberg network’s segment called “business and beyond”
  • Shred First completes it’s first 2 acquisitions in the fall of 2005 in the state of Alabama
  • Shred First National Account program takes off and is currently serving over 4000 locations nationwide through it’s sub-contractor network.
  • Shred First is selected for the second time to the Inc. 500 #372
  • Shred First Destruction Revenue is up 47% organically and 75% including acquisitions over 1st QTR 2005
  • According to their Annual report Iron Mountain is up 16% and Cintas 30%

2006

  • August 9, 2006 Shred First exits on top!