It’s not really a truck with a paper shredder in the back; it’s more like a shredder-onwheels. 

And when you see the shredder-on-wheels parked outside a business on a Thursday with its lights flashing, paper isn’t shredded by page.

No, no. These folks deal in 100-pound batches; 200-pound; and 300-pound.

“It is the low-stress part of my whole week,” says the president of Secure Mobile Shredding, Owen Laviolette.

“And customers are happy to see us, which is nice,” says his vice-president and wife, Lana.

Each Thursday — and Friday, if Thursday wasn’t long enough — Owen leaves his Reliable Electric & Communications business, and Lana leaves the home office where she administers both businesses, and they dart about town shredding paper in random cuts that are 1/16th of an inch wide.

They walk into offices and wheel out bins of unwanted and sensitive paper and lift them into the hopper that feeds them into the AXO shredder that is powered by the truck’s engine.

Standing at the control panel, Owen points out a monitor just above the buttons and lights: “A camera shows the bin from above so that you can watch it shred,” he says. Two-thirds of the truck’s container is for the compacted shredded paper. It is taken to the landfill to be composted.

“They like it there,” says Owen. “Their compost needs carbon.”

With no other business in Whitehorse offering this service, you would think customers would line up to be first.

That’s what RBC thought back in 2007.

“We put together the business plan and took it to RBC and they came back with a ‘yes’ right off the bat,” says Owen. “They had zero questions for us.”

Lana adds: “And I just happened to have finished an office administration course and I had all of these good ideas in my head on how to put certain things together.”

But, “we had zero customers when we got here with the truck,” says Owen today. “We had nothing lined up except knowing there were people interested.”

He knew this from the many, many cold calls he had made to Whitehorse businesses.

Cold calling is the toughest in the world of sales, but, “I’ve never been afraid to talk to anybody,” says Owen. “The whole thing, is, I was excited about the idea and that is what motivated me.

“I just went downtown and thought of people who would be good clients: the lawyers, the banks … I started there, but I would stop at any business.

“We had no money for advertising; we printed up flyers but couldn’t afford to put them into the newspaper, so we hand-delivered them.”

That didn’t pan out, but the face-to-face contact was positive.

It took 12 weeks for the truck to be ready. It started as a chassis and engine with the shredder mounted on top. Owen flew to Ontario to bring it back, along with the bins they would need to leave with their customers.

Once they were ready to go, customers slowly signed on, and the business grew. There was no more cold calling, just newspaper advertising and word-of-mouth. Oh, and that big colourful truck, too.

So, who was the very first shredding job?

“I can’t really say,” says Owen. Then, in an official voice, he declares, “Due to confidentiality requirements.”

He stops, then explains, “If your paper is being destroyed securely, you don’t even want people to know that you are doing that.”

“One of the main questions we get,” says, Lana, “Is do we shred for anybody.

“Yeah, we shred for anybody. We go right to people’s houses.”

Houses?

“Yeah,” says Owen. “Some people have more paper than some businesses.”

For those outside of Whitehorse, they will take their paper to a pre-arranged parking lot in Whitehorse.

But they never shred at their home business in order to keep things civil with their neighbours.

“I love working at home,” says Lana, who does paperwork from the downstairs office.

But it is difficult to separate home life from work life, so they have strict rules for themselves.

“At 5:30, I am done,” says Owen. “I don’t look at emails, I don’t answer the phone, I don’t listen to messages.

“I used take calls on vacation …” “That was maddening,” Lana interjects.

“But now, at 5:30, I’m done,” Owen continues. “But, Lana, when she sees that red button on the phone lit up, she has to know who it is.”

“I just can’t let that go,” Lana admits. “That doesn’t mean I am calling them back. But I’ll check the message to make sure it isn’t anything major and I’ll call them back in the morning.”