It was during the course of more than a decade of running his first company that Mike Callihan spotted the trend that paved the way for his second.

As president and founder of American Data Products, which produces custom-printed business forms among its core services, Callihan saw the need for many forms diminishing with advances in technology. At the same time, more clients were asking for help shredding documents to comply with privacy laws and policies.

"Can you shred these for me?' I literally got asked that question a hundred times," he says. "I thought I'd better check this out."

And so Callihan's second start-up became a tear-up company: Document Destruction, which offers comprehensive, on-site shredding services for companies, professional offices and the public at large.

From its inception in 2004, Document Destruction has grown into a firm certified by the National Association for Information Destruction, serving some 3,000 local clients and generating nearly $1 million in revenue annually, becoming more lucrative than American Data.

"I've had offers to buy me out, generous offers," Callihan says, "but I'm having too much fun doing this."

After all, isn't it every boy's dream to buy trucks and break things?

Callihan recently bought a fourth truck equipped with a state-of-the-art shredder and a monitor for customers to supervise shredding if they wish. His largest trucks can shred up to 6,000 pounds of paper in an hour. All documents are moved from secure, Document Destruction-provided containers directly into the shredder; no employee touches them. Once shredded, the tiny scraps are recycled.

That's not the way all companies operate, Callihan says, nor the way he operated when he first started the business.

"I picked up a regular delivery truck, and I took everything to a central facility to shred," Callihan says. "What I found out was customers want you to shred their stuff in front of them. So I bought a modified Ryder truck with a small shredder in the back. That lasted about three months. It was way too inefficient."

Adjusting his business model on the fly didn't bother Callihan, who had already spent three years working and learning the business of printing and computer supplies when he started American Data. With Document Destruction, he was prepared for a larger learning curve.

"I'm a ready, fire, aim kind of guy," says the 50-year-old. "Some people spend months and months evaluating something, and once they implement it, they're going to stick with it forever. I start with what I think is going to work, but if it's not working, I can stop on a dime and tweak it."

The trucks he uses today cost $250,000 apiece, but Callihan didn't mind the investment. The fact that a shredding company required a large capital investment actually appealed to Callihan. "Anybody can start a printing business," he says. "This had some very real barriers to entry. You need skin in the game."

Just as his notion of how to best equip the company evolved, so did Callihan's staffing strategy. He initially hired a small sales force to get out the word, but came to believe shredding was a service people wouldn't outsource until they decided they needed to do it, regardless of the sales pitch.

Over time, the sales people left and weren't replaced. Callihan focused on search-engine optimization and advertising programs to bump his company's profile upward when potential customers went online to find help.

The growth of the business was hastened by the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA) of 2003, which mandated that all businesses securely dispose of sensitive information gathered about their customers. Callihan says some firms had no definitive policies as to who was responsible. At others, material often simply wound up in wastebaskets.

Outsourcing the operation solves two problems: Employees don't need to waste time destroying documents with less-sophisticated office models, and it ensures the work is completed.

"You have a copy of the invoice, with the date and the service performed," he says. "Now you have an audit trail."

That kind of attention to detail is key to Callihan's approach.

"We pride ourselves on over-the-top customer service," he says. "I don't know that I could replicate what I do in Columbus or Cleveland, that's out of my reach. But I sure can take care of you in Greater Cincinnati. And a lot of people like working with locally owned and operated businesses."