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VIProfile: Don Gerald

Story by Sadie Fowler

Don Gerard and his team at Land Shark Shredding, headquartered in Bowling Green, Kentucky, are so much more than shredders. A more accurate description for Gerard and his capable team would be to call them professional security experts. And they take their jobs very seriously.

“We are not folks who ‘just shred’ stuff,” he said. “I mean technically, yes, we do shred stuff, but there is a lot more to what we do than just shredding. We are not a shredding company. We are a security company that happens to also shred paper.”

Gerard’s clients receive a higher level of knowledge when they use Land Shark Shredding — knowledge about how to properly secure and/or dispose of the most important information in one’s life. One of Gerard’s greatest frustrations about common misconceptions related to his industry are that people don’t realize the importance of hiring professionals when it comes to these important matters.

“Think about it like this … Think about, for example, the end of life paperwork that you don’t want anyone else to see,” he said. “People may pay attorneys to prepare those types of documents but when it comes time to dispose of them so many people don’t realize the importance of doing it properly. It blows my mind how cavalier some people are. You don’t ask ‘Who is the cheapest attorney I can get when on trial for murder?’ No, you don’t care what you pay. You want the best representation possible.Individuals & companies may pay attorneys accountants, employees, etc. a lot of money to prepare their documents to make sure they’re done correctly. So, why cut corners when it comes time to securely disposing of them ... If you do, you will get what you pay for.”

And what clients pay for at Land Shark is a superior combination of security, confidentiality, value and customer service. As information protection experts, they help their clients comply with the law, protect confidential information and safeguard business’ reputations.

Gerard, a Bowling Green native who loves his community as much as he loves being adventurous, started Land Shark Shredding about 11 years after already having a stellar career in other arenas. A two-time graduate of Western Kentucky University, he is a U.S. military veteran who served active duty as a United States Air Force officer and C-130 pilot.

Once he left the Air Force, Gerard entered the private sector working as a CPA (certified public accountant) in both public practice and private industry. Additionally, he worked as a corporate banker for more than 10 years at Bank of America and US Bank.

Prior to taking a leap and opening Land Shark, Gerard’s background provided him with 20-plus years of experience working with confidential information for both the federal government (where he had a top-secret security clearance) and in the private sector, working with both large & small companies, as well as individuals. Throughout all of this time, Gerard says he worried about how his employers were safe-guarding the security of client data when it was time to purge their files. This little seed remained planted in the back of Gerard’s mind.

Eventually, he got tired of the corporate world and started looking toward the next phase of life.

“I got tired of what I was doing,” said Gerard, reflecting about what led to him opening Land Shark in 2007. “What I was doing wasn’t fun anymore, so I casually started thinking and looking around for what I wanted to do next.”

Gerard recalls taking a walk with his wife one Saturday morning in the summer of 2006 that sparked the true beginning of a grand idea. As they walked past one of their neighbor’s house, they noticed a bunch of boxes all stacked up in the garage.

“We stopped, and as we were talking to our neighbor, I asked, ‘What’s going on here? What the heck is all this stuff?’ Her husband is a dentist and she told us they were some of his patients’ old medical records that no longer needed to be kept on file. She asked us if we knew of someone who might be able to help them burn all all the records … Well, we’re in the city limits in Bowling Green, so there are certain restrictions. Plus, I told her, that would take forever to burn all of that information!”

At this point, that little seed from years ago really began to grow as Gerard realized there was such a need for a company that could help with situations like he encountered on the walk that Saturday morning. Shortly thereafter, he began researching the idea and within 6-months the idea for Land Shark Shredding really began to take shape.

Gerard says, in addition to superb knowledge, customer service is what sets his company apart. They take pride in helping their clients create a plan that is perfectly suited to their needs.

Another focus: Employees. Attracting and retaining the best employees, including licensed and insured information destruction experts, is a top priority for Gerard.

“We’ve worked very hard and we’ve been successful,” he said. “The biggest thing I’ve learned is that my most important asset is my employees. It’s just like football. A quarterback generally can’t be very good without a great offensive line. I couldn’t do this job without my employees. It took me a long time to find the right people and retain them … And I’m always trying to learn how to be a better boss.”

Land Shark Shredding is AAA Certified by the National Association for information Destruction (NAID) for mobile operation and is endorsed for Paper/Printed Media Computer Hard Drive & Non-Paper Media destruction. Gerard is also on the Board of Directors for NAID through the end of 2018.

“It’s hard work but we’ve gotten very good at what we do,” said Gerard, explaining more than 50% of his work is done via federal government contracts as a result of him being designated by the VA as a 100 percent service-disabled veteran (Gerard has Multiple Sclerosis and is legally blind), which ties back to his active duty military status. “We’re one of the leading companies in the U.S. in this industry.”

Land Shark has over 20 VA healthcare systems under contract and in over 250 separate locations in approximately 20 different states, in addition to contracts with the Departments of Labor, Justice, Homeland Security, Health & Human Services. Interior, Defense and NASA.

Gerard say people should be careful with their documents, both hard copies and digital (Land Shark can handle both), because the vast majority of criminal activity related to identity theft begins with a person not properly disposing of documents containing important information, both on paper and digitally.

“Criminals are smart, and too many people just don’t realize this. You wouldn’t believe how many things people throw away that contain their social security number, date of birth and/or checking account number on it. They throw things away because it is easier taking the time to properly dispose of things … Every two seconds a person’s identity is stolen and nearly 50% of the time, it is stolen by the criminal finding things that have been thrown away. People don’t just dig through trash to find food, cans or bottles.” Worse yet, in today’s world, it goes beyond the paper trail.

“Smart criminals do things digitally,” he said. “We make it hard for people to get your information. Most of our information is all out there in some form or fashion, but I make it difficult for criminals to get it. Whether on paper or digitally, I can destroy it.

Land Shark Shredding is a company with massive national reach, but Gerard says he’s proud to also be thought of as a local business, one centered comfortably in the heart of Bowling Green. In addition to work, Gerard stays busy pursuing hobbies that require physical activity, (he runs marathons and half-marathons despite the fact he has Multiple Sclerosis and is legally blind!), traveling, and spending time with friends and family.

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