Canadian exporters across the country are fortunate to have the support of an entity called the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service (TCS), operating as an arm of Global Affairs Canada (GAC). With over 160 offices worldwide, and in Canada, the TCS offers expert advice and problem-solving skills to Canadian companies of all sizes, looking to export into a new market, or for support in ones that they currently sell to. Due to Cypher Environmental’s long standing track record of selling its environmentally friendly road stabilization and dust control products worldwide, it has vast experience working with members of the TCS in all corners of the world. Cypher was delighted to be contacted by the TCS recently to be featured in an article in their CanadExport magazine, and hosted a video crew from Canada’s capital city, Ottawa, at their headquarters in Winnipeg to do a brief supplementary video. Due to the combined clean tech and cost saving nature of Cypher’s products, they fit nicely with the mandate of the various Trade Commissioners around the world who work diligently to promote these sectors. Please see the full article from CanadExport below, as well as the accompanying video, or click here to view both on the CanadExport website.
“The role of this office (TCS) was to connect Cypher Environmental to our counterparts in China, who were then able to introduce Cypher to a number of potential distributors.”Angela Dark, Trade Commissioner
Formula For Success Leads Company to New Markets
Written & Published by The Canadian Trade Commissioner Service
As a company with a growing number of products for export to a wide range of sectors in myriad markets abroad, Cypher Environmental Ltd. would seem to have no trouble leaving its competitors in the dust.
The Winnipeg SME makes products for dust control, soil stabilization and water treatment used in applications from road construction and mine tailings management to agricultural water treatment. They perform well, save money and are environmentally friendly.
It’s a formula for success that most companies would envy, but it comes with its own challenges, says Todd Burns, Cypher’s president and CEO as well as its founder. From finding the right markets and distributors to helping it demonstrate the unique qualities of its products, the company especially relies on the assistance of the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service (TCS), both in Canada and around the world.
“It really gives us a step up on the competition,” says Burns, who started the company 15 years ago with his father, working out of his father’s basement. The first product was a unique formula called EarthZyme, a biodegradable, non-toxic liquid that could be used to stabilize soils with high clay content. The highly concentrated, long-term material improves the most marginal unpaved roads so that they can be used by trucks and high-speed vehicles, saving on costly construction and maintenance, which would typically involve the use of specialized equipment and aggregates.
In 2010 Burns took over the company, updating its image and brand, improving the EarthZyme formula and then expanding into new products. These include Dust Stop, which provides long-lasting dust control in any soil type, for example on haul roads and on tailing piles subject to erosion, and UltraZyme, which uses enzymes and micro-organisms to treat organic contaminants in water, for instance in septic systems and industrial wastewater.
Today 80 percent of the company’s business is overseas. Cypher has particularly focused on international sales in mining and infrastructure and has continued to diversify into construction companies and municipalities.
“We now have China’s largest mining supply company dedicating one third of their core staff and resources on promoting our technologies in China. The TCS is hugely valuable to us; it gives us a great image.”Todd Burns, President & Owner, Cypher Environmental
The company works through distributors, with representation currently in more than 20 international markets. Burns says it has focused on developing a website to promote its products, supported by case studies and reference materials. The TCS has been a “phenomenal resource,” he says, helping Cypher identify potential partners and customers, making visits in the field and reporting back to the company. “For our image it’s unbelievable.”
The core of the company’s relationship with the TCS is Angela Dark, a trade commissioner in the Prairies and Northwest Territories region who covers the mining sector as well as the renewable energy portion of the clean technologies sector. “Angela is like our point person for the TCS,” Burns says. “Any time we want to talk to a trade commissioner in the world, she makes the connection and we go from there. It’s an awesome resource to have.”
Dark says she has a role as a “business matchmaker,” learning about the Canadian companies in her region and sectors, getting to know their interests and capabilities and then introducing them to the TCS network in order to pursue international business opportunities. “Depending on the company’s readiness for a market, this could be in-Canada partners who can assist with additional preparation, or it could be my colleagues in our offices abroad, who can introduce the company to potential local business partners,” she says.
The TCS has helped Cypher with everything from contacting clients to helping locate translation services, Burns says. The company has especially benefited from being involved in trade missions and participating in Canadian pavilions at trade shows, where companies from Canada are often able to help each other.
Cypher recently hired a new business development manager and while it depends heavily on its active distributors in key markets, it also connects directly with the companies it sells to, for example in conference calls and on-site training. “No one knows our product like we do.”
Dark notes that companies should be careful about how and how much they use local distributors. “Anyone who thinks you can hire someone at a distance to sell your product for you is not being completely realistic,” she says, noting that local distributors may not be proactive in selling a product and might actually handle competing ones as well. “Don’t sign up with an exclusivity arrangement until you see the results that come from them,” she advises.
Cypher benefits from “industry cross-fertilization,” for example its products can be used in contexts from mining and forestry tracks to access roads into remote communities, she remarks. “You have to look at your potential clients and partners and map out where you can meet them.”
It’s important to focus on a reasonable number of sectors and markets rather than “trying to take over the world all at once,” she says. “You’re going to take over the world, but you’re going to do it one market at a time.”
A significant challenge for a company with a specialized product is that “everybody wants to know that it will work in their local conditions,” which means that Cypher must shows its results in the lab and be able to demonstrate how its products works in practical settings. “Their story needs to be about long-term performance.”
Cypher makes a point of following up regularly with existing and potential clients, she says, through a combination of in-market visits, e-mails, telephone or video calls and the use of social media. This is “hugely important” to maintain and further develop relationships, “or your initial investment on those markets and making those contacts is pointless,” she comments.
One major challenge is the lengthy sales cycle involved in projects such as road-building, especially with the trials that are often necessary to convince engineers of the efficacy of the product. “It’s a matter of being patient,” says Burns, noting that hands-on training and follow up are also “key to everything we do. We don’t just want to sell a product to someone and walk away and cash the cheque.”
Fostering relationships can often lead to additional deals with buyers, who are usually willing to provide word-of-mouth recommendations to other potential clients. “We’re not going to build a business on one-time sales,” Burns says.
Meanwhile Cypher is finding new uses for its products, for example UltraZyme is being employed to recycle the water used to clean sap off of bananas in Costa Rica. The company is sponsoring research and has collaborations with a number of colleges and universities in Canada to enhance its products, improve current applications and work on new technologies. For example, research is being done to develop an environmentally friendly pesticide that can be used against mosquitoes, such as those that spread the Zika virus.
“It has huge potential,” Burns says, noting that many current products used for dust control, for example, are highly toxic or are salt-based and can cause corrosion on the hauling trucks used in mines or other sites. Cypher’s environmentally friendly element is especially important for a Canadian company, he adds. “You’ve got to practice what you preach.”