Todd is a sociable guy with big plans for Cypher Environmental. With a background in business, Burns took over his father’s concept for an environmentally friendly clay stabilizer in 2010 and expanded on his vision.
It was a rough start with no repeat customers, little cash flow in the bank account, and no warehouse or property: just an idea and a business run out of a basement.
“I always saw there was a ton of potential,” says Burns. “I knew that if the company was managed a little differently, then it could really take off.”
Todd’s first step as the new owner was to take control of the manufacturing and come up with a better EarthZyme product. He refined the old EarthZyme to reduce the time, cost and energy inputs to manufacture it, while simultaneously improving the end result. Now the product has a 50% higher California Bearing Ratio.
The inspiration for EarthZyme came from living in Manitoba where clay is abundant — which is usually a marginal engineering input. The company organically evolved when he noticed an infrastructure need and developed Dust Stop, and then got into water treatment with UltraZyme due to the company’s expertise in an enzyme in EarthZyme.
So far, Todd’s biggest challenge has been acquiring and finding the right people and make sure they are doing the right job. Putting together the right team is also his biggest accomplishment.
“People always talk about customers first, or people first, but in my opinion, finding people is one thing, but making sure they are the right fit for the organization is a more important piece of the puzzle,” says Burns.
Todd knew Cypher needed to have that skill set to build up Cypher’s reference materials, case studies, and their internal understanding of their products. He also valued building relationships with partners like Red River College, Brandon University and organizations that support their research.
“When I looked at the evolution of the company, I saw that we needed technical people. If we got the business development people and the salespeople first, but we didn’t give them the right tools to sell, we would be spending all this money on supporting them without the right arsenal to sell,” says Burns. “So, our focus was to bring on technical people before we even had a sales team.”
Now, Cypher Environmental has grown exponentially. They have a team working around the world to promote Cypher and their technology.
“Just because we don’t see them every day doesn’t mean they aren’t valued members of our team. They are out there, and we interact with them, we talk on the phone, and we have a WhatsApp group,” says Burns. “We share product discussions and personal experiences in our group chat.”
When you walk into Cypher Environmental, you can feel the sense of community. Everyone shares the same passion for helping the environment — and each other. Socializing after work is common, and there is a family-feel around the office.
“We started with an idea and developed a culture, not just a business. That’s what I’m most proud of,” says Burns.
Burns says, “When you start something by yourself in your basement, you become pretty passionate about what you do. You develop a passion for it. I have always been a tree hugger. My parents drive a Tesla now, my encouragement of them to recycle as a kid got them into all the environmental stuff.”
Cypher allows him to pursue his passion for the environment. Burns says that philanthropy is starting to become a significant focus in his life.
“All of our products are solving environmental issues and made from non-toxic, biodegradable ingredients. Doing something positive for the environment and making money at the same — it’s not hard to stay passionate,” says Burns. “Seems to me like it’s a no-brainer.”
There are still challenges ahead for Cypher Environmental.
Burns says they are having a hard time cracking the city of Winnipeg and Manitoba infrastructure — even though the product was initially made with Manitoba in mind.
“We’re selling our products all over the world hand over fist. Here it’s a drop in the bucket compared to what we are selling all over the globe.”
His biggest lesson so far has been not to procrastinate or grow too quickly.
“I’ve got to trust my instinct. When I hesitate, my decision was the same thing I would have done on day one, or day three, or day ten. At the same time, I want to slow down on major decisions and make sure we are doing them for the right reasons.”
The vision for Cypher Environmental is to continue to welcome a culture that encourages people to give back.
“We can’t give back all over the world, but we can encourage our distributors who are located all over the world to get involved in philanthropy,” Burns says. “That way, they can make a living and give back.”
Cypher aims to help reduce various industries impact on the environment and foster the ability for their team to get involved in philanthropy— beyond just selling product and impacting the environment.
“I have a vision for Cypher’s future, or maybe my own, to start a charitable foundation. The Cypher Environmental golf tournaments will eventually raise money for that. That will probably have something to do with the environment or animals. I have always been a big sucker for animals.”
Todd says he enjoys working with companies who see the bigger picture.
“If they see the bigger picture in terms of understanding all the secondary benefits of making environmentally friendly choices, they see it as an investment in the environment, not a cost.”
He believes investing more today will be a better pay off for the community in the future.