Seeing the Bigger Picture
When Bruce Buchan founded Midpoint International in 1990, his business philosophy was simple: to make a living as a distributor of office recycling programs designed to eliminate desk-side garbage cans. However, Bruce - a self-professed serial entrepreneur - soon saw a different, bigger picture as he further understood the impact of recycling and the growing demand for waste management education.
Bruce transformed his business perspective into a passion for providing clients with solutions to support their recycling efforts. He began offering innovative and sustainable programs with customized recycling containers and stations as well as waste bins - all manufactured with recycled material.
Now in his 21st year in business, Bruce – who is based in Aurora, Ontario but has strong family ties to Prince Albert, Saskatchewan – recently rebranded his company, adopting the name CleanRiver Recycling to signal his ongoing commitment to recycling education and environmental stewardship.
“We assist clients with setting up recycling programs through a continual knowledge transfer,” says Bruce. “Rather than saying, ‘Buy this container, have a nice day,’ it is more like, ‘You need to implement a green team, track waste audits, and educate the building’s custodial staff.’ It has worked really well and opened up some really cool doors.”
CleanRiver has supported recycling initiatives for numerous high profile organizations such as Apple; Research in Motion; Walt Disney; NASA; Tim Hortons; as well as more than 300 college and university campuses across North America (including Yale and Stanford); 3,000 federal, state, provincial and municipal buildings (including the Province of Saskatchewan); and 100 plus military installations around the world, including the Pentagon, where Bruce has spoken at their annual Earth Day celebrations. A birdhouse-shaped plaque built by CleanRiver stands on the Pentagon’s grounds as a symbol of the strong business relationship.
Over the past decade, Bruce has gone from the company’s only employee to 45 staff members. He has averaged 17% growth since joining TEC Canada as a member in 2004 and says his success was about having the determination to become knowledgeable in a variety of areas.
“Way back, I had a vision but didn’t know how I was going to manufacture my recycling bins. It was difficult being thrown into a world of financial issues, foreign exchange, insurance, transporting across borders and government contracts. I was wearing multiple hats and didn’t have anyone to discuss my struggles with.”
On a break at his cottage seven years ago, Bruce recalls sifting through a stack of papers. A flyer for TEC Canada caught his eye.
“It was a one page fact sheet that asked, ‘Are you running a business of high growth? Do you have no one to talk to?’ I thought, ‘That’s me!’”
During his first years as a TEC member, Bruce was thankful for the direction and guidance he received from his fellow group members.
“It was strength in numbers, really. You threw an idea out there and many of them had already been through that in some capacity, so they’d offer a suggestion,” he says. “It was like taking a drink from a fire hose; there was so much information coming at me and I absorbed it all.”
Since then, Bruce has spent a lot of time fine tuning his leadership abilities and feels as though he has been able to develop a solid infrastructure of best practices to utilize as the CEO of CleanRiver. Now, when he attends his monthly group meetings and one-to-one’s with his Chair, he looks for nuggets – those brilliant ideas – as he continues to work 'on the business and not in the business.'
“Now, I’m legacy planning. I’m making sure the business is healthy from a big picture point of view. I’m involved in ensuring financial stability; strategic planning and direction; cultural experience of the business; and coaching and mentoring my employees.”
Through CleanRiver, Bruce is also dedicated to making a difference in the community.
“One key driver, from recycling to anything else, is the kids and education. Our kids are the future, so let’s enlighten them to do the right thing.”
CleanRiver’s Project Nest Box is a popular school nest watch program where students participate in assembling bird nests made of recycled material provided by CleanRiver.
“They go outside, set their nests up and monitor bird activity. All their data is recorded and donated to the Royal Ontario Museum.”
The project started off with six Ontario schools and has expanded into nine provinces, 10 states and into Europe.
“It’s a personal satisfaction to see some of the things we’re doing have affected so many people out there in a positive way. When we all leave this earth, let’s leave it in a better place than when we found it.”
MEMBER AT A GLANCE
- Ryerson University, Marketing
- 2009 Aurora Large Business of the Year
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