Mining mogul shares lessons in industry mistakes – by Lindsay Kelly (Northern Ontario Business – January 23, 2015)

While dishing out advice on how to avoid mistakes through a successful career in mining, Ian Telfer elicited startled silence from his audience with this tidbit: don’t listen too much to your shareholders.

“I know all you shareholders in Goldcorp love to hear that,” chuckled Telfer, chair of the company’s board of directors, during a Jan. 16 luncheon hosted by Laurentian University’s Goodman School of Mines in Sudbury.

It wasn’t the sort of pep talk you expect to hear from the chair of the world’s third largest gold miner. But Telfer’s guidance is gleaned from more than 25 years of experience in the precious metals business, including the last eight at the helm of Goldcorp’s board and six chairing the World Gold Council.

Everyone has an opinion on how a publicly traded company should function, he said, but shareholders just have temporary interest in the company, whereas a company’s employees and the communities in which they operate are its more permanent beneficiaries.

“You have to keep that in mind when they’re trying to advise you as to what you should do.” It’s difficult to suggest an appropriate avenue to reach a goal, Telfer said, but a good barometer for success is regret: try to make the best decision that has the least potential for regret, he said, and worry less about what other people think. Instead, focus on what you get excited about.

“There is no reward without risk,” Telfer said. “Anything you’re going to do in life that’s meaningful to you, there’s going to be a risk to it, and you identify that risk and have to decide whether you’re going to go ahead or not. So don’t use fear of failure as a reason not to do something you really think you’d like to do.”

Everyone’s looking for opportunity, Telfer said, but it often knocks so softly that people don’t always hear it. When mining magnates like Robert Friedland or Frank Giustra or Rob McEwen heard opportunity knock, they recognized it and acted on it immediately, Telfer said.

“They were listening closely, they were watching the world around them, they would hear something, and then they would act on it,” Telfer said. “When people do hear opportunity knocking, they hesitate, they wait to see if it’s going to knock any louder, they’re not sure how they should approach it, and that’s a huge mistake.”

The most successful mining entrepreneurs greet opportunity quickly and with intensity, often working against the advice of critics who aren’t as attuned to what’s being presented. They ignore the noise around them, including taking advice they’re not comfortable with, a mistake Telfer said is all too common.

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