What I wish I knew when I first started my career

Throughout my more than thirty years in the Canadian mining sector, I have been taught many lessons, some I wish I learned earlier than others. While each lesson has helped me grow, there are a few choice ones I wish I would have learned when I first set out in this fascinating industry.

I am often asked to speak to students regarding their future aspirations. During a more controversial address of mine, I mentioned to attendees not to overly-listen to what shareholders say.  To be clear, I don’t mean disregarding shareholders all together.  However, many shareholders are temporary investors, while mining initiatives, if anything, are long-term projects that last years.  It’s an interesting juxtaposition, and one that I think is particularly evident in the mining industry.  But, what it means is that focusing entirely on shareholder input and opinions can sometimes be detrimental to the long-term advance of a mining company.  That’s something I’ve certainly learned during my time in the mining field, and it’s a lesson to keep in mind.

I’ve also mentioned this before, but it’s worth reiterating: the power of embracing opportunity when it presents itself.  I think this goes hand-in-hand with my belief that there is no reward without risk.  For business leaders and entrepreneurs, these two concepts unfortunately battle against each other constantly.  On the one hand, we can’t succeed without embracing opportunity.  On the other hand, rarely is there opportunity that does not carry with it some sort of risk.

The fact is that the most successful entrepreneurs in any industry are the ones who listen closely for opportunity as it knocks ever-so gently.  And when they pinpoint this opportunity, they sense its timing and have a gut feeling that it’s worth pursuing.  Then, without any further hesitation, they embrace this opportunity with 100% commitment. 

Many people hesitate at the sign of opportunity.  But, realizing that it’s oftentimes fleeting and only knocks once, successful business leaders are quick to evaluate an opening and put their full weight into it, if the timing is right.  That’s key.   

One other point that I wish I knew when I was starting out and a point I also reiterate to  students and the younger generation of professionals is to be the business partner you wish you had.  Putting yourself in another person’s shoes is never the easiest thing to do, but it’s incredibly worthwhile when building business relationships or building a business with a partner. 

Commit to being a partner who brings unique tools and skill sets to the table.  By the same token, choose partners who have skills that compliment, not compete, with your own. And look for associates who can challenge your way of thinking and offer fresh perspective and insight.

I think being a business leader means learning from one’s mistakes.  And that’s okay.  We have to be free to fail.  In business, and, yes, in life too.  But, hopefully, these words of guidance can provide a little measure of help along the way.