Mining People Matters

Steve Heather

Steve Heather, Managing Director and Co-founder of Mining People International (MPi).

Don't be moderate: Take a stand to succeed in 2017

Donald Trump

Whatever the market might be doing, 2017 is not a year to be moderate: take a stand in order to succeed.

Hi

Happy New Year.

To succeed you must take a stand 

It was an interesting year in 2016 in mining boardrooms around the world. Many commodity prices rose to levels unexpected only a few months earlier and the year ended with debate raging about whether we’re at the start of a new bull market for commodities or whether 2016 was an aberration in a continuing long-term bear market. 

I don’t know the answer. However, I have been clear in my view over the past few years that if you want to succeed in this business, and succeed handsomely, then it is a time to be optimistic. 

Two articles addressed these topics specifically: 

Is the war for talent over and is it OK to target your lazy competitors?

The pragmatic optimists will inherit the mining industry.

Don’t sit on the fence; take a stand 

It’s important to form your own view of the state of the market right now. Has an upturn started? Or are we still in a bear market rebound?

Many people have exited the mining industry recently and there are not as many good, experienced people around as a lot of senior mining executives think. Many good projects have been snapped up by savvy mining entrepreneurs, many deals have already been done and many good appointments have already been made. 

All this activity was played-out by senior executives who took a position some time back and then backed it with action. They recognised that to succeed in this business, you need to back the right projects and the right people and waiting too long to move on them almost certainly cements future failure.  

If you haven’t already pulled your best possible team together, do it now. My business is people and connecting the right ones with the right companies, hopefully to create win-win outcomes for both groups. In my experience:

  • Picking the right people can make a great mining project look amazing.
  • Picking the right people may also make an average mining project look OK (but never great).
  • Picking the wrong people can make a great mining project look OK (or bad).
  • Picking the wrong people can (and almost certainly will) make a bad mining project look disastrous!

Don’t be moderate and don’t whinge about Trump 

Plenty of negative stuff has been written about the man and the taunt on his baseball cap. I say “don’t whinge about Trump” because I don’t think it helps. The facts are that he got there, so we now need to deal with it as best we can, or the next four years will be harder than they need to be. Doing this embodies the notion that looking back has no place and to succeed we need to look forward and just deal with the facts as they are.

This was captured wonderfully in a recent blog from Kevin Robertswho quoted Ian Drury, who said: 

The American people have spoken and we all need to give it a go.

Given the personality of the man, his lack of ideology, his abject lack of experience, his policy bypass, and his narcissism - this isn’t going to be easy (for me anyway).

But we’ve got to get on the program somehow.
 

In response, I say “don’t be moderate” — because Trump reminds me of everything that moderation is not. Let’s be clear. He stood out in a bland political wasteland of moderation that we all seem to be quietly sick of.   

This point was put brilliantly in a book I received for Christmas; How To Be Normal – a guide for the perplexed by Guy Browning. Of particular relevance here is a small, two-page chapter entitled How to be Moderate. It had some wonderful quotes, including:

  • It’s almost impossible to build a social or religious movement on moderation, principally because moderation doesn’t move forward, it nudges up to accommodate.
  • Municipal statues are generally of people pointing somewhere. You don’t get statues of moderates sitting in their armchair listening intently, weighing up the pros and cons.
  • Moderation can also be very dangerous, especially when you’re trying to do something extreme. For example, bungee jumping off the kitchen table is likely to be far more dangerous than doing it off the Golden Gate Bridge.
  • And lastly, moderation is the hardest road to tread. Extremism has all the easy answers. For example, it is difficult to hold the view that global warming is only slightly happening. 

Guy also wrote the bestselling book Never Hit a Jellyfish with a Spade.

You get the drift, but what’s the point? 

Firstly, this is not about my support of Trump. If he’s the narcissist some believe he is — and the type that will do or say anything to win a vote — then it’s fair to say I’m not a fan. However, I do hope he succeeds in shaking up some of the blandness that seems to have consumed the political class. 

More importantly his win (not him) reminds me that to win you need to form a view, take a stance and then go for it. I don’t mean to be foolishly reckless — and I do think it’s important to have a “Plan B” and maybe even some “insurance” in case things don’t work out the way you think — but keep in mind that you cannot insure for 100 per cent of the losses you might suffer, under 100 per cent of the loss scenarios. 

There is risk in mining, as there is everywhere, and so those who succeed in a few years’ time will be deemed “lucky” by some. But we all know that really it was because they took some risks today. Some project risks and some people risks. 

While others debate, what will you do? 

My best wishes for a successful 2017. 

Steve Heather