The following is a modified article that I wrote for, and was featured in, Resource World Magazine. For magazine enquiries please visit : http://www.resourceworld.com/
Conference season is now upon us and resource companies are investing time, energy and precious cash to meet with current and potential investors. Most companies will send available senior management to the premier investment conferences, but don’t expect them to be hanging around their tradeshow booth for the entire show. Many will be giving presentations, holding private meetings attending industry events and networking. Most will spend a limited amount of time each day at their booth, leaving the hard lifting to the investor relations team. If you are fortunate enough to catch the CEO, President or Geologist, ask them the burning questions you have about their company, but also make sure you take the time to say hello to the Investor Relations Officer, or IRO. This is the individual you will want to build a relationship with because, after the show is over, unless you are a major shareholder, it’s the IRO that responds to the majority of investor inquiries.
If you are going to attend an investment conference, make sure you are well prepared for the lengthy walks, line ups, cafeteria food, huge crowds, and complete sensory overload. I recommend spending time to read the speaker schedule, the map of the investors’ exchange and the schedule of networking and ticketed events. Scan the list of companies attending the conference, review the floor map and highlight the companies you want to meet with and make sure you take notes, you will be glad you did. I find that without a solid game plan I can walk in circles all day and may miss the speakers and the company’s booth I had planned to visit.
Face to Face with the IRO, what now?
Once you have navigated your way into the investor’s exchange, and are face to face with an IRO, what should you ask? When I am in the IRO role, I like when people introduce themselves to me and let me know their interest in the company. Are you a current shareholder or a potential investor? Do you know much about the company, or are you just curious about the project/operation, management or region in which we have our assets? Once the conversation is flowing, ask the questions you have prepared. Good IROs will be able to answer questions on a variety of topics so I urge you to find out as much as you can about each company you have an interest in.
When I look at a company as an investment or as a potential client for Steel Rose Communications here’s where I start:
Who is on the management team?
Who are the key players? What recent successes have they had? Are they respectable or do they have a coloured past? Have their successes been in areas of the current project? How many other companies are they running? How many shares do they own in the company? Are they compensated fairly?
What is the share structure?
How many shares are outstanding and does this match with the level of development of the company? How many warrants and options are outstanding and at what price? What types of shares are outstanding?
How is the stock doing?
What exchange does it trade on? Does it have good liquidity or does it trade by appointment? What kind of trading volume is there? Is the share price at a 52-week high or low? What is the trend for the past few years and the reasons why (i.e. if it is at a low is it due to macro/micro factors)? Where is the stock price going? (trick question – If they tell you it’s going up quickly and to buy in now, it’s time to run.)
What is the financial picture?
How much money does the company have? Will they need to finance again soon and will they be able to raise funds? What’s their monthly burn rate and how much debt are they carrying?
Who are the shareholders?
Who are their major shareholders? Are there any key industry players? Has the company attracted any legitimate mining analysts, brokers or institutions? Are any of the management key shareholders? What percent of the shares does management hold?
What are the IR plans?
Does the company have a good IR team in place? How do they plan to market the company this year? What are the key expenses that drive the budget? What have they done in the past that has been successful? What are they trying for the first time?
How do you communicate with shareholders?
What communications plans are in place to reach stakeholders? Are they active in social media? Do they have a strong website? Do they have site visits or investor days? Do they respond to phone calls in a timely fashion? Do they produce marketing materials and can they be found online?
TELL ME ABOUT THE PROJECT/OPERATION
What is the commodity?
(Precious metals, base metals, diamonds, specialty metals, industrial metals) Is the commodity selling at favourable price? What is the forecast for this sector? Is this commodity the flavour of the month? Lithium, Graphite, what is it this year?
Where is the project?
Are they local? Are they in a war zone or a politically stable country? Are they in an area play? Are they in a mining friendly jurisdiction? Are they close to any national parks or is there a risk one might be declared on their project? (This actually happened to one of my previous clients.)
What stage is the project?
Grassroots, exploration, development or production? What work has been done on the project? How much has the company spent, what have they done? How much is left to spend to get it into production? Is there a reserve or resource estimate, or a scoping study, pre-feasibility study, bankable feasibility study? What’s the tonnage and grade like? Can they tell me about recent drill results?
How is your operation doing? What is the mine life? How is production trending, tonnage, and grade? Do they see expansion potential? What is their planned capex? What do they expect to see for cash costs, drivers behind any increases or decreases? What challenges do they see to meet their production targets?
Is there infrastructure?
Are there roads, power, rail, electricity, labour, water, exploration camp? Is there a community close by?
What are other potential issues?
Are there archeological or environmental challenges or negative relationships with First Nation communities due to previous mining activities?
Is this a potential area play?
Is this project near a current producing mine, near a recent discovery? Can they leverage the resources such as management, or infrastructure if it is near a current mine? Located near a major mining camp or mineral trend? Was this a past producing mine?
After exhausting the IRO with extensive questioning, I like to thank them for their time. If I find the IRO has been knowledgeable and helpful, I leave a business card and let them know I will be following up at a later time. If the IRO is a novice and can’t answer all of my questions, I try to pick up a business card of one of the senior executives and let them know they could have prepared their IRO better.
If you are selling something or looking for a job, do the IRO a favour and let them know up front. Don’t pretend to be interested in the company just so you can give your pitch. Conferences are an important part of the marketing mix that require a great deal of time, energy and financial resources. Understand this, respect this and you will be on track to develop a strong rapport with each IRO that you meet.
Jon Bey is the President /CEO of Steel Rose Communications in Vancouver, B.C. SRC is a boutique IR firm that specializes in Investor Relations services for publically listed Jr. Resource companies. Jon is a Board member of the BC Chapter of CIRI and is Professionally Certified in Investor Relations. Information on SRC can be found on their website at www.steelrosecommunications.com
Thanks for reading, hope it was helpful! Want to know more about what makes a great IRO? Feel free to contact me.
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The following is a modified article that I wrote for, and was featured in, Canadian Investor Magazine (V2I1). For magazine enquiries please visit www.canadianinvestor.com :
So what do you do?
““So what do you do?” That’s usually the second question I am asked by most border guards and custom agents. My reply is often, “Investor Relations,” which always leads to a blank stare. In this profession, travel is almost always a requirement, and it can be a blessing and a curse. I love to travel, but those awkward custom agent conversations wear me down.
I don’t blame the agents; I am still trying to explain to my wife exactly what it is I do. So the issue must be with my profession or my explanation. Unfortunately, the Investor Relations profession is still not well understood. So let me try to explain what (IROs) Investor Relations Officers actually do. If you understand their role in the company, it may make it easier for you to engage with them, and dig a bit deeper into your current or next potential investment.
What do we do?
Simply put, our job is to explain our company to the investment world. But it’s usually not that simple. Most companies are extremely complex, so the explanations tend to be that way as well. Our audience is quite diverse; so we need to craft a slightly different message for each type of investor. That means telling our company story in a way that is meaningful to each one, providing the key information they are looking for. We speak to retail investors, institutional investors, analysts, sophisticated high net worth investors, stock brokers, fund managers and various stakeholders in the company. IROs are also the gatekeepers to the senior executives. CEOs and CFOs do not have time to speak to every investor that calls the company with questions. The IRO handles all incoming calls leaving the senior executives to run the company.
Like many investors, I am a fan of Warren Buffet. He has a special way of explaining complex scenarios that both novice and sophisticated investors can understand. He likes to pretend he is speaking to his two sisters. I like that, but I twist it a bit and pretend I am speaking to my uncle the customs agent. I need to be able to explain my story to him quickly and clearly so he can understand it and then send me on my way. I also don’t want to provide any false or misleading information which might get me locked up.
How do we do it?
Although communication methods have changed in recent times with the rise of social media, the heart and soul of a great IRO is still their ability to interact and converse with investors. Great IROs have the ability to engage with their audience face to face or on the phone. But, the reality is, most public companies have hundreds or thousands of shareholders and speaking personally to each one of them is a daunting task. So how do most IROs communicate with the investment community? Most communication now happens online – at least to start anyway.
IROs invest a great deal of time in the corporate website. All material corporate information must be located there and should be easy for investors to find. It must also remain current at all times to stay in compliance with security regulations. A seasoned IRO will know their company website inside and out and will be able to speak to each section in depth and provide colour to areas that may be filled with technical and industry jargon that may be confusing to the average investor. All corporate websites will have a “contact us” page and the IRO contact details will be provided there. Send the IRO an email with your specific question, or simply give them a call.
The communications world is rapidly changing, and social media is the main driver pushing these changes. In the past three to four years, I have seen early adopters in the public-company space, experiment with new technology that is enhancing investor communication possibilities. Public companies are using Facebook, LinkedIn, Slide Share, Twitter, blogs, Google Earth interactive platforms, Flickr and various other social networks to spread their company news and engage with their audience. The security regulators are trying to keep up to ensure disclosure policies are not being violated but it is an endless battle. The rules will need to change. Watch for companies to start disclosing material information in ways other than the traditional news wires.
What skills does a seasoned IRO possess?
Like any profession, IROs come in all sizes and shapes. There are no set standards or requirements to enter this career so there can be a huge variance in the skill sets between IROs. The Canadian Investor Relations Institute (CIRI) works hard to provide educational courses and, a professional certification with the IVEY school of Business, for advanced IROs. But the reality is, it’s a real mixed bag. Seasoned IROs will possess skills in finance, marketing, communications and securities law. The majority of IROs enter the profession with some of those skills and learn the rest on the job. Your IRO should be knowledgeable about the industry their company is in. They should know how the company is valued, they should be able to compare the company to its peers and they should be able to explain the company’s business drivers and how there company will drive shareholder value.
The great IROs are said to be a hybrid of a CEO and CFO. They can speak to the big picture of the company and also break down the financials to a granular level.
How should the IRO be able to help you?
Your IRO should be able to help you understand the company and explain all the technical, financial and industry jargon in everyday language. They should be able to answer your phone calls and emails in a timely fashion and guide you through the corporate website and help you locate any information you need. Good IROs can help you navigate your way through the traditional mailing materials you may receive like the Information Circulars, MD&A and Financial documents.
But don’t ask them to provide any insider information. They shouldn’t be providing any information to you that has not already be released to the market through proper disclosure policies. And they shouldn’t be telling you to buy the company stock. If they do, it’s time to sell.
Get to know your IRO
The IRO can be a great resource for any investor and I urge you to get to know the IROs of all the companies you invest in. If the company happens to be presenting in your community or showcasing themselves at an investment conference, take the time to the visit them and meet the IRO and the other senior executives.
I guess I am hopeful that one day, in my lifetime, a customs agent will ask my profession and then give me a knowing look and send me on my way. But, until that day comes, I’ll just smile, keep my story simple and be thankful that I have my Nexus card.
Jon Bey is the President /CEO of Steel Rose Communications in Vancouver, B.C. SRC is a boutique IR firm that specializes in Investor Relations services for publically listed Jr. Resource companies. Jon is a Board member of the BC Chapter of CIRI and is Professionally Certified in Investor Relations. Information on SRC can be found on their website at www.steelrosecommunications.com“
Like what you’ve read? I will be writing more articles for a few publications in the coming months, so look out for those
In the meantime, we have more good stuff on our blog, take a peek here. And, come on over and say hi on Twitter : @SteelRoseComm . You should also check out Canadian Investor Magazine on Twitter : @CanInvestorMag.
Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed it!
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Together with the features and best practices of our completely customizable and flexible website platform, Steel Rose adds a full service, outsourced investor relations consultant company, specializing in the resource sector, with small to mid-cap public companies trading on the North American and European markets.
Darrell Heaps, CEO of Q4, had this to say:
“We are pleased to be working with such a talented group at SRC. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Jon Bey, the company’s President and CEO, who is a high-quality, experienced investor relations professional. Our best-in-class corporate IR website and social media solutions, coupled with SRC’s comprehensive suite of services and IR solutions tailored to meet each client’s specific needs, ensure a well-managed investor relations program that will drive shareholder value.”
Jon Bey, President and CEO of Steel Rose Communications also commented:
“We are excited to be partnering with Darrell and his talented team at Q4. We understand that public companies are increasingly focusing budgets, and attention, towards a more strategic utilization of web channels for investor communications – including both the corporate/investor website, and social media channels. So it was natural for us to partner with Q4, as they have the right suite of products and services designed to address our clients’ strategic IR communications requirements.”
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This past weekend in Vancouver, the BC Lions completed a remarkable season by winning the Grey Cup at home, almost effortlessly. The fascinating part of the story – the team had one of its worst starts in franchise history. I can’t remember a team in my lifetime, in any sport, starting that poorly, and winning the championship. So what happened this year in the Lion’s Den? And what lessons can an IRO learn from our Lions?
Good Companies – Bad Results
Let’s be realistic – bad things happen to good companies. It happens every day. Many decent companies collapse when things go bad. And, many also manage to survive the first collapse, only then to stagnate soon thereafter. Then there are a select few that manage to right the ship, and strike gold. The Lions did it, what was their formula for success?
Build the Management Team
Every business needs to assemble a strong leadership team. In the corporate world, we hire the Board of Directors, and the Senior Management team. The BC Lions hired Wally Buono as the GM, and his Coaching Staff to run their company.
Once the leadership was in place, the next task was to devise a Corporate Strategy. The Lions needed a roadmap to lead them to the Grey Cup. What would they stand for? How would they accomplish their goals? This is an exciting time in the life of a company, and hopefully an IRO will be a part of this early development in the company’s life.
Gather the Assets
With the leadership and strategy in place, it is now time to gather the assets. For a Mining Company, this would be the projects. For the Lions – their players. The mining execs would have a game plan to gather the assets, identify exactly what they were looking for, and then sign contracts to secure those assets. Sound familiar? As the years progress, the Mining Company acquires new projects, and releases old assets that may not have worked out as planned. Each season Wally, and his coaches, identified the team strengths and weaknesses, cut loose their weak players, and targeted new assets that would strengthen their team.
Future Looks Bright
As the Lions’ season approached, the company looked great. They had a strong leadership team, an excellent game plan, valuable assets, and excited, invested stakeholders. Their Investor Relations and Communications team were primed for success, as well, especially as they were hosting the Grey Cup in their state-of-the-art $750 Million renovated stadium – a marketing dream season! There would be enough worthy news to keep the stakeholders engaged the entire season.
The Season Begins
Then the games started and disaster struck. After a dismal 0-5 start, local media declared the Lions “A disaster, and by far the worst team in the league”. Stakeholders were calling for management’s termination, and for the assets to be divested. Blow up the team and start over. Sound familiar?
Fast forward to the end-of-season press conference. The team management were asked what was going through their minds when they were 0-5? Were they scared of losing their jobs? Did they doubt their leadership? Did they question their players’ abilities? Did they change their game plan?
What Did Management Do?
Sometimes companies have the right team assembled, they comprise a great strategy, assemble a fantastic asset, but when they implement the plan things go horribly wrong at the start. That was the case with this year’s team. Was it time to panic? No. Was it time to blow up the team and management? No. It was time to assess the situation, stick to the game plan, and make minor adjustments. When things go wrong, leadership needs to assess what is wrong, and fix it before it is too late. Wally and his team did a great job of communicating with their stakeholders. They were honest, transparent, and available. They didn’t sugar coat the situation, they laid out the facts and repeated their messaging. “We are a good team, we have the right people and we are going to get better.”
Role of the IRO
The IRO has a crucial role to play with the Senior Management team in these situations. The IRO has to be the eyes and ears of the company, listening to what the Stakeholders are whispering , or perhaps screaming. Today’s IRO has to be Social Media savvy, plugged in to the areas where the information is flowing fast and furious. Ask the hard questions. Know where to find the answers.
Communicating and Engaging
In turn, the IRO has to get the message to the Street. And, simply sending out a press release won’t cut it anymore. And yet, joining a few social networks after a crisis strikes is too late. If the IRO is not already plugged in, and engaged, through social media by this stage in the process, it’s too late. The IRO has a vast array of communication tools at his/her disposal today; and the good IRO’s know how – and when - to use these tools to communicate effectively in every situation.
Stick to Your Vision
Wally and his coaches persevered through a difficult stretch this season. They were bent, but they didn’t break. They made minor adjustments to their plan, but kept the focus on the big picture, and worked at improving their team one step at a time. Wally may never coach again. His final season may be his most memorable, and that’s saying a lot for arguably the best coach in the history of the CFL. I will remember the stand he took for his players, and coaching staff, after their brutal start. “We have a great team, and we are going to turn this around. We have to be more accountable for our effort and mistakes, and that starts with me.”
What Are Your Thoughts?
Connect With Us
At Steel Rose Communications, we help public companies focus their Corporate Strategy, and devise an IR game plan. Could your team use some coaching assistance? Contact us, we would love to help.
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