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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Happy Halloween everyone! At this time of year, with the ghouls and goblins on the prowl, I thought I would point out the Top 6 Scariest Investor Relations Practices I see on a regular basis. As an investor, when I begin to research a company, I have a process I go through when vetting all potential deals. When it comes to the Investor Relations component, I am still shocked at how many companies make horrifying mistakes. Here are the Investor Relations Practices that scare me away from a potential investment:
6. The Shadowy, Uneducated IR Professional
It still shocks me that there are individuals representing companies in an IR role that have no idea of what they are doing. Don’t get me wrong, I know everyone starts out ‘green’, and most people learn on the job, but I encounter some individuals that have been in the industry for a few years, and have yet to make the effort to educate themselves. Time to take a course, read a book, and join your local NIRI or CIRI chapter.
5. Ghastly Websites
The corporate website is the most important marketing piece a company controls, but yet I still see alarming websites every week. I shake my head, and move my attention to the next company immediately. If a company still does not understand how valuable their website can be, and the damage it can cause if it is outdated, then they don’t deserve my time or money.
When I talk to a CEO, or an IRO, I fully expect to see their passion, and hear how great their project is. What turns me off a project is when the IRO goes beyond the investment opportunity and turns into the wicked, used car salesman. Give me the facts, save the hard sell, and don’t tell me if I don’t get in on the deal today, I will miss the stock jump coming this week.
3. Haunted Social Media Deniers
Social Media and Social Networking is growing rapidly, and I hope to see the companies I am looking at least taking steps to monitor what is being said about their company. If the senior executives are burying their heads and ignoring the potential opportunity, I question their commitment to Investor Relations. If the IROs are doing this as well, then I move on to the next deal. The IRO may be having trouble convincing the C-Suite, but they need to be trying, and there are several things they could be doing on their own with little time commitment, and for little money.
2. Vampiric Social Media Companies
On the other hand, things get really creepy when I see a Social Media Company running a campaign for a public company that has no understanding of security commission regulations, or exchange rules. If you are going to hire an outside firm to help you with your Social Media campaign, and there are a lot of good ones, make sure they understand your company, industry, and the proper rules of your stock exchange. The last thing your company needs is to get flagged by the regulators for being perilous with your tweets, and comments made in the social media space.
1. Ghostlike, No Investor Relations at All
Yes it is true; there are still public companies that don’t understand the value that an educated Investor Relations professional can bring to their company. Some tell me the IR is handled by the CFO or another executive, and others don’t believe the value add is worth the expense. Some have had a bad experience with a poor IRO, and don’t know where to find a qualified professional. I always advise them to give it another shot, and to search for a qualified IRO through their local CIRI or NIRI branch. CIRI has just graduated their first class of Professionally Certified Investor Relations Professionals through the IVEY School of Business, take a look here for a qualified professional.
I wish you a spooky Halloween wherever you may be, and please add to our list, What IR Practices Horrify You?
All the best,
This past weekend, the Steel Rose Ball Hockey Team battled hard in the Vancouver rain/torrential downpour to help defeat Cancer. Soaked to the skin, but a little rain certainly did not dampen anyone’s spirit or resolve. An amazing event, a lot of fun, but also a lot of hard work, devoted to a worthy cause.
“The battle against Cancer is very dear to my heart. We lost a family member to this epidemic suddenly this week and it has reminded us again how much more we have to do to beat Cancer. My wife Haven is a cancer survivor and thrivor and her efforts battling Cancer inspired me to create the Steel Rose Ball Hockey Team.” Jon Bey – Steel Rose Communications CEO
“At the opening ceremonies, we were asked to write down the name or names of those we were playing for that day. While I started to write down a few names, I immediately realized it may have made more sense to simply write the name, ‘Too Many’. “ Chris Rudden – Digital Strategist and Social Media Specialist, Steel Rose Communications
I would also like to thank musician, Craig Northey, of the Odds, for joining our team as a celebrity player. He played nine games Saturday; and although exhausted, remained enthusiastic, and cheerful throughout the day. Great to have you on our team Craig!
We played five challenging games; but more importantly, we are close to reaching our Team goal of raising $15,000.00. It’s not too late to donate to our team, please follow this link to help us make a difference. http://bit.ly/UVFuLC
On October 13th, at Concord Pacific Place, Vancouver’s 1st annual ROAD HOCKEY TO CONQUER CANCER event took place. Almost one-hundred teams took part, bringing out the best part of humanity for a cause that is so close to so many. More than six hundred passionate participants, supported by friends and family, united by one common goal; to eradicate cancer and enhance the quality of life of people living with cancer!
This dawn-to-dusk fundraising event features hundreds of spirited road hockey games, as well as musical acts, celebrity appearances, interactive activities, food and beverages, and so much more! If you enjoy a challenge, being part of a team, and donating your time and effort to an amazing cause, this is the event for you.
Funds raised through Road Hockey to Conquer Cancer support the Canadian Cancer Society’s mission to eradicate cancer, and enhance the quality of life of Canadians living with cancer. When you make a gift to the Society, your money will help to:
- fund the most promising research projects in the country, on all types of cancer
- provide information services and support programs in the community
- advocate for public policies that prevent cancer, and help those living with it
The Canadian Cancer Society is the largest charitable funder of cancer research in Canada. In 2010-11, they funded almost $49 million in leading edge research for a broad range of projects, across all types of cancers, including, breast, prostate, colorectal and lung. As the largest charitable funder of cancer research in Canada, they are leading the way towards the goal of creating a world where no one has to be afraid of cancer.
It’s not too late to donate to our team, please follow this link to help us make a difference. http://bit.ly/UVFuLC
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I recently presented at the 2012 CIRI Essentials Conference in Vancouver (Canadian Investor Relations Institute). This is a fantastic educational event that occurs annually in Canada, and is designed for professionals new to Investor Relations. My topic was, ‘Investor Relations on a Tight Budget‘. This was an interactive presentation requiring all participants to work in groups to develop their: IR Strategies, IR plans and their IR Budgets; while finding ways to save money when creating these essential documents. The participants had only an hour, so we moved through these steps quickly, giving them insight to the process but at a superficial level. We used a typical Vancouver junior exploration company as our case study. This will be the first of two posts focusing on 1) Creating IR strategies, plans, and budgets. The second blog post will provide details on 2) ways to save money and stretch your IR budget.
Our case study – Coal Harbour Gold
After the participants had a chance to meet each other and network, they were divided into small groups, and presented with their case study. Coal Harbour Gold are a fictional resource exploration company head quartered in Vancouver with their exploration focused in the Yukon. Here are the details the class was provided:
- Market Cap $50 Million
- Small executive team: CEO, CFO, VP exploration
- Consultants used for all other corporate functions
- Very little IR in past few years – Shareholders want this to improve
- CEO knows better IR is needed but IR is a bit of a mystery to him
- CEO has hired us and now wants us to come up with full IR plan and budget
- Company is running low on funds and will need to raise 3-5$ M in next 12 months
- Share price has been stagnant with very little trading volume
- Company is unknown in the investment world, very few contacts,
- Most shareholders are retail, no analyst coverage
Our project was to create Coal Harbour Gold’s IR strategy, plan, and budget; and find ways to cut costs while doing it. Our strategy is our game plan to take us from where we are today to where we want the company to be one year from now. Our IR plan is the road map – breaking down the activities we will perform month to month. The budget adds the dollar figures to our IR plan. Here are a few suggestions our class had to help shape the IR strategy:
- The Sr. management are unknown – we need to highlight their achievements and market them
- Get on the road and tell the story, locally, nationally and internationally
- Increase the frequency, and quality, of their communications with their stakeholders
- Build out the crucial marketing pieces, starting with a solid website
What are the essentials of the IR plan?
Once the groups identified their strategies I asked them to create a list of the essentials for their IR plan. What are the 6-7 things that were musts, not wants. These essentials were crucial to the IR plan if it was going to be successful. Here are the items the groups decided on:
- Marketing materials: fact sheets, presentations
- Annual Report
- Database management
- Conferences / tradeshows
- Networking events
- Social Media
Once the essentials are decided upon you can start to build out the IR plan. The IR plan once again is the road map for the year. It is a month to month schedule that lays out the yearly IR activities and follows the IR strategy.
Now that the IR plan essentials were identified and the strategy was in place, it was time to start putting some figures to the activities that would be in the plan. Were we really ready for this? Perhaps we needed to clarify a few things from our CFO about our budget. Here are some questions we had for her:
- What items would fall into the IR budget? Can any of these be moved to another budget like salaries, travel etc.
- Was there a budget for IR last year or any previous years? Can we have a look at it?
- What is the total dollar figure we have to work with?
The truth is more time should be spent creating a powerful IR plan. If you can create a kick-ass plan you may be able to convince the CEO to add more funds into your budget. I always find that if I can show the value with each item in the plan and the rational for why it is needed the CEO or CFO have a harder time deleting it, and if they do, I can usually convince them to make room for the item the following year.
True IR talent is making the IR plan fuse with the IR budget provided. Once you have mastered this skill it is time to ask for a raise, but ensure your salary does not fall into your IR budget.
You should revisit your IR plan and budget at least every quarter. I try to take notes, and write basic reports, on the activities we attempted. Did we find them to add value, was it worth the expense; and are there ways we could do it again, but cut costs? I also watch for other activities that may have been new this year, or perhaps out of our budget. I try to get feedback from peers that attended those events, and I make a note to try and fit the successful activities into next year’s plan. If you can present these types of documents to your CEO or perhaps even the board of directors, you will have a greater chance of growing your budget next time around. Did I mention to keep your CFO close? If you can make your CFO a fan or perhaps a good friend, I guarantee your budget rules will be a bit more relaxed next season.
Finding ways to cut costs
Watch for our next blog post where we will share ways to reduce the costs of the essentials in your IR Plan and ways to stretch you IR budget.
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