Walking the talk with Goldcorp’s CEO

Goldcorp CEO Chuck Jeannes and SFU student Ryan Smith are interviewed by Business in Vancouver.

By: Nelson Bennett

Good communication. It’s one of those things many executives pay lip service to but don’t necessarily make a pillar of their personal operating style.

When Ryan Smith, a Simon Fraser University (SFU) business administration grad, got to spend a day shadowing Goldcorp CEO Chuck Jeannes, he discovered just how much of Jeannes’ job involves communicating – with investors, with staff, with the press.

Smith, 26, was one of three aspiring B.C. business school graduates who were paired with local high-powered CEOs for a day to see first-hand how successful C-suite executives operate.

On February 19, he spent the day shadowing Jeannes, asking questions of Jeannes and other Goldcorp executives and seeing first-hand what it’s like to run the world’s largest gold mining company. It just happened to be the day Goldcorp was holding its year-end earnings call.

“It was a great day to be there,” said Smith, who recently completed a bachelor of business administration degree at SFU.

“I learned that a CEO’s day really doesn’t give you time to stop. His day was scheduled in 15-minute increments. It felt like every time we were just finishing up with what we were doing, there was already someone at the door waiting to take him somewhere else to do something else.

“It looked like a tough job, and this may be just Chuck, but he really seems to enjoy doing it. It wasn’t like he was being dragged to these other interviews or these other things that he had to do. He was excited to go. It was like, ‘What’s next?’”

When asked whom he wanted to shadow, Smith chose Jeannes.

“I knew there’d be a lot to learn at a company like Goldcorp, with operations all over the world.”

Shortly after arriving at Goldcorp’s Vancouver headquarters, Smith sat in on the company’s annual earnings call, followed by a trip to CTV’s studio, where Jeannes did satellite interviews with BNN and CNBC.

Back at Goldcorp’s office, Jeannes made calls to several print reporters. Later in the day, he sat in on the company’s year-end staff meeting.

Not all publicly traded resource companies are as open with the media and public as Goldcorp, and, as Smith learned, much of that comes down to Jeannes’ emphasis on communication and transparency.

“He personally thinks that’s one factor that sets apart people across all industries and across all positions,” Smith said.

“It’s not only personal,” Jeannes said, “but it’s one of our six values at Goldcorp – open communication, both internally and with our stakeholders.”

“In my 30-plus years in this business, I can trace almost every serious problem we’ve had internally to a lack of communication between departments, between individuals.”

Asked why he agreed to participate in the job shadowing exercise, Jeannes said he wants to encourage young business people to consider mining for a career.

“We absolutely have what we call a talent gap in the mining industry,” he said. “In the late ’80s and ’90s, the cycle was down, and there were very few young people coming into our business.

“If some young person reads that Goldcorp’s CEO took the time to spend a day with a student, maybe that makes him or her think better of our company, and we get an interview that we might not have otherwise gotten.”

As Jeannes has openly admitted, mining lags behind other industries in innovation. He hopes the next generation of mining executives will change that.

“I think this generation has grown up looking for ways to change the world,” he said. “Look at what we see every day in the tech world, in terms of new disruptive technologies.

“We’d never even heard of ‘disruptive technologies’ – the phrase – and now these guys are all walking around looking for that opportunity. I think it absolutely will enhance our industry’s capacity.”

One thing that Jeannes and Smith have in common is that neither was born in Canada. Jeannes was born and raised in Nevada; Smith was born in Australia. He moved to Canada seven years ago. Smith graduated in April and is working part-time as an analyst for Pacific Future Energy, which wants to build a $10 billion oil refinery on the B.C. coast.