Relationship Building

12032015coffee

“What would you like to drink?” the stewardess asked me.

“Coffee please,” I said.

“Americano, latte, cappuccino, espresso?”

“Latte please.”

We were over 35,000 feet above ground when I was served my hot drink. I wouldn’t say it was the best coffee I’ve had but who was I to complain. The circumstances and setting more than made up for the quality of the beverage, which actually wasn’t all that bad. Don’t you find food or drink a little tastier when it is served with a smile and impeccable service?

The private jet was headed to Frankfurt. It belonged to my client, a twenty something year old male heir to a vast fortune. I was accompanying him on business.

As I looked at the young scion sitting across from me I remembered the first time the two of us had a proper chat. It was several years ago in a little cafe in West London.

The relationship started over a cup of coffee.

Praise be to hot drinks

The price of a coffee is roughly the same at a cafe, restaurant or hotel. If you have one at a 5-Star hotel or some posh establishment it will be pricer. That’s for sure. But in general coffee is an affordable luxury for many of us. And that’s something to rejoice at because the cost of one may be all you’ll incur when you meet that one individual who’ll potentially change the way you think, the opportunities that will come your way and the path you take in life.

A time of accessibility

We are very fortunate to live in this day and age. Really. We should all light incense daily and be thankful for it.

Almost everyone on earth is accessible now.

There was a time, not so very long ago when it was extremely difficult, if not impossible, to get the attention of someone you didn’t know, especially if they happened to be a high profile individual.

Now, with a few clicks and some trial and error, you can figure out most people’s contact details. Then you send an e-mail and when the recipient looks in his or her inbox your message is present. Hello. Contact made.

Whether it’s a Hong Kong-based hedge fund manager, British film producer, member of the real estate team at a GCC Sovereign Wealth Fund or Silicon Valley entrepreneur, you can touch base with any of them. Your message will be seen. And if you think about it that’s bloody damn powerful. Metaphorically speaking all the roads have been paved for you to send your package to a desired destination.

Yet because it’s become so much easier to gain access to people it also means that a lot of people are going about it the wrong way. They shoot off e-mails without pausing to think about the right way to make contact. Consequently, their message lacks tact and grace. I’d say 90% of people will approach the exercise in a sloppy manner and nothing will come of their half-ass efforts. Yes, the package will reach the intended destination but nobody will accept the delivery. Permission not granted.

You want to be one of the select few who makes contact and then proceeds to the next stage with the recipient (your target).

How do I do that, you ask. My advice is simple… [READ MORE…]

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Baku

I was recently in Baku on business. A friend of mine, Alex, who was CEO of a large Mongolian conglomerate, had reached out to me a few months earlier with an unusual request.

“Do you know anyone interested in acquiring a large gold deposit?” he asked.

“How large?” I said. “And what studies have been carried out to date?”

It was imperative to ask what works had been done. I was no expert in gold mining but I knew this much: it was risky business. When it comes to mining projects, it could take years and years for gold to come out of the ground. You don’t just buy a piece of land and start digging. Often, a project never even kicked off and you ended up losing lots of time and money. Also, and especially in a place like Mongolia, not all technical mining studies were alike. Some were undertaken by independent, professional organizations. Others included amateurs going around the country drilling holes with dubious equipment and machinery in a haphazard manner. On top of it all, much of the information and data on Mongolia mining licenses were from Soviet days.

“It’s an early stage proposition,” said Alex.

Sure, estimated reserves were huge. Enough to pique mining investors’ interest. Yet the opportunity carried significant risk. I wasn’t going to spend much time on it. That much I knew. But I was happy to make some calls for a friend.

“Leave it with me and I’ll come back to you,” I said.

Over the next few days I rang friends and acquaintances in London, Hong Kong, Mumbai and Canada who worked for mining investment companies. None of them got excited.

Finally, I called a family friend, Nader, who owns and runs a gold mine in Azerbaijan. To be honest, I called him not so much because I thought he’d be interested in a Mongolia gold license but more so because I thought I’d use the opportunity to catch up with him. It had been a while. So I was more than surprised to hear his reaction.

“Sounds really interesting. Send me all the details,” said Nader. [READ MORE…]

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For a businessperson involved in the mining sector, attending a Mines and Money conference is like going on pilgrimage to the Vatican, Mecca, Jerusalem or Varanasi.

The journey begins with a longing desire to see and experience something sacred and holy. Next, preparations are made for the journey. Suits are packed, along with presentations and plenty of business cards. Upon arrival, the pilgrim joins a large group of devotees and listens to the voices of the enlightened few.

The believers are bound by a shared set of beliefs. At Mines and Money, those beliefs can be summed up into one sentence: “What lies beneath the ground holds untold riches.”

Mines and Money

In a nutshell, the event brings together mining companies, investors, brokers and other third parties so that they all share information, exchange ideas and – hopefully – do business.

I decided to attend the December 2013 conference in London. The event took place in the fashionable Islington district.

For one, a friend and former client had a stand there. His was one of the gold mining companies present. I wanted to catch up with him and his team on the progress of the company. Secondly, some of the most prominent figures in the business were in attendance and it was a good opportunity to discuss current trends in global mining. Amongst other things, it had been a challenging time for the sector as a whole. Many businesses had difficulty accessing capital.

On the 2nd day of the conference, whilst taking a little break, I accidentally bumped into an acquaintance of mine by a coffee table. This older gentleman, almost twice my age, happened to be one of the shareholders of the group that owns the Mines and Money conference brand. We had a brief chat and agreed to meet up the following day and go for lunch as it had been a while since we last saw one another.

Day 3

The next day when I arrived at the pre-agreed meeting point I found my friend holding two sandwiches in his hand.

Odd. Aren’t we going out?

“Come, no time to eat out. Let’s go listen to the speakers,” he said.

Not interested. The last thing I wanted to do was to listen to more speakers. I had listened to a few already and preferred to mingle with the people on the floor who manned the stands. They included geologists, CFOs, business development executives and even CEOs. “Look, I’m not so keen on listening to more speakers. Why don’t we meet up afterwards?”

“Don’t be ridiculous. The most successful mining entrepreneur of our time is speaking. You want to listen to him.”

Interesting. I reconsidered.

“And he’s a born entertainer.”

Done. “Let’s go.”

We set off in the direction of the large designated room where the speakers took turns to pontificate. My friend manoeuvred his way to the front row, asked a random stranger to move down one seat and the two of us ended up sitting next to one another. We ate our sandwiches and listened to the talk.

And then, finally, the speaker I was persuaded to listen to came on stage. Let’s call him Mr. Mining (or Mr. M). [READ MORE…]

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