As a part of our series called ‘Five Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A CEO’ we had the pleasure of interviewing Tony Reda.
Tony takes a vision and makes it a reality through hard work, tenacity, perseverance and sound strategy development. His passion, enthusiasm and drive are infectious, motivating and empowering the people around him. As Founder, President, CEO and Director of Tectonic Metals Inc., Tony is all in, working solely to create value for the company’s shareholders and stakeholders.
His loyalty and commitment to his work are undeniable, as demonstrated by the fact that he was the longest-serving employee of Kaminak Gold Corporation from inception in 2005 to the sale of the company, including the Coffee Gold Project, in 2016 to Goldcorp Inc. (now Newmont Goldcorp) for $520 million. Tony served as Vice President, Corporate Development for Kaminak executing the company’s strategic planning, financing, business development and marketing while overseeing the public relations and investor communications of the company. Tony was pivotal in orchestrating capital raises totaling over $165 million to primarily fund the acquisition and advancement of the Coffee Gold Project in the Yukon Territory from a grassroots discovery through to the completion of a bankable feasibility study. He was also involved in monetizing Kaminak’s other projects by forming strategic alliances, joint venture agreements and creating public and private companies resulting in over $35 million being spent by third parties directly on Kaminak’s projects.
During his tenure with Kaminak, the company was ranked 8th best performing mining company from a peer group of some 1,200 mining companies, was listed as a 2015 TSX Venture 50 Company and was one of four companies selected out of 1,971 companies listed on the TSX Venture Exchange as Best IR by IR Magazine in 2015.
Tony personifies Tectonic’s belief that responsible mineral exploration and development can positively impact the communities in which the company lives and operates and its commitment to early and ongoing community engagement, best practices in environmental stewardship and the development of a strong safety culture.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I have been interested in the minerals and mining sector since a young age. I bought my first ever mining stock when I was 21 and ever since, I have been investing in minerals. At a professional level, I joined the industry in 2008, when I was hired in the Investor Relations department at Kaminak Gold Corporation. It has been a steady climb. Today, I am the CEO and Founder of Tectonic Metals, with active district scale projects in Alaska.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
There are so many stories that I could share. I recall one example from my early days at Kaminak, when I joined the company in 2005 and we took it public. By then, a few companies we knew were making drill discoveries and the CEO and I had a meeting. We both wondered ‘Why not us?’. We believed we could do it. So much so, that we made a commitment to buy discovery Rolexes when that drill discovery occurred. In 2007 and 2008, I had a few compelling job offers tempting me to leave Kaminak. Yet, the belief in a discovery persisted with me and I stayed on to fulfill my mission, even though the 2008 sub-prime fiasco decimated incredible amounts of market value across all the stock exchanges, including Kaminak. I am not one to jump ship when the going gets tough and sure enough, we made the Coffee Gold Project discovery not long afterwards.
During COVID, and when so many businesses were struggling, we thought outside of the box and brought in capital from an unusual source. Doyon, Limited, one of Alaska’s largest Native Regional Corporations made a strategic investment in Tectonic acquiring a significant share, making them the single largest shareholder in our company and providing us with the funds to capitalize on the exploration season ahead. We pursued early engagement with the Doyon team, and they felt that our mission, vision and values closely aligned with theirs. As such, we stood out and were Doyon’s preferred choice when they invited a partner to perform exploration on their land.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
In my early twenties and before my Kaminak days, I started investing heavily in exploration and mining stocks. For better or worse, I made money, and as some might say “I had more balls than brains”. Those few early wins gave me false confidence and the belief that even with little investing experience or knowledge about capital markets or the mineral industry, I had the wherewithal to make money investing in stocks. Not only did I invest all the money that I had, I also borrowed to finance my speculative investments. Shortly thereafter, Bre-X happened, and I was on the cusp of bankruptcy. I look back now and laugh at how my winnings blindsided me and gave me the sense that I knew it all. The old adage that ‘if you are going to make big bets, take huge risks, better to do it while you are young, as time is on your side to bounce back’ is not something I fully subscribe to now. That being said, your biggest lessons are often learned from your biggest failures.
Nonetheless, I returned to investing in the early 2000s to take part in the tech boom, and once again my ass got served to me. Lesson not learned! I started with Kaminak in 2005 and after a long hiatus from the capital markets, I returned to stock investing in 2006; lesson learned! Since then, I have created, organized and spoken at several educational investment workshops on mineral investing with the intent of passing on my experiences and knowledge to others so they can avoid the pitfalls that I made and decipher between the good and not so good exploration companies out there.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Many people have influenced my journey on a personal and professional level. I learned the need to be self-sufficient from my mother, and fearlessness and tenacity from my father. My Uncle Giovanni taught me the importance of perseverance and not giving up. CEO of Kaminak Gold, Eira Thomas, who is also Co-Founder at Tectonic Metals, has also been a very positive influence in my professional life and has taught me about perseverance, how to be a team leader and to follow your dreams. Lastly, I have also learned a great deal on building valuable relationships from elders in communities in which we operate. They have been very generous with sharing their wisdom with the Tectonic Metals team. It is an honour to be invited to conduct exploration projects on their land.
As you know, the United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?
At Tectonic Metals, we are a diverse team of professionals who come from many social and professional backgrounds. We believe that diversity is what drives innovation in the workplace. Still, we do not only talk the talk, but actually commit and deliver action on issues pertaining to inclusion and diversity. Our commitment to diversity and inclusion extends to everything we do. From community engagement and diversity guidelines in recruitment to supporting our employees to speak up, we are committed to bringing positive change. This responsibility includes standing firmly behind staff who raise issues of discrimination or harassment in the workplace; and a continued commitment to maintaining a safe and inclusive workplace for all our colleagues.
We strongly believe that having a diverse executive team equates to greater depth and breadth of experience and perspective, which in turn, allows for greater ability to relate to employees, existing clients and prospective clients. We continue to challenge norms, raise industry standards and embody our motto, “The Shift in the Game”.
As a business leader, can you please share a few steps we must take to truly create an inclusive, representative, and equitable society? Kindly share a story or example for each.
I believe that we can create a more inclusive, representative, and equitable society by working together, not just for today’s issues but also for the norms of tomorrow — inclusive norms created through actions and advocacy across years. For example, we at Tectonic Metals mandated anti-racism and cultural competency training for all members of our team. We have also implemented scholarships for Indigenous people in partnership with Doyon, Limited, Alaska’s largest private landholder and one of the largest Native Regional Corporations. Additionally, we undergo timely audits of all internal policies, controls, guidelines, and practices.
Canada is a country in transformation, where many attitudes and beliefs that were prevalent for decades have been replaced with fresh perspectives. Some unfortunate events in the past few years have shown the extent to which discriminatory incidents are still happening even in some of the most developed nations. Sadly, Canada is not immune to those issues.
However, biased and discriminatory attitudes and viewpoints are harshly rejected by the overwhelming majority of Canadians, as we find our strength in and celebrate diversity.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO or executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?
The CEO often must act as the ‘face of the company’. It is she or he who is responsible for integrating company policies in day-to-day operations, the overall success of a business entity or organization and making top-level managerial decisions. Not just this, CEOs also play an active role in defining and articulating their companies’ brand values or the attributes and principles a business believes in and stands for. Brand values are an asset that can pay dividends when managed well. And they do need to be managed well at a time when consumers, investors and job seekers want to align themselves with businesses that share their values.
They are answerable to not just the shareholders in the company but also their employees. The dynamics of a leading team can strongly influence a company’s success. It is a CEO’s duty to take special care in ensuring that their management team performs strongly as a unit.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive. Can you explain what you mean?
One of the myths of being a CEO is that I simply oversee the final steps and delegate all tasks. In fact, I am involved hands-on throughout the operations process, readily available to offer insight and guidance to my team and humble enough to roll up my sleeves to work alongside them. Another myth of being a CEO is that we have all the answers, and that is not always the case. As a true leader, a CEO needs to know when to ask for help, know that it is ok to admit that they are unsure of how to move forward and just as importantly know what they are good at and what they are not good at. The latter is the biggest challenge I see amongst most executives. I am also a full-time dad and have to attend to both jobs seamlessly 24/7.
What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
I like challenges, and the harder they are, the more I am drawn to them. So, I went into mineral exploration with an open mind, knowing that chances of failure in our industry are pretty high. In fact, failure is the norm. Still, I continued believing that the journey is just as meaningful as the reward, and for those us who believe we can, do — and the rewards of successful exploration and development can be enormous as well.
For a mining company, successful exploration and development can lead to increased profits. In parallel, it means growth and development for local communities by creating jobs and opportunities that would have been otherwise minimal. This industry allows for a rippling effect leading to new infrastructures, such as roads and electric power supplies, that are catalysts for broader, regional economic development. This also means an increase in government revenues that, in turn, can be invested in social and cultural initiatives ranging from education to language preservation, quality health care, and poverty alleviation.
Do you think everyone is cut out to be an executive? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive? Can you explain what you mean?
A career in minerals and mining is not for the faint of heart. Those who are equipped with a sense of purpose, tenacity, optimism, an open mind and eagerness to learn make the best executives. Failure is very common, so you must learn to mitigate as much risk as possible as soon as possible and turn failure into a learning experience and opportunity. Even if the project does not work, executives must challenge themselves, take a step back and ask themselves how they can do it better next time. Despite this potential for failure, one must not forget the long-lasting relationships with all stakeholders built while working on the project. I have been lucky to work with the same team of professionals on several past projects, some of whom now make up the Board of Directors and senior team members at Tectonic Metals.
What advice would you give to other business leaders to help create a fantastic work culture? Can you share a story or an example?
It is essential to lay out your core values in order to start building the company culture of your dreams. It should be the foundation of all decisions at your company and guide your organization’s evolution. Dedicate as much time as necessary to ensure all members of your organization from leadership to new employees and HR personnel are closely aligned on your company values and are enrolled in them.
I believe that great leaders can create a great work culture if they successfully define the purpose and show it is the catalyst for everything they do, while reinforcing company culture and values on a daily basis and consistently practicing self-awareness. Some of these values are not about doing, but rather about actually being them, such as integrity, honesty, transparency, accountability, and fairness. You cannot ‘do’ these but rather must ‘be’ integrous, honest, transparent, accountable and fair.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
Our vision is to create transformational wealth for our shareholders by identifying, discovering and developing world-class gold districts in North America with a commitment to high standards of environmental stewardship and maximizing social and economic benefits to the communities in which we live and operate.
Tectonic believes responsible mineral exploration and development can directly and indirectly benefit the communities in which we operate. We consistently and continuously evaluate our work with the goal of improving and enhancing our social performance. We understand that a high standard of social responsibility is necessary to obtain and maintain our social license, uphold our reputation with stakeholders and enhance our risk management.
We know our work can be a catalyst for economic development and improved social well-being and actively work to maximize these opportunities while discouraging dependency. Our success directly correlates with community wellbeing. It is seeing our hard work translate into positive impact that keeps us going and pushes us to be more successful. Whenever Tectonic Metals is mentioned, we want people to remember and talk about our work with a smile on their face.
Fantastic. Here is the primary question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Adaptability is key. Senior leaders in our team must brace for long hours and all types of weather and climate. For example, Tectonic Metals currently has district-scale projects in Alaska, which means that we often have to work with harsh weather conditions when on site. We must also adapt to market and worldly conditions, such as COVID.
- Project your best persona. As CEO, you have to be a leader, maintain a diplomatic demeanor that your team can look up to and always act on your promise. Even in moments of fear and self doubt, remind yourself that you are answerable to your stakeholders and that your team looks up to you for guidance.
- There is no such thing as failure. In fact, we work in an industry where ‘failure’ is the norm (i.e., failure of a project to yield or move past the exploration phase). It is the team, the experience and the learnings that you have amassed that matter in the long run. For example, I have worked with several of Tectonic Metals’ senior leadership team in the past. It is due to our experience and shared vision that we are part of a big family today.
- Growth never stops. Just because you carry the designation of a CEO, does not mean that you have arrived at your destination. Given that our sector continues to make discoveries, innovate and introduce new technologies, one must stay on top of the business and scientific side of the industry. For example, I do not have an academic background in geology, yet working in the industry keeps pushing me to learn more about earth science.
- Look at the big picture and measure your impact in the long run. Your mission, values and goals, as well as how you wish to positively impact society, is what will set you apart from competitors. While it is important to provide your investors with maximum value, it is equally important to understand and be able to demonstrate the long-term impact that your work has on the local communities. Ultimately, it is through the legacy you leave behind that you will be remembered. At Tectonic Metals, we strive toward being ‘The Shift in the Game’ and raising industry standards. We work closely with Doyon, our largest shareholders, on the initiatives such as the Doyon Foundation and its scholarship program to ensure positive impact on the local community for generations to come.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
It would definitely be focused on diversity, inclusion and social justice. As CEO of Tectonic Metals, I have put in place a mandatory training on antiracism and cultural competency. I would invite every other company in the industry to do the same. Small gestures can lead to great outcomes in the long run. At Tectonic Metals, we believe that if something is not ‘our problem’, that does not mean it is not a problem.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Experience is the best teacher.” It is the teachings that we learn from life that make us who we are today and give us guidance and inform our future decisions. We all have unique life trajectories based on our experience and the universe has a plan for each and every one of us. We must embrace all experiences, good and bad, as they are all useful in giving us perspective into our lives so that we come out stronger and better informed. Knowledge is never directly given to us. It requires patience, hope and willpower.
My childhood was like most kids whose parents worked for themselves: we went to work too. Over the years, I worked side by side with my father in many business endeavors. Some ventures were successful, some heartbreaking, but all were lessons in embracing risk, stepping outside of your comfort zone, perseverance, drive and resilience. I hope to instill a similar work ethic in my kids and encourage them to dream big, to benefit from all experiences that life has given them and to learn about themselves in the process.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them
Oooh this is a tough question! Two people come to mind, the Dalai Lama and the Pope.