David Garofalo, 51, is chief executive of Vancouver-based Goldcorp Inc. He worked in Toronto as CEO of Hudbay Minerals Inc. and prior to that as chief financial officer at Agnico-Eagle Mines Ltd. Mr. Garofalo began his mining career at Inmet Mining Corp. in various finance roles.
I grew up in North York, in the Toronto area. My parents, who came to Canada from Italy, still live in the original house I grew up in. My dad had a few jobs, including working as a garbage collector for the City of North York for 40 years. My mom worked in a factory where she would manually cut crests used for uniforms. She ended up retiring because she got carpel tunnel syndrome after 25 years of doing that.
As a kid, I thought my dad’s job was cool, being a garbage collector. My dad would also do these construction jobs on the weekends, where he and my uncle would help people with leaks in their basements. Sometimes in downtown Toronto, they would dig them out by hand, because of the very narrow lots, then waterproof them and backfill them. A few times, he would take me on these jobs. I was terrible at it. I didn’t have anywhere near the physical ability he and my uncle had. My dad would look at me struggling and say, ‘So you’re going to stay in school?’ I underestimated how hard his job was.
I got interested in business in high school and got a commerce degree at the University of Toronto before becoming a CA [chartered accountant]. After a while, I realized I didn’t want to do auditing any more. It was more of an observer status on business. That didn’t appeal to me as much as actually getting into the business. I took the first job offered to me, which was a junior accountant position at Inmet Mining.
I’ve never had a shovel in my hand. My job as CEO is all about managing people and recognizing talent and mentoring talent and providing opportunities. That’s the most exciting part of the job. A number of people did that for me over the years, recognizing I had certain aptitudes and exploiting those. Those people include legendary mining guys like [former Inmet CEO] Richard Ross, [Agnico Eagle CEO] Sean Boyd, [former Agnico chief operating officer] Ebe Scherkus and [another former Inmet CEO] Bill James. They’ve each had a big influence on my career to date. They gave me opportunities that accountants wouldn’t normally get and taught me things.
I’ve developed my management style through trial and error. What I’ve found is the most effective way to manage people is to give them responsibility and then hold them accountable. I like giving people as much responsibility as I can, as much rope as I can, and my job is to identify and mentor that talent and hold them to account to those responsibilities they’ve been empowered with.
Recognizing the unique talent in people is very important and not pigeonholing them based on their educational background. You’re trying to identify leaders.
It’s okay being hard on issues, but not hard on people. If the person doesn’t fit, do the right thing and make the change that’s right for them and right for the organization. Don’t belittle them or embarrass them. Just make the call.
One of the biggest adjustments to being a CEO is visibility. You have three principal constituents: your board, shareholders and employees. They’re all watching what you do, how you behave and what you say almost every minute that you’re at work. You have to be careful what you say, how you say it and what attitude you project because you set the tone for the organization. If you set the wrong tone, it can really turn the organization in a direction you didn’t intend.
My kids come to my office and say, ‘What do you do?’ I can’t really describe it to them. I don’t shovel dirt, I don’t keep books. I ask questions, conduct meetings and I hold people to account. The most important aspect is the communication. I’m the chief communicator. When I tell my kids that, they roll their eyes.
The most fun part of being CEO is getting to meet and spend time with so many different people. Just by virtue of my position, they give me a lot of their time and they tell me things about their jobs, and they’re always eager to do that. There is a certain energy that comes from that, which I thoroughly enjoy. I also love going to mine sites.
I’ve done 13 mine constructions in my career to date and it’s addictive. There’s a rush that comes from building something out of nothing. I love creating infrastructure, economic opportunity and value, and helping to build communities around mine sites. It’s a really cool aspect of our business.
I don’t know that there’s any part of the job that I can complain about. There aren’t a lot of these jobs in the world and I recognize every day how incredibly privileged I am professionally and economically. What we get paid in any CEO role is ridiculous money in the context of what the rest of society makes. So, why would I ever complain about that?
I know it’s supposed to be trendy to say you’re reading a business [management] book. I have to say, by and large, I don’t like them. I’ve read a few of them and quite frankly, they leave me cold. I would sooner read a historical novel. I love those.
I don’t need to change the world. I just need to make the entities I leave behind stronger. That has a number of spinoff benefits. That’s what I’m passionate about.
This interview has been edited and condensed. As told to Brenda BouwReport Typo/Error