Life Lessons: Nolan Watson

Use a down market to develop discipline
Nolan Watson, president, CEO and chairman, Sandstorm Gold

Nolan Watson co-founded metals streaming company Sandstorm Gold in 2008 after a stint as chief financial officer at Silver Wheaton. With commodity prices continuing to slide in 2013, it was a difficult year for the company, as it was for many mining-related businesses.

But while bad times may be painful, it is also forcing him to whip the company – and himself – into shape.

"I'm working harder at getting in shape than I've ever worked in the past, just because it's really tough to be sharp mentally if blood's not flowing to your brain properly," he said.

He has the same goal for his company.

"I would rather do no deals than the wrong deal, so we're going to work very hard to do the right transactions in a very disciplined manner."

That contrasts with the more forgiving years between 2009 and 2011, when it seemed mining companies could do no wrong.

"It was really easy to make money because the commodity prices kept going up and up," said Watson. "Rising tides lift all boats, and everyone thought they were a little bit smarter than they were."

Watson feels he's made some of his best deals during tough times, when there was no room for error. He's now in the process of tightening up the company in order to take the lean, mean lessons of a bear market into a bullish one.

"I call it the springboard year," he said."If we execute well in 2014, we should be positioned well to take advantage of an upturning market."

"We're developing a whole set of processes that will govern us through all cycles. Everything from more official due diligence processes to tighter and more refined investment criteria to restructuring the business from a human capital perspective just in terms of who's in charge of what."

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