Sunday, July 19, 2015

So You Wanna Start a Corp (Part II)


In this installmant, I'll hit you with some ideas of what it means to be a "serious" corporation, and what things you should think about before pulling the trigger and starting up.

A. Serious corporations should have a Charter.  This is a short document and is intentionally brief and somewhat vague, but is intended to define in broad terms what the Corp is about, how their organized, and what their goals are.

I look at the Charter like the U.S. Constitution.  It’s the document that grants powers and rights to the officers and members (leaders and citizens), and allows the leaders to make rules (laws).  It also disallows certain activity to protect the integrity of the system and ensure the rights of its members (citizens).  It is also rather short – it’s an outline; a philosophy that everyone agrees to live by.

Continuing the analogy, all of the gritty detail is found elsewhere.  For example, the U.S. Tax code is hundreds of pages of impossible reading, and but the Tax Code is NOT contained within the Constitution itself.  The Constitution simply says, “Congress shall have power to lay and collect Taxes…” (thanks Wikipedia) and all the detail is elsewhere.

Likewise, your Charter can be relatively short, with day to day rules (that may need to change as your Corp grows and adapts to the game), can be found on a forum post and changed as necessary.

But why is this document important?  Some of your prospective core group may roll their eyes at the notion; some will just want to GET ON WITH IT and you'll have to deal with that resistance if you insist on generating this document.

In my view, it's worth the trouble because the Charter, if used properly, can generate the kind of discussion vital to the startup of a serious corporation.

It's a focal point, where ideas and goals are agreed on.

And it's a test, useful for finding cracks in your group's unified vision before you even begin the corporation.

And later, it's something you can lean on in times of stress; when people are pressuring you to act on their crazy impulses ... you can say "yah, I see your point, but the Charter says things like this go to a vote."

Lastly, it's the first step to realizing that YOU are not YOUR CORPORATION.  You're the CEO and ultimately you're replaceable.  Ideally the strong, vibrant, self-sustaining corporation you are initiating will survive long after you've left the game.  The Charter defines that replacement process, your role as CEO.  Ultimately, the Charter is a plan of how to handle things when the shit hits the fan.

And by the way - one of the largest and arguably most successful MMO guilds out there - The Syndicate - has a charter, and it's found right here.

B. Serious corporations should have an online repository/forum.  Social media is changing this concept as I type; forums are very old-skool.  But I think the basic tenant still holds true, however you choose to implement it.

The repository is where you post your specific rules and requirements, recruiting needs, recruiting process, group event expectations, and other details.  These things don’t belong in the Charter because the specifics will need to change as your group (and the game universe you live in) matures.  But they need to be accessible to candidate recruits and new members, and editable by those responsible for them.

Some groups use forums more than others, so you may be able to get away without specific aspects of a web presence.  But I still firmly believe that your web page is part of the “sales package” that your prospective members will see (in many cases) BEFORE they actually interact with you.  So time invested in a web presence is time well spent.

(And please, stay away from the corp/guild hosting freebie sites that look like a myspace page from Bill Clinton's second term.  Enjin isn't too bad, but a semi-custom page with a Wordpress front end and/or SimpleMachines forum install is better.)

C.  Serious corporations need to have a diversified command structure.  This means an officer group that can share power and a corp leader that can delegate.

Serious corporations need to have an organized means of screening recruits and promoting those with potential to positions where they can backfill an Officer (temporarily/permanently) should the need arise.

I'll talk about burnout later, but if you're the CEO that doesn't mean you have to do everything.  It doesn't mean you have to be on every corp Op, or make every decision.  You need to decide up front what kinds of things you enjoy and can sustainably stay engaged with, and what kinds of things you can delegate.

D. Serious corporations are more than an empty shell.  It's pretty easy to tackle parts A-B-C above and come away with a credibly organized corporate structure and a pretty web page and yet have a corporation with absolutely zero meat on its bones.  In fact, on day 1, it's almost guaranteed that this will be true.

Two ideas:
a) Be your Corp from day one.  Own it.  By that, I mean: don't wait until you have more members to behave like you expect your corporation to behave.  Run corp ops from the start.  Get into roams, if that's your thing.  Live your corp.  Do NOT sit in station night after night saying “when we get more members, we'll schedule something.”  Schedule it. Do it. Live it.  (I realize that not all activities can be tackled by a handful of members; get creative and find ways to be active, the point is don't let a lack of players delay the first corp op).

b) You need to recruit; but you need to recruit honestly.  Tell people up front that you're a start up.  But don't tell people that you run WHs if you don't.  Don't tell people you're "moving to null soon" if you aren't.  Don't stretch the truth just to get an application submitted.

Finally:  E. Serious corporations don't fold at their first wardec.  It's EVE, wardecs are a part of life.  Know that they'll happen, accept it as truth, and be ready to live through them.

I'll also add that the best wardec is one that's avoided. I've seen new CEOs get mouthy on forums or reddit that ended up folding the corp and leaving the game in the resulting barrage of war declarations.   There's a fine line between being bold and being stupid; finding out which is which can be expensive.

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