Tuesday, August 4, 2015

So You Wanna Start a Corp (Part IV)


1. What Kind of Corp Do You Want to Be?

First, this is usually the wrong frikkin' question.*

People like to say “I'm going to start an Industrial-Only Capship Building corp” and then go recruiting.  The idea of a focused niche sounds like a good idea, but as a whole, MOST (sweeping generalization) players tend not to stay that focused that long.  The percentage of players happy to stay (for example) Builders full time for months and years is too small for you to attract and keep enough to make it work, especially if you're recruiting newer players that haven't really found their place in life yet.

If your corp grows fast enough that it can expand its boundaries in a healthy way, you'll be fine.

More likely though, (and I hate to be the pessimist), you'll recruit a bunch of people who SAY they want to mine/build but in a few months will ACTUALLY be shotgunned across the entire map doing missions, trading, FW, and Incursions.  Your chat logs will be full of great ideas like “we should move into nullsov” and “Let's go hop into this C2.”  Players are masters at stretching the boundaries of the corporate footprint, while blaming YOU (the CEO) for being narrow-minded when you say “no, let's NOT go rent in nullsov.”

My opinion:  most of the time you are better off describing your corp in terms of what kind of space you intend to fly in.  Pick a region/constellation.  Keep your players close together so that the critical mass of casual/incidental groupings happen, and see where players' interests take you.  Organic growth in a small area of space is a far less frustrating scenario than trying to constantly herd cats.

*The exceptions appear to be the PVP-only corps and sometimes the exploration-only corps and sometimes sometimes the grizzled veterans that have long ago found their niche and are happy in it.

2. What distinguishes your corp from the also-rans?

Tough question, and one for which you'll need to have a well-rehearsed answer prepared.  A funny name will only get you so far; you need to have that special something to offer that separates you from everyone else.  Maybe that's killboard stats, or a cool product (like RedFrog, PushX), catering to a specific community (EVE-Uni catering to new players, or the Reddit-based corps catering to that corner of the internet), or a reputation for fun public roams.

Get creative and set yourself apart.

3. How big do you intend to be?

People have different definitions of “big.”  To me, about 10-15 players online during prime hours is about the minimum get any sort of momentum.  I'd use that as an initial target.  After that, the sky is the limit, as they say – but be aware that larger corps are of course going to need additional leadership and infrastructure.

I also tend to think of the corp's size in terms of typical prime-time logins and NOT how many characters are on the roster.  It's active players that matter, not overall roster size.

4. How is your corp structured?  Are you a dictatorship? A council?  A pair of co-leads?  How many layers of management are there?  How are disputes resolved?

We sort of already talked about this in the previous installment, but it deserves a refresh.  I've run the spectrum of structures.  I've been the (benevolent, hah) dictator.  I've ruled as a council of 3.  I've been co-CEO in charge of US timezone while my partner had did his thing for EU timezones.  I co-lead our WoW guild with my wife and coworker.

The answer here isn't as important as how you document it.  As mentioned previously, I recommend that every new corp have a charter.  The time to debate who is doing what to who is BEFORE you recruit your first outside character.

5. How will your corp handle attrition of the leadership ranks?

Again, people are going to burn out.  Your job is to try to make it so they don't all burn out at once.  If you can manage that, you've got a fighting chance.  My best practice to avoid attrition was to keep my eye out for enthusiastic and capable folks and holding onto them in the event I need to replace a director quickly.

Also, people like ranks.  I'm generally in favor of having more layers of management than is really necessary, because it lets you try out players in leadership roles before they're needed.  One nuance to watch for, though, is that having the extra ranks tends to imply a sense of progression/promotion through the ranks.  This can be troublesome if you have a lot of progression (typically right after startup) and then the officer corps stabilize for awhile.  You run the risk of alienating a completely capable junior officer that wants the added glory of being a full officer, and the guys above him may not move out quickly enough to suit him.  Be prepared to generate new titles for the most capable junior officers.

Well, and of course, EVE being EVE, you need to be mindful of spies.  Compartmentalizing information and access roles is also a useful thing.

6. Will you consider joining an Alliance?

You may be creating the Corporation with the sole intent of targeting a particular Alliance for membership.  That's fine.

Again, this is something you should be discussing with your founders up front, so that when the question gets asked you've got an answer in your back pocket.

7. How will you recruit?

This is the hardest question for every start-up.  Spamming local only gets you so far, and tends to get a certain caliber of player.  Forum posts help, but not as much as you'd think.

But you still have to get the word out.  In very early PUKE, we actually paid for banner ads in EVE Guardian (player news site).  I don't know that we got any recruits that way directly, but it certainly raised our profile.  I give the example because it was something we did that was outside of the norm, and it was isk well spent.

Only a couple installments to go. Thanks for reading all this rambling, and good luck out there.

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