Sunday, September 13, 2015

So You Wanna Start a Corp (Part VI)

Previous Entries

  1. Part 1 - Starting Up
  2. Part 2 - Components of a Serious Corp
  3. Part 3 - Fighting Battle Fatigue
  4. Part 4 - Questions to Ask at Startup
  5. Part 5 - Being a Leader

VI. The Transition
This is the final (and long overdue) installment of this series, As we wrap up, I wanted to talk about the "what happens next" part of standing up a corporation.

In my mind, there are kind of the 3 phases to a corporation:  Startup, Transition, and Stable Execution.

Most of this series has been about the first phase - Startup.  It's perhaps the hardest (though no phase is particularly "easy") to navigate cleanly.

The next phase is what I think of as Transition.  This is the awkward teenage years of the corporation, where the group finds its true voice, begins to mature, and really begins to look towards the long haul of a well-run corporation.

So, how do you navigate through Transition?

Adapting and Growing
First things first:  Write down the purpose, but expect it to change.  (Repeating from an earlier entry in this series:  you need to document your purpose in your Charter.  It’s both an advertisement and a commitment.)

However, as time goes on, expect that interests will drift among your playerbase.  New game features will be added, and people will begin to get bored with doing the same thing(s) every day.  This is natural, and isn’t dangerous as long as it’s anticipated and managed.

The most infamous group drama is the “coming of age” story.  In one version of this scenario, a new Corp gets established, gains some momentum, and folks begin to reach their first sets of goals.  One day the leadership announces “ok, we have enough people, effective TODAY we’re a Pirating/nullsov/PVP/whatever Corp. Pack your stuff, we're moving out of highsec.

Assuming that this a major change from prior direction, there will basically be three types of Corp members:

  1. Some folks will embrace it as natural progression.  They’ll be happy.
  2. Some will outwardly support it but actually liked the squad the way it was originally.  These types will disappear quietly.
  3. Some will disagree openly, and may cause trouble, and/or ragequit.

If too many people are in groups (2) and (3), you’re in bigtime trouble.

First, I advise against monstrous changes like this.  From a previous entry:  operate your corp the way you intend to operate from day 1.  If that means you're a lowsec corp, then go live in lowsec.  If that means you're a pvp corp, then pvp.  Sitting in highsec running missions until you are "ready" for some big move into "endgame" is setting yourself up for drama you could avoid.

But, if you do find yourself needing to make a big change, tread carefully.  The only way around the drama that I’ve found is to talk openly about these types of decisions, and do it well in advance with a lot of disclaimers.*  Even then, move forward assuming you WILL lose some players (but you’ll also lose players by not growing and adapting along with the game… so choose your poison).

If you’re smart though, your Charter will have a mechanism in it to handle these types of changes gracefully.  The Charter contains the rules everyone in the Corp is working to … so use it.  Make the decision publicly and transparently and avoid the perception that such things are done behind closed doors.

One example I'll give is the decision for PUKE to leave the Confederation of Independent Corporations alliance in 2006.  Our time with them had about run its course, but some of our folks were still flying with their alliance mates reasonably often.

As CEO, and defacto emperor (thunderclap in the distance, ominous music, etc.), I could have simply yanked us from the alliance and gotten away with it.  I might have had some ruffled some feathers, and I suppose I could have lost a member or two.  But yes, I could have done it and moved on.

Instead, I chose a slower path. I put it to a corp vote (forum poll) with a range of options.  The decision process had a beginning (vague discussion), a middle (the vote) and an end (actually pulling out).  The entire process took two, maybe three weeks.  There was zero drama, and the entire process was cathartic in that our members were looking forward to things they would be doing once out of the alliance.

Lastly, to be clear - I talk about making changes as if they're a bad thing.  In my experience, big impulsive changes generally have been negative.  But I also talk here about refining and evolving your corp's purpose.  It may sound like I'm talking out of both sides of my head and contradicting myself, so let me be clear.  In my experience, large, fast, sweeping, impulsive, dramatic changes to the Corp's core purpose have generally been a very bad thing.  Slow, evolving, strategic, coordinated, organic growth towards a future state is a healthy and vital thing.

Player Attrition During Transition

The other thing I wanted to point out about Transition is that it's likely the first time you'll see a rapid succession of folks leaving the Corporation.  As discussed earlier, folks all hitting the same content at the same time are probably reasonably likely to consume that content and move on all about the same time.  So, during Transition, it's natural that you'll hit a "big" (however you define "big") wave of exits.

This will compound your problems - during this phase you're trying to solidify the foundation of the corp, and you'll have erosion to that foundation in the form of player attrition.

Continuing to adapt and refine your corp's focus will help keep people interested, but such efforts can only do so much - all players eventually burn out to some degree.

The only answer here is to continue to recruit, grabbing people with the skills and interests that match the corp's refined visions.  The danger here is that it's sometimes easy to quietly shift the corp's focus by diluting the core group with a large mass of outside players.  Simple example:  recruiting a bunch of pvp'ers into your industrial corp will no doubt shift the center of focus of your corporation more towards pvp.  If that's what you want (i.e. part of your planned refined growth), then it's ok, but be aware of the ripple effects.

Mergers:  Three times in the past 10 years, I've been party to a Corp/Guild merger.  In two out of three times, they were a negative thing.  In the one instance that was successful, we absorbed another corp after their leadership basically abdicated and left the game, and the players had no place to go.  The other two were more "true" mergers and resulted in a net loss for our group.

Mergers are a prime example of an influx of players that can dramatically change the tone and feel of your corp.  When they happen, they're a good chance to pull in veteran players, but be wary.  My advice is to do them only on your terms, and by folding the other members into your well-managed structure.  That's a selfish way to do it, but you've invested too much time into your corp to go screwing it up by making deals with a bunch of amateurs. :)

And with that, I conclude the "So You Wanna Start a Corp..." series.

Good luck in your endeavors, and fly it like you stole it.

*Note:  Sometimes there will be efforts within the Corp to do things that you're personally just not comfortable with.  I have been put in a situation more than once where players around me want to push the Corp/Guild in a direction for the sake of "progress" and I've known in my heart of hearts that I (as a player) would not want to play in that game mode.  In one instance, I went along for the ride with disastrous consequences. If you are not excited to login every day and do cool things, how do you expect to run the corp?


  1. Nice. Never aspired to build or lead a corp, but nice info - even if just viewed "from the other side" so to speak.

    1. Thanks for the reply and glad you enjoyed the read..

      General comment: As I reread the entire the entire series this week, I realized that I come across a little blunt/callous when it comes to players and burnout. That's not really the intent; players aren't cattle and shouldn't be treated as such.

      If I were to write a part 7, it would probably tackle that topic. Right now it's just enough content for this comment so I'll not try to stretch it into its own post. :)


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