CEO Advice: Herding Cats


It is a question I get asked over and over again, "How can I start a Corporation?", or some variation on that theme. Over the years dozens of pilots that I've flown with have decided to break off and start their own Corporation in Eve. Many have been extremely successful, some have not, but to each of them I've given the same advice - simply start writing a hugely successful blog for four years and then use that platform to draw people to your Corp. Done.

Ok, that isn't what I tell them.

In a couple of weeks here Stay Frosty will be celebrating our second year. We have somewhere around 230 pilots in the Corporation, which makes us one of the largest (if not the largest) Pirate Corporations in New Eden. Our Alliance, A Band Apart, has over 600 members and is running along rather smoothly. We continue to grow and expand in interesting ways every day. Building something like that takes time, energy and commitment. It doesn't happen over night. Few people have the kind of drive it takes to achieve a goal like that, or even bigger goals. The good news is that you don't have to. Successful Corporations in Eve have nothing to do with numbers. They have everything to do with leadership.

And with failure. Failure is a huge part of success, both inside of Eve and out here in the real world. Trust me. I started a bunch of Corporations in Eve before I finally got it right. My trail of failure inside of Eve is long and storied, but each experience taught me something important. Each one was not a failure that stopped me from trying again, each one was a lesson from which I learned what not to do. And today I'm going to share with you some of those lessons. If you are thinking about starting your own Corporation inside of Eve, then pay attention. If not, then maybe you'll learn something anyway.

Find something you care about.
Stay Frosty works because it is about the one thing I enjoy doing more than anything else in Eve. I have a game-play style that I enjoy, one that took me four years to find, and I built a Corporation around me that services that play-style. This is a universal truth, build a Corporation that does exactly what you enjoy doing. This seems simple, but it isn't. So many Corporations fail from simple inattention from leadership. I play every day I can because I enjoy what I'm doing. It isn't work for me. So find that thing you enjoy doing and then go find other people that also enjoy it. It can literally be anything.

Focus to a Fault
This can be hard, especially once you start adding more pilots. It is simple human nature that each piece you add will have their own ideas about what you should be doing, where you should be going, and how you are going to get there. This is normal and the temptation to give in to these desires can be extremely powerful. Doing so will eventually destroy your Corporation. It will dilute your focus, spread you thin, and eventually those that wanted to do "something else" will leave you to find a place that does that thing better than you can.

Stay Frosty, for example, is a solo and small gang Pirate Corporation. To a fault. We have a simple and easy to understand mandate. Anything that crosses outside that line is something we do not do. No matter what. If you like that sort of thing, come fly with us. If not, then we hopefully leave as friends. Within that mandate the sky is the limit. Take that mandate anywhere you want, fly to the furthest corners, inside of Wormholes, out into High Sec, wherever - but the goals remain the same.

Stick to your guns. No matter what.

Empower Leaders
The true key to building a successful Corporation, no matter how big, is finding good people that share your enthusiasm for that thing you want to do. You can't do everything yourself and trying will only lead to burn-out and failure. Share the load, as Samwise would say. This is why having a clear mandate is so important, it helps other people understand clearly what you want to achieve. But it is also a measuring stick against which anyone can measure opportunities and challenges.

I am extremely fortunate in Stay Frosty and ABA to have a great group of leaders that clearly understand and accept what we are trying to do. Because of this, I don't have to hold any hands. Everyone knows what is and isn't the "ABA way" or what is or isn't appropriate for us. And they can easily measure opportunities and challenges against that standard themselves. Give your leaders the tools they need to be successful and let them be successful.

Herding Cats
Keeping it all on track is the job of the CEO. Making the hard decisions and being decisive, no matter how painful, is critical. A leader needs to have empathy, but more than anything, he or she needs to lead. If you can't lead, you shouldn't be the leader. That sounds like common sense, but I bet we've all been in Corporations led by non-leaders before. Being CEO is not a vanity project, if you are in it for that reason you should really just stop now. It is hard work, it takes dedication, and it is a lot like herding cats.

Everyone has a different style when it comes to being a leader. The trick is to discover what style works best for you and then growing into that style. Consistency is important, vision is critical, and caring is key. Keep the group pointed in the right direction, anticipate course changes, and generally keep the natives entertained as best you can. And before you know it you'll have a group of people around you that you can enjoy spending time with on-line. After that, the rest will take care of itself.


So to answer your question - anyone can start a Corporation. But not everyone should. Be honest with yourself about your goals, your vision and your level of commitment. Be clear about what you want to achieve and clearly state those goals to potential Corp members. Stick to your guns, never do the easy thing, but always try to do the right thing.

And don't be afraid to fail.




7 comments:

  1. Interesting writeup. Good advice. I remember from my early days as one of directors, trying to do everything and please everyone only lead to burnout. Now after much time I have some ideas and might starting a new niche corp that focuses on what is my passion and welcomes like minded people, if any. I'll be sure to reflect on this article if that day comes.

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    1. Excellent. Good luck with that. Tomorrow's follow-up post will have some practical advice on how to attract like-minded people.

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  2. You forgot one very important thing. Surround yourself with people who are just as committed to the group as you are. If one is to be a strong leader, you must learn to balance ego and being humble at the same time. Having a strong group of followers means nothing if they are simply going to do what you tell them to. Be prepared to learn from them just as they learn from you.

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    1. Agreed. I'm not sure I forgot that though, it was kind of the point about Empowering leaders which isn't always about Directors, leaders can be any member of a Corporation that feels empowered to do their own thing with and within the group.

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  3. So many good truths and wise advice in this blog post!

    It can be tough to maintain a corp's core definition in sharp focus when well-regarded members want to do different things that may not be compatible with that definition/focus. But doing so...and accepting that it will result in some folks leaving...is important to preserving the corp's identity. I wish all departing players good fortune in their further adventures in New Eden and maintain an open door policy for the return of those in good standing.

    As you discuss, having a good core leadership team in larger or fast-growing corps is a huge help in keeping things on track and not burning out.

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  4. Who are the leaders of eve online corporations? It would be a neat feature to perhaps talk about some of them as I for one find stuff like that quite interesting and to be honest I don't know THAT many. Like, for example who are the current leaders of various political parties ... We know of Rixx, of course. But who else is out there? I imagine there are some that the wider majority don't know that much about. Like me. :))

    Gary.

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