Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Two types of CEOs

Having been in the game now for over six months, I've had a chance to talk to several fellow CEOs about their style and leadership preferences. There seems to be lots of variation across the board, but I think that it really boils down to two types of CEOs in game.

The first type of CEO is the kind that is a great leader from the front. He goes out in his Armageddon or Brutix or Raven night after night leading fleets to glory, or grabs his Retriever and sits in a belt strip mining it to dust, cracking open a cold one and chatting with his guys about his favorite sports team or the latest changes made to the game. These are CEOs that I term as the "lead by example" leaders - men and women who are in the frey with their troops and get down and dirty every night, no execptions.

The second type of CEO is the kind that is a great coordinator and planner. This is the guy who has everything organized for his corporation - operations are planned in advance, everyone knows what they're doing and how they're doing it, and he takes care of all the paperwork to make it happen. Most nights he's on handling spreadsheets to make sure the corp stays in the black, and on rare occasions he actually manages to get out and fleet up with his guys, but this is infrequent and more time is spent handling the minutiae than anything else.

Each side has it's advantages and drawbacks. Leading from the front makes you more acutely aware of what goes on with your troops, but means that the paperwork stacks and piles up. Coordinating and planning takes care of the pesky paperwork but leaves your troops wondering if you're not secretly a machine in disguise.

There's nothing wrong with picking one style and running with it, but there are two ways to avoid falling into one or another. The first way is to take a hybrid approach and combine the two. Work with your guys a few nights a week and spend the rest of the time handling paperwork. This is the most practical approach but requires a fair amount of personal balancing The second way is to have one of your trusted lieutenants handle the paperwork or handle the time with the guys. This approach has some advantages, particularly if you lead from the front, but you can be left feeling left out of either end - if someone does your paperwork for you it may not be done to your specifications, and if someone is out with your troops all the time you may risk being replaced.

There are undoubtedly other ways to approach it but most styles involve one of these two methods at it's core.

From the ashes....

Out of the ashes arises...

Oh heck, who am I kidding?

Sorry to all (four) readers of the blog for the month-long absence. I literally moved and the corporation has been figuratively moving along in the past month.

House aside, let's catch up on the state of The Corporation.

Our Alliance and the landlord Alliances who were letting us borrow space from them were facing The Menace - an unnamed Alliance who has powerful friends and was causing no end of trouble out in our area of space. A couple weeks ago we got word they were moving out of one of their homes due to internal strife and so we set about preparing to step in and take some Sov for ourselves. Suffice it to say, the plan backfired due to our Alliance leader being offline for a period of time and others insisting on an accelerated timetable that did not work as we hoped. Instead, we got sucker punched and our stock with the Landlords fell rather rapidly.

So, The Alliance is now getting itself back on track and reorganizing to come at things from a different direction. The Corporation is also working to get into a better position to act and react. In addition, Yours Truly has been asked by Alliance leadership to perform several key duties including getting things better organized, so I have been very busy with these.

Stay tuned as this blog will be back on track soon and we will have more wonderful anecdotes and advice for all you CEOs out there!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Sorry for the delays!

You know how with any new car or new thing you always have kinks to work out? That seems to be the case here as the CEO is actually in the process of closing on a house and trying for a job promotion. This has made updating very difficult due to the time constraints that I have had on me from RL. Throw in the occasional connection issue and a few other RL things and you start to see the connundrum.

However, The Corp continues to chug along out in the outlaw space. Our numbers have fallen back to 60 members, which is still fairly substantial. However, our main recruiters have been offline for awhile, so I have taken it upon myself to get advertising going again to draw new members to us. In addition, we have now gotten a POS running that will allow us to get manufacturing and research underway.

Anyways, more updates and words of wisdom coming soon! Stay tuned! :)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Balancing the corporation and the personal - talking teamwork

The hardest part of any corporation is that of philosophy towards members. While we cannot deny that corporations are built on the backs and fortunes of their members, the corporation itself also becomes an entity that must be taken care of and nourished if it is to thrive. Thus a true dichotomy is established, but the most difficult part about this dichotomy is that there must be a true balance in order for it to work properly.

From a psychology perspective, members of a corporation tend to care most about themselves and improving their own standing or their own wallet. Every player has a dream or a goal they want to accomplish in the game, whether it's flying a Dreadnought, mining enough ore to make even the most seasoned industrialist sick with envy, or producing and selling enough items to fund the purchase of PLEX cards that effectively make the character self-sufficient. It's the same analog as real life - most people care about their own well-being and their own accomplishments, whether it's driving the newest car, making lots of money, or owning a brand new beautiful home. (There are people who are teamwork-oriented but we'll cover those later)

As I stated, the corporation itself is it's own creature. The players make it possible and make it happen, but the corporation requires the cooperation of it's players to stay alive. When a corporation truly comes to life it can be a magnificent thing, but it takes a good CEO to keep the corporation stable. As long as the corporation stays stable the members within the corporation are able to do what they want. But members don't always want to do the same things, which means that a good CEO must be adept at balancing and motivating. The more balance and motivation members have to help the corporation the more both corporation and member thrives. This is very difficult, especially given that the corporation is made up of people who have their own goals and dreams and desires.

There are some team-oriented players out there, though these are quite a rare breed. The true mark of teamwork that separates these players is a selfless desire to see the corporation thrive and do well, even at their own expense. Many of these players become or are CEOs themselves, and funnel millions upon millions of isk into the corporation to help it develop, grow, and thrive. Within the ranks of the corporation, these players can often make a good corporation great through taking on duties and responsibilities that others do not want, undertaking greater duties to support the corporation, and doing the odd jobs that the corporation needs to take it to the next level.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Security in a corporate world

I'm sure that everyone in EVE has heard by now of the wonderful bait-and-switch move that GoonSwarm pulled on Band of Brothers a few months back. (For those who haven't, the summary is that Goon infiltrated BoB at the Director level of their receiver corporation and then proceeded to dismantle BoB from within) Corporate CEOs and Alliance leaders both look at this with no small degree of fear, because it illustrates greatly what happens when you lack good corporate/alliance security.

The concept of having your corporation or alliance destroyed from within by a high-level betrayal is the one concept that keeps CEOs awake at night. You never want to wake up and log on to EVE only to discover that the corp coffers have been cleaned and the corp fleet of shiny battleships or capital ships are now missing. But, as CCP has shown in the past, corporate espionage is as much a part of the game as anything else.

There are several ways for CEOs to help ease their nightmares and sleep more peacefully (without having to resort to alcohol or sleeping aids... or both).

First and foremost, know your Directors and trust them. No one should have the Director title within the corporation unless you know them well enough and have vetted them enough to trust them with your life (literally in game) and livelihood.

Second, have good practices in place for handling applications from prospective members. There are many ways to go about this - from requesting API keys for verification to screenshots of the EVE login screen to catch alts. As well, having probationary periods in place is a good idea - it shows the applicant that your corporation is both serious about them and takes their security seriously.

Third, pick someone trusted to handle your Internal Security work. This person should be suspicious by nature. Give them the appropriate roles and have them perform audits periodically to make sure that nothing is going on that shouldn't - people aren't receiving any roles or titles they shouldn't and things aren't appearing mysteriously in member hangars.

Fourth, handle corp goods with care. There should be one corporate hangar that only Directors and above have access to - and even there all items should be in secured containers. This will limit the amount of petty larceny that goes on within the corp hangars.

These are just basic ideas but implimenting them in one form or another can save a CEO lots of headaches down the road and reduce the chances of falling victim to corporate espionage.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Being sick sucks...

Sorry for the inactivity in the blog - I came down with a rather nasty cold that showed some inklings of ambitious plans that needed to be crushed before it could engineer a complete overthrow of my body. Part of being a good CEO is being able to crush revolutions before they can take off. =)

Kidding aside, The Corporation has been working in second gear as of late - not as fast as we'd like but not terribly slowly either. The Alliance is concluding negotiations for our 0.0 machinations, but we haven't been given a full green light to proceed to our new area as of yet. Diplo channels are also working regarding sov and POS deployment as well. But we have an Alliance mining op ongoing which gives members something to do.

We'll have some regular helpful posts again in the next day or two now that I'm feeling better. Just wanted to touch base and let everyone know why I was absent.

Monday, May 11, 2009

"Now go do that voodoo that you do so well"

With respect to Hedley Lamarr, it's very tough to do any sort of voodoo if you don't have a good base of operations from which to work.

To summarize the "History of 'The Corporation'", we began in Gallente space and moved to Caldari Space because there seemed to be a large quantity of recruits over there and they did not wish to make the 15 jumps to our station. So saying, we set up shop right off of Jita and got down to business. Few weeks later, Manufacturing informed me that there was a great little station two jumps down the line and so we added an office out there for it's manufacturing slots (and the 20+ belts that were in the system made it great for Mining).

Now, we used these two stations heavily in the time we were in high-sec, but after joining The Alliance we largely left them and moved our way out to 0.0 space by way of Gallente territory. Now, our Alliance was not participating in sovereignty out in 0.0 space, so we had to act as good houseguests and abide by the rules - no feet on the furniture, no loud music after 7, no mass fleets of Dreads blowing up POSes... the usual stuff. Of course, this also meant that the Outpost out there could be used by members...

...but no corporation in our Alliance could use it as a base of operations. Save, maybe, the executor corp but even that was after much hemming and hawing by our hosting Alliance.

Suffice it to say, the three or so weeks we spent out in 0.0 space were largely a bust for corp-wide activities as each of my Directors had to house their division's goods in their own hangars. Given that everyone had their own schedules, it was particularly chaotic trying to unload the items that we had couriered from our high-sec staging ground and then carry out their regular tasks. The fleet of ships we had built up for the corp to use were stashed away in Military Director's hangar, which meant that for ops the first week or two we had to have members buy their own ships for use, which pretty badly crimped our own style.

So after things fell through for The Alliance, the Alliance as a whole withdrew back to high-sec space to plot and plan again. Now that we're back at our staging ground we're starting to see corp activities pick up again.

The moral of the story: Having a platform from which to do corp activities is worth it's weight in gold. If you go out to 0.0 space, be sure to take a POS with you - never leave high-sec without one.

The obligatory "pimp" post

There is a man out in the EVE Universe who runs what most would consider the Yellow Pages of EVE Blogs. While he himself blogs about EVE and other video games, CrazyKinux keeps a running tally of all EVE Online-related blogs. To date he has 236 blogs, with mine being added to the list last night.

So, if you are ever looking for another EVE blog to read, please stop by CrazyKinux's Musing. And if you talk to him, tell him Vortex sent you. :)

Having fulfilled that business transaction with CK, the blog rolls on!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

What's in a corporate layout?

There are two primary schools of thought when it comes to the creation of corporations in EVE, and each has both good points and drawbacks.

The most popular school of thought is that of a specialization corporation. These are corporations that focus solely on one aspect of the game. Mining corporations are fairly popular, as are manufacturing corporations. The most popular and prevalent by far are the PVP corps. Each of these type of corps focuses on one area of the game and runs with it. By specializing the corporation can market itself to Alliances and quickly make a niche for themselves.

The other school of thought is that of a balanced corporation. These are corporations that cover a majority of the aspects of the game equally. Corporations like this tend to have several components to them - internal divisions that handle the various aspects of the game. Corporations like this tend to take on a more integrated approach and can often support more members.

Now, there are also downsides to both. The specialist corporation tends to have to spend more money on aspects that are not in their sphere - for example, a mining corporation often has to pay for military protection. PVP corporations have to pay other corps for the ships they use. As to the balanced corporations, they don't see as much cash flow as the specialist corporations do because their manpower is split in focus. It also results in each component of the corporation being weaker than an equivilent specialist corporation.

There are real world historical precedents for both. The specialist corporation has existed in the world for quite a bit of time, going as far back as the Industrial Revolution and prior. The East India Company was primarily a shipping and trading company founded in 1600 whose specialty was in trade. During the booming Industrial Revolution corporations sprung up that focused on manufacturing or on industry, utilizing the latest and greatest inventions of the day to help them. Even now, in modern times here on Earth, there are businesses who specialize in one single segment of industry. These range from tool and dye makers to machine shops.

The balanced corporation was a concept that didn't really take off until Andrew Carnegie came to found Carnegie Steel in the mid-1870s in the US. He is considered the founder of "vertical integration" (another term for a balanced corporation), where a company would handle all aspects of it's trade. Another example of this was the Ford Company - though in a different way, for Ford purchased other subsidiary companies. Vertically integrated companies exist in the real world to this day - oil companies are great examples of this as they both drill the oil, ship it, refine it, and then sell it on the market at stations they own.

When I formed The Corporation, I thought long and hard about what I wanted to do with it. I'm a very teamwork-oriented guy and part of a community of like-minded individuals, so whatever we decided to do would have to be teamwork-oriented and teamwork-based. One of the great things that drew me to EVE was the fact that you could do just about anything you wanted - you weren't limited in scope to one class or another. Vertically integrated companies would give me a greater range of talent and give me a greater base of players to build the corporation on. While I liked the allure of being a niche player, in the end I felt that teamwork could be better achieved if there were several elements to the corporation.

So saying, I created the corporation using five key divisions: Mining, Manufacturing, Business, Military, and Science. These were the five major areas of the game that I had identified as bieng key components. Each division has a director, who oversees their division's work and checks in with me and the other division directors.

Now, there are certainly drawbacks to this layout. It takes a bit longer to do non-essential items because all the directors have to be on the same page. Given the nature of real life, not all directors can be on all the time. This was remedied by having Assistant Directors (but it also makes another layer of work). Still, it's been three months and so far things haven't fallen apart, so it looks like the corporate layout is working so far.


Welcome to "From the Desk of the CEO", an EVE Online corporation blog.

The aim of this site is to blog about a different facet of the EVE Online world - the world of CEOs and Corporations and even Alliances.

My name is Vortex, and I am CEO of a corporation in EVE Online which is member of a larger Alliance (not currently holding sov). I've been playing this game now for about six months, and my corporation has been running for just shy of three.

As I went through the EVE Online blogroll, I realized that there were a lot of blogs about pirates and a lot of blogs about individuals and their experiences, but not very many about what goes on in the world of a CEO or corp management. It struck me as a niche that could stand to be filled, particularly because corp management has it's own rhythm and workings and sometimes what goes on behind the scenes of a corporation can be as important as what the corporation is actively doing.

What I'll be doing in this blog is chronicling some of the things that take shape within my corp from my desk and share tidbits and useful pieces of advice on how to better manage and work with a corporation. There may even be guest bloggers from within the corporation or from other corps - the sky's the limit when blogging is involved.

Of course, as I am sure everyone knows, names have been changed to protect the innocent. It's nothing against anyone here, but blogging seems to work best when anonymity is involved. Maybe someday I'll come out from behind the curtain... but not yet.