Brad's life philosophy, for what it's worth
By Draginol Posted May 14, 2008 22:14:05
About once a month someone, somewhere, will comment on something I've written saying how "A CEO shouldn't act so unprofessionally in public". Over the years, I've gotten that message hundreds of times along with predictions of demise for my company due to my "public" behavior.
Now, I think the case could be made that we live in a different time. The new age of companies have executives who hang out on forums and mix it up with people. But I'm not going to make that argument because, ultimately, it doesn't matter. I would still do what I do no matter what.
My personal and professional objectives have always been the same: I want to do what I want to do.
That is my top priority. Freedom.
Freedom has consequences. I am certain, beyond a doubt, that my public postings on various topics over the years has alienated some percentage of users who have encountered what I written to the point that they have decided to not purchase products and services from my company. I'm okay with it. It's a price I'm willing to pay to be able to do what I want.
Here are some examples:
This week, Neowin.net publicly revealed its affiliation with Stardock. Stardock owns 40% of Neowin.net. It doesn't really affect the way the site is run. I was already on Neowin's staff as a volunteer long before I got Stardock involved with it. I just love the site and its community. And I wanted to help so we put together a new company to do just that and it's worked out great.
As an active user on Neowin, there are some people who don't like me. There have been many arguments as to why news items that get posted about Stardock get trolled. Here is one user's explanation:
The problem with this whole thing is that the staff here assumes most people have a problem with Brad due to his Stardock affiliation, but that's not the case at all. People just flat out don't like him. It has nothing to do with the companies he owns or doesn't own. It comes down to the way he treats members here.
Now, users on our sites who read my posts know how I "treat" people. It's not that I treat people badly. I'm just not very sympathetic to people who incessantly complain about every little thing. I particularly have little patience for people whose idea of "free speech" is to flame some person, product, or company and then be taken aback when that person or representative of that product or company defends themselves.
A user on WinCustomize.com wrote this today:You guys have GREAT products (I am paying for virtually everything you make these days), but Brad tends to do all the PR himself, via grass roots article posts on sites like Neowin.net, etc. Their limited effectiveness contributes to the pervading sense that Stardock will never rise above a niche player, but the REALLY big issue here is that Brad is doing the grass roots posts AND then engages in these childish "my tiny little software company is bigger than your even tinier little software company" flame threads. Having the same person covering both of these communication avenues really really makes both the company and its executive management look very small and unfortunately rather petty.
I totally agree with most of what he said. Having the CEO of a company personally slogging it out on forums makes Stardock look small. He's totally incorrect if he thinks this is some for of PR. I don't do PR. Our PR team does PR. Hanging out on forums talking about games or bee keeping or skinning is not PR. I might also quibble that a $20 million company is not a "tiny little software company" but that's just me.
But the main point he's trying to make is totally correct. The fact that the CEO of Stardock is out on forums talking to users or even arguing with them or responding to some flame from some piddly quasi-competing "skinning" company does impact the perception of Stardock. However, I don't care.
Stardock isn't a public company. It's not investor run. It doesn't even have investors. It's my company. It's a company with around 60 people these days that I can proudly say has not had any voluntary turn over in over 2 years. How many other software or game companies of that size can make that claim? And the reason for that is that my public attitude is my private attitude too -- we're going to do what we want to do. Not just me but the people there too.
Sure, there's a cost to doing what you want to do. I have gotten plenty of ribbing that we're making a TURN-BASED fantasy strategy game instead of making it an RTS. But I want to make a turn-based fantasy strategy game. It won't sell as well as an RTS would but so what? What good is more money if you can't do what you want to do?
I've 36. I've got a beautiful wife. 3 wonderful children. Plus I've got the toys. The Porsche 911 Turbo, the boat, the lake cottage, the big house, etc. And I get to work every day with people who I really like. Not just professionally but on a personal level.
Every day at Stardock is FUN. Even during crunch-time it's FUN. And why is it fun? Because every day we do what we want to do.
And part of doing what you want to do is being able to show some obnoxious customer the door or not hiding the fact that you're an expert in some area when discussing a topic on some web forum.
One last example from Neowin:No matter how much money Stardock has given Neowin, no matter how much better services Neowin has been able to provide it's members as a result of this (which I highly respect Stardock for leaving NEowin virtually untouched, don't get me wrong), it will never, ever, justify an Admin acting with a "better than thou" or a "know it all" attitude towards its members.
Lest you think that their interpretations are wrong I'll say it myself. Yes, I do know better than most people on the topics I participate in. The typical loud mouth posting on a web forum is a cretin. And I am willing to say, on the record, that yes, I do know more. On Neowin, when i get into debates on OS technology or whatever then yea, I do know what I'm talking about and most of the time, the person ranting is a bloody loon. And yes, as an admin and owner I will act with a "better than thou" attitude if I want simply on the principle that I'm going to do what I want to do. Any user who thinks that the forum postings of any individual, even a CEO, are going to have a noticeable effect on sales or traffic has no idea what they're talking about. I've been running on-line communities since I was a teenager (20 years now), so I think I can be a "know it all" on that factoid.
But at the end of the day, it doesn't matter whether I'm justified or not because I'm going to do what I want to do. And so far, it's worked out pretty well for both me, my family, my coworkers, and our customers.
Brad, taking resumes?