I was speaking with Jessabelle last week about why I haven’t started my own guild. She wasn’t the first person to ask, or the fifth. And it’s something that I struggled with quite a bit over the years. I always knew why I didn’t want to do it, but recently I learned some interesting vocabulary that helps define the territory. It comes from a fantastic book on small business called The E-Myth, by Michael Gerber.
We all believe that small businesses are started by entrepreneurs. Well, it turns out that this isn’t true; not for the vast majority of businesses. Usually, the person who starts a business is a technical expert of some kind – a programmer, baker, seamstress, accountant, you name it – who experiences what Gerber calls an “entrepreneurial seizure.” One day you wake up frustrated with your job, with your boss, with your lack of success, and decide to strike out on your own. This fit of urgency is irresistibly logical, full of emotional intensity, and holds the promise of an incredible future. Freedom and success are right around the corner!
The problem is that technicians aren’t business people. They start their business, then realize that they don’t have any idea what they’re doing! They’re top-notch bakers/accountants/programmers, but don’t know the first thing about marketing, management, bookkeeping, or any of the other skills you need to have to be a successful businessperson. In short order, their lack of business skills turns a venture that was intended to be the key to their freedom into a ball and chain.
Great technicians do not automatically make great business people. They can of course become great business people, but they rarely start out as such. And more to the point, the desire to start a business does not mean that one has any idea what one is doing. You’re just a fantastic baker in the midst of a seizure, that’s all.
Did you start your guild in this way? Were you an excellent raider, stymied in progression, unsatisfied with the social environment, or otherwise looking for more than your guild was providing? Did you decide you could do it better on your own? Did you partner with another good friend and excellent raider to share the burden that you somehow knew you didn’t want to bear alone?
You brought your friends in. You recruited. You proved your worth. You built a name or yourself and your guild.
And then the management questions came up; issues that had nothing to do with building a synergistic raid composition, or your max-dps rotation. Issue like loot allocation. Officer promotions. Inter-personal tension. Guild bank management. How hard to push people, when to back off. Paying attention to individual and group morale, with all its subtle manifestations.
What about cliques? Did you see them form? Did you let them happen, or intervene to ensure they never got too solidified? Or did you just hope for the best, staying hands-off because, well, you just aren’t in this to get enmeshed in personal problems?
How did you handle ensuring you had a large enough roster, but not too large? How & when to bench people? If you’re a 25-man guild, how do arrange 10-man groups? Do you rotate in those who don’t fit into the neat 10-man packages?
None of this has anything to do with being a great raider. You can know everything about your class – heck, you can know everything about all the classes – and still fail at people. I don’t mean to make it sound tragic or anything. It’s just a completely different skill set from whatever it is that makes you a great player.
Management comes naturally to some. Most of us struggle with it. And most people who start guilds aren’t interested in management, don’t want to deal with the challenges it brings. They want to have fun. They want to raid. But they don’t want to pay the price for “owning their own business.”
This has nothing to do with the casual/hardcore spectrum. Every guild, no matter how casual, is a collection of people. And if your guild is to succeed, by any normal definition, it must satisfy the people in the guild. Obviously, the guild must meets its goals (amount of progression, for instance), but it must also find ways to navigate the people-issues I raised above. If you progress but don’t bring your people with you, your guild will never thrive, which means it will never reach its potential. If it were a business, it might make money, but it would never be successful.
Is your guild a success? Not just in terms of the number of bosses downed, but as a guild? Are your guild leaders more than raid leaders, but people managers? Do they inspire greatness in those around them? Do they create an environment of team spirit, of positivity, even when the going is tough? Do they appropriately reward greatness and punish failure along the lines that you would expect, given the nature of your guild? Do you feel completely essential to your guild’s success, its character, its growth?
Do you love your guild?