Brad Wardell's views about technology, politics, religion, world affairs, and all sorts of politically incorrect topics.
Published on February 8, 2012 By Draginol In Business

I get asked this a lot. And the answer I gave most recently was “About a third smaller than it is today.”

As a statistical nut, I made a pie chart of what I spend my day doing. It was depressing.

Most of my work day is spent doing business stuff.  And the more “successful” (and I use that term with some derision these days) the worse it gets. 

Every week I can count on an hour of legal review. What kind of legal landmines do we need to watch out for now? If you’re a business, lawsuits are a constant threat. To be clear, I should say if you’re an American business since I like to pretend that other countries don’t have ridiculous, out of control, IP laws.

Then there’s accounting. Oh, is there. When there’s tens of millions of dollars going in and out a year, you have to be particularly careful that there isn’t (there is) massive waste going on. As a start-up, I used to track every penny because that’s all we had – pennies.  That’s impossible now and that’s where you learn, after the fact, that we spent $20k on some pointless crap or waste $10k a year on aborted business trips can add up.  A larger company would have a dedicated CFO. But we’re not large enough to justify that. And it turns out I’m a remarkably good bean counter.

Then there’s the interpersonal stuff.  This is, by far, my least favorite part. It’s worse than lawsuits, lawyers, accountants, or even insurance compliance. People. They’re complicated. And it’s never ending.  I like people, individually. But you get enough of them together and they’ll form cliques and from vapor will come interoffice politics.

The interpersonal stuff ultimate leads to some percentage of people loathing everything the management team does because, to them, it seems stupid. When running a business or writing code, often your choices are picking amongst the least stupid option. It’s still stupid, it’s just less stupid than the alternative. But to someone who’s not familiar or experienced with such a situation, all they see is that “the boss” (or their manager) is some sort of idiot.

For these reasons, I definitely don’t dream of having a large company. A small, well run, fun company is much more desirable. 

Luckily, Stardock is a pretty fun place to work. We have a good time and make great stuff.  But it would be easier to keep it that way if it were a bit smaller.  We’re not laying anyone off or anything like that.  We tend to take the long-view approach (next year will be the 20th year since we incorporated). A few small super-teams can do amazing things – without the headaches.


Comments (Page 1)
on Feb 08, 2012

 My thoughts?

Big enough to serve your customers. Small enough to still care about them.

on Feb 08, 2012

Wizard1956
 My thoughts?

Big enough to serve your customers. Small enough to still care about them.

 

Well said! Agreed.

on Feb 08, 2012

You and your employees have to enjoy what you are doing and to be able to see the future improvements you can make.  I would think that 'big' would get in the way of that. 

on Feb 08, 2012

Totally agree.

on Feb 08, 2012

All the above!

on Feb 08, 2012

I grew with a company for years but the bigger it got the worse it got. A soon as some American company bought out the owners it was a nightmare. Went from a person to a number overnight. They sold all the assets to improve stock price and worked people like slaves till they quit or had a breakdown. Then they closed up shop to do it in all in China. Started with 50 and up to almost 500 then down to 0. Oh I luvs success.

That company made gobs of money. First order of business for the new owners was to take down the monthly profit charts.

Edit:

Wizard1956
 My thoughts?

Big enough to serve your customers. Small enough to still care about them.

Great comment but I would also add "and your employees." we are not a number.

on Feb 08, 2012

 

We tend to take the long-view approach (next year will be the 20th year since we incorporated).[/quote]

Looks like that'll be the year I get over there again.  Was going to be this year but family medical issues got in the way.

 

 

[quote who="myfist0" reply="6" id="3078649"]we are not a number.

Yes we are....mine's '23' .....

EDit...

For the sake of being tidy...I'll add here and delete the superfluous.

Yes, the quotes do screw up if one is from the OP and another is from the replies.

Thanks, myfist0 for having a go too....

[just another bug for the wish-list of squashes]...

on Feb 09, 2012

So how big do you want Stardock to get?

 

Big enough to get the Important stuff done.

Small enough for You to get the important stuff done. 

on Feb 09, 2012

I'm a firm believer of Be All You Can Be.  I say let Stardock reach the Stars.     

on Feb 10, 2012

So, you'll need to become less successful so you have less crap to worry about?

If you don't enjoy your job (which has sounded increasingly like that's the case), what about handing off the not-fun parts to others? I think of the success of Minecraft as an example. Notch hired a business manager simply so he didn't have to deal with the non-fun side of things. That sounds simple (and it's not), but conceptually that might help.

I think it's awesome the CEO of Stardock codes AI, but I also wonder how much business stuff gets done or how the AI progress is hampered by pulling dual roles. Certainly requiring less sleep, being a brilliant guy, and having an entrepreneurial spirit go a long way, but Stardock's a lot bigger now than it used to be.

Good luck trying to find the difficult balance between work you enjoy and work you're stuck with! Not an easy task.

on Feb 10, 2012

People can love something and bitch about it too.  I bitch about my girlfriend being crazy from time to time, but I love her dearly.  I'm sure Brad loves his job, but there are just some things about it that are annoying.  

 

Also, Brad being an alien life-form from a race of hive-minded bee-people, requires less than half the normal amount of sleep than a human.  And its the AI stuff that he enjoys.  Sure he could hire a CFO to do the number crunching, but the cost of salary+benefits probably wouldn't be a good trade for a small company.  

on Feb 10, 2012

As good as you are as a CEO, the best thing to do is lock yourself in your office and only program the AI for FE. It is the only rational choice. 

on Feb 10, 2012

You said bye bye to Impulse. What was the point of it to begin with? Wasn't it obvious that it would grow a lot if you did good things with it?  Wouldn't it have been better to stick to Stardock games and those published by Stardock? If you don't really want to grow, it doesn't make sense to take on something as Impulse. But hey, hindsight for the win. Now we are back to a new Stardock application to download its applications/games. As long as DRM is not present, I don't really care which platform is used (except platforms like Steam).

You have, apparently, said bye bye to publish other companies. At least, beyond the lastest expansion for SoaSE, I haven't read anything about Stardock as publisher (SoaDA is not under Stardock's wings). But it may mean nothing. In any case, not being publisher for other companies is less work for you. *remembers Demigod release*

Is there a second game studio? I read that JS is not on FE but on a second unnanounced project. Having a second one shouldn't be as demanding as controlling Impulse or being publisher for others but depends on stuff of how often you want to release new (different) games, the future of the windows customization market and stuff like that. If I had to choose between GalCivIII and a BG like RPG, I would choose you to have two teams to develop both at the same time (or similar time frames).

Also, some Frogboy clones could help. I understand the benefits of trying to control everything but... yeah, obviously the more the company grows, the more you need to "Imbue Champions" or else you need to cut parts off. 

on Feb 10, 2012

Nice.

on Feb 10, 2012

...but brad, don't you want to give world domination a try?

 

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