I'm going to do what I want to do
About once a month someone, somewhere, will comment on something I've written saying how "A CEO shouldn't act 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.
A long time ago I took a calculated risk: Most people would prefer a CEO that is transparent, open and tells the truth even if those truths are sometimes not what they want to hear versus the traditional CEO that seems more like a politician.
Obviously, the company's continued survival tends to imply that the fact that I look at customer / developer relationships as a partnership of equals rather than one of master / slave as some "customers" online seem to think is not too damaging.
And even if it were damaging, I would still do what I do no matter what. That is my primary motivation for having a company: To do what I want. I want to make stuff for other people. Those people are my partners. It's a coequal relationship.
My personal and professional objectives have always been the same: I want to do what I want to do.
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.
I don't subscribe to the belief that because someone buys a product that they get a license to behave terribly. A person exchanges their money for a product or service and that does not imply giving them the right to heap abuse on us or others.
Stardock isn't a public company. It's not investor run. It doesn't even have investors. It's my company. This makes it a bit unusual in the investor-driven technology industry. In the case of Stardock, it means that the company reflects my values. In particular, transparency and collaboration with others. That means I'll discuss things like legal cases or matters that people will predict will be our ruin.
Transparency is a double-edged sword. We won't tell people what they want to hear. We simply tell them what we believe is the truth -- even if that is not necessarily good news for us. Moreover, it also means we work on the things we want to do rather than what is arguably the most profitable.
Sure, there's a cost to doing what you want to do. I have gotten plenty of ribbing that we tend to prefer to make TURN-BASED fantasy strategy games instead of making action games. But I want to make a turn-based fantasy strategy game. It won't sell as well as an FPS would but so what? What good is more money if you can't do what you want to do?
I'm 36. I'm a pretty happy guy. I enjoy what I do. I enjoy hanging out with people online (most of the time). And I get to work every day with people who I really like. Not just professionally but on a personal level. So I tend to think I'm probably doing something right. But more to the point, I'm way past the point where I have to do anything I don't want to do. So I'm not inclined to put up with crap.
There is always some guy on the net who insists that THIS time, something i've said or done is going to be the end. Not a week goes by that someone doesn't insist that we're doomed because of something I've posted somewhere.
But you know what?
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. It's why we are able to attract the best and brightest. Because the best and brightest are often motivated to have the freedom to work on the things they want to do work. To do the things they want to do.
And part of doing what you want to do is being able to show some obnoxious customer the door or making clear that we don't want or need jerks using our stuff.
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.