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Brad's life philosophy, for what it's worth

By on May 14, 2008 10:14:05 PM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums

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.

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.

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.

Now, users on our sites who read my posts know how I "treat" people.  It's not that I treat people badly. I very much agree with the view that we should treat people with respect even if we disagree with their views.

What I don't subscribe to is 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.  

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'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'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.

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 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.

+79 Karma | 61 Replies
May 15, 2008 1:07:40 AM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

No one has commented on this article. Be the first!


Why do you insist on not fitting into other people's ideas of what a CEO should be?  I mean Hey!  If people play YOUR game, shouldn't you play their "game"?  Pfft.  Hell no.  Good on ya.


May 15, 2008 1:47:51 AM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums
That's it, I'm sold. When I finish my CS degree, I'm sending you my resume.
May 15, 2008 2:05:11 AM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums
But I want to make a turn-based fantasy strategy game.

And I for one am very grateful.
May 15, 2008 3:35:13 AM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums
For the record, Brad, you come across as an arrogant ass every now and then in the posts I've read here, particularly when you are irritated about user complaints, and really particularly when users are complaining loudly about rather minor issues. No offense meant - I think this is a GOOD thing.

I for one think it's stupid to expect this won't happen. People without passion (i.e., those who act "professionally") aren't even human anymore. Humans get angry, take things personally, yell back, and sometimes just say "f*** you, you're an idiot."

I have been on both sides. I've been the know-it-all who knew nothing and clung to my idiocy just because I was an arrogant moron. And I've been the guy who really did know it all - getting frustrated with the other guy who's clinging to his idiocy, and eventually humiliating him just because it felt good to show everybody else how wrong I was.

I don't think everybody should act out every single thing they're feeling, but what kind of life would it be to never interact with others on a human level just because you're well-known? Screw that.

Seeing a real person behind Stardock is absolutely wonderful. Let the whiners whine - I think there are a lot more people who appreciate the "unprofessional" attitude you carry with you.
May 15, 2008 3:45:31 AM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums
I also should say, I consider honesty to be very important, and acting "professionally" is rarely very honest. When people treat each other courteously solely because it's expected, I despise it. It means nothing to be respected by somebody who never once has even shown the capacity for disrespect.

Fake diplomacy just gets under my skin. My personality pisses people off at times because of this. Tact is good to a point - tell people the truth, but don't be a jerk about it. But it's absurd to be walking on eggshells just in case somebody somewhere may take some amount of possible offense at what you say maybe.
May 15, 2008 3:51:13 AM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums
I have never been offended by you, Brad.

I applaud you!

You stick to your beliefs, thick or thin.
You do what you know is right! - And to hell be damned to those that think you should cater to anyone and everyone in the name of the Almighty BUCK!!!

You make great products, and you and your team support them better than any other company out there.

Keep doing what you do best.
And keep saying as you see fit.
May 15, 2008 3:57:23 AM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums
Well said! I bet most people here would love to be in your position and be able to produce the games that you want to play, not the games that the "console generation" seem to buy by the bucket load. I play games for fun and relaxation and so enjoy turn-based, RTS simply don't appeal (no, not even SINS even though I did buy it).

As to the "appearance of arrogance": I'm a fellow IT professional and I know that I've grown steadily less tolerant of so-called "IT experts" who think that because they own a PC at home and "program Facebook", they are qualified to question my 20 years of professional expertise. My replies have been getting shorter and more to the point to where I know that I'm verging on rudeness, but sometimes you just get sick of explaining the obvious over and over. I can only sympathise with you having to deal with an entire WWW load of those people rather than just one companies worth!
May 15, 2008 4:04:55 AM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums
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.

Dude, teach me.
May 15, 2008 4:17:04 AM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums
I'd give you a standing ovation, but no one would see it

I have to give you credit for stating your beliefs and not apologizing for them.

I also like the fact that you realize some customers need to be shown the door. I have been in some form of customer service for most of my adult life, and frankly, some 'customers' shouldn't be allowed to interact with other human beings (I'm exaggerating a bit). For example those 'Customers' whose cable goes out for literally two minutes and would want a free MONTH of service...or those who can't understand that they may have to wait for a DSL order to be filled because the special rate flooded the company with orders...or those who don't understand why a service truck is not coming to their house, even though it's 9pm and dark...and these customers clog up support lines with endless 'supervisor/manager' requests while reasonable people with reasonable requests can't get helped.

I could go on about your other points too, but the bottom line is I loved the post and wish you all the best!
May 15, 2008 4:22:37 AM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums
When I finish my CS degree, I'm sending you my resume.

I keep mentioning that they should hire me to translate all their programs and documentation into Spanish, too . . .
May 15, 2008 4:59:15 AM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums
For example those 'Customers' whose cable goes out for literally two minutes and would want a free MONTH of service...

Funny you should mention that.

I recently requested a refund from COX, because of my services being interrupted so often in the past month.

I did not specify a refund amount, but I did expect something.

They gave me about a $20 refund, for services that have been going in and out for the past month.
Sometimes for several hours at a time, several times a week.

I was happy enough with that. But, their service continues to be sporadic
Updates, they say.

I like Stardock's services much better than COX.
At least I can get a straight answer.

May 15, 2008 6:54:25 AM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums
I really like your honesty and "near to community" Brad, there are allways people complaining about something, especially about "Leadership" but you can't complain about beeing honest in my opinion

I think the question is, what community you want to have on Stardock, and by saying what you really think, the people that really like what you do/say will stay.

I hate guys beeing friendly just for making profit, and thats what's different here.

Doing a game you want to do is not allways the most profitable way, but you recognize, if the developers of a Game love their game or not, and in Case of GalCiv I recognized much love in detail, thats why it made me a huge Fan of it. You must know I'm not an excessive Player, but Galciv is something that attracted and positively influenced me my last years.

Keep on like this Brad!


May 15, 2008 7:53:20 AM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums
Dang you, draginol, dang you... for not replying to this topic and thus making me unable to give you Karma for a post that really does deserve some.

May 15, 2008 8:15:10 AM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums
I suspect that a CEO *has* to be an arrogant ass now and then.
May 15, 2008 9:07:37 AM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums
I very much enjoy like the fact that here we get straight, honest responses from the CEO. Seeing discourse on these issues, even if it's with the typical hyperbole of forums, makes me feel more connected with the products. It's refreshing not to receive misleading distilled information from fear motivated spin doctoring PR people, if we receive anything at all in other places.

I'm lucky to be an engineer working in a company owned and run by an engineer. The environment is vastly better than being driven by stockholders who don't understand the product. Getting straightforward, sane, and honest responses, even when we severely disagree or it's rough around the edges builds more respect, loyalty, and happiness at work than those trying to be everything to everyone.

When a customer costs us more money than they're worth in either time (i.e. opportunity) or money, we send them away. After all, we're here to make money, not electronics components. The customer is only right if he doesn't prevent you from being profitable.
May 15, 2008 9:36:16 AM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums
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.


This was great, and oh so true. Brad, I like your products. Please keep making them.

And for the record, I like turn based fantasy games. I STILL, after all these years, have Master of Magic installed and working on my Windows XP machine. I still play it, crappy VGA graphics and all, because it's a great game. When my children grow up, I expect we'll still be playing GalCiv-2 (-3 someday) as well.

- Kirk Simmons

May 15, 2008 10:40:02 AM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums

Way to go Brad!! Do it your way and if "they" don't like it....well that's "their" problem and they can go back to where they came from and take their high horse with them.

You own the company, you run it how you damn well please and last time i looked you happen to live in a free country...Besides which....seems to me your doing a damn fine job!!

Great to know that your not going to change your ways to conform to what others feel is the "right" way to behave.

Perhaps those who criticize you should hold their comments off till they own their own multi-million dollar software company and still find the time to hang out on forums with their customers......

May 15, 2008 10:49:43 AM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums
First, I've never been to, never heard of it in fact.

I do tend to find that a lot of CEOs have a big ego. Though if the CEO built up the company from nothing to a multi-million dollar business, can you blame them?

The part that gets frustrating about that is when they grow, they change. You start out with 1 $50 customer, and that custom is important. Then you have 100, 1,000, and now millions of $50 customers.

CEOs tend to at that point care less about each customer and more about the bigger pictures. Of course, this usually is whats expected of them.

Pick a random game company, or software company - Its the norm.

I will say that Stardock has been very interesting.

You adapted to the age of the internet, where blogging is normal, and communicating with customers on a personal level is just as normal.

Other companies have "community managers" that handle that aspect, because they don't yet know how to integrate it into their company culture.

You see this with EA and BioWare.

EA isn't involved with its community. BioWare is.
Though the "Sims" division of EA is somewhat involved, its still through dedicated "community" people though who are not as attached to the products.

When EA purchased BioWare, the community (good and bad) came with it.
The recent DRM fiasco showed a bit of the community interaction there.

What I'm seeing is Stardock has more of its staff in general involved. Not "community managers", but from the CEO to the individual programmers and QA. The culture of the company is interaction.

When Sins and IronClad came out I was also curious to watch this interaction take place with the IC people. Publishers usually don't want developers talking to people. Publishers like full control of it.

IC has been getting more involved in the community, but I imagine its been a bit of a shock for them to adapt to how you do things.

Now we have Demigod, and GPG. I'm curious how GPG will handle the additional freedom that SD allows.

I believe it made Sins a better game, and hopefully Demigod as a result of that increased interaction.

You don't act like people are accustomed to a CEO acting. However, I believe your acting more like we all want a CEO to act.

We have a question - You answer the question. Good or bad, you answer it.
You don't hold our hands and tell us what you think we want to hear - You tell us what your thinking, and what your going to do. Its more honest.

People will whine, its human nature. Especially on an anonymous medium like the internet.
I think the majority appreciate your honesty, and as a result the honesty of your company as a whole.
May 15, 2008 11:45:58 AM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums
I for one completely agree with Draginol's behaviour. That is indeed how a CEO should act, not how he shouldn't. I detest the current business practice of lies and treachery, which seems to pervade the world. I'd much prefer if people actually did as they thought and didn't lie about whatever happens in their company, to the constant bullshitting that is the norm. If people don't buy from you because of that, that's only good, because that means they won't regret the purchase anyway. If they did buy from you under false pretenses, then they'd be bitter about it regardless. Your style of handling a business is what I strive for, to do what you want regardless of what brings the most cash in. After all, what good is money if you can't fulfill your dreams?
May 15, 2008 12:28:25 PM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums
Brad I about ten years ago I was in a job that gave me over 20 dollars an hour but it was rotating shift work I enjoyed the work but it was slowly killing me.I am now an artist which does not make near the amount of money I once did but I now do what I love and I paint what and how I want Not what others want me to paint and I am perfectly happy !!Follow yo9ur dreams you will be happier and healthier
May 15, 2008 1:24:06 PM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums

I don`t get it,... how is it so arrogant to say

I am whom ever I said I am,.. I am the way I said I am

most people can not be taken at Face value

May 15, 2008 1:51:36 PM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums
Hello Brad,
You know what? People who think you're unprofessional can go screw themselves. I play your games and before you made this post I didn't really know that part of the backstory to Stardock but there is one point I think people who expect you to act like a "CEO" are missing. You obviously are a real person and you don't let a fancy title get in the way of that. I'd rather be pissed at a comment you've genuinely made than have a hundred platitudes shoved down my throat like so much proverbial shiat by a "real" CEO anyday. You get it and people complain about you because they don't get it yet. Stardock reputation points +10 with your post.

Now to go convince more people to buy TotA so we can get more patches...
May 15, 2008 1:56:29 PM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums
Good thing you don't allow the rantings of a few cretins to bother you ????

At what point do you cease being the owner of a company and start being it's CEO?
May 15, 2008 2:43:22 PM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums
Well, you can come across as aggressive. But every time you do you seem to justify it so whatever.

Honestly I have known many worse people then you in power over forums and such.

Your not a bad guy, your just not subtle.
May 15, 2008 3:11:20 PM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums
A CEO is a target the second he/she walks out the office door, your attitude is "the glass is half full". Too many people believe "the glass is half empty", and will continually refer to and speak about anything from the negative standpoint. The end result is they have a negative character. Life is a mirror, they end up being a negative downbeat person.

The latter dont achieve, will never get what they dream of, they believe there is always something or someone else who has stopped them - "not my fault" "didnt have time" "yeah well he's a lucky guy, never happens to me" etc etc. There is always reasons why something didnt happen, excuses for this that and the other, and thats virtually all that comes out their mouth - moaning and excuses. They end up lashing out at those who do achieve and are prepared to work at it to get what they want.

People only succeed when they get it into their head that success only follows multiple failures, learning from them, and moving on. Those that cant get past that will always trip up (except it will never be their fault "its because ...... ".

Being a Business Owner is the loneliest job in the world, because all you usually see are the negative Posts and Comments - people who are happy, dont usually say so, they see no point. Its easy therefore to get doubt creeping in the mind. Its remarkable that in the 24hrs since you posted not one negative comment of any significance has been posted. That in itself speaks volumes, so keep the faith - doubt destroys Companies, confidence and drive builds them.

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