Few of you might know but besides a game producer I’m also a professor of Entrepreneurship and Multimedia Systems at the Computing School of FAESA college. One of the subjects I teach is Business Strategy aimed at Computing business – not at MBA level of details of course, but to give students an extra to start their business right.
So I’d like to share with you what I know about it in a series of “Your Game Company” articles, always focusing on game development companies. I’ll start by the Core Values any company should have.
To be able to live together members of social groups must accept a basic core set of values. Those values will provide the group an identity, a sense of belonging, and clear rules that will (or should) guide all activities. Common values of societies around the globe include: competition, religiosity, wealth, respect and honor.
A game company is usually a small social group, but even a tiny group of 2-3 individuals should share a core set of values in order to stick together and remain coherent. In fact, the more people share the same values, the more they are likely to succeed as a team. Hence the need to make clear for everyone, from day 1, what will be the core values of the company. If one disagrees with this very basic set, it would be better to look for another job.
Where do they come from?
From the heart of the company’s leaders. The real core values always come from people heading the group. By defining what the company’s core values are leaders should be wholeheartedly committed and faithful to them. When they do, values pervade every single aspect of the company and propagate naturally across all partners and employees. You can clearly see that on companies like id Software and Bungie.
When leaders aren’t really committed, the “value” will turn into mockery among employees. Such is the case of a company I know which “decided” eco-responsibility would be a “core value” – but kept wasting energy and water on the same old fashion.
Founders and leaders must be honest with themselves what their core values really are!
What could be core values of a game company?
Common ones would be: profitability, art, innovation, cost-leadership, meritocracy, hard work, quality, excellence, competition, cooperation, optimism, resilience, state-of-the-art technology, friendship, punctuality, ethics, creativity, fun, fairness, trust, focus on clients, accountability, integrity, hunger for learning, simplicity, market leadership, experimentation, storytelling, team work, passion, adaptable, empowering people.
How many values do I need?
5 at most, 4 would be better. A small set of values will be easier for people to live by, and you really don’t need more than 5. IBM, big as they are, only needs 3. At Interama, we picked these 4: transparency, meritocracy, market competitiveness and creativity.
What are they good for?
Core values should guide every single decision of all partners and employees, regardless of its magnitude - from big project roadmap drawings, to small, day-to-day operations on buying supplies.
Let’s say company A has a core value of “profitability”. It would draw the project roadmap based on the the profit margin (cost X value to costumers) every feature can add to the final product. Day-to-day buying would be based on how much productivity each one can add – for example, if a more expensive video card will save artists 3 minutes a day, the price difference from the cheaper option will be compared to the amount of money those daily 3 minutes worth through the lifetime of the card (2 years average).
If another company B has a value of “quality”, the approach could be different. A roadmap would be drawn aimed at a top-quality product amongst its competitors. Day-to-day buyings would be based on the quality of supplies and the quality added to products and services, even if more expensive.
Of course, a company could have both “profitability” and “quality” values. In this case, the leaders presumably believes top-quality on their market also means high profits. Decisions would be made based on either of them, or both of them if possible.