So Now You're An EVE Online CEO (You Poor Fool)
Most good corporations in EVE are either carefully cultivated, or stolen from a larger corporation. Either build a start-up brick by brick, and claw your way to success, or calve off from a larger corporation as some sort of social mitosis.
It's a lot of hard work being in charge. Anything that happens to your corporation, good or ill, is your fault. The choices you make as CEO will affect your members' ability to succeed and enjoy themselves in EVE Online. The alliances you make, the plans you enact, the members you recruit -- all of these things melt together into an alloy of high-tensile responsibility.
"Oh no, Space Junkie," I can hear you saying, "corporations don't need to be run like they are jobs. My friends and I can run missions in our corporation just fine, and we even form a PVP fleet of assault frigates, once a week."
Yeah, I get that. So let me qualify my assertion: If you want your corporation to have any kind of serious revenue, if you want it to attract talented members, or if you want any kind of PVP force projection, you need to take your corporation seriously.
Why Start A Corporation
Most players in EVE Online that start a corporation do so on a whim, or with faint dreams of pulling in some tax income from gullible recruits. Many lack established EVE friends that are willing to join the corporation, or a concrete plan for the corp to follow.
Don't make those mistakes. Have an idea what you want to do, a definite plan for how your corporation can achieve it, and bring your players into the loop so they feel like they have a stake in the success of your corporation.
Knowing Your Audience
When EVE players are looking for a corporation, there are a few things that they are almost certainly be checking, no matter how unschooled in the ways of EVE. When making your corporation, be sure to evaluate what you want to offer. One corporation can't do everything, nor be all things to all people.
The kind of corporation is the most important. Players that want to mine asteroids aren't going to be interested in joining a pirate corp, or vice-versa. Advanced PVPers will quite probably be less interested in joining a corporation that accepts newbie PVPers, and will certainly lose interest if their CEO seems ignorant of PVPing. The way to alleviate this is to know your audience, and you not bite off more than you can chew when you're recruiting.
The number of players already in your corporation is an unfortunate but major consideration, as well. After joining a couple corporations run by idiots and stuffed with inactive jerks, most players get pretty weary of start-ups. This makes it extra hard for small corporations to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. You can alleviate this by showing potential players that you have your act together, and that you have the trappings of success. This includes being able to show them things like an active killboard, out of game forums, a teamspeak or ventrilo server, and useful information to help acclimate them to your corporation.
The corp tax is the other big thing. Corporation tax income tends to be fairly minor, and heavy mission runners won't run their missions in a player corporation with a high tax, because they can easily create their own corp, set the tax to 0%, and not have you tap into their profits. Anything above 10% is right out, as the NPC corporations have a default tax of 11%. Your best bet is something around 5-8%, which will bring in a little extra cash, but the players won't mind too much. Note that some corporations charge higher than 11%, but offer ship reimbursement programs in order to compensate. If you think you can make that profit model work for you, go for it.
What Corporation Members Want
Members want their corporation to be active. Members want to know that their CEO and directors are doing a good job. Members want to feel like they're getting more back from their corporation than they are putting in. Members want to feel pride about their corporation and its accomplishments. Members want helping the corporation out to be incentivized and as easy as possible. Members want to constantly be updated on what their corporation is doing and how they can help.
Nobody wants to join a corporation that loses battles over and over, with the CEO making excuses for himself. Nobody wants to join a corporation that changes its location every three weeks. Nobody wants to join a corporation that can't afford to pay its bills, or needs to ask for donations just to keep running. Nobody wants to listen to a CEO whose plans never come to fruition, or who keeps promising things that he can't deliver. Nobody wants to join a corporation that is going to move to null-sec "soon." Nobody wants to hear their CEO whining. Nobody wants a CEO that orders them around like servants or dresses them down. Nobody wants to be the last man to leave a sinking ship.
The Two Tools Of Success
The most important skill for a CEO is personal charisma. If you can consistently appeal to and engage with the members of your corporation, everything else tends to fall into place.
Unfortunately, charisma is a talent that reading a guide can't really teach you. Assuming that you aren't completely unlikable, there are a few ways to polish your presentability in order to better interact with your members.
Use a high quality microphone when speaking to them with voice communications. Take the time to proof-read corp-mails, or forum posts that are meant to be read by your members. The better your ability to communicate, the more likely it is that your members will follow orders.
Second to charisma, the most important skill is delegation. Once a corporation has more than about thirty members, the CEO can't do everything. You can't lead ops every week, you can't brief new recruits on what you are doing, and you can't micromanage your members. So pick some of your more trusty friends, and make them directors. CEOs tend to be very busy, so anything that you can delegate to another person, should be, unless you can do it better and it is absolutely essential.
EVE Online is chock full of corporations and alliances led by a single person that tries to do everything. The members get so used to that person doing everything, that when he stops, even briefly, the corporation grinds to a halt. Don't be that guy. Trust your EVE friends to do the duties that you assign to them, and your corporation will prosper. That, or you should find new friends.
Corporations that live in high-security space and are happy there tend to be based around declaring war, de facto PVE social clubs, or business co-ops. All of these are pretty laid back, and the corporation exists mainly for social or game mechanic reasons.
For a corporation hoping to move out of high-security space, it is important to have a clear goal in mind, and to list goalposts to work towards in order to make that happen. Common goals include living in wormhole space, though this is becoming less popular because the financial incentives are not quite lucrative enough. The main goal for most well-rounded corporations is to move to null-sec.
Living in low-sec space is very rarely a goal shared by an entire corporation, because the rewards are so few. Properly, it should be regarded as a stepping stone to NPC null-sec like Curse or Venal. From an NPC-own null-sec jump-off spot, a corporation can set up a local market, run fleet operations and, if possible, occupy local moons.
Once in a null-sec environment, you can see what your members are made of, and acclimate them to living outside of high-security space. Get used to working together in PVP. EVE Online doesn't really encourage raiding the same way that some other MMOs do, but if you lead your corporation on group operations over and over again, you will collectively sharpen your skills, learn the local territory, and start looking for alliances that will take you in, or other corporations that might want to form an alliance with you.
Once a corporation controls a station in null-sec, it's all gravy. Being a CEO becomes more about playing politician with other null-sec leaders, and budgeting to improve space, than it does about day to day corp leadership.
A Not So Final Note
As I wrote this, I realized that I could probably fill an entire book about running a corporation. Or, at least, how not to run a corporation. There are endless ways to leverage shared resources and human labor to profit an entire organization. Thus, this will surely not be the last article that I write on this subject. I'll leave revenue streams and a more detailed look at moving to null-sec for another day. Good luck with your corporation, and I hope this has provided some insight into your CEO, even if you don't want the job, yourself.