Mistake 1: Not outlining the guild's rules and policies in writing.
When officers write to me about drama in their guild, so many times it's the result of unclear rules and policies. Just last week we saw the case of a weekend-focused guild that had no official policy on weekday activities. The problem erupted into a major argument between guild members. If the guild leader had thought about this issue ahead of time and written down a policy about it, the entire affair would have been a nonissue.
Don't underestimate the power of the written word. Practically every sovereign nation on Earth has its constitution and its laws. They are written down so no one can question what they say, and most matters can be settled in a civil manner. The same principles apply to guilds.
Writing this document can be tedious, it's true. Your officers may think that setting down a bunch of rules in writing is lame and unnecessary. Your members may never read your policies. However, in the long run, you will avoid a lot of arguing if you write it up and post it on your website where everyone can refer to it.
No one can claim to be blindsided with an unexpected rule when the rules are available to everyone. No one can accuse you of changing the policies to pander to your officers if the policies have been public since the guild was founded. No one can tell you that the guild "wasn't what they thought it was" when you put down in words exactly what the guild is.
I can't state strongly enough how important it is to do this. The bonus is that you can use the document as a marketing tool to attract players to your community with your unique take on the guild's philosophy, goals, and methods.
Mistake 2: Failing to assign officer roles.
So you've got a few close friends to help you get this guild off the ground. Assigning roles seems silly at this point. Everyone needs to chip in as much time and effort as they can across the board, right? Well, that may be true, but you're setting a terrible precedent that will cause problems now and in the future.
In the short term, you'll have problems with multiple officers going about the same role in different ways. One officer might be targeting hardcore raiders to recruit while another one is looking for players who are curious about raiding but have never tried it before. (Your written policies can also prevent such misunderstandings.)
Or, you'll run into the problem where everyone assumes that someone else is going to take care of something important -- such as choosing and implementing a loot system -- and then no one does it. The task then falls to the guild leader to handle at the last moment, or it doesn't get done at all.
In the long term, what winds up happening when no one has a specific role is that this attitude of "someone else will handle it" becomes the presiding notion. All of the duties will eventually fall to the one or two most dedicated officers, and everyone else in the leadership will coast along without contributing much.
It's much better to assign (or let your officers choose) roles from the very beginning. That way, every base will be covered. If it's not, you'll know who to blame, which is an early indicator that you may eventually need to replace that officer. Also, no single person will have to shoulder the vast majority of the work.
Required roles will vary based on the type of guild you're leading, but the most commonly needed roles are recruiter, raid leader/PVP organizer, banker, and loot master. You may also want a communications officer who is in charge of the guild's web presence and voice chat. Smaller guilds can combine roles among officers. The important thing is to make sure every necessary task has an officer assigned to it.
Doing so can also help you to figure out how many officers the guild actually needs. No one should ever be an officer if they don't actually have a role to play in the operation of the guild.
Mistake 3: Inviting everyone.
In the early going, recruiting players is particularly difficult. It's tempting to invite every willing player just to get your feet off the ground and start running group content as a guild.
Certainly it seems like a bit much to ask someone to fill out an application for a guild that's only a few weeks or a few months old. Do it anyway.
The application process is important for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it eliminates the lazy and capricious. Anyone who claims that taking ten minutes to answer a few questions on a website is a huge hassle is someone you don't want on your roster. Players who understand what being in a guild means will never balk at filling out an application before they are offered a guild invite.
Secondly, the application will reveal crucial information about who you're inviting to your roster. You can often uncover significant insights about a person based on what guilds they've been in and what sort of WoW experience they've had. Basic facts such as age and occupation can tell you a lot, too -- just don't prejudge!
Knowing a player's guild history also gives you the option to ask former guild leaders about him or her. They'll know better than most about whether inviting that player is a good idea.
Third, the application allows all of the guild's members to get to know the new players a bit better. Encourage your members to read and comment (privately) on your applicants. They may have encountered that person before and have some thoughts about him or her. Or they may spot some questionable claims that don't add up. In the process, they'll learn about the person. If and when you invite that player into the guild, they won't seem like such a complete stranger.
Even by taking these precautions, you can still wind up with a player who does more harm to your guild than good (so just imagine the possibilities when you invite without an app). Part of your written rules and policies should always include what behavior earns players a gkick, so you can fairly and efficiently remove problem players from your roster.
Don't put up with jerks just because you're a brand new guild. A single jerk will drive away other recruits and ultimately cost you more players than if you had just kicked that one person.
Taking these steps may be a daunting process. However, the guilds that survive are -- more often than not -- the ones who do things the right way from the very beginning.
Recently, Officers' Quarters has examined how strong new leadership can create a guild turnaround, the pitfalls of promising more than you can deliver, and lessons learned from Scott's own guild demise. Send your own guild-related questions and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.