At Capstone, we talk a lot about “company DNA”. It’s a big focus when we are at the early strategic stage with a new client. At the outset, we encourage them to ask themselves, “What’s our DNA?”
The company DNA cannot be read off a nicely worded mission statement hanging in your reception area. It is most vividly expressed by what actually happens, day by day, inside those four walls.
As in the human body, your DNA is the aspect of the company that is very, very unlikely to change. IT systems can be replaced. Financials rise and fall. Employees come and go. Procedures get rewritten, product lines are added or removed, marketing strategies get turned upside down. All these are important, but transient, realities of business life. However, there is something about your company that remains stubbornly the same throughout the vicissitudes of the business environment. We’re talking about the underlying character of your firm, in the sense one would speak of an individual’s character.
If you want to know your company DNA, take a look at these questions:
How are decisions made? By top-down command, or collaboratively? Slowly and ruminatively, or rapidly and instinctively? How are hiring choices arrived at? Strictly on credentials and capabilities, or just as much on personality and team fit? What level of autonomy is given to departments and individuals? How focused is the company on innovation? What value is really placed on customer service? Is the firm more strategically driven, or more opportunistic and reactive? What is the attitude to pricing and discounts? How aggressively do you tend to pursue new business, new technologies, or new talent?
Knowing your company DNA will impact your growth strategy in a couple of ways. First it will help you spot which avenues of growth are most likely to fit the mold and which potential acquisition targets would make good collaborators. Secondly, it will give you useful practice in sizing up those targets themselves. Just as you need to know your own DNA, you will want to know your future partner’s.
Both of you need to take a blood test before a marriage is considered.