Companies have DNA, just like people.

One funny part of seeing a company grow over a number of years is the things that stick vs. the things that slip away.

In Crystal’s case, I look at some of the good and bad things that have stuck:

  • Bi-weekly Voice of the Customer reports.
  • Team-specific Trello boards.
  • Photoshopped versions of various team members’ faces on chili peppers.
  • Bias towards remote communication.
  • Lack of routine employee feedback.
  • Detailed monthly investor updates.
  • Scope creep.
  • Vigorous debate with a high level of interpersonal trust.
  • The Mint Game (don’t ask how, but the :mint: Slack emoji has become a valuable virtual currency in our company).

Of all the “initiatives” we start, probably 25% of them actually take hold. That seems to be part of a startup, but it’s so hard to pin down why they do.

Regardless of how it happens, these little habits, cultural quirks, and micro-processes form your company’s DNA. And much like how your own DNA is the blueprint for every cell in your body, your company’s DNA is the blueprint for its future.

Founders have more influence on their company DNA than anyone, and that’s terrifying at times.

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Meet the Consequence Model. It’s a chart that shows how you end up making the most important decisions for your company when you have the least amount of information.

In the earliest days of a project, it’s so easy to ignore the process in favor of the product. But when you do that, you risk creating unhealthy strains of company DNA that will be impossible to rip out later, when they’ve had years to take root and metastasize.

It’s much easier said than done. But if you can catch those things in yourself early – the off-handed remark, the little corner cut, the awkward conversation ignored – you can guard your company against your worst impulses in its infancy – the most vulnerable time.

DNA is resilient. Use that to your advantage.

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