The Concept of DNA and How it Applies to Business


In my last article I redefined the family business, highlighted some differences between family and non-family businesses, and explored some of the advantages and disadvantages of a family business. In the future, we’ll explore every imaginable facet of family business, from securing family commitment and participation to aligning vision, mission and values, from determining family job roles to exploring leadership, management, and governance.

But, before we delve into those topics, I would like to introduce The DNA Model. I created the DNA Model as a means to ensure that all of the skills and aptitudes necessary to run a successful business are present and that they are intertwined and interwoven to ensure a strong, enduring business is built. The DNA Model is the model of success for any business, family-run or not, and is at the core of all thriving profitable businesses.

The Concept of DNA and How it Applies to Business

Before we discuss The DNA Model of business, let’s take a quick trip back to high school science class. DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, is a hereditary material in humans and in just about all other organisms, including plants and animals that make us who we are. Human DNA comprises about 3 billion “bases,” 99% of which are the same in all people. The order of these bases determines our entire genetic makeup, similar to the way the order of letters, for example, makes up a word. DNA establishes our hair, skin, eye color, body type and predisposition to diseases, the aptitude or capacity to learn a skill and the limits of one’s personality traits that can be developed. Each piece of our DNA serves a vital function. Their ability to perform their separate functions yet work together is what allows our bodies to operate efficiently, effectively, and productively, now as well as from generation to generation as specific DNA is passed on.

Businesses are no different. Each business has a variety of components that are necessary for it to function marketing, sales, operations, leadership, finances, human resources, technology, systems, and processes. Each area serves an integral, vital role. If one of these systems breaks down, function is greatly compromised. The organisation no longer runs effectively, productively, or efficiently.

Human DNA can’t be changed. What you get, how you’re bases are ordered and what your makeup is, is all ultimately determined by your family genetics. You can thank your father for your superb math aptitude, but you probably shouldn’t say anything to your mother about inheriting her pear shape. Just like you, she could do nothing about it! The DNA Model of business has one distinct and very important difference from human DNA. Humans inherit their DNA. Future generations of a family business will also inherit business DNA, but initially you can determine how that DNA is structured. And if you realise that current business DNA isn’t lending itself to success, if it’s insufficient in one area or lacking in another, you can enhance it by building a dream team. In addition, to making sure you have every “base” covered, you can build a DNA structure that ensures these entities are strongly synchronised. By manipulating your organisation’s DNA, you form the structure that tells your business who it is, and how to act. This is important in any business environment, but is particularly important in the types of recent business environments we’ve encountered those that are difficult and rife with change.

Businesses that follow the DNA Model are, at their center, unshakeable and unchangeable. Regardless of what is encountered, the DNA Model gives a business direction, harmony and inspiration to those who are presently involved, as well as to future generations.

The Power of People

The building blocks that make up human DNA are called “nucleotides.” When they are strung together in a row, they make up the very large molecule that is known as DNA. The building blocks that make up business DNA are people. What building blocks are present and how they are strung together, will determine the strength of your business DNA. Building a successful business DNA is as simple as determining what “types” of people are needed to ensure that every component necessary to business success is represented and to ensure that the right people are in the right jobs.

The latter part of this equation is to ensure the right people are in the right jobs, is completely up to you. But when it comes to building a strong DNA profile, I’ve developed a model called the Dream Team Model backed up by 9 DNA Profiles.

This model comprises nine, easily synchronised components necessary for successful business operation.

These DNA Profile components are:

  • Planner
  • Innovator
  • Promoter
  • Connector
  • Mentor
  • Operator
  • Negotiator
  • Banker
  • Investor

It’s important that there’s a balance of each essential building block. Missing building blocks or being too heavy in some areas and too light in others will create gaps that eventually cause your business to break down. It doesn’t matter whether your business is a small shop with just a few employees, or a large, global organisation with thousands of employees.

All of these roles must be represented. The following chart illustrates the Dream Team Model. Think of your current organisation. Is each area represented and fairly balanced? If so, you have good business DNA, the kind of strong business genes that will be passed on from generation to generation. If you’re lacking in one or several areas or have weaknesses, you have poor business DNA, the kind of DNA that may not endure from generation to generation.



Key Considerations: •

Understand that the DNA which built the business in the first place with the first generation may be different to the current DNA in the business • Understand that the DNA required today, should be linked to the business cycle you are in and the needs of the business • Understand you will be dominate in 3 of the DNA Profile areas in the Dream Team Model, therefore will require the other 6 components to have a Dream Team and all areas covered In my next article, we will go through all the 9 Dream Team DNA Profile Descriptions.

This is an extract from Reg Athwals book: Unleash Your Family Business DNA.

More information on Reg's toolkits and business solutions can be found at and

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