How to create a company DNA


Vanessa Taylor is’s Head of Marketing. Having lived and breathed marketing for almost 10 years, Vanessa has experience working for multi-national companies in New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Here, Vanessa explores the importance of having a company DNA.


Having a company DNA – what does it all mean?

Almost two years ago I walked into and quickly discovered that the outside world believed we were a real estate agency. My challenge was to change this perception, without saying: “Oh, we’re not a real estate agency, we are just like [insert well-known competitor’s name here]”.

But how do you articulate who you are, if you’re not the household name in your market place? Well, first thing’s first – you need to know who you are.

Being new to the company, my first question was: “What are we trying to achieve here and what is the common thread that pulls it altogether?”

So I embarked on a journey to find the definite answer to one simple question: Why are we here?

There were five steps involved in finding that answer and in turn, we developed the company DNA that leads us today. If you're able to look at your business objectively, it is possible to pull together a company DNA in-house. Alternatively you can hire an external facilitator to help you along the way - the option we ultimately decided was best for our company. 

Here is the five-step process we followed, my learnings from the journey and where it took us.


Step one – Immersion

To begin with, it’s important to establish what you want to achieve by crafting a company DNA. For us, that meant running an induction session with our key stakeholders to discover what each area of the business wanted to get out of the process – and the agreed outcomes.

It’s very important to get the buy in of both internal and external stakeholders during this first stage, otherwise they won’t help you live and breathe it later.


Step two – Interviews and research

What do the people who interact with your business really think of you? Ask everyone, and I mean everyone. Your customers, clients, suppliers, competitors (if they’ll answer the phone) but most importantly your staff - at all levels of the organisation.

This was one of the most valuable things I have been a part of throughout my career – it is truly fascinating what people think of you. Be prepared to hear all kinds of answers (especially if you use an external party to conduct the research).


Step three – Workshop day

This is where we got our staff involved. We went off site for a day and got to hear it all. This session was driven towards establishing the ‘Why’ behind

Why we were founded, why we turn up to the office each day, why our customers remain loyal and why we will continue to thrive in the future – in other words, our story.

By the end of the day we had identified potential ways in which we could better express our purpose – both internally and externally.

Note to marketers – if you choose to have an external facilitator, their role is not to tell you what you should be, but help articulate who you are. Think that one through.


Step four – Exploring the territories

So, what does it all mean? By stage four everyone had been given the chance to have their say and we had gathered some very real answers to some very tough questions.

Next, it was about piecing the common themes together and exploring potential ways of expressing our ‘Why’.

No one knows your business better than you do but we had to look quite objectively at what we were finding. Common themes became clear and it was very obvious that:

  • We were putting too much focus into areas we didn’t need to
  • Other areas of the business were being neglected because of this
  • We were trying to serve three masters when realistically we could only serve one

This is where the agreed common goal (from step one) was so important. Because everyone was on the same page there were no messy arguments and we were able to have a series of structured discussions to figure out who our ‘true master’ was.

By this stage we had learned the lessons necessary to answer our ‘Why’ – and plan our next steps.


Step 5 – Implementation

Now it’s time to sing your song from the rooftops.

Not only do you need buy in from the top down but you need the highest level of your organisation to help tell and push your story. It’s about building it into your culture, coming back to it at every turn and really thinking about how it is woven through all aspects of your business.

Since establishing our company DNA, we were able to express our 'Why' in a nutshell. We are ‘the shortest path to the perfect property’.

This statement is now central to everything that we do at We focus all areas of our business on ensuring that we provide the shortest path to whatever our users are looking for. This means we must think smarter about our marketing, turn our data into knowledge, build products that stand true to our DNA and offers all users of our site the shortest path to their perfect property.

In our case, this has meant a full brand refresh, a strategic yet traditional marketing campaign, a number of new product launches and a very ambitious technology roadmap for the future.

What will it mean for your business?


Vanessa Taylor is’s Head of Marketing. Vanessa believes there is no such thing as 'because that's the way we do it'. "Let's break the process, keep it simple, automate if possible and do it all for our customers". Connect with Vanessa on LinkedIn here.

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