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Culture eats strategy for breakfast

Jessica Markham

Jessica Markham

The title of this blog is apparently a famous quote attributed to the late business management expert Peter Drucker. Now I’m about to let you in on two not well-kept secrets:

1.I’m selfish.
2.I don’t know anything about management

I’m selfish in that I want to like going to work every day. In order to do that, I need to like whom I see when I’m there. After all, I see my coworkers more than my family members. What I have realized in the past three-plus years of owning my law firm is that I’m trying to create a firm culture that I want to work in, and I want everyone else to want to work there, too. Not only have I tried to hire happy people, but I’m trying to keep them happy on a day-to-day basis. This is partly because I like to be around happy people as opposed to tired, stressed-out, agitated people. Who wants to be around those people all day? Not me. See? Again, selfish.

I had lunch recently with a friend who has an MBA, focused in strategy, from an Ivy League university. He asked me where I would like to see my firm go in the next few years. I told him I wasn’t sure. In the past few years I’ve grown from having one employee to having seven. Not knowing the answer to his question bothered me for a couple weeks.

Then, while listening to a podcast, I heard Arianna Huffington quote the title of this blog post. I was curious about it and I read a little more about it. Relating it to herself and the wildly successful businesses that she has started, she talked about the fact that she was protecting her work environment and extremely careful about her hires. In my Googling I also ran across an explanation of culture. It’s all the invisible stuff that glues organizations together — purpose, values, approach, the things that are hard to quantify. I love the idea of “protecting” my firm culture.

So what I’ve decided is that I’m OK that I don’t have an articulable business strategy. What I do have is a firm culture I feel good about and amazing coworkers, and I’m protecting that. And for now, I think that’s more than OK.

Jessica Markham is the owner of Markham Law Firm, a family law firm in Bethesda.

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