Are you a business owner? Do you manage a staff of employees? Perhaps that “staff” you manage every day are your children? Whatever your managerial position, wherever you rank in the organizational hierarchy of your company, here is a question for you: have you focused on the culture of your organization lately? As attorneys, we find that to be a critically important question to ask, in the realm of business and in also in life in general.

We work with business owners every day to handle the technicalities of their practices, from CEOs to small-business upstarts. We help companies navigate the regulatory environment of their industries. But we also remind the owners of these businesses of the oft-neglected phrase once popularized by influential educator Peter Drucker, “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” In other words, you can strategize all you want about how you want things to turn out but in the end it comes down to the culture of your organization. No matter how detailed your strategy is, no matter how focused your efforts are on achieving results, no matter how solid your financial forecasts may be, those priorities are dwarfed by the more human elements of how your organization is run.

So, whether you are a Fortune 100 CEO, a small-business owner, a junior employee or a stay-at[1]home parent, ask yourself what you can do to contribute to a positive culture in your organization. Is your mission statement strictly profit-oriented, or can it expand to encompass the social impact your company makes in the community, and how you treat your staff and customers? (Do you even have a mission statement?) Perhaps the most important question is: are you proud of the culture you have created and promoted in your organization?

These things may seem intangible, but as former Department of Justice prosecutors, we assure you that they are not. At DOJ we would target companies not only for violating federal laws, but also for the lavish excesses of senior management, or for punishing employees who blew the whistle on corrupt dealings. As prosecutors, we would always consider whether those companies promoted a culture of corruption, or whether the misdeeds were isolated to a few employees who went rogue. We would laser-focus on the “tone at the top,” the tone set by senior management that others were encouraged to follow. And from experience, the companies who set the tone at the top in a way that prioritized social impact and compliance with the law, the ones who promoted an inclusive and nurturing environment, were more often spared the wrath of prosecutors and regulators.

Who is setting the tone for your organization? This matters, not only in terms of possible criminal exposure for the more serious misdeeds, but it is directly tied to company morale and culture.

We encourage you to focus on that tone at the top, whether you are a parent setting that tone for your children or whether you are a manager of five employees or five thousand. Culture matters and the tone starts at the top.

Deb and Chris Gramiccioni met while serving as federal prosecutors in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. They recently co-founded Kingston Coventry LLC, a Service-Disabled Veteran Owned law firm with offices in Charleston and New Jersey. Check out for more information about Deb and Chris and the firm they founded.

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