Peter Dobelbower

Dobelbower became Hobby Lobby’s first general counsel after answering a newspaper ad in 1996

Peter Dobelbower | Vice President & General Counsel | Hobby Lobby
Peter Dobelbower | Vice President & General Counsel | Hobby Lobby

My first job was throwing newspapers. I had the morning, evening, and Sunday paper routes along six blocks in Oklahoma City. I was 10 years old—two years too young to be throwing papers—but I fibbed about my age because I wanted to work.

I started looking to expand my horizons beyond private practice—where I was doing oil and gas title work and securities—in 1991, at the same time as the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings were going on. That controversy heightened the conversation about issues in the workplace, and the writing on the wall was this: employment law was going to grow into a bigger and bigger issue for businesses.

The law is a jealous mistress. I didn’t understand that until I got into private practice. But no one ever says on his deathbed, “I wish I would have spent more time at the office.” At Hobby Lobby, I’m valued.

I learned early on that anytime somebody got a call from me, they felt like they were getting called to the principal’s office. Once I became aware of that, I made it a conscious effort to make sure nobody ever felt intimidated by me. At my first meeting with all of our store managers and the corporate operations team, I wrote a song and sang to them. That broke the ice. I’ve been doing it ever since.

Success is not necessarily measured by one’s accomplishments, but by one’s failures and how you overcome them. In
order to persevere in the face of adversity, the right balance of humility, determination, and faith will always lead to success.

I’ll never forget going out on the back porch one day when I was six years old and finding my father crying. I asked him what was wrong, and he said, “I had to let somebody go today.” My dad was a supervisor at a finance company, and part of his responsibility was terminating people. He said that the man had a family and he hated to do that to them. I never forgot that. I’ve vowed to do everything I can to help people succeed.

My dad was with the same company for 45 years. When I was younger, I thought, “Oh my gosh, how can anybody do that?” But as you grow older and become more mature, you realize that the golden ring you’re searching for—be it wealth, position, acclaim, whatever—isn’t that important. What’s important in life is far more than that. It’s faith, family, and friends.

At Hobby Lobby, I had to learn to quit thinking like a lawyer and start thinking like a retailer. Businesses are required to take risks, and you don’t have to protect against every little thing. You do the best you can, focusing on which risks you’re willing to take and which you’re not.

This company is a ministry. The Greens are a devout Christian family, who operate our company consistent with biblical principles. The amount of good they have done is amazing. My own Christian faith has increased exponentially as a result of being part of this.