There is only one Martha Stewart. But her spirit of do-it-yourself creativity permeates the team at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSLO), where Allison Hoffman is as hands-on with the law and company culture as much as her icon is in the industry of arts and crafts. From publishing to television, merchandise to licensing, radio broadcasts to pet outfits, the New York-based company houses an astounding variety of businesses with each niche achieving unrivaled excellence. For Hoffman, executive vice president, general counsel, and corporate secretary, her time at MSLO involves numerous endeavors in addition to the many fringe benefits of working in a place known for cake recipes and office organizing tips.
Hoffman always aspired to practice law on behalf of a business that made products she believes in. Over the first decade of her career, she gained valuable experience by learning from each CEO with whom she had the privilege of working. “From one CEO, I learned about the importance of communicating well with employees,” Hoffman says. “From another, I learned how to work with investors, and from another, I learned about the value of board interaction.” It provided opportunities for Hoffman to grow in her career, and she approached each one with a willingness to learn and an impressive work ethic. She found great success.
During that chapter of her professional development, Hoffman kept a close eye on MSLO from the sidelines. “Years ago, if you had asked me what my dream in-house position would be,” Hoffman says, “I would have told you, MSLO.” And that is exactly where she’s been since December 2012.
Hoffman’s work at the iconic public company includes handling all corporate legal tasks, working with the board of directors, and overseeing the legal and human resources teams. While no two days are alike, her to-do list regularly spans existing litigations, commercial licensing, and, recently, all legal aspects of MSLO’s merger with Sequential Brands.
Yet the best aspects of Hoffman’s job are the incredible people who make up her team, the company as a whole, and the omnipresent corporate culture, she says. That passion is evident in everything the staff undertakes, from product design to crafting to housekeeping to cooking. Even those who don’t work in a traditionally creative area find an outlet for their artistry at MSLO. “Just yesterday, one of the people on the HR team, who happens to love to bake at home, made two stunning cakes and brought them in on her own gorgeous platters to share with us,” Hoffman says. “It happened to be my birthday, but people like her, whose jobs have nothing to do with areas like cooking, love to be a part of the mission every day.”
But what exactly is the mission at MSLO? “We celebrate living, and we believe life is better when you share the good things—a freshly cooked meal, a home you love, and memorable moments both ordinary and extraordinary,” Hoffman says. To encourage all staff to do just that, Hoffman’s human resources team puts a great amount of effort into ensuring that all 300 employees are able to experience the talent that exists within the company. For example, the garden editor recently presented a lecture on flower arranging, and staff spent a day at Martha Stewart’s farm to get a firsthand glimpse of where she gets her inspiration.
Of course, Martha Stewart herself is an inspiration—an influential voice in the company—and can be seen at her desk during most workdays. Glass walls divide the office space at MSLO, creating an open floor plan and contributing to the beautiful, minimalist design. These details undergird a culture of collaboration where highly talented individuals are supported and can find inspiration.
“I’m a big believer in cultivating a healthy company culture and having the culture drive the business,” Hoffman says. With two full-time lawyers and a paralegal on her legal team, and five reports on her human resources team, Hoffman stays busy and appreciates that everyone on her staff does, too. “It’s important to hire smart people with good judgment who aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and get things done in order to accomplish the company’s goals,” she adds.
Her staff strives to better themselves—all of which adds to specialties and flexibility of her team. “I have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to the people who work for me,” Hoffman says. “I genuinely enjoy and respect them all.”
Hoffman’s leadership philosophy is based on that open and honest communication: “I believe all employees should receive feedback on a regular basis,” she explains. “I find that people like to know where they stand, and—as long as it’s done respectfully and privately—appreciate the feedback.”
Her love of business and learning contribute to the innovative culture and Hoffman’s own success at MSLO. But dream team aside, she claims profound success lies outside the office. “I am very dedicated to my work, but as much as I love my job, the thing that really matters is that in a few hours I’m going to go home to my kids,” she says. Fortunately, that choice is the ultimate way to uphold MSLO’s mission: realize the most beautiful way to celebrate life, then share it.