When I told my business partner that I had talked with the CEO of Jelmar, he responded enthusiastically: “You mean the company that makes CLR? THAT company? I LOVE CLR!”
Perhaps you use CLR products too…and Tarn-X, one of Jelmar’s successful products
for over 50 years. If you’ve spent some time on CLR’s website, www.clrbrands.com,
you certainly know the name Alison Gutterman, Jelmar’s current CEO. Alison’s
grandfather founded Jelmar and her father and uncle worked hand in hand to sell it
across the U. S. successfully. But when Alison took over, she focused on her
customers in a way that had not been done before—bringing a unique and personal
style to the way she promotes her business and its products.
Unlike her father and grandfather, who viewed themselves as “salesmen” or “peddlers,” Alison has embraced her role as a very public CEO, becoming “the face” of Jelmar. She writes regular blogs on topics ranging from parenting to women in business and her passion for both shines through. Alison, a single mom, often draws upon her own family as a source of her insights.
“Life is about connection and approachability,” she observes. “I’m comfortable weaving my story into my business.”
I loved hearing Alison describe how her marketing savvy and passion for the
business evolved. She memorized commercials as a young child, and, in 7th grade,
thoroughly enjoyed the assignment to develop a product and create a marketing
campaign around it. Although her father led the business, Alison’s mother also
played a key role. “She was our first PR person,” says Alison. “She created a
newsletter for our sales force that featured their stories, and while she didn’t get the
recognition she deserved, she was very business-savvy.”
Back to CLR: Alison recognized consumers’ need to have environmentally safe
products in their homes, and worked to reformulate many of the CLR products to
align with EPA standards. She convinced her dad that it was important to emphasize
the benefit in marketing CLR. She took CLR and found just the right way to market
it to current and potential customers. And it’s worked! CLR products have been
very successful, and Alison has been recognized as an entrepreneur by Ernst &
Young—quite an achievement.
How have you brought your unique talents into your family’s business? Alison is a
thoroughly modern leader. She’s ambitious, authentic, transparent and personal.