Her Leadership Story Is Truly Personal

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.

You can be, too.

Defining Success in Family Business

How do you define success in your family’s business?  It’s an important question with many possible answers – answers that may change as your career evolves.  Ramia and I discuss success in this podcast – I hope you enjoy it!

Ramia works in her family’s business, and her sisters do as well.  She’s the Editor of Tharawat Magazine and a co-founder of Women in Family Business.

Listen here:


Have a wonderful holiday season!

Why We Have to Talk About Women in Family Business

In the next few months I’ll be sharing my conversations with Ramia M. El Agamy. Ramia is the Editor in Chief of Tharawat magazine, which focuses on family businesses and entrepreneurs. She also co-created Women in Family Business, which offers a wealth of content to women like you.

Ramia is a true global citizen who grew up in a family business. She is thoughtful and funny and devoted to family business interests and concerns. I hope you enjoy our conversations as much as I have!


All the best,

Stressful situations at work – what’s in your first aid kit?

Hurricane Irma kept me glued to our TV this past weekend. My husband and I have family and friends who live there, so we were naturally worried about them and wondering what path the storm-and their lives-might take. But even if you don’t know people there, the storm probably stirred you up a bit, too.

My brother, who evacuated to Atlanta, told me that one of the most important questions his family dealt with was “what do we take with us, and what can we leave?” It’s a question that quite literally “cuts through the clutter”, forcing us to make choices about what we truly value. Since the weekend I’ve thought about what I would take and what I would leave if I had to leave my home, but I’m still not quite sure of my answer.

Perhaps my anxiety about Hurricane Irma made me quickly watch the short video that arrived in my email yesterday, titled “The Power of an Emotional First Aid Kit”.  In the video, Daniel Pink, an author and consultant, talks with Bonnie St. John about her recommendation that we all prepare for stressful days by keeping meaningful and comforting items close by, ready for when we need them. I like the idea of having something to turn to that can steady me when I’m in a stressful situation at work. You can watch the video here.

One advantage of working in family business is that you may not need an actual kit, since there may be a family member you can turn to instead, someone who knows you and can provide you with some advice or support. On the other hand since working with family members can be stressful, you may need a first aid suitcase!

I’m working on preparing my own emotional first aid kit. So far, I’ve put in a picture of my close friend Nancy, my go-to person when I’m upset. I’ve also put in a bracelet my mother wore to help me remember her wise and comforting way of calming me down.

What will you put in yours?

Listen to your parents: be financially savvy

I first started Daughters in Charge after moderating a business roundtable whose members were all young women working in their family’s business. Fast forward five years and we’re still together. In our meeting yesterday I was reminded once again about one of the reasons why I thought these women were special-and still do: they are financially savvy.

The group had invited Mackey McNeill, mother of one of our members, to talk about money. Mackey is the founder of Mackey Advisors, an innovative financial planning firm that specializes in supporting small businesses. Check out their website and you’ll see what I mean: www.mackeyadvisors.com. Mackey is also the author of a recently updated book, The Intersection of Joy and Money: A Workbook for Changing your Relationship with Money.

Mackey’s daughter, Sarah Grace Mohr, works with and for her mother as the Operations and Communications Director at Mackey Advisors. She also lent her design talents to creating a very modern and upbeat and playful office space.

Mackey is a great presenter and teacher, and we were all riveted. But what struck me, in addition to Mackey’s great insights and suggestions, was how the daughters in my group responded to the topic of money. They asked very thoughtful questions, demonstrating their knowledge of everything from home ownership to whether owning land is a good investment. These are women who understand money and how to manage it.

I hope that those of you who are working with your family never underestimate the value of what you learned from listening to your parents talk about their business. Being financially savvy is a true asset, just as a stock or bond or a home or land is-a source of confidence and independence that many women don’t have.

I’m going to read Mackey’s book. I hope you will, too.

Sibling Rivalry and Teamwork

Fast Company magazine recently posted a short video showing Laura and Kate Mulleavy talking about the way they work together at Rodarte, the luxury fashion brand they created.

Take a look at the video here.

There are a lot of very impressive insights in Laura and Kate’s brief but meaningful conversation. Two ideas struck me. The first is that these sisters recognize that some kind of “sibling dynamic” characterizes all siblings. That may seem obvious, but I wonder if most siblings truly understand or are prepared for their “dynamic” when it transfers from their childhood home to the workplace. What are the patterns? How do they change? Does the dynamic work for or against the siblings-and their business?

In my work with daughters, I often hear about how much sibling conflicts affect their feelings at work. But I’ve also observed how meaningful it can be when siblings resolve their conflicts through the experience of working together. Rivalry can become teamwork as siblings appreciate their shared commitment to the business and their dependence upon each other’s unique contributions.

And the other idea that struck me? That, as Kate says, “I think every workplace should feel like family”. I’ve heard many family business leaders talk about their employees as “family”, but I’m not always so sure that the employees feel that way. I admire the Mulleavy sisters’ intention to create a sense of family within their company, and to become partners not just with each other, but also with the people they work with. It seems to me that they really do have fun, and I suspect their employees do as well.