Alison Gutterman is president of Jelmar, LLC.  She is very proud of the company and the products that carry the CLR brand.  Alison is dedicated to bringing the Jelmar quality to an ever-increasing audience.  It is not just the family business, it is truly a part of Alison Gutterman. more>>


You Can Lead Someone to Water, But Cannot Make Them Drink

leadershipThere are many types of leaders in the business world. Some lead with a heavy hand, forcing their opinions and thoughts on others and making employees completely yield to their decisions and their vision. If things don’t go their way they react in a less than motivating manner, or just take over projects to do it the way they intended.


In my opinion, people that lead in this manner are not getting the best out of their employees or themselves. And this extends beyond just the workplace, but also to parenting, friendships, coaching, and more. As hard as it can be at times, placing your trust in people to do the task you have set out for them in what they think is the best way possible is the most effective way to lead and to learn.


And while I may not necessarily agree with how employees are doing something, or think that I could do it better, it’s more beneficial for me as a leader to let them fly on their own. If they fail, I think that is nothing more than a way to learn and gives them an opportunity to improve as they attempt the project or task a second time. And if they succeed, well then they are proud of their work product and happy that they were able to do it in their own manner.


In short, I think that when leading a company, a team or even a household it’s important to keep in mind that you can lead someone to water, but cannot make them drink. You can lay out your vision, your rules and guidelines and can provide feedback, but what helps people grow and learn is trying things, potentially failing, and improving on their mistakes.


So tell me, have you worked with leaders that have trusted you to make your own decisions? Or if you are a leader, have you found it hard to let go and allow people to make their own choices and learn in that manner?


Campfires, Color Wars, Mosquito Bites and the Lessons of Summer Camp

camp2Every year around this time, I get nostalgic for my summers spent at camp. I will always be a “Harander” thanks to my experience at Harand Camp of the Theater Arts and will forever be a TAN thanks to summer-long color wars at Chippewa Ranch Camp. This summer, I’m even more nostalgic as my daughter is attending camp for the first time.


During my daughter’s two-week “Rookie” session, I felt like I was living my camping experience all over again, although things certainly have changed since I was a camper back in the 1980’s. When I went to camp, there were no e-readers, iPods or cell phones. The only time my parents heard from the camp was when there was a medical problem and the only time they heard from me was when I wrote a good old fashioned, handwritten letter. One thing that has definitely changed is the famous “bug juice”. It’s sad but true – no more artificially-flavored sugar water for these kids.


Despite the campfires and s’mores, silly songs and laughter, bunk games and arts and crafts, when it comes down to it, camps are a business too, and look to support their customers to keep them coming back for more. Today, camps engage parents (aka, their customers) by using technology. Every day, I can log on and read what my daughter is doing, what meals they are having for lunch and activities happening at night. I can find out if my daughter’s bunk won “Cleanest Cabin”, and can also see hundreds of pictures uploaded every day to see my daughter’s smiling face. They also provide a number of different session options to best accommodate our schedule. When I went to camp, my parents had to choose between a 4-week or an 8-week session. Having this flexibility means my daughter can still get the full camp experience, but we also get to have quality family time during the summer.


camp4I have to admit, I’m a little jealous of the experience my daughter is having. Her beaming smile screams, “I am having the BEST time ever”, and I’m thrilled that she is making new friends and having an amazing experience. And perhaps even more, I’m thrilled that she is learning skills to help her as she grows up, and even will help when she enters the business world one day. Every day she has a job to do, has to learn how to manage her time, make new friends, negotiate and compromise.


When I think about it, attending camp and being fully invested in your experience, even at a young age, is just like working every day, except in a more beautiful and fun and no-pressure setting. I hope that my daughter has a wonderful experience, just as I did, and that decades from now, when she is watching her children experience the joys of camp, and growing up, she has the same nostalgic feelings I do.


Tell me, what are some of your favorite camp stories? Do you still keep in touch with fellow bunkmates? Are any of your kids heading to camp for the first time this year? I would love to hear all about it!


The Selflessness of Dads

fathersday_2014_1I have written a lot about parenting on this blog. While my work at Jelmar is certainly important, it is nowhere near as important as raising my two children to be strong, independent people and give them the tools to be successful as they move throughout their lives.


When it came to my childhood, my father played a huge role, setting an example for my sister and me about what it means to be a good person, to work hard and to treat everyone with respect. My dad is, simply put, the best. My parents were set-up on a blind date by the same couple that set-up my Mom’s parents (talk about a great success rate!). My sister and I were 2 ½ and 7 ½ and were quite honestly a handful. But he saw us all as a family from the start. Five weeks later, they were engaged and three months later, they were married. And when they got married, he didn’t just marry my mom, he married us. Blended families may be more common now, but in 1971, they were far less common, but my father didn’t care. He saw us as one family. And we were.


My dad was someone that knew what he wanted in life, and went for it. And while he worked to achieve his dreams, he did so with integrity and heart. Was it always easy for him? No. Were there ups and downs? Of course! But my dad never lost sight of what was important.


fathersday_2014_2He made sure we were able to experience new places in the world to help expand our horizons and made our education a priority. He never once took the foot off the gas, and worked even harder to make sure my sister and I had the best life could offer. He loved my mother deeply and that never waivered as he supported her through her many years of illness.


Looking back, my Dad was ultimately selfless raising my sister and I, and may be even more so when it comes to his grandchildren. I think a lot of us can relate to that and look up to the fathers and father figures in our lives and how they often put their family ahead of any personal interests or needs.  This weekend, on Father’s Day, I encourage everyone to call, write, hug or just say “Thank You” to the dads in your life. I know I will be.

“More Than Just a Cleaning Product”

ghostSometimes when I’m talking about my day job, people will look at me quizzically wondering if the products we create can really inspire me. Sure, cleaning products for your bathroom, kitchen, plumbing, floors and more are not what one would call “sexy” or “exciting”. But what inspires me are the stories I hear from our extended family of customers that show the influence our products can have on every day experiences with loved ones.


For example, someone told a story this fall about how her son, dressed as a ghost for Halloween, accidentally smudged chocolate on his meticulous white costume. He was not a happy camper, but she put our Stain Magnet product to good use, and voila! Halloween was saved. Or there was the young woman who was hosting her first Thanksgiving dinner for her family in her new house and wanted to use some of her Grandmother’s silver to set the table. Needless to say, they had become exceedingly tarnished in storage and she thought there was no way she could use them for dinner. But with a quick wipe and rinse of Tarn-X, the serving pieces were in sparkling shape for dinner, and helped contribute to a wonderful table that set the stage for a memorable first dinner in her new home.


When it comes down to it, many people our products may seem like “just” another cleaner for the home. But in reality, I see our products and the work we do as so much more important than that. These products help pave the way and impact experiences that people will carry with them long after the bottle is empty.


So, with that, I encourage everyone in the Jelmar family, new and old, to share how our products may have influenced something in their life. Did they help quickly clean your apartment before your soon-to-be in-laws dropped by somewhat unexpectedly? Did they get the nursery spic and span before bringing your newborn home for the first time? I would love to hear all of your stories, so please share them with me here!

Living Your Life Without Labels

labelingBeing a mom and running a business in today’s world is no easy feat. It takes strength, courage and grace. Growing up, I was called “bossy” from time to time for being someone who, from an early age, was not afraid to be assertive and chase after what I wanted.  Now in my adulthood and raising a daughter, I think about how putting labels on people, especially young women, can have a great affect on who they become and how they behave.


I feel that from a young age, being able to express your opinion in a group setting, whether on the playground, in a classroom, at soccer practice or at home only helps build leadership skills and confidence. From a teacher in the classroom to the CEO of a company, creating an environment where speaking up and voicing your opinion is considered a positive opposed to negative aids in building a better future with more diverse leaders. We shouldn’t call young girls who are expressing their opinions “bossy.” Instead we should focus on building up their self esteem and reinforcing their strengths.


Personally, I find labels to be very limiting. Telling a young woman that she is being “bossy” for voicing her opinion and demonstrating strong leadership skills limits her from reaching her full potential and pushes her back from achieving higher goals and aspirations further down the road. Labels lead to confinement, and when we confine someone, they have no room to grow. Having a daughter myself, I want to teach her that speaking out and leading is a sign of strength, and not something to be put down.


As Sheryl Sandberg noted, being a woman in the business world does not mean you have to compromise being true to yourself. I was taught, from a young age, that you could be as many things as you want to be, and you don’t have to give a reason, excuse or apology for how high you want to climb to fulfill those roles and achieve all your goals. That is what I think we all should take into account when talking to our children about their future.


With International Woman’s Day just taking place, I ask, what is something you are doing to empower our future generations? Do you think that the everyday labels we’ve used for years without second thought are actually hurting our children and their aspirations? Comment below, I would love to hear everyone’s thoughts! Until next time, friends!