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>>


The Question that Says a Lot About Gender Bias in Business

women_leadershipWhat I’m about to say might sound counterintuitive. Unbelievable even. But I need to set the record straight, once and for all.


I hate cleaning.


There, I said it. And the reason I needed to say it is that just about everyone—from colleagues to customers to media—seems to think that as much as I love running a successful business, my one true joy in life is to go home, throw on a pair of rubber gloves, and scrub my bathtub. But believe me, I have better things to do—which in my opinion is just about anything else. (In fact, the best part about Jelmar products is that they help people spend as little time cleaning as possible.)


But more to the point, one of the great things about running a decades-old family business is the knowledge passed down through generations of Jelmar leaders. So I can tell you with certainty that when my father and grandfather ran the business, they were rarely asked if they liked to clean.


The very thought of asking a man if he likes to clean seems a little ridiculous, doesn’t it? The question reveals our society’s wildly different expectations for men versus women. There’s an implicit assumption that a man would take on a leadership role at a cleaning company for the sake of entrepreneurialism and profit—but a woman? Judging by the questions I’m often asked, it would seem that I run a cleaning company primarily to share my love of household chores.


Of course work done within the home has great value, and women or men who manage households often work just as hard as anyone in business. My point is that women in leadership positions frequently face a variety of biases and perceptions that say much more about our society than about these women as individuals.


Take for instance the recent speculation on how becoming a grandmother might affect Hillary Clinton’s campaign or even her ability to lead. Male political candidates face no such questions—and certainly no extensive media scrutiny on how grandparenthood would shape their political careers. Our culture seems to propagate a myth that women who dare to run for political office or lead a business don’t have the drive or focus to see it through without succumbing to the distractions of our gentle, domestic nature. As a mother and the president of a company, I can tell you that this stereotype simply isn’t true.


It seems that, to an extent, Clinton’s team has embraced parts of the “grandmother” narrative as a tactic to make the candidate seem more relatable. But that’s precisely my point. I can assure you that all women are far more complex and multifaceted than socially constructed gender roles would suggest. Let each of us tell our own story.


Teaching Your Children How to Be Successful

lesson_learnedRecently in conversation, the topic of Jelmar being a third generation, family owned company came up. And I was asked what I thought made me most successful in running Jelmar, a company still strong with family ties and tradition.


I’ve written a lot on this blog about my family and what not only keeps me grounded, but also boosts me up to aspire to do more. Above all, I truly feel that what has made me so successful is rooted in how I was raised as a child. My father never sugarcoated anything with me, and from when I was a young age made set goals and supported my ability to achieve them.


For everyone reading who has children, and who wants to raise them to aspire to be leaders, in whatever industry they pursue, here are some tips I wanted to share after reflecting back on what drove me to success:

  • Earn Your Worth – since I was old enough to work, I have worked. Despite my family’s early success with Jelmar, nothing was ever handed to me. So I appreciate the value of working hard and seeing the fruits of your labor at the end of the day.
  • Have Perspective – I’m not saving the world with what I do, but I do like to think that I make people’s lives easier. By making chores, which are stereotypically dreaded, a bit easier, I’m giving people the opportunity to do things that really makes them happy. Having this basic perspective keeps you grounded while finding the joy in every day.
  • It’s OK to Sink or Swim – It’s ok to not get it right all the time. Kids should learn that it’s when we don’t do as well as we thought we could have that we grow the most. And if you just give it your best effort, that’s really the most important thing. In other words, teach them to “do your best and forget the rest”.


While I bring kids to work, and want them to learn more about the business, at this age they are more interested in running up and down the hall doing cartwheels, rather than learn about the products we sell. But just by exposing to them what I do on a daily basis, and serving as an example of what can happen when you work hard, have perspective and take a little risk, I know I’m instilling in them the values and characteristics that my father shared with me. And whether or not they decide to take on the family business, or venture on to new adventures in their careers, I know they will be well armed to succeed.


On International Women’s Day and Empowerment

woman_ownedRecently the world celebrated International Women’s Day, the theme of which was “Make It Happen”. The day was created to celebrate the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. More than that, I saw it become a platform to really honor the women in our lives and how we, as the one and only Beyoncé says it, “run the world.”


March is also Women’s History Month, which makes this even more fitting. We should be doing more to not only look back at all the trailblazing women who have helped create the ability to have the opportunities we have today, but also to contribute to future generations of women who aim to be 21st century trailblazers. Currently, women-owned businesses contribute more than $1.3 trillion to the U.S. economy and women make more than 80 percent of consumer decisions worldwide.


As the president of Jelmar, I take great pride in my work, not just here at the office, but also at home with my two children. Being able to juggle both work and family life truly has tested me from time to time, but I’ve also found it more rewarding than I ever expected to. That’s why I want to make sure that we as a company are participating in programs that continue to honor the hard work that women are doing every day to create success for their companies and also in their lives. I’m so passionate about this topic that I’ve written about it before on my blog (also quoting Beyoncé) and really have made it a priority in my career.


For example, we are participating in an initiative started by the Womens Business Enterprise National Council and supported by Walmart that commits to sourcing more from women-owned businesses. This program encourages companies to clearly state on their packaging that they are women-owned, making it easy for consumers to select products from women-owned businesses.


Also, I think it’s important to help inspire girls to grow up to be empowered women. One of the ways I do this is by participating in community organizations, such as Community of 200, an organization focused on empowering women and girls by developing women leaders. I’m a firm believer that no one’s circumstances will necessarily prevent them from becoming a great leader. If they have the will, they will find a way. And spending time with girls who want to grow up to become empowered leaders, is truly inspiring. I’m sure there are some girls I have met that will have a blog similar to this one day.


I urge others to look for opportunities to support women-owned businesses as well as help teach younger women that it’s ok to dream big. In my mind, every day should be International Women’s Day. What do you think?


A Valentine’s Day for Everyone

valentinesAnother Valentine’s Day is upon us, and as I watch my kids get ready for their annual Valentine’s Day party at school, filling out a festive card for each and every one of their classmates, I think about how maybe we could all benefit from this Valentine’s generosity regardless of our relationship status.


Valentine’s Day should be about so much more than just whoever you are in a relationship with. Yes, of course they are important, but also consider the other people you care about and relate with on a daily basis. Co-workers, bus drivers, gym attendants…the list goes on and on. I’m not saying you need to give all of these people a hug and a kiss, but showing a bit of appreciation and recognizing their presence in your life can go a long way.


For example, here at Jelmar, we are having an office-wide Valentine’s Party. No, people won’t have paper mailboxes outside of their offices waiting for personalized cards. Instead, we’ll celebrate each other and how we all impact each other’s lives with a casual get together filled with chocolate and laughter. We’ve even started to see a movement of larger, global companies recognizing the need for more love in the world and asking their customers to recognize this as well.


So this month, my ask of everyone is simple. Go out of your way to share a bit of love with those around you. Say thank you, take a minute to tell someone how much you appreciate them and just spread some love and positivity to those around you this Valentine’s Day. Remember how you felt in school growing up when you would receive Valentine’s from everyone in the class? Think about how a quick moment of recognition of others can make them feel. Make Valentine’s Day a holiday for everyone.


Resolving to Keep Your Resolutions

possibleIt’s mid-January, and by now, chances are you’ve already dropped the ball on your New Years resolutions. Every year, on January 1st, we seem to make these sweeping statements to change our lives and then by the middle of the month, we’re so caught up in the every day actions of our lives that the resolutions have fallen by the wayside.


I’m not sure that setting January 1st as THE time to overhaul your life is necessarily setting yourself up for success. For example, maybe you want to be healthier and exercise more. For most people in the country, it is the dead of winter. And for everyone, daylight is at a minimum. Not exactly the recipe for success. Winter naturally just makes us want to nest and be cozy, not be super active and productive.


That’s why this year, I made a resolution to make simple changes, and am calling on others to do the same. If your resolution has already slipped, just readjust your thinking and maybe come up with some simple goals that are easier to adhere to. Since I’m in the business of cleaning, I personally think that is one of the easiest resolutions to keep year round.


We did a survey last year that found 1 in 5 Americans clean their bathroom only once a month. How easy would it be to resolve to clean your bathroom every week, or even every other week? Anything would be better than once a month, really. We also found that six in ten Americans are triggered to clean their homes when friends, family or significant others visit. Why not try to keep your home “10 minutes ready”? In other words, keep your home in a state where if someone calls and says they will be there in 10 minutes, you can quickly tidy up and be ready to welcome visitors.


These are just two examples of simple cleaning resolutions that you can keep this year and beyond. By making resolutions that are easier to keep, and require low investment from a time (and thinking) perspective, you’ll be setting yourself up for success this year. Sure, I think you can go ahead and still try to make those larger changes that we’re known for at the start of every year, but at least with these smaller resolutions you’ll rest assured that you’ll be meeting at least one of your goals this year.