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>>


A Culture of Family

cultureI was at an event recently and was speaking with someone about Jelmar and how our company works. He was surprised to hear what a small company Jelmar is (13 people), and asked what it was like to work at an organization with so few people. It got me thinking about the whole concept of culture within an organization and its importance to the organization’s success. To me, Jelmar has a culture of family and this has been integral to our success.


Whether you are at an international corporation with hundreds of thousands of employees or a small, family-owned business, culture is one of the most influential things on a company’s success. When it comes down to it, a company that creates a culture of motivation and empowerment will inevitably see higher, more quality output from their employees. A company that shows it values not just an employee’s output, but the employee themselves and everything they bring together will have workers that are more content and workers that are motivated to bring their best every day because they know that the company is invested in them as people just as much as they are invested in the company for employment.


At Jelmar, I describe working at such a small organization as “going to a family Thanksgiving dinner….every day.” We all see the good, the bad and the ugly every day, and ultimately we care not only about how people are getting their work done, but also how everyone is doing as people. Jelmar employees are not just “employees”, they truly part of our family. I care about each and every person in our office and like to think that the level of personal interest and the flexibility we all share in our office has been a key factor in becoming and staying the successful company we are today.


What do you think about culture and business? Do you find that creating a culture of family and motivation helps your business succeed?


Fall: The New “New Year”

fall_treeWhile Labor Day marked the unofficial start of fall, this past Monday truly was the first day of autumn. We’ve felt it everywhere the past several weeks – the hustle and bustle of back to school, the dwindling light in the evening and an increasing list of things to do on our calendars. The air is crisp and invigorating. The leaves provide an extra boost of color before we tuck ourselves away for winter, and with all of this comes a sense of a fresh start and a new year.


I got to thinking, while we technically celebrate the New Year in the sense of the calendar on January 1, to many, including myself the fall continues to mark the beginning of a new year long after we’ve put down our backpacks and college textbooks. I still get nostalgic seeing all of the back to school commercials and promotions in store about new clothes, new products, new images all to make this year the “best year yet”.


I look at my children heading back to school – they now have new teachers, new expectations and are trying to find their way as they continue to grow up and learn new things. They have new intentions for the year and new goals. While they don’t realize it, they are setting their own “business” goals until their next summer vacation. Where do they want to be when the final bell rings in June?


And while with businesses it’s a bit more complicated because of fiscal calendars and the nitty gritty details of running a company, I truly believe that as a business leader, we too should look at fall as a fresh start. Take stock of where we are as a company, adjust goals as we move into the last quarter of the year and set out with a refreshed vigor that matches the refreshing crisp air in the mornings.


I constantly am finding inspiration in those around me – my children, my family, my friends and my co-workers. So many people I know set out in fall with a renewed outlook on their lives and goals. They have spent summer reflecting with their close friends and loved ones and while many can think it’s “back to the grind” as soon as back to school, I think it’s more about living with a refreshed sense of purpose. Part of my purpose this fall will be to focus on how I can continue to have a refreshed outlook on the rest of the year – not just when it comes to my family, but with my business as well.


What about you? Do you agree that fall brings up a sense of a fresh start? I would love to hear what your new goals are for this fall!


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.