May 6, 2020 4:00 am Published by

Episode 55:

Alison Gutterman is the President and CEO of Jelmar, the unique, family-owned cleaning products manufacturer of CLR® and Tarn-X® products. As the third-generation family owner, Alison has brought the company unprecedented success with her modern approach and leadership techniques.

As a Chicago Tribune article covering Alison’s succession in Jelmar and successful transition to president and CEO stated, “Through passion, perseverance, and planning, Gutterman has helped Jelmar defy the odds.”

Gutterman began her career at Jelmar in 1993 in an unusual way – without a desk or a job title. Having earned her BS degree in Speech Communication from Syracuse University, she knew that consumer research was the key to success. Gutterman worked her way through various jobs including Customer Service Representative, Vice President of Sales and COO. She later received an MBA from the Kellogg School of Business at Northwestern University in 2002. In 2007, Gutterman’s father, Arthur, passed the reigns of the family business down to Alison.

Gutterman resides in Skokie, IL and is a single mother of two children (Michaela and Eli).

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • Alison’s journey as a business leader
  • How Alison became the President and CEO of Jelmar
  • The leadership challenges Alison faced as a woman in a family-owned business
  • How the cleaning industry has been impacted by the global pandemic
  • How Alison has navigated the COVID-crisis as a business leader
  • Pivots Jelmar has made in response to the pandemic
  • Alison’s rebranding efforts and what they will accomplish
  • What is in store for the future of Jelmar


Lead From the Front

Alison Gutterman is the President and CEO of Jelmar, a cleaning products manufacturer most known for their products CLR® and Tarn-X®. Jelmar has been a family-owned company for three generations, but Alison is the first female leader to take the reigns. With a modern business mentality and leadership techniques, Alison has brought Jelmar great success since 2007. These are unprecedented times of uncertainty for business owners and business leaders across the globe. For Alison, it is not her first rodeo. In this episode, Alison shares her story and discusses the challenges she’s had to navigate as a business owner in the COVID-crisis.

A Natural Born Leader

Alison is a natural-born leader who could outwork anyone in the office, but she didn’t always get the benefit of the doubt. Jelmar turned out to be a proving ground for her; a trial by fire. She was managing teams of men who were twice her age and they didn’t always give her the respect she deserved. Alison couldn’t shake the nepotism stigma through goodwill alone, so she stepped up to the plate and let her results speak for themselves. She took those skills and that mentality with her into the future and it is part of the reason Jelmar has been running strong through 9/11, 2008, and now the global pandemic.

Opportunity in Disguise

Since Jelmar is a cleaning products manufacturer, Alison has been fairing well amidst the global pandemic. It is a great thing to see that not all businesses are struggling, but Alison feels a sense of guilt as well. While some of her friends are restructuring their business models to keep the wheels turning, the only problem Alison has is trying to keep her products on the shelves—a good problem to have. Nevertheless, her partners have payroll to make and mouths to feed too, so everyone is doing what they can to make this work. Jelmar is currently preparing to launch a rebranding campaign and they still have their sights set on the future despite all of the chaos around us. Sometimes chaos is just opportunity in disguise.

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