HomeWork features AHAM members' insights on careers, success, life outside of work, and AHAM membership. This month, we spoke with Lara Peterson, Senior Vice President Marketing – Beauty & Wellness, Helen of Troy.
How did you come to work in the appliance industry?
I entered the appliance industry by default. I had a passion for consumer products and started by working in the office products industry for Avery Dennison on stamp pads, highlighters, glue sticks and machine-printable labels. Avery made the decision to relocate their office products division to California, and I was looking for a new opportunity to remain in New England. I found a small family-owned company in my backyard (the Holmes Group) and was intrigued. I proactively called to see if they had any openings in their marketing department. I joined the company working on air cleaners a few weeks later and haven’t looked back. When they were sold to Jarden Consumer Solutions, I decided not to relocate to Florida and found my way to Kaz/Helen of Troy where I have been for over 15 years. I have loved working in the appliance industry.
What are your secrets to work-life balance?
Experience helps provide perspective on this question. When I was younger, with small children at home, I tried hard to balance my career and my family. I am not sure I did this well (I tried), often working until all hours of the night, weekends while the kids were asleep to make sure I was getting the work done. Today I realize that the balance is beyond just work and family. You also need to make sure you are taking care of yourself because that provides you with the fuel to be at your best for work and family. This isn’t always easy either, but it is a conscious decision to make sure that you do at least one thing every day for you and your mental health. For me this is a walk in the woods, reading a few chapters in a book, making progress on that puzzle, cooking or talking on the phone with friends or family.
How has a diverse and inclusive workforce added to your company’s culture?
Personally, my work family and the friendships and bonds I have created over the years are incredibly important to me. Having a sense of belonging, trust, camaraderie, and ability to learn from one another is a huge part of building these bonds. The work that Helen of Troy has done over the last several years to build a diverse and inclusive environment has only enhanced the ability to build and strengthen these bonds. This culture has brought people together, helps drive productivity, aids in the innovation process, speeds problem solving and enhances decision-making abilities.
What do you gain from your involvement with AHAM?
I enjoy working closely with a group of like-minded, experienced professionals that are passionate about bringing a positive impact to the appliance industry. Standing together as an industry organization is much more powerful than one company on its own, especially from a standards and regulatory perspective. Over the years, I have seen this play out in many positive ways. As a new board member, I am looking forward to stepping into a much more active role with the talented staff at AHAM and member leaders involved in helping the industry.
How do you stay up to date on industry trends?
Staying up to date on trends is a full-time job and something that I incorporate into everyday activities. This includes:
- Spending time in stores, not just our aisles but across all aisles, looking for colors, materials, communication methods, merchandising, signage, etc.
- Reading industry news beyond just our direct industry, into what is happening in home construction, technology, and a variety of published reports.
- Talking to people about their unmet needs, problems they have and workarounds that drive behavior shifts living in their homes, managing their lives, and interacting with appliances.
- Spending time online looking at how products are communicating their benefits, imagery, where they are showing up in searches, etc.
What is your best advice for somebody who wants to succeed in the home appliance industry?
My advice is to ensure that the "consumer" is at the forefront of everything you do. Whether you are in marketing, sales, engineering, management, manufacturing, or regulatory, give the consumer a seat at the table, listening to their feedback and strive to delight them every step of the way. This includes everything from having the right value proposition (the right product, with the right feature set, at a price point that the consumer is willing to pay), having high quality standards, consumer support tools (call center, web support, etc.) and being tuned into them as you think about new products (What unmet needs can we help solve?). The best way to do this is to put yourself in their shoes (What would the consumer say?), USE your products and get frequent unbiased feedback from friends and family.
Outside of the appliance industry, what would be your dream job?
I have loved my long career in the consumer products and appliance industry. Being involved with solutions that are impactful to a consumer’s daily life and that bring comfort, relief and well-being provides me with a sense of joy and satisfaction. With this said, outside of my various roles in the appliance industry the thing that has brought me the most joy is helping others rise to be their best selves through coaching and training. This goes beyond just my direct reports. It is being a mentor and good listener, providing perspective and sound advice to anyone seeking it. I also was a Boy Scout leader for several years and had so much personal pride and happiness helping the young boys learn to be leaders. My dream job would be to do this on a much larger scale, being able to impact more people as they grow to their full potential.