Terri Sniegolski has always worked in industries traditionally dominated by men. At first, she pursued a legal career in downtown Chicago as she had always wanted to be a lawyer. However, as fate would have it, she left that career to come home to Mokena, IL to help her parents with the family business, J&J’s Creative Colors, when they were in a pinch. She didn’t intend to stay with J&J’s Creative Colors forever, but she realized just how much she loved the repair and restoration business and how much she loved working alongside her family. And today, 25 years later, she is the CEO of Creative Colors International – the national franchise company that was developed from the same business model her parents developed with J&J’s Creative Colors.
Today, Terri works alongside her sister, brother, brother in-law, husband and other family members. She has earned her position as CEO by building the Creative Colors International franchise model from the ground up. After returning to the family business and learning all aspects of the business model, Terri’s parents gave her the opportunity to turn J&J’s Creative Colors into a franchise system in 1980. So, Terri dug deep into franchise law, compliance and operations to build an effective and sustainable franchise business model that has since grown to 71 locations from coast to coast.
However, things haven’t always been easy for Terri in the blue-collar repair and restoration industry that’s been dominated by male executive leaders for decades.
“Look – let’s face it. There are some men in this line of business, and in society as a whole, who fit the old stereotype and continue to look down on women, regardless of proven results or ability,” said Terri. “However, while I have had some bad days, I’ve worked with so many great men AND women who make most of my days great.”
Terri also says that one of the key catalysts for her success as a proverbial “woman in a man’s world” is the different perspective she provides as a female executive.
“Most of the men I work with look at the here and now – they are looking to fix, change or alter something to get through today or this week,” said Terri. “I’m thinking of all the possible scenarios that can play out over the course of time so I can make a quality decision today that’s also best for our company’s future. I also work hard to get to know all our employees and franchisees personally. This allows me to get a good read on them so I can show genuine empathy and support them when they are overworked, tired and stressed.”
Mark J. Bollman, Creative Colors International’s President and Co-Owner, concurs with Terri’s thoughts and says her contributions as CEO are invaluable.
“All of the men, and women, who work with Terri truly appreciate that she is always willing to ‘get her hands dirty’ in the literal and metaphorical sense,” said Mark. “But it’s the empathy and compassion she exudes as a leader, paired with her dedication and work ethic, that truly sets her apart as a leader. She brings real balance and perspective to our company as a female CEO that’s driven the consistent and sustainable growth we continue to enjoy at Creative Colors International.”
Speaking of her work ethic, Terri says she tries to lead by example by being tenacious at the office but also drawing a clear line of demarcation between personal and work time.
“When I work on something, I want to finish it that day before starting something else,” said Terri. “I put 100% into my days. It’s funny, but when I am at the office, I don’t want to go home, and when I am at home I don’t want to go to the office. I clearly communicate my availability so I can honor my work commitments while also prioritizing my family. Work-life balance is important and I do what I can to set a good example for everyone else at the office!”
Lastly, Terri lights up when she is asked about the future. She has her eye on making Creative Colors, International and J&J’s Creative Colors world class companies that lead the textile industries in care for all upholstery and repair needs.
“We are going to be the company that reupholsters and/or repairs booths in all restaurant chains across the U.S.,” said Terri. “We are going to be the company that hospitals and exam table manufacturers know to call to take care of torn tables. We are going to be the company known for the upholstery in casinos, hotels, theatres, etc. My youngest girls, twins, are now juniors in high school. So I have more time on my hands and that increases every day. I plan to use that time to get our company to this level as soon as humanly possible!”
For more information on Terri and what Creative Colors International does for their clients, please visit www.wecanfixthat.com.