Not often do we get a chance to interview both sides of our industry in our Family Matters series, but the opportunity presented itself with Tom & Diana Clouser. Tom is with Patriot-level supplier partner, BEL Promo, and Diana is a sales associate with American. Read on to learn how their professional and personal histories tied them together.
How did you meet?
Tom: It all started in the late 90’s. I was working in marketing for a large financial institution. Part of my job was to order branded merchandise and it just so happened I was ordering from a distributorship where Diana was working. A few years into it, I was recruited to begin selling for her distributorship and the rest they say is history. Four years later Diana and her sister decided to start their own distributorship. I decided to call her and ask for employment. They of course said, “HECK YEA” and so it began. One thing led to another and 20 years later here we are. I have 2 amazing stepdaughters who I raised as my own. Both successful nurses, insert PROUD DAD MOMENT HERE. We spent a total of 17 years working together on the distributor side until I moved to the supplier side about 7 years ago.
Diana: During Tom’s time with my sister and I, his big joke was he not only worked with his wife but his sister-in-law and mother-in-law (we kept Mom busy as our filing clerk). I always teased him that he liked me being the boss at work and the boss at home.
How long have you been together?
Tom: 20 years, but married 18 years in July.
How long have you been with American or working alongside American?
Diana: I just started with American in October 2021, but I’ve been in the industry for 30 years. I remember that because I was pregnant with my oldest daughter when I started. I’ve loved being in the industry all these years because it’s so flexible. I could go and be a mom and still be able to work.
Tom: I worked as a distributor for 17 years and now I’ve been on the supplier side for close to 7 years. American has been my key account since joining BEL Promo in 2020. Diana and I have been friends with Dana Zezzo for over 20 years, so I was excited to be able to work with the American Family.
Do you work on many projects together?
Diana: I try to support his line as much as possible. I always ask him for ideas first, for obvious reasons. He always tells me if he can’t grow his wife’s sales, then he is not doing his job!
Tom: She always asks if I have any ideas for her projects first. I guess, yes, we do as much as we can.
How does working on different sides of the industry affect how you interact with one another?
Tom: Obviously distributors get frustrated with suppliers, and vice versa. When I get frustrated, I would vent to her, and she reminds me of how it was being a distributor again and her doing the same from the supplier side. It makes it nice because we talk about our day and the challenges we are facing, and we understand it because we’ve been in the industry for so long.
Diana: It makes us appreciate and understand both sides. During the pandemic, I really understood the frustrations with supply chain, lack of employees in production, etc. and knowing what was going on with BEL promo and other suppliers.
What’s the hardest part about working with your spouse?
Tom: Oh, I have an answer to this one! When we worked together side-by-side as distributor, the hardest part was not bringing work home or home to work. I was worse than she was at crossing over our personal and work lives. Right now, the hardest part about working on different sides is not being home, because as a supplier I travel a lot. But she kind of likes it!
Diana: He knows I like to have the whole bed to myself.
Tom: When I joined the supplier side, I asked her, are you okay with me traveling? She said, “Your checks are deposited, I don’t’ have to worry about dinner, the bed doesn’t have to be made because I mess it up when I sleep, and your home on the weekends – GO TRAVEL!”
Diana: But I do miss him a lot. I put notes in his suitcase, and we always at least talk the first thing in the morning and the last thing at night, ALWAYS.
What’s the best part about working with your spouse?
Tom: Again, when we were on the distributor side, we got to see each other a lot. But since we still work in the same industry, we have a lot in common. We never lack conversation.
Diana: All the years working together, we’ve learned how to work together as a team. I’m a little bit quieter and he’s more outspoken, so when we gave presentations together, our personalities shine.
Tom: I get needing time apart, but I liked working with my wife every day and it helped that we had our own offices.
Is working together easier before or now?
Tom: It’s much easier now because this industry is unique with the ability to work from home. We have our own separate business lives and we’re still together, but we’re not. You can work from anywhere, even sit on the beach and work. She has gotten to visit places we might not have been able to.
Diana: I enjoyed both. I have it nice now because if he says he’s going to Nashville, I can pick up my laptop and go along and work in the hotel. He does his thing during the day, and we hang out at night. Another example is, he had a meeting in Arizona, and after working all week, we extended our stay the into the weekend and went to see the Grand Canyon. It was on our bucket list, and we got to do it! I look at his travel list and I pick and choose where I would like to go!
Why do you recommend working with family?
Tom: I think it could be good and bad, because you have that commonality with each other, you understand what each other goes through daily, and it means a lot when you tell people, we have a family business. It means more than saying you work for a corporation – people like to support families.
Diana: I agree, you completely understand each other’s work lives.
Tom: Our customers can become friends at times, and at times they become family. BUT, family is family and that’s the most important thing.
To learn more about American Solutions for Business, visit http://www.americanbus.com.