A 'Burning' Passion For Success
By Harold Davis
Article Launched: 08/02/2008 01:00:00 AM EDT
Mike Lorelli of Darien has enjoyed the challenges of being a senior executive with both PepsiCo and Bristol Myers Squibb, and now he has landed a chief executive officer role with WaterJel Technologies in Carlstadt, N.J., producer of patented burn care products. Lorelli, who has built a 30-year career in consumer goods, likes his new role so much that he refers to himself as "chief passionate officer" on his business cards. "The previous CEO took an early retirement, and they asked me if I wanted to take over the property. I said, 'Yes' and that I'm crazy about your product.' It's a great investment for shareholders, and on top of that it's a tremendous human service," Lorelli said.
The company makes some 190 products, and is looking to add more. It is an exclusive supplier for the military and handles private label work for 3M and Johnson & Johnson. Yet, Lorelli looks to increase product awareness among consumers and industry channels. "It's sad that blue collar workers accept burns and scalds as part of their job," he said. Founded eight years ago, WaterJel Technologies is part of The Riverside Co., a private equity firm that has a portfolio of 63 companies. "There's not a lot of manufacturing companies left, so I'm proud to be part of thriving manufacturing business in the Northeast corridor," Lorelli said about the company that employs 160, two thirds of whom are in manufacturing.
What do feel you bring to this company?
Serving at Fortune 100 companies, there's a a fair degree of sophisticated work in a environment like that. You don't get two positions as division president if you don't operate at the 99.75 percentile every day. I worked for Pepsi East and Pizza Hut. I've picked up a lot of managing techniques and bring that to less sophisticated environments like this and help them do well. Essentially, my role is to sprinkle fertilizer and to spread growth.
Describe how the WaterJel products work?
The technology acts as a heat dissipater. It does three things: The inflammation goes down right away, the pain goes down, and if it's a serious burn the potential for long-term scarring goes down.
The thing we try to convey is that seconds matter, the sooner the better. It's better to have the fire extinguisher before the house burns down. You buy WaterJel before Johnny puts his hand on the hot cookie sheet and burns himself. If you put him in the car after he's been burned and go to the store and yell at the pharmacist, 'Where you find this?' it's too late."
What are the challenges?
There's no insurmountable problems, and nothing is broken. It's really just increasing the awareness. I wish I could grab a bugle and tell everybody about this stuff, but it's not that simple.
What are your current tasks?
Expanding the global footprint. We're meeting with Wal-Mart on Aug. 5 and with Walgreens on Aug. 15. I'm making a lot of sales calls. A lot of good CEOs do that. It's a great to be a role model for the sales people and get your hands dirty. A lot more gets done when a CEO is there than if you were just meeting with a purchasing guy. I'm opening a sales office in Dubai in the fourth quarter and one in Hong Kong in 2009. We're also going introduce an antiseptic spray and a tea tree oil, a natural antiseptic.
Has the current economy had an impact on the business?
We're kind of insulated from that; a burn is a burn. We're very affordable, $7.99 is a very reasonable price.
At Work With regularly appears in The Advocate and Greenwich Time. Do you know of an interesting job or have one yourself? Tell us about it. Contact Harold Davis at 964-2277 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.