Curtis Gropman was a vice president with The Coca-Cola Company for nearly 15 years, but it was the urge to chart his own course that prompted him to join AlphaGraphics just over four years ago.
“In the corporate world, you are likely to be responding to a culture that someone else built. I had plenty of responsibility in my previous role, but I wanted to create something authentic,” Gropman says. “It’s being a leader versus a follower, and this was an opportunity to execute things the way I thought they should be done.”
Gropman acquired an independent print shop in 2013 in Marietta, Georgia, converted it to AlphaGraphics, and has since grown the Center’s volume by 250 percent.
“The people I work with share my same set of values,” he explains. “The vibe our clients get from us, the products and services we deliver, we’ve become extensions of their teams and they’ve become loyal to us. There’s a responsibility that comes with that, to consistently exceed expectations.”
Gropman compares the marketing communications world to a plate of food, with printing as the steak in the center. Other components of an executed marketing plan – from great graphic design to expertise in digital, large format, direct mail and other touch points – comprise the side dishes. But the real differentiator, the “secret sauce,” is the willingness to take the time to understand the client and their audience, and build a successful campaign over a period of time.
“The better we can work with clients to clarify their brand vision, the result is going to be way more effective,” he says. “The leverage point is to provide value from concept through execution in one Center. It’s an end-to-end solution, far less transactional than some of our competitors, a strategic and very valuable position to establish.”
Gropman attributes their growth to a “maniacal focus” on business development and customer service, not being satisfied with what happened yesterday, last month or last year.
This is a business that generally requires hard work and a disciplined approach, but the results follow. And it’s unique in that there is no ceiling for revenue, because it appeals to the widest possible variety of businesses.
“Literally everybody can be our customer. Every single business has a need for one or several of the services we provide,” he says. “If they’re not using us they’re using someone else, so the opportunity is there. What we’re doing with technology to optimize efficiency and introduce new solutions is providing additional dividends – it’s an incredible time to be in this business.”
Gropman sees it as not just being current on where the market is, but always focusing on where it will be in terms of people, technology and capability.
“I acquired this business because there are certain things the AlphaGraphics brand provides: a lot of resources, and a really strong, dynamic group of like-minded people who are like me… family oriented and hard-working,” he says.
“There are a lot of winners within the AlphaGraphics Network, and I’ve shared a ton of business back and forth with owners across the country. Our reputation precedes us. If you identify with the values and skills of the people who are winning, then this might be a good fit for you.”