Founder & CEO
Graphic Connections Group
Location: Chesterfield, MO
Industry: Printing & Mail
There’s always a risk in acquiring a new business and merging it into an existing company. Jeff Charlton knows this all too well, having acquired 22 companies in the past 23 years and growing Graphic Connections Group, the company he founded and serves as CEO.
“Taking over an existing business is not only financially risky, but assimilating that company’s employees into my company culture always has a risk of upsetting the apple cart,” Charlton said. “The key to success when doing this is making sure every employee has the training, skills and support to do the job assigned to them.”
Graphic Connections Group is a print marketing company specializing in printed material for businesses of all sizes throughout the United States. Its services include general commercial printing, direct mail, graphic design, embroidered apparel and promotional products. In addition, the company provides lead generation support, including a call center, for the real estate industry.
The company’s rise to success started 30 years ago, when Charlton was a one-man operation working in his basement and leaning on credit cards for working capital. By 1999, the company had six employees and $2.5 million in annual revenue.
Charlton took the company into manufacturing and acquired a small print shop. That was Charlton’s first acquisition. Today, the company is in the midst of a growth spurt, making the Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing companies in America with a sales increase of 120% from 2018 to 2021. GCG is expected to hit $25 million in 2023. Almost all the growth has come from the decision to aggressively pursue the real estate investor niche nationwide, the company said.
Charlton believes people still value dealing with a live human, despite the tech-based options available. “Answering the phones with live people, returning phone calls quickly, shipping orders on time, paying attention to quality, thinking about the customer first and standing behind its products are all little things that set GCG apart in today’s cell phone and social media society,” the company said.
Charlton has written multiple business books and articles on printing, direct mail and marketing. He has been a regular guest on various podcasts, speaking about marketing topics, and has been featured on Roland Frasier’s podcast, where people are taught how to acquire companies for little or no money.
“Integrity is always No. 1,” Charlton said. “But beyond that, leaders need to be bold, not afraid to go against the crowd and willing to lead by example. Actions always speak louder than words. Focus on a client-centered company culture is also super important.”
On a personal note, Charlton is most proud to have led a Christian mission trip to Panama for 10 straight years, taking 20 to 30 people from Wildwood, Missouri, to remote villages in Panama to build wells, houses and schools.
Jeff loves to play guitar, snow ski and of course golf.