George Riffel of Evergreen, Colorado, intended to purchase only one business according to his wife, Jacklyn, but he now owns and operates seven.
Riffel is the president of each of the businesses, all in the Denver metro area, and Jacklyn is the CFO.
Together, the businesses are a full-scope B2B provider of marketing materials, graphic design, corporate awards, and print and apparel manufacturing. About 90% of what the businesses manufacture are promotional and print products, apparel, and corporate awards for the construction industry and provide fulfillment services for those products.
“COVID and differences in culture cost me my corporate job in the printing industry. I thought I would retire, but that became very difficult,” Riffel says. “(Jacklyn) teases me about it a lot, because she knows I can’t sit still.”
Riffel started the businesses three years ago, all under the umbrella of Riffel Inc. The businesses include three franchise locations of AlphaGraphics, which provide an array of technology platforms to his franchises, including invoicing, estimating, fulfillment, and general business counsel.
“They manage all the technology for the brand,” Riffel says, adding that he doesn’t have to write his own code or manage multiple technologies.
Riffel’s other businesses are Print Connection, Wet Ink, Seven Pines Print & Promotional Products Inc., and ABC Reprographics Inc.
“Our specialty is marketing. We want to promote your business. You come to us, and we create a brand and all the channels of marketing that touch your business,” Riffel says. “We’re end-to-end, full scope. We have the broadest scope of products and services in our industry.”
Riffel focuses on technology solutions that help his customers maximize their brand exposure, control spend, and avoid the distributor middlemen. His products and services serve as an extension of their marketing department, he says.
“I help small companies get business and get noticed,” Riffel says.
One of Riffel’s companies, Print Connection, provides various print services, such as books, labels, and vinyl graphics, as well as digital printing. Wet Ink also offers digital printing in the areas of large-format signage, yard signs, wall vinyl, car wraps, car magnets, labels, promotional products, corporate awards, T-shirts and other apparel, and embroidery. Other services include digital small-format printing of perfect-bound books, training manuals, booklets, brochures, and envelopes. There also is foil printing and laminating services.
Seven Pines Print & Promotional Products offers the same line of signage and print services as Wet Ink, minus foil printing. ABC Reprographics is a copy shop that provides corporate awards, engraving, copying, duplicating services, and blueprinting of training manuals, books, and signs.
“They’re all intertwined into one. Our motto is ‘We are one,’” Riffel says. “Not every business provides the same services and products. … There are things missing from one business to another, where products and services are missing, and one of the other businesses provides it to them.”
For instance, if Print Connection needs to print corporate awards for a customer, it can work with Wet Ink and ABC Reprographics, Riffel says. All of the companies are connected by its company delivery vehicles, he says.
Riffel worked in the print industry in the area of sales for 35 years, starting out as a senior account executive, then becoming director of business development for a print distributor company in New York City, where he worked for 28 years. He then became director of business development for another print distributor in San Diego before purchasing his businesses in Colorado.
“I doubled my sales in a period of three years across all my business units,” Riffel says. “I pretty much maintained the same number of employees, which is pretty impressive.”
Riffel has 24 employees who work in the areas of graphic design, large format sign production, project management, account management, customer service, and delivery. His team serves more than 68,000 customers through the various businesses.
“We go to market as a team of associates, vendors, and customers that trust each other,” Riffel says.
Riffel leads the associates on his team by challenging them to step outside of their comfort zone to take risks, allowing for them to make mistakes so that they can grow and have eventual success, he says. He put in place a quality control buddy system that catches 95% of errors before products leave the factory, he says.
“There is no penalty in my company for making a mistake. Nobody gets reprimanded or a harsh voice,” Riffel says. “When you work in corporate America, you’re told what to do and the metrics you have to meet. Here, we expect employees to know their roles and responsibilities and encourage them to bring forth innovative ideas.”
Riffel wants his employees to use their creativity to come up with a solution when they don’t exactly know what to do in a situation, he says. This results in employees taking pride in the work they do and being happy at work, he says.
“I’m very different that way,” Riffel says. “Even though I’m the president of the company, anybody can talk to me at any time. … If you have happy employees, you have happy customers.”
Riffel is proud of his employees and his team and of the working environment that’s been created, he says.
“Products are products. You can make something new every single day,” Riffel says. “We’re proud of the products. We’re more proud of the working environment we have, the trust we have with our vendors, associates, and customers.”
Every day, Riffel wakes up and does the best he can for his family, community, businesses, and employees, he says. He originally bought the businesses because he needed to find a purpose in his community, he says.
“This job or business has brought me closer to the community in a lot of ways,” Riffel says.
Riffel supports his community by making donations, providing sponsorships, and volunteering at local nonprofits, such as sponsoring the Foothills Animal Shelter in Golden. He also purchases building supplies for the Homebuilders Foundation in Englewood, and he and his staff, in turn, volunteer to build handicap-accessible ramps for the nonprofit’s applicants.
“I believe in supporting small business and supporting the community that we’re in,” Riffel says. “It’s part of your responsibility and purpose to help those who are less fortunate and in need.”
Riffel supports the local Chambers of Commerce for Evergreen, Arvada, Golden, and Aurora. He provides free printing for Taste of Arvada at the Apex Center, the Miners Alley Playhouse in Golden, and the Colorado School of Mines Athletics department. And he donates to the annual summer gala for Mother Cabrini Shrine in Golden.
Riffel also sponsors the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities, providing print and print-related services and marketing for the annual spring gala and programs for the plays, plus other printing as needed, most of it donated.
“The arts are really important to us, because it’s part of the community,” Riffel says. “The depth of things to do at the art center is just amazing.”
The community is the lifeblood of Riffel’s businesses, and “we are one with it,” Riffel says. “It is something we do by being part of the community.”