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The Marek Group: Keeping It in the Family

The Marek Group: Keeping It in the Family

This article was originally published in Printing Impressions on October 5, 2023. You can read the original article here.

Fuzzy Marek_Co-Owner of The Marek Group

When brother and sister duo Fuzzy and Tami Marek took over their father’s business, they dove headfirst into an industry they weren’t the most familiar with. Fast forward almost 20 years later and the siblings have transformed the family business into an industry leader in field sales effectiveness and marketing execution services. 

If you ask Fuzzy Marek, CEO and co-owner of Waukesha, Wisconsin-based The Marek Group, he says that if his father were to see the company today, he wouldn’t recognize it — but that’s not a bad thing. 

“My father started the company in the early '70s. It was primarily a very small, couple person lettershop in Milwaukee. He started it and grew it over time, but it was primarily in the commercial print and fulfillment space,” Marek says. 

Fast forward to today, The Marek Group has grown into a turn-key marketing execution company specializing in print, promotions, mail, incentives, kitting, fulfillment, and sales enablement with upwards of 200 employees and three different locations — its Waukesha headquarters and production facilities in Louisville, Kentucky, and Minneapolis Minnesota. 

Taking Over The Family Business Tami-Old (2)

Marek describes taking over his father’s business as kind of a “sink or swim” moment for him and his sister Tami. “We really were pretty much right out of college. And it was one of those one of those scenarios where we had only been in the industry for a couple of years. But he felt confident that we could take the company and run with it,” Marek notes. 

Growing up, it wasn’t Marek's plan to take over the family business, even though he had an appreciation for the industry, given that he remembers running around his dad’s plant at just 3 years old. Initially, his plan was to graduate college and do his own thing. But when his father got diagnosed with cancer when Marek was just 23 years old, that’s when things changed. 

“He certainly never pressured me to take over, but we wanted to carry on his legacy. Tami and I decided that if we were going to learn this business, we needed to learn it quick and just dive in because we knew we didn’t have much time before he passed,” Marek recalls. “So we learned as much as we could as quickly and knew it wasn’t enough, so it certainly was a trial by fire and we had a rough go of it for the first few years just learning about the business and the industry.” 

Transforming the Model 

After taking over the business in 2003, Marek and his sister decided to be early adopters of technology for the future "So, starting at that point, we built our Web-to-print system — and this was before all the third-party players started coming on board. We saw that as something that would be interesting from an e-commerce standpoint within our industry and really started to think about diversifying our organization,” he points out. 

When Marek and his sister took over the business, it was still primarily a commercial printing and fulfillment business. The company also provided specialty finishing focused on puzzles and games, which they spun off. “We wanted to build something that was more of a platform, more robust in terms of our service offerings. We knew that what we had built wasn't nearly going to be enough to help support our large clients and where we saw the business going,” Marek says. 

The sibling duo knew they needed to build from the ground up, and with that meant hiring the right people and attracting talent from outside the printing industry. Instead of focusing on the types of people they were going to hire, they developed an acquisition strategy instead. 

Expanding Marek Through Acquisitions 

The company’s first acquisition, around 2010, was a Minneapolis-based marketing and software solutions company. Since then, Marek says The Marek Group has zeroed in on being an enterprise-wide marketing execution platform. This was followed by the acquisition of two promotional product distributors, a supply chain company, and a direct mail marketing business “We brought all of these different aspects together and have created what we believe is a best-in-class, enterprise-wide marketing execution company," he notes.  

However, these acquisitions did not come without their fair share of challenges. Early on, they had to learn that culture is everything. He says that some of Marek’s earlier acquisitions were a challenge because the different cultures weren’t exactly meshing. So, over time, Marek focused on shaping the company’s core values and assessing if a potential acquisition aligns with Marek’s company culture. 

One thing that Marek is most proud of about the Marek Group, besides transforming it into the well-known entity that it is today, is the fact that remains a family-owned business. 

“Some people might say, "working with family — that’s a recipe for disaster.’ But Tami and I complement each other very well," Marek adds. We have totally different skill sets and we've never let the business affect our relationship. We've always been on the same page of where we're going and where we want to take The Marek Group.” 

The Marek Group is a turnkey marketing execution company - providing the experience, knowledge, and technological tools to help clients deliver the right content, at the right time, and in the medium proven to drive the greatest impact. For almost 50 years, The Marek Group has helped companies in the healthcare, financial services, manufacturing, and retail industries transform the way they gather, manage, recommend, and distribute their sales and marketing content to their sales teams, channel partners, and customers. With a seasoned team of professionals helping to execute and deliver on the campaign strategies for some of America’s most well-known brands, Marek is engaged with clients from beginning to end.    

Marek empowers sales teams to be self-sufficient, offering customers the ability to scale sales support and marketing operations 10x. The Marek Group works with their clients to understand their sales goals, their unique channels, and customers and provides a turn-key solution to optimize their sales support. Marketing execution services include Marek’s propriety channel marketing Software as a Service (SaaS) platform (Triptych), print management, promotional products, fulfillment & distribution, data analytics, data management, and completely internal direct mail campaign execution. 


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