Chris Maxson Ignites Fireplace Innovation
Chris Maxson, owner of Acucraft Fireplace Systems and Managing Partner, Maxson family’s business ventures discusses igniting innovation in the fireplace industry with Alan Olsen.
Below are some of the key aspects of Chris Maxson’s influence on the fireplace industry and his unique approach with Acucraft Fireplace Systems. They indicate the rich legacy and innovation themes discussed.
A Legacy of Entrepreneurship and Custom Design in Acucraft Fireplace Systems…
Discover how Chris Maxson, the driving force behind Acucraft Fireplace Systems, revolutionizes the fireplace industry with unique designs and a legacy of entrepreneurship.
Learn about Acucraft’s journey from family business roots to innovating custom fireplace solutions.
Welcome to American Dreams. My guest today is Chris Maxon. Chris, welcome to today’s show. I am thanks for having me. So Chris, I’m excited to have you on today.
Your family has a legacy in family business, and I want to want to walk through how you got to where you are today and currently what you’re working on.
So my family set up where we’ve owned a manufacturing or construction related business in the State of Minnesota since I think about the 1860s. But the structure is very interesting because we never inherited a business.
So when I wanted to purchase Acucraft with a current the company I currently own, which is a manufacturer of fireplaces, we looked at it as a family.
And then my father, who was a managing partner of the family business at that time, loaned the money after he saw and thought that it was a good deal loan, the money to meet to buy Acucraft, but it was a family loan.
So the family actually kind of owned the entity until I was able to pay back the loan.
And so I needed a four year degree, I needed five years of work experience outside of Acucraft or before I could purchase my own company with receiving the family investment, I think it was called an investment.
And the family money was called capital. It wasn’t a bank, it wasn’t a loan.
It was capital that needed to be paid back for, for me to be able to have ownership in it. And it’s really interesting because the amount of work involved in starting a business or buying a business from scratch and not inheriting a business.
I learned I believe so many different life lessons and business lessons through that, because I had to battle through all the different components of growing a small business.
United since you’ve seen year, your business going all the way back into the 1860s really isn’t always fireplaces.
No. I mean, the 1860s I great grandfather had a lumber mill up in St. Cloud, Minnesota. And that grew. And then there were other products that went along with that with the purchase of land, there was real estate developing.
And then my grandfather was an inventor.
So he invented a lot of different products.
You mentioned, you know, some different components of the world and people that made impact, he invented a lot of different products. And he made a decision to either license those products to others to build or he said or we want to build them.
So when he and his brother invented like the Electric Gas Pump, they decided that to license that. So they licensed that for 15 years for a company called Wayne pump.
And then there are other products that he decided to develop, like the reading book for the blind, he decided to buy a recording studio, make records.
And those records were made at his record studio. And those went out to teach people how to read Braille. And he also loved the recording business. I think he’d loved the party side on that me too.
But he developed a lot of different businesses from the clip on sunglasses, and he decided to make those clip on sunglasses.
So there different products that he invented and different things that he chose to go into manufacturing or licensing.
You know, since I’ve seen so being the I’d be the descendant of an innovator in a lot of these seeds actually became common clip on sunglasses.
You know, we often go be by we don’t think about what someone came up with that idea that that concept.
But you know, as these businesses were developed, I licensed it to others, your family became one of entrepreneurs.
So how did you actually get into the place that you are where you say, hey, you know, I think I want to go back to my family and buy the custom fireplace industry? Yeah.
Great question. I always had an entrepreneur spirit, I think about me and I always wanted to learn about like what my father did and grandfather did in business. And I think for me, the hearing the stories about how they were able to make an impact.
Not so much on the financial side, not so much on the product side, but more on the people side. I always want to hear those stories.
And so I think that’s what drew me a lot to small business or entrepreneurship was being able to make an impact in different ways.
And for me, I think, when I specifically was ready to start my entrepreneur journey, my father asked me two questions. He says, you know, what are you what industries You’re going to grow for the next 10 years?
And what are you going to do differently than anybody else?
And so I researched a whole bunch of different industries. And actually 26 years ago today, I purchased Acucraft. So it’s kind of an anniversary day for us here.
So that’s exciting. And so 27 years ago, I researched and I saw the construction industry was going to grow for about the next 10 years.
And then my father says, What are you going to do different? And I saw why I’m not sure I’ll have to get back to you on that. And about a week later, I ordered a computer from Dell computers.
At that time, there wasn’t a lot of internet purchases, I did it through a catalogue.
And Alan, I got off the phone with my Dell salesperson. And I was thinking to myself, that this direct model of manufacturing is going to change the world.
Because I just purchased a computer that hasn’t been made yet, but it’s going to be made for me, they haven’t ordered the parts yet.
And they’ve received all my money. And it’s exactly what I want. So in four to six weeks, they’re going to make the product, they’re going to ship it to me. And then in four to six weeks later is when they’re going to pay their suppliers.
So 12 weeks from the time that they received the first dollar for me until they have to pay for their materials, a and it’s custom and is direct.
And so that is where when I was looking at fireplace companies.
I said, Boy, I believe we can really transform the industry, because there’s so many steps of distribution that we can manufacture fireplaces, and sell direct using that Michael Dell model. on a worldwide basis.
Can you describe a good client per you? What does that look like in terms of the size of the project? Is it are you wholesaling? Are you taking your crew out on site? And in in what are these? What are these projects look like? Give us a good visual they’re
all of eight year old boy, Greg, no real question. I would say that we have two main types of clients. One is just a homeowner that’s looking to provide a fireplace for their legacy home.
We call them legacy homes, because this is typically their second or third home, but it’s going to be their last home. And it’s one that they want to really spend time with family.
And they want to have an environment in a great room type setting where they can sit and they can share stories and have memories with their family.
So our fireplaces are a little bit larger, they’re a little bit bigger, they’ve got the viewing areas, and they’re a little bit more unique.
And so I think that’s one real persona that’s majority of our business is homeowners looking for unique fireplaces to create unique and unique atmospheres to be able to have those discussions.
The second group is commercial slash higher end architects and general contractors that are looking to differentiate their projects from anything else they’ve ever done before.
And that’s where we get to these custom crazy gas fireplaces where they were really looking for something that’s a show stopper that is a focal point of a hole or of a commercial space.
But it people like to do more of our web projects you spend more time on the the custom fireplaces or you know just setting up a gas you know fire fireplace if you can go into the homes. Yeah, boy,
we probably spend the majority of our time designing either the the front’s for the wood burning fireplace and getting those to be really unique.
And or being able to look at a lot of different crazy designs for these custom gas fireplaces.
A restaurant owner by the name of Gordon Ramsay came to us about a year ago, and said, I’ve got this Hell’s Kitchen outdoor side. And I want to put it in one of my restaurants.
But I want flame all around it. And I want to enclose it in glass, but I want to put it in my largest restaurant in the largest casino in America.
And I want to be the largest fireplace.
And so we were able to build and design this, you know, huge I think it’s like 20 feet wide, 15 foot tall house kitchen fireplace with custom flames.
And those are the types of things we’re probably we spent a lot of time doing a lot of those types of crazy, custom unique.
I mean, moonshot type projects, which are really fun. So
walk us through Chris, walk us through the process of a person comes to you and says, Chris, I want to put in a fireplace. Fine. Next step is what? Next
up? We’re really always trying to determine exactly what are they looking for. And obviously if they’re coming to us, they’re looking for something custom. They’re looking for something different.
In a custom home, I’d say 95% 90 percent of what people are looking for is something that’s unique or custom for them.
And it’s very challenging to find that in certain products. One of them is fireplaces. So what we’re trying to do is trying to find out why did they come to us? Like why are they what makes them an accurate craft customer?
Why are they looking for a custom fireplace? And try to find out?
What are the two or three things that either they’re looking for? Or the two or three things that they want to either achieve by having something different than this? Are they looking for it to be like if it is a commercial space where there are pictures taken?
We do a lot of gas, fireplaces, and hospitals now in recovery rooms, where you don’t feel like you’re at a hospital anymore. Like there’s more of an ambiance to it.
And so what is the type of emotion or feeling that people are looking to also achieve with their fireplace?
This movement is the advancements in fireplace technology. Can you tell us the latest and greatest Savior you’re dealing with? Yeah,
I mean, I think that there’s a lot I mean, I believe the efficiency of even wood burning, I mean, some people say wood burning is one of the most renewable energy sources in the world.
Because when you cut down a tree and you harvest the wood, you know that you’re able to then not transport that energy, but you’re able to burn it.
And you’re able to dramatically reduce the use of fossil fuels, and that it emits sometimes more carbon by rotting than burning efficiently.
So in the wood burning fireplace area, and burning wood efficiently is a new area of technology, the gas fireplaces and gas technology, were able to use a lot less BTUs and still get really cool, neat flames is really nice.
And then the electric fireplace world, we’re not directly involved in that.
But that is an area that is interesting and is getting better as a visual product. But it still requires and uses a lot of energy to operate.
So can we find your fireplaces in the big box stores?
No, Sir Alan, we manufacture and sell direct. So we know how to engineer they come between us and our customers. So acucraft is available only at acucraft.com. And we work directly with all of our customers. So then it’s very personal.
So we when clients come in, we start identifying exactly what you’re looking for.
We don’t have salespeople, we have advisors.
And then upon identifying exactly the product you’re looking for.
Then you’re working with a customer experience person, we don’t have project managers, we have customer experience people are all they’re looking for is to is what is the experience that you all deserve?
And want to receive? So that’s Oh, go ahead.
So an individual coming over to you then essentially? Or is it typically the contracted that you’re working with? Or do you work with the homeowners directly?
We work a lot with the homeowners directly. We do work a lot with general contractors, and a lot with architects and designers. Those are the four main groups we work with.
Okay? What are some of the ways that Acucraft is giving back?
Well, I think for us as a company, Acucraft really focuses on making a positive impact.
And we look at our community and our give back and kind of three different ways which is very similar to how the Great Commission is set up, where we want to give on a very local level in the city of big lake and this community.
And then we obviously look at like the US as an area that we really want to positively impact. And then we also look on a worldwide level. So last year, accurate craft supported 34 different organizations.
And those organizations were split a third, a third a third based on you know, obviously the needs and, and the causes that the company adopted. Yeah, so we give back in a lot of different ways.
But a lot of it has to do with helping out the less fortunate right, the needy, those who are struggling with addiction, and then also just the widows and orphans
and love it. Absolutely love it.
So can you give us some examples in addition to Gordon Ramsay some of the other notable projects that you’re working on right now.
Just trying to get a feel for, you know, the people that are listening the type of client that you want to come in and, and work with directly.
I think the people that are looking for something to put in their home that’s different than anything else out there. So like, I mean, some of the projects are working on right now.
A lot of different projects are in like the mountain towns, you know, where people are looking for, you know, larger big sea throughs and big indoor outdoors. So a lot of our fireplaces are like see throughs but indoor outdoors.
We’ve got projects going on right now in Colorado, where these beautiful views these homes are up on these blocks.
US, and you’ve got a fireplace, and it’s an indoor outdoors, you see right through the fireplace, right out through the mountains, it’s really cool.
And we’re doing a lot of different things in there.
And then, you know, I mean a lot of different organizations we work with, as well.
So for example, like a Cracker Barrel.
They are converting a lot of their wood burning fireplaces over to gas, we’re able to take with their design, and they’re able to order that specific fireplace from us, and it can be shipped to any one of their locations.
And then we help them with the installation, you know, of that.
The solid Cracker Barrel has been a great customer. And then obviously, a lot of the hotels are adding a lot more fire features, which is really neat indoor and out.
So that’s really been cool. And then one thing back to the giving back, every fireplace for selling this winter, we are donating one to Ukraine.
So we worked with a Ukrainian pastor there who went out on the front lines, when the war started with Russia invaded and kept asking the soldiers, you know, what can I do to help?
How can I help and the soldier said, Boy, if you could go back home, and take care of our families, we’d really appreciate it because they leave in quite a hurry.
And one thing that’s pasture found a year ago, was that a lot of people needed heat. So we supported him for years.
So he asked us if we’d be willing to partner with him on that. And so we came up with this really simple design, they’re all made in Ukraine. And there are these little portable wood stoves that can heat a home there.
And so we are able to donate those to soldiers, families, and then other families in the community, you know, that need the heat.
And what’s really neat is as soon as a fireplace is installed, that whole community, that whole neighborhood comes to start sleeping and spend the night there, because then they’ve got heat.
And I was talking to Sergey showed me some pictures of these little stoves in Ukraine been installed.
And I said, Boy, I don’t know. I mean, this thing’s not I don’t know if it’s installed 100% correctly, because it doesn’t look like the pipe is been secured.
And he goes, Chris, we want you to know that when these neighborhoods get invaded, they take the soldiers with it.
So these are, you know, temporary installs for short term.
And they’re like, Wow, that just hit home for me about the life that so many of those people have. It was just so unfortunate because of nothing that they did on their own has caused that type of almost invasion, right and just disruption.
It’s just really it’s just really sad.
But it’s a it’s a great thing to be a part of, to be able to support all these Ukrainian families. So we’ve been able to donate over 100 fireplaces to the Ukrainian families.
Well, Chris, you’re an absolutely remarkable individual with a nominal business model. And I love everything you’re doing. If a person wants more information on acucraft, how would they reach out to you?
Direct@acuratecraft.com would be great.
Chris, thanks for being with us today.
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