What’s Around the Bend for Kerfkore with Max Ruckman

April 13, 2023

It’s been over 5 years since Max Ruckman became the new owner of Kerfkore. In that time, he’s helped introduce a larger emphasis on employee benefits and work culture and overhauled Kerfkore’s manufacturing capabilities and marketing. In honor of Max’s half-decade anniversary, we sat down for an interview and asked him what led him to Kerfkore and what he envisions for the future of the company.

Life Before Kerfkore

“I believe in being a lifelong learner, if you’re not, you’re going to have a hard time adapting and changing,” says Max.

From working with the likes of B.B. King and Chet Atkins as a product manager of a signature line of guitars at Gibson Guitars to working with architects and interior designers as the Brand Manager of Black and Decker’s Home Hardware Division, Max carved out a prolific marketing career. His resume before Kerfkore is filled with pivots, but there are a few constants that would make Kerfkore a perfect match: a focus on marketing, manufacturing, and high-quality design.

Around 2018, after working as the director of marketing for various high-profile businesses and rebuilding several brands, Max was ready for the next challenge of his career.

“I was getting to the age when marketing has a way of eating its old. But, I always talked about owning something,” explains Max. “Everything I’ve done always tied back to building something new within the organization or fixing a brand. It’s not for everyone, but I like it. It’s a messy process, you’ve got to be able to see the long game. If you’re playing the short game, it’s never going to work.”

Since Max’s arrival at Kerfkore, he’s been hard at work applying his philosophy of company and brand renovation. He’s updated plant infrastructure and added new processes and systems, resulting in a more efficient plant and increasing overall output.

Max’s focus goes beyond just updating the physical side of the company, he wants to build a better culture as well. He’s overhauled employee benefits, highlighted by the addition of several paid holidays, paid time off, an extended break between Christmas and New Year’s Day, and bonus plans.

“I would say we’re still developing the overall culture, but what we have now is a strong, collaborative team across all areas inside and outside of the plant. Our long-term goal is to create a culture where people want to stay here, solve problems, and think for themselves. We want a diverse, empowered culture where people feel comfortable taking chances, and know they sometimes make mistakes. And legitimately enjoy coming to work.”

What’s Around the Bend for Kerfkore

When it comes to the future of Kerfkore, Max wants to expand in a way that’s aligned with Kerfkore’s reputation for accessible and high-quality panels, while still opening new doors for the future.

“I’ve been with companies where they make the trip to the Moon and then plan their next trip to Pluto, when their next trip should be Mars,” says Max. “It makes more sense to think about what’s adjacent to us. Finishing and decorative are already part of what we do but our goal is to broaden our offering across all areas inside and outside of the plant into products across many markets and uses. So, our next step is something adjacent and the most adjacent thing for us is to stretch further into the decorative panel market.”

“Our plan is to have some new products out later in the year, and then certainly more by IWF 2024 in Atlanta. We’re very excited about an upcoming collaboration that we hope will make a splash in the market.”

Similar to his marketing career, Max isn’t content with maintaining the course— he envisions a future where Kerfkore is continuously adapting, changing, and learning

“Will it work out? Who knows, but I know sitting still is not an option— you’re either going forward or you’re going backward, you can’t tread water forever.”