Executive Spotlight: Scott Kirchner, Mad Macs Co-owner/president and director of operations
PITTSFIELD — Scott Kirchner has a hobby and a career. He has used one to create a successful business, and the other to maintain his creativity.
Kirchner is the co-owner of Mad Macs of Pittsfield, a business that he started out of his truck 21 years ago. He now owns Mad Macs with business partner Daryl Corbett. Since its inception, Mad Macs has had three locations in Pittsfield, and recently consolidated its former Williamstown store with its current store at the Allendale Shopping Center on Cheshire Road.
Kirchner's hobby is music, a passion the 49-year-old Berkshire native fell in love with when he was 12. He recently finished 19th among more than 700 entrants in a national music writing contest. Kirchner, who also has worked as an audio engineer, is planning to place the five songs that he submitted to the contest on an album and release it for his 50th birthday.
I met with Kirchner to talk about his career, his hobby and why he isn't shy about speaking his mind.
Q Why did you form your own business?
A I never got technical with the stuff until I went to Kleiser-Walczak, the special effects company that used to be at Mass MoCA. In my role there as a production assistant I was constantly asked to take a look at the Mac problems. I developed a knack for it. One thing led to another, and eventually I started taking customers on the side. Then, the whole thing sort of took off. I started out of a vehicle. It officially became a business in 1998, when I left Kleiser. They became one of my first clients.
Q You started as a recording engineer; how did you wind up selling and fixing computers?
A I had computer classes in high school, but my degree is in audio and video engineering. I went to the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and worked at a recording studio for many years. I made albums for other people. ... One of my first jobs out of school was at Berkshire Community College in the media department in the early 1990s. They had just purchased what was called a Macintosh Quadra AV 840; it was for audio and video editing. I got tinkering around with it. Before that, I wasn't a big fan of computers; I was recording on an analog medium. But when I started using that machine, it really changed everything. I found myself wanting to learn more, particularly about Macintosh. I'd been exposed to PCs, but they didn't light my fire. Once I started working with the Mac, it really opened up a lot of creative possibilities for me.
Q Why did you name your business Mad Macs?
A I have to somewhat give credit to Ellen Bernstein. She was the former owner of The [Williamstown] Advocate. She was one of my first clients. I did some work for her when I didn't really have a name. She said, "So, what do you call yourself?" I said, "I really don't call myself anything. I just work out of my truck." And she said, "You're a real road warrior, aren't you?" And I said, "Yeah, just call me Mad Macs."
Q Where was your first real location, not your truck?
A In my home in Lanesborough. I had an office downstairs. Boy, did that fill up quick. It was a great business idea, and I saw the fruits of it right away. I had a lot of clients, and I was making a lot of money. But I had never run a business before, so I went to Berkshire Enterprises. They helped me get through it. They're a great organization. I wish they were still here.
Q How were you able to grow?
A I don't think there's one way you can answer that, but I think primarily we grew from word-of-mouth. I say this and I mean it: We're not perfect, but we always try and do everything we can with a degree of quality. And we never pass the buck.
Q You've known co-owner Corbett since you were 15. He joined you at Mad Macs the year after the business was formed. Tell me about your working relationship.
A Him and I are like the yin and the yang. When I'm outspoken, he's the quiet and thoughtful partner. He brings balance to the partnership that is very important. I'm the guy who shoots from the hip. He's like, "Let's look at the big picture; let's sit back and think about this." He's more conservative than me, but that conservatism has been a linchpin in our relationship because I need somebody to put the brakes on me. I have 150 different ideas a minute, and Daryl just wants to make sure that we're selecting the best 150 before we go forward.
Q You're pretty direct.
A My mother always said, "Tell it like it is. Don't sugarcoat it; [use] nuance." I'm always someone who feels the truth should be told. There's an old saying, and you know this as well as anybody: People are entitled to their opinions. They're not entitled to the facts. The facts are the facts.
Q How did you get involved in music?
A The first time I heard Jimi Hendrix play "Purple Haze," that was it. I was sold. I think I got my first guitar when I was 12 or 13 years old. I never got very good at playing it for a long time, but I made a lot of noise. I started out playing drums and percussion when I was in the fifth grade, but my parents said no to a drum kit because you couldn't control the volume and I grew up in a house with six kids. There was just like no way.
Q What was it like to finish so high, ranked around 19, in the The Ernie Ball-Eric Clapton Play Crossroads songwriting competition?
A That's encouraging. I've been writing music since I was 15. When you start to get older and start to realize we're not going to be here forever, I started looking back at all the songs I'd written and realized I'd never made an album.
Q So, you're going to make one now?
A I said I should do it for my children. Something for them to remember me by. Maybe they won't care, maybe they will. But the reality of it is that here I am, almost 50 years old, and I've got these songs that are OK. I went back through dozens of my songs, and picked about 20 of my favorites. For the last six months, I've been working on that album, and my goal is to finish that album by my 50th birthday next year and release it. The idea wasn't to release it; actually, the idea was that I was doing it for me. I was going to release, like, 10 copies. But people seem to like the music. I'm flattered. I'm humbled.
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