Innocast Execuline – Honoring Excellence

The story of Innocast Execuline begin in 1982 as an answer to a common aspiration between a father and son, Phil Efron and his dad Stan, the latter an accomplished sculptor, when they purchased the Bronze Bell Factory in Howard Lake, Minnesota.
At the time the bread and butter of the existing business were large bronze bells for steam locomotives and fire engines. Remember those? Phil’s and Stan’s vision literally rose from the foundry floor as the company consisted of a few existing employees, no technology, few tools and many inefficiencies.
00004I love those classic garage start-up stories and this, although a “foundry” start-up, has many similar parallels. Initially, the Bronze Bell acquisition gave the Efrons’ a base load with the bells, but also their own foundry to make lost wax castings of Stan’s bronze sculptures.
Phil’s recollections of those early days revealed to me their father-son bond and passion for unique artistry and excellence. I also detected a common curiosity – and faith – about how their dreams for the business might unfold. My sense is that they “listened” for opportunities that uniquely fit their passion. Soon they began casting bronzes for other artists and an established national jewelry line. The latter firm, known for their rings and commemorative jewelry … outsourced from independent foundries … small bronze statues and replicas of industrial equipment, military vehicles and airplanes.
About this same time the Efrons discovered an American sculptor who had pioneered bronze for the recognition industry, featuring primarily native American and eagle sculptures. That prompted Phil and Stan to attend an industry recognition show that made an impression on them both; artists first, they were startled, yet excited, about how pedestrian the recognition industry was in the context of quality and creativity. stan-eagle-1aSo the next year they exhibited at the same show with an upscale booth design, displaying Stan’s wildlife and eagle bronzes. The responses were positive and steady. They figured it out on the fly, responding to custom design inquiries. They provided the customer with color renderings – back then via airbrush artistry. Early programs featured statues and product replications.
Fast forward two or three years and Phil noticed the growing presence of crystal awards. At the time the company was known as Innocast; but, as they expanded their capability in hand-blown and then lead crystal, they rebranded as Innocast Execuline. Their crystal designs stood out from others and Phil recalls that the benefit of one-off designs is the difficulty of industry knock-offs and the benefit of multi-year annuity reorders.
wilford2One of their early projects for me was this design for a major hospital system that honored the legacy of their retired CEO in tribute to the corporate values that he instituted during his 18-year tenure. The design, crafted from the sketches of two hospital employee submissions, encompassed the Innocast/Execuline artistry in crystal, marble and metal.
Today they remain committed to creating offerings that have high perceived value and intrinsic quality, commensurate with the level of quality that is in balance with the achievement that’s being honored. Many clients, who are “business artisans” in their own right … namely automotive, pharmaceutical and insurance … place a high value on performance in sales, quality and innovation. It makes sense to me that those Fortune 500 clients, for example, “repay” their achievers with artistry equal to the accomplishments. In addition, Innocast/Execuline has produced custom commissions for heads of State, political leaders and celebrities.
img_20150126_120058621Today, Phil summarizes the expectation that a recent investment in manufacturing technology will allow them to work more with aluminum and stainless steel. Instead of things “being glued to a base” we’re going to integrate … bend the materials into curves that make it impossible to replicate … even engrave into faces and carve graphics that make the face itself a piece of art – even more than the shape we started with – using CNC design and milling. Phil said “we’re starting to carve incredible stuff and once we’ve got it down in metal and stone we will be moving into carving glass”. Phil’s likened his passion for “precise artistry” to the fit and finish and materials of a luxury sports car instrument panel. “It’s going to be precise – and no one will understand how it was made”. Very high aspirations when you understand that, beyond artistry, there is an element of mystery. And, from my perspective, it is impressive that the ultimate recipients know that no one else has one.
My mission at Visible Applause® is “Elevating how the world says well done”. Following my engineering career, as I began in my own “bronze bell” fashion … framing homemade certificates and etched glass blanks in my garage workshop … all I cared about was how my recipients felt about the expression of thanks. I was relieved to discover the artistry of Phil and Stan at one of their early trade show appearances. My “listening” for artistic originality and meaningful expression allows me to honor excellence, thanks to Innocast Execuline, in a manner uncommon in a world of sameness.

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