John Curry always figured he'd work at Knutson Construction, the Minneapolis business his family owns.
But first, he took a detour: On the roster for the Pittsburgh Penguins' 2009 Stanley Cup run and as a goalie for the hometown Minnesota Wild.
After eight years as a professional hockey player, he turned back to the 110-year-old family business. But he didn't leave everything on the ice. He brought with him his appreciation of teamwork.
"To get a talented group of people aligned around a set of goals and objectives, I've seen the power of when that happens," said Curry, 37, who has an economics degree from Boston University and an MBA from the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management.
Last month, he was named president as the third generation of the family running the day-to-day operations of the company. Recent projects include the University of Minnesota Masonic Institute for the Developing Brain, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner's facility in Minnetonka and an expansion of M Health Fairview's St. John's Hospital in Maplewood.
"John has been leading overall strategic planning as well as our focus on delivering an outstanding customer experience," owner and chairman Steve Curry, who is John Curry's father, said in a statement. "I'm excited to see him take this step to shape the future for Knutson and our team."
As director of customer experience, John Curry met with and listened to Knutson's "four key customers" — project owners, design partners, trade partners and employees. He used their feedback to launch initiatives to improve customer satisfaction and measure company performance.
The focus on customers was intentional, he said, at a family company that promises to deliver "the Knutson Experience."
And that was a critical piece during the pandemic.
"We have a unique size in our market that allows us to demonstrate more flexibility at times," Curry said. "We've invested heavily in pre-construction in the past five years, and that ties back into customer experience … to give clients that level of confidence before you even break ground."
Working with clients during the design phase of a project enables Knutson — which also has offices in Rochester, Mankato and Iowa City and Cedar Rapids, Iowa — to help them plan for or make adjustments in response to supply chain or material pricing problems related to the pandemic.
Knutson's emphasis on health care, education and science and technology projects helped limit fallout over the past year and a half.
While the pandemic affected Knutson's business, as a number of projects got put on hold, the vast majority, Curry said, are in progress or are back in the design and planning phase.
Curry enjoys working with the people in the construction field, describing them as "good quality, hardworking people that are just amazing problem solvers."
He also likes the final products.
"What I love is that what we create is permanent," he said. "To take a drive with your kid or a family member or friend and go by these buildings that are part of your community and have kind of a stamp of ownership over that is really special."
Todd Nelson is a freelance writer in Lake Elmo. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.