As he steps into the role of president at Minneapolis-based Knutson Construction this month, John C. Curry is no stranger to the spotlight.
Curry spent years as a goalie with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Minnesota Wild organizations.
Now, he is taking the helm of Knutson as the third-generation owner and Curry family member to lead the company. Curry, who joined Knutson in 2015, spent some time with Construction Dive to talk about where he sees the company going, what he sees as the industry's biggest challenge and lessons from his hockey career.
The following has been edited for brevity and clarity.
CONSTRUCTION DIVE: How do you put your stamp on an established family business, while appreciating where the firm has been?
JOHN C. CURRY: This new leadership team is going to want to chart our own path. But we want to continue a lot of the positive momentum as a company that has been building for the last number of years. We want to continue that mission and our focus on the customer.
We also want to continue to grow. Growth is top and bottom line, but it's also broader. We talk about [growth in] our capabilities, our customers and our capabilities to develop people.
You're in many sectors, including healthcare, education, recreation, hospitality, corporate, government, manufacturing, industrial and retail. Which of these will provide the most growth for you?
The biggest market that we've been in traditionally has been healthcare. Higher education is another one. So those are ones that we want to continue to grow.
We're seeing how some of the things we've learned in healthcare, higher ed and research facilities translate to emerging markets, like biomed.
We're going to see a lot of these emerging markets in the next five or 10 years. We want to be careful. We want to continue to grow our expertise in health care and some of these core markets. But we [also] want to find some of these [new] niches that fit who we are.
What challenges do you see for the company and the industry as a whole in the next few years?
It is skilled labor in the trades. Honestly, you have to be careful where you're building projects nowadays. And you have to be thoughtful about whether the labor is going to be there for your own workforce and your trade partners. As an industry, that's going to be a challenge to solve.
We're focused a lot on that. And honestly, it brings us to diversity, equity and inclusion. There is so much opportunity there. You can see the momentum building for that in our industry. I see an opportunity to bridge that gap of skilled labor from the project management to the office supervision side of things.
What are some opportunities you see for the industry?
Each building is unique and it can't be this cookie-cutter approach [to design and build them]. You have this inherent complexity. I think technology is starting to help solve some of those problems to streamline the process. There is an opportunity to solve some of the problems in construction that haven't been solved in the last 40 years.
How did your hockey career prepare you for the construction business?
Early in my career and through college, I played on some really good teams. The minute that you don't play for a team that plays well together, or that is not aligned in trying to achieve the same goals, it becomes a scary place for a goalie to be. [In construction], you [also] need a team to rely on. You can't spend enough time and effort to make sure that the team is engaged, committed and aligned on the goals.
The other one [lesson] I'm able to apply is about the adversity that you face day in and day out. There are just a lot of highs and a lot of lows [in professional sports]. And I think that's true in business and construction. You inherently gain composure by going through those experiences where you hit a major problem or an issue and you just try not to get too high or too low. You sort through it and you lean on your team to solve problems.