SBJ/March 20 - 26, 2006/Careerspeople

Don’t trash him because of his previous job

Curt Knapp admits that his career path has been unique. He started out as a biochemical engineer, then obtained an MBA in finance, and he’s moved from the motor-oil business to the waste business and now to the agency business. Along the way he has had the opportunity work with the NBA, NFL, PGA Tour and champion NHRA driver John Force. Knapp recently discussed his new career path at USM&P with staff writer Brandon McClung.

Age: 47
New title: Managing director and senior vice president, U.S. Marketing and Promotions
Previous title: Vice president of marketing, Waste Management Inc.
First job: Box closer in an aluminum siding factory
College education: Bachelor of science, biochemical engineering, Rutgers University (1980); MBA, finance, Rutgers University (1988)
Resides: Relocating to Dallas with wife Susan and children Christopher and Ashlee from the New York City metro area
Grew up: Colonia, N.J.
Executive most admired: Mark Lazarus, president, Turner Entertainment Group
Brand most admired: Ping
Favorite vacation spot: Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
Last movie seen: “Match Point”
Favorite movie: “Forrest Gump”
Favorite musician: Red Hot Chili Peppers

What will be the biggest challenge in your new position?

I’ve got to build and direct a team to develop and execute a new piece of business that will be one of the largest and most complex programs that our company has ever tackled.

What is the biggest risk you’ve taken in your career?

When I took the challenge to go to work for Waste Management. It was a very high-profile turnaround situation. Waste Management had recent highly negative press related to an Arthur Andersen accounting scandal and Waste Management’s landfill properties. Plus, they had never done strategic marketing before and their brand ID was all over the map. There was a tremendous amount of inertia that had to be overcome there and the company had a totally new senior management team, so I couldn’t have a full understanding of what I was coming into. Fortunately, it worked out great.

What is your biggest professional accomplishment?

There are really two that come to mind. The first is developing and executing the launch of Castrol Syntec Motor Oil, which was one of the most successful new product launches in automotive aftermarket history. The second was the results coming out of Waste Management. To take what was there, which was virtually nothing in the way of strategic brand marketing, and develop and execute a program that culminated in a $20 million network campaign was very satisfying.

What is one story you are continuing to watch in sports today?

Michelle Wie. As a sports fan, it is a great story. Here you have a product, someone that has an incredible level of talent and anything short of her having a career that is absolutely phenomenal would be a disappointment. At the same time, you could have a great debate whether she is being handled the right way. Whether she needs to learn how to win or whether she just needs to be challenged by the toughest competition.

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