Monday 26 February 2024

Making Work Meaningful with Paul Edlund

Posted by at 11:41 AM

Making Work Meaningful with Paul Edlund

Paul Edlund loved being a criminal defense lawyer. After he graduated from University of Minnesota’s William Mitchell Law School, he opened his own private law firm and grew it to success. He enjoyed the people, problem solving, and in-court room experiences where he tried around 75 trials, and a handful of murder cases. Everything was great, until it wasn’t.

“It went from being fun, exciting, and sexy and great to talk about at cocktail parties to terrible, horrible, rotten, and awful…it was too much for me and took a major toll on my emotional well-being and mental health. Ultimately, I drank my career away, drank away my marriage, drank away a couple houses, nearly drank away my three children by not showing up,” Edlund explained.

On February 23, 2016, Paul entered Hazelden for addiction to alcohol where he has continued his sobriety ever since. He was able to look at life and himself differently and has credited his treatment as giving him a whole new life he didn’t know existed.

“To be a different dad, to be a different son, employer…it’s allowed me a different level of understanding and empathy for others that I didn’t have before,” Edlund said.

Through his recovery community, he was connected to the owner of J. Benson Construction. Paul eventually started working for him, built a relationship, and learned everything he needed to know about construction. Edlund’s goal was to take over the business and eventually, that’s exactly what happened. He has been the owner now for three years, and what he says gets him excited about construction is the opportunity to employ people from underserved communities – and help people understand there is a better and different path that they may not be aware of.

“Many clients of mine in the criminal defense space were young, black males and others, who were from underserved communities who often times were underemployed, unemployed, or coming from a life situation that they didn’t see a lot of positivity around them and were hopeless in their life situations…so my hope is that I can make an impact and curate that difference as an employer bringing construction careers to those in that community,” Edlund said.

Initially, J. Benson had been focused on residential insurance work – fire damage, storm damage, or water damage on residential homes. Edlund wanted to completely pivot to a new market; general contracting and commercial construction with an angle to be a minority business partner to large general contractors looking to meet their diverse goals (Kraus-Anderson, Mortenson, Knutson, among others). Edlund explained it’s a win-win for everybody to get people working and meet diversity company goals, but it has been tough.

“I don’t think you can blame anyone for it, because there’s many well-intentioned folks out there, but it’s been a head scratcher. How do we work with small business or minority-owned businesses particularly for these billion-dollar companies that’s used to working with other huge contractors. It takes a lot more work and effort on everyone’s end to help do that,” Edlund said.

What Edlund takes a lot of pride in is when his company was selected as the general contractor for the First Independence Bank project – which is the first black-owned bank in Minnesota. Being a black-owned firm – it was meaningful to him to try to create change in terms of racial injustice.

Paul has a unique perspective on how to help rebuild people and communities. One day, he is hoping to build J. Benson Construction as something he can pass down to his kids, if they choose to join him. For now, his goal for his company is to make his work meaningful.

“I tend to look less of that as dollars of volume and more of what does the impact look like? What change can we have? I want to do something that I feel good about and that my kids can be proud about too,” Edlund said.


To listen to the entire interview, click here