- By Susan Salisbury Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Jack Lighton has been at the helm of the nonprofit Loggerhead Marinelife Center since 2013. The organization is committed to the conservation of Florida’s coastal ecosystems through public education, research and rehabilitation with a special focus on threatened and endangered sea turtles.
The number of visitors to the center where turtles recuperating from injuries or illness can be viewed up close has been growing each year. Construction is slated to begin this year on a $14 million expansion that will more than double the center’s size.
The center, just north of Donald Ross Road on the east side of U.S. 1, opened in 1983 in Loggerhead Park as the Children’s Museum of Juno Beach.
LMC’s current 12,000 square-foot center was built in 2007, welcoming 100,000 guests. In 2015 LMC’s campus welcomed a record-setting 300,000-plus guests, making the campus one of the top visited cultural destinations in Palm Beach County.
Name: Jack E. Lighton
Hometown: Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan but grew up in North Palm Beach County.
Education: Undergrad: Oakland University, Communications; MBA: University of Phoenix, International Business
Family: Spouse: Giovanni Di Stadio; three rescue dogs
About your organization: The Sea Turtle Hospital at Loggerhead Marinelife Center is one of Palm Beach County’s most visited cultural destinations. In addition to the sea turtle hospital, we manage the Juno Beach Pier and collaborate with FPL’s Manatee Lagoon.
Our campuses welcome nearly 500,000 guests per year. At the sea turtle hospital nearly 60 percent of our guests visit with us from outside of Palm Beach County. LMC’s annual economic impact is just over $52 million to our local economy. We have nearly 33 full-time and 33 part-time employees and over 300 active volunteers.
We rehabilitate about 100 sea turtle patients each year and save thousands of sea turtle hatchlings each season. Fun fact - the 9.5 mile stretch of beach our research team manages is one of the most densely nested sea turtle beaches on our planet — last season this beach hosted over 19,000 sea turtle nests.
First paying job and what you learned from it: I worked as a service porter at a Lexus dealership. This job taught me about keeping a very tight schedule, working among a fast-paced team and providing an exceptional customer experience.
First break in the business: I applied for an internship in college. I loved cars and discovered an automotive marketing firm was seeking a data analyst intern. I applied and was accepted. My internship was absolutely exceptional; I was able to work side-by-side with our firm’s senior partners, who invested in our success.
I was asked to submit an internship project . Mine was how the firm could grow further into the recreational market-space — I pitched studies targeting the marine industry. My internship project was accepted, the firm hired me, and we launched first-of-their-kind studies, which helped improve the product quality of boats and increase boaters’ customer satisfaction with their boating and boat-serving experiences. From here I went on to work in data driven management consulting, and I learned a ton from my team members and my clients.
How your business has changed: For me, the underpinnings of business remain the same. You must provide a quality product with quality service, and maintain and grow trust among your clients and teams. The pace with which we move seems to be increasing and the way in which information moves digitally oftentimes removes the personal nature of your work. Staying personal and authentic can be challenging in the digital era; however, digital is a new frontier and connection point for brands, and it is a direct connection to their future (younger) customers.
Best business book you read: “The World is Flat” by Thomas L. Friedman
Best piece of business advice you received: From my parents, “Create a legacy.”
What you tell young people about your business: Usually when speaking with very young people I don’t do a ton of talking. I typically will hand them my smart phone and show them photos and videos of our sea turtle patients. Children are naturally inquisitive, when they see our patients on our live turtle camera for example, they ask the questions that allow me to talk about the amazing work occurring at our sea turtle hospital. It’s a wonderful conversation starter — unique.
Many successful people learn from failure. Do you have a failure you can share and what you learned from it? I look back at my time in management consulting during the 2008 economic downturn as one of the most eye-opening business lessons of my career. Everything we knew about business management in our professional consultancy firm became fluid over night. Rapid innovation, extreme efficiencies, doing much more with much less, became the norm. Watching exceptional brands go out of business due to inflexibility and relying on historical data was very tough — we all were living a new normal. This era in business taught me that innovation and being completely tenacious was a must.
What do you see ahead for Palm Beach County? Palm Beach County is entering an incredibly exciting period. We are Florida’s cultural capital and our economy has diversified greatly over the past two decades. Our state tax system is extremely lucrative for individuals and businesses, and the lifestyle we offer is world class. I am smitten with being a Palm Beach County resident, I can not imagine a more perfect place to live, work and raise a family. I believe PBC is poised for even more greatness.
Power lunch spot: Bricktops, Palm Beach Gardens — the view, food, and service never ever disappoint
Where we’d find you when you’re not at the office: Volunteering at the North American Veterinary Heart Center in Jupiter.
Favorite smartphone app: My iPhone’s camera
What is the most important trait you look for when hiring? The ability to self start and self manage.