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40 Under 40 - Class of 2015
Business Observer Friday, Oct. 16, 2015 6 years ago

Michael Lake, 33

Director of sales, Turbine Generator Maintenance

When Michael Lake applied to be a server at the La Playa Beach Resort in Naples in 2002, an interviewer suggested he’d be a good fit for the purchasing department.

After all, Lake had worked in purchasing for a tractor-supply company in rural Michigan while in high school.

The hotel’s operator, Noble House Hotels & Resorts, was impressed with Lake, who was then just 19 years old. “Within six months I was promoted to purchasing director,” he says. “I was the youngest manager that Noble House had in their ranks.”

Although he was managing millions of dollars of purchases for the hotel, it was the salespeople who made an impression on the young purchasing director. “They were the guys who are off on the weekends, leave at 4:30 every day, drive nice cars,” Lake chuckles. “I always wanted to do that.”

So when Lake saw an ad for sales at an industrial firm in Naples, he jumped at the chance in 2006. By the time he left six years later, the company’s sales had tripled to $6 million a year and Lake says he was responsible for one third of that sum.

Now at Turbine Generator Maintenance, Lake sells the Cape Coral-based company’s services to operators of power plants all over North America and, increasingly, South America. On his to-do list: Learn Spanish.

Lake’s typical day starts at 4:30 a.m. when he goes for a five-mile run. He’s training for his first marathon in November in Fort Myers, putting in long runs of 20 miles on the weekends. “I like to do it first thing in the morning,” he says. “You get a lot of time to think.”

— Jean Gruss


Name: Michael Lake

Age: 33

City of residence: Estero

Twitter handle: @mikelake42

Employer: Turbine Generator Maintenance

Title: Director of sales

Birthplace: Oscoda, Mich.

Years on the Gulf Coast: 13

Marital status/children: Married, two daughters

Alma mater: Florida SouthWestern State College

Best place to network: Holiday Inn Fort Myers Airport at Town Center.  They have great networking events with live music, great raffles and excellent hosts.

Coolest business experience: Getting one on one time with members of TGM’s board of directors.  They probably didn’t realize it, but I was very excited to meet them and find out what it really takes to achieve their level of success. I’ve always wanted to achieve greatness professionally and these individuals have done that. I met with: Wes Schattner, former president and CEO of GDF Suez North America, the largest supplier of liquid natural gas to North America; Jim Miller III, former chairman, CEO, and president of Southern Nuclear Operating Co., which operates six nuclear reactors for Southern Company; and Pat Duncan, managing partner for Azalea Capital, a very successful private equity firm based out of Greenville, S.C., that has multiple investments in the power generation Industry. Having each of these individuals in my office sitting on the other side of my desk was somewhat of a surreal experience.

The most important business lesson I’ve learned: Always keep the customer’s best interests in mind. This forces me to come up with ideas that develop into a win-win relationship with my customers. I was taught that lesson early on in my career and the longer I’m around the more that advice has paid off.

One website that makes your job easier: LinkedIn. In the power generation industry I’m typically looking for individuals with a very specific title and set of responsibilities, and on numerous occasions LinkedIn has helped me get the names of the decision-makers I need to be speaking with.

One community group you’re most involved with: Living Waters Church in Estero.  I regularly volunteer in the children’s ministry where both my daughters are enrolled. I primarily assist with guest check-in and family registration.

Favorite off-hours activity:  Running. Over the past few years I’ve turned to running as a great way to take a break from the day-to-day grind. I’ve run the Naples half marathon and the Fort Myers Hooters half marathon twice, as well as many other local 5K events, and I plan on running the Fort Myers Marathon later this year.

Two people, dead or alive, you’d like to have dinner with: Elon Musk: I was going to go Nikola Tesla here, but then I realized my fascination with Tesla is more about what they plan on doing in the future, not how advanced Mr. Tesla’s ideas were for his time. I’d love to know more about what Tesla is preparing for us in the future regarding power generation and storage.  Some of the concepts and ideas will revolutionize the way our current energy production and distribution systems operate and will truly change life as we know it.  And then we can get into the whole SpaceX venture. Warren Buffet: I am just amazed at how successful he has been throughout his lifetime and how he continually makes difficult business decisions seem simple and easy. I am sure he could share just a couple of tips over dinner that would help me with business decisions for the rest of my life.

What you would be doing if you could pick another career: I really enjoy what I’m doing right now, which is a huge key to success. But if I could pick another career I would probably be in the front office of a major sports team.  I grew up playing sports as a kid and always enjoyed watching sports, baseball and football particularly. I don’t think I would enjoy coaching at a professional level, but working in the front office would be a fun experience. 

Most adventurous thing you’ve ever done: Paragliding in the Rocky Mountains. My wife and I took a winter vacation in Colorado and one of the premier activities of that vacation was jumping off a cliff and paragliding down into a valley. It was maybe 10 degrees outside, and the wind was intense, but well worth the experience. Being 1100 feet above the ground only attached to a parachute by a few straps is a little nerve-wracking, but it was actually one of the calmest and most peaceful experiences I’ve ever had.

What’s at the top of your bucket list: Skydiving is at the very top of my bucket list. I have an amazing fear of heights, which is why the paragliding experience mentioned above is by far the most adventurous thing I’ve ever done. I went paragliding to battle my fear of heights, which is the same reason why I want to skydive.  Once I’ve done that, I can say I’ve conquered my fear!

What new skill would you like to learn: I would like to learn how to speak Spanish. I have been learning how to speak Tagalog, which has been a process, and I would like to expand on that and learn Spanish as well. We live in a global society and the better we are able to communicate the more successful we can be.

Who would play you in a movie about your life: I would think that Hugh Jackman would want this role. I had quite a bit of fun in my teenage and early adulthood years, which I’m sure he could handle gracefully. He’s able to get serious enough to navigate through my family life and career with success as well. And to top it off, he also has a very funny dry sense of humor, which helps me in life, and would help him with the part.

If I had a magic wand I’d: Disapparate and apparate everywhere I go.  Avoid that Southwest Florida traffic!

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