Justin Thibaut is a near-perfect example of an economic development official’s dream come true: someone who grew up in Southwest Florida, worked all over the world and returned home. It’s reverse brain drain — where in other cases, the region loses its homegrown talent.
Of course, Thibaut had a good reason to come back to Fort Myers in the summer of 2016: to work at the prominent commercial real estate firm LSI Cos., run by his dad, Randy Thibaut. “I never thought I would get into this business; I wanted to do my own thing,” says the younger Thibaut. “I wanted to travel. I wanted to see the world. I wanted to work on complicated stuff.”
Justin Thibaut accomplished that by working for a trio of energy and nuclear power companies soon after he earned a degree in construction management from the University of Florida. One stop was with Bechtel Power Corp., where he was a project controls engineer on the Turkey Point Nuclear Generating Station in Miami-Dade County. After that he did a stint with BP, as a project manager for the firm’s massive Thunder Horse oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, 150 miles southeast of New Orleans. One last energy gig was three years with Chevron, working both in Houston and Angola on multiple projects.
Thibaut learned slew of business lessons during his five years in the power and energy sector. One key lesson, he says, is execution of difficult projects requires an ability to solve problems without hesitation or overthinking. “Nothing would go according to plan,” he says of life on oil rig, which included some 30-day sessions where he worked nearly every day. “It was always adjustments and doing different things to make things happen. It’s not like building a home. You’re building a massive construction project out in the ocean.”
At LSI Cos., Thibaut oversees the 23-person firm and daily operations of its three subsidiaries. He specializes in commercial real estate analysis and acquisitions and has brokered more than $100 million in deals. He started as a sales associate and worked his way up and now, even with his swashbuckling background, loves his new career. “I’m a very curious person,” Thibaut says, “and you learn something new every day in this job.”
ON THE RECORD: Justin Thibaut
Employer: LSI Companies Inc.
Title: Chief Operating Officer
Birthplace: Fort Myers
Years on the Gulf Coast: 31
Marital status/children: Married
Alma mater/degree: University of Florida: Bachelor of Science in construction management
Where is the best place to network? Where you'd least expect
What's the best business lesson you've ever learned? Two ears, one mouth
What's your top tip for being productive? Downtime is key; make the most of it.
What's the weirdest job you've ever had? Project controls at a nuclear plant
What community group or organization are you most involved with? Lee BIA Builder's Care
If you could have a side hustle, what would it be? Buying and selling on Craigslist
What's your favorite off-hours activity? Anything outside
What's your favorite board game or video game? Pictionary
What's the top item on your bucket list? 30 days off the grid exploring
Where is your happy place? On the water with my wife and dogs
What's your favorite podcast? "This American Life"
Who/what is your favorite musical artist/band? Sammy Kershaw
Who would play you in a movie about your life? Fred Armisen
What was your first album/tape cassette/CD? "I Can't Dance" — Genesis
What was your first concert? "The Truth Tour" — Usher
What's one song that will get you out on the dance floor? "Broccoli" by DRAM
What's your favorite karaoke song? "Sweet Child O' Mine"
What instrument/role would you play in a band? Guitar
Please describe yourself in three words. Bold, tenacious and creative