Paul Leone | Crain's Orlando

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Paul Leone


Paul Leone began his career with the iconic resort in Palm Beach in 1985, becoming president in 1994 and CEO in 2016. The Breakers Palm Beach's affiliate, Flagler System Management, Inc., and the Frisbie Group recently partnered to revitalize the adjacent historic district, Royal Poinciana Way. The mixed-use project will be dubbed Royal Poinciana Palm Beach upon completion in 2020.

The Mistake:

I thought I had established a work-life balance, but I was wrong. I had this experience that made me realize that what I had been doing was a mistake, [thinking that] life is mostly about your job, and then trying to weave into it the other parts of your life. And that was a big mistake for me because the quality [back then] was nothing like it is today for me and has been for the last 12 years.

When I was a younger executive, I was trying to tackle the challenge of my job and my personal life using sheer physical energy — getting up early, staying up late, working as hard as I could. And I thought I was doing just fine because everyone was telling me I was Superman.

I realized that there was a better way. I found that [the power source] is not just about sheer energy. It’s about the quality of your energy, not just the quantity. The quality can be generated by a really powerful balance of physical, emotional, mental and spiritual dynamics.

Not only can we create better energy, we can also create more energy.

The Lesson:

At one point in our company’s evolution, we were trying to find a wellness program that could be the foundation for a much bigger vision that would impact the quality of life for all our employees, not just our senior leaders, and deal with a number of issues, including healthcare costs that were spiraling out of control. We went to test out this program at the Human Performance Institute in Lake Nona [near Orlando]. The top leaders went through this program. And in order to figure out if it was going to work, I had to follow the plan. What I found was — and this is the essence of the program —that not only can we create better energy, we can also create more energy.

Once I was so proud of myself for making it home for dinner with my wife and four sons, no matter what was going on at work. I realized with the help of this program that I was physically there — but not mentally or emotionally. I was literally just “showing up.”

Around three to six months into following the plan, I remember my kids saying to my wife, “What is going on with Dad? He’s, like, super-charged all of the sudden.” Now when I’m home for dinner I’m completely there — mentally and emotionally, not just physically. I wasn’t thinking about all the phone calls I still had to make that I didn’t get to as I ran home for dinner. Believe it or not, that created more energy because I didn’t carry that burden of, “I didn’t get everything done.”

With the support of the Human Performance Institute, we developed our own in-house program — sort of a train-the-trainer-program. The key part of programs like this is that they have to be part of your culture. These aren’t programs with a shelf-life, like employee-of-the-month. On an everyday basis here, there’s so much access: from a wellness coach, to an employee fitness center, even to healthy snacks.

Over the past 10 years, our company’s healthcare costs have risen at a rate of only 50 percent of the national average. So that’s real, hard evidence that the focus on wellness in this particular program is seeing positive results.

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Photo courtesy of Lila Photo