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Giuseppe Lama

By Steve ChurmPublished: November 01, 2012

Managing director The Resort at Pelican Hill, Newport Beach
Hot factor: Heads one of the world’s top resorts

Born into a restaurant family in a small Italian village, Giuseppe Lama was destined to be in the hospitality industry. But it was an encounter nearly two decades ago while serving lunch to a legend that shaped his sensibilities about world-class service.

While he was manager of the Century Plaza Hotel in West Los Angeles, Lama’s team catered a midday meal every day for former president Ronald Reagan in his offices next door.

One day, Lama mustered up the courage to ask Reagan, known as the “Great Communicator,” the secret to connecting with people.

“To truly connect with someone, Reagan told me, you have to look straight at their eyes and truly see the color of their eyes,” Lama recalls. “Only then are you focused on that individual to the point where you can communicate honestly and genuinely.”

Since that day, Lama, who oversees the daily operations at one of America’s most decorated resorts, has tried to follow Reagan’s golden rule.

“Every single day in every single conversation with staff or guests, I have worked to deliver the kind of sincere service that makes the difference in this competitive industry,” he says.

The first employee hired in 2007 when the Irvine Company assembled its staff of nearly 900 at the spectacular coastal destination, Lama has been instrumental in helping Pelican Hill gain worldwide attention. Condé Nast Traveler named Pelican Hill the top U.S. Resort in 2011 and the Top Golf Club Resort in the world in 2012. It did not happen without challenges. The resort opened in the teeth of the recession, and Lama now admits,

“We had moments of real difficulty.” But an improving economy and a world-class location has dramatically lifted the resort’s outlook and occupancy rates. “I tell my staff that every day is like playing a World Series game,” he says. “Every guest, every conversation, every decision counts. It’s how you succeed.”

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