Lili Amini, GM of the Trump National Golf CLub in Rancho Palos Verdes (photo: Eddie Meeks)
Her dark brown eyes sparkled and danced as she talked enthusiastically about her role as general manager of Trump National Golf Club.
It would be an error to assess her abilities based on her youthful looks.
Make no mistake, Lili Amini, 35, the woman in charge of one of Donald Trump’s most prized possessions, got her job the old fashioned way - she earned it.
In February 2011, when the man who was in charge of this multi-million dollar facility on the Palos Verdes coast left Trump’s employ - for reasons Amini politely did not reveal - she accepted the job as interim general manager. Four months later, after accepting applications from all over the country and around the world, Trump gave her the job permanently.
“As the assistant GM I was familiar with the role of general manager, but my main responsibility for Mr. Trump was booking and coordinating large events. I wasn’t sure I wanted to even apply for the position,” she said.
Trump National Golf Club is made up of two restaurants, both very high-end. There are two banquet facilities used for weddings, golf tournaments, corporate outings and anything else you might imagine, accommodating 10 to 10,000. Then there’s the golf course with a tee sheet filled to brim Friday through Sunday, despite its $275 daily fee.
“In the seven years I’ve been here, I’ve never looked past the job I was doing,” the GM position being her fourth different rung up the Trump ladder since joining the organization. The reason she accepted the interim GM position was because Mr. Trump asked her to “give it a try.”
First some background. Lili Amini grew up in the South Bay, having first lived in Florida after her parents fled Iran in 1979, leaving behind tyranny, and all of their possessions.
“We had nothing when we fled,” she told me. Her father, who worked in the petroleum industry, didn’t know what he would do when he got here but was confident he was doing the right thing for his family.
A few years later the family moved west, landing in San Pedro. Lili was 9 and her brother Reza, 12. Her dad Hank worked as a petroleum consultant; her mother, Fay, an experienced floral designer having studied in Italy, opened a flower shop.
Amini graduated San Pedro High School and went to El Camino Junior College for a while, but she “wanted a more hands on, faster paced life experience.” She heard about the Fashion Institute for Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles, one of the top design schools in the country. She attended FIDM and completed a specialized program that included international marketing and developing new products.
Out of curiosity one day she decided to attend the grand opening of Trump National in 2005. That day, in a chance meeting with Donald Trump, her life changed directions.
“I’ve learned so much from him and one thing he does that people don’t realize is ask questions, all kinds of questions,” she said.
What did Donald Trump see in Lili Amini to extend her an offer? A call to his office got that answer and more.
“Lili was well spoken, polite, and seemed to have a very clear focus concerning what she was doing or planned to do. There was something very grounded about her. She had an innate confidence that was impressive,” Trump said.
Where Donald Trump wears his confidence in ways everybody sees, Amini does not. “He sees my dedication, my passion for the place, my passion for the brand. Not in what I say, but in what has been accomplished.”
Trump was aware of her skills which led to his decision to drop the “interim” from Amini’s title last May.
“She had other attributes that I noticed,” Trump said. “She is very personable, [she] makes herself clear without being heavy handed. She has a quiet power that serves her well in an executive position.”
As a boss, he’s not what you would expect either according to Amini. “He is not a micro-manager. He gives his managers the opportunity to run things the way we want to. He’s really become my mentor … although I don’t know that he’s aware of that.”
Donald Trump saw that attribute in Amini too. “I’ve watched Lili progress in her position and realized she was comfortable as well as competent,” he said.
Regarding her long work days, Amini said, “I am here that much because I want to be. There is no outside pressure from anyone, no demands poured down on me; this is what I want to do.” That’s worked pretty well for Lili Amini and it’s working well for Trump National Golf Club too.