Elvin Lai is not only the president and CEO of the newly renovated Ocean Park Inn, but he is an active member in the Pacific Beach community, even being named the Honorary Mayor of Pacific Beach. “We are proud to be a part of the Pacific Beach community.” Learn about Elvin Lai…
Hometown: San Diego, California
First job: I was a rock climbing instructor at a place called Solid Rock Gym. I didn’t really do my instruction; it was more facilitating and providing weekend birthday parties and teaching kids the fun of rock climbing. It was a great job, great tips and gave me the ability to build kids’ confidence. It was gratifying to see the smiles on these kids when they conquered their fears or dispelled their feelings of inadequacy; it’s the small wins that lead to big wins in the future.
Favorite ways to spend your free time in CA: What I love about living in San Diego is that there is so much the area has to offer. I enjoy a quintessential beach day with my family, relaxing and enjoying the beautiful San Diego beaches. We love to get outdoors and explore the city by riding bikes, camping and exploring the many hiking trails around the area. I also love exploring San Diego’s also amazing food scene from American, Italian, Middle Eastern, Vietnamese, Korean BBQ, the list goes on. And, of course, I love enjoying my wife’s excellent Thai food at home.
Your biggest accomplishment and why: My proudest accomplishment is being a dad to my daughter, which has been so incredibly fulfilling. With our second child on the way, my wife Nan and I are so happy to watch our family grow. In terms of my work, a recent accomplishment that I’m proud of is being named Honorary Mayor of Pacific Beach. My family has been entrenched in the Pacific Beach community for generations. I take great pride in bettering the Pacific Beach community, which is why I helped to implement the Pacific Beach Clean and Safe program through Discover PB. Through the Pacific Beach Clean and Safe program, we help to improve our community by providing assistance and tools needed to make a positive impact in the unhoused community.
The biggest obstacle you overcame: Two days before my 21st birthday, my father passed away, shoving me into an unknown world with unknown obligations and responsibilities. I took a month after my father’s passing and thought only about how I should move forward. In the end, the promise I made to my father while visiting him in his casket is what drives me: that I would take care of mom and rebuild the family legacy. I didn’t know how to do that, so I set out to ask my father’s friends, business associates and my friend’s parents. This became my board of governors. My group of advisors that I went to, sometimes daily, for advice, suggestions, direction and to bounce ideas. Creating this board of governors was the single most crucial decision of my life, gaining me access to a wealth of knowledge from people who wanted to see me succeed. There were enough nay-sayers, even in my own family. I needed to surround myself with people who had my interest in mind and counsel me without any personal or hidden agendas. People came off and were added through the years. Still, it was absolutely critical that I had that safe space to let it all out, ask questions without fear, and be educated without being judged.
Someone who inspires you and why: First and foremost, my wife Nan, who is my rock and the love of my life, and my mother, Li-Yun, for supporting and believing in me. Also, I met Eric Kaufmann as a group coach for one of those CEO groups, and I signed up, thinking this would be a great opportunity. However, I certainly gained much more than I had expected. Eric taught me it was OK to be me and that I didn’t have to live a life of only proving other people wrong who wanted to see me fail. It was OK to be East and West, the bridge between two cultures, and that living both is possible and my purpose. He brought back to life what I thought had died when my father passed and allowed me to see the world around me in a new light, and for that, I am forever grateful. Of course, there are many more individuals who inspire me, including my parents. Each person gave me the core values and principles that I needed to stay true to myself.
Advice to someone pursuing a career path in what you do: Grit. Grit is defined as courage, resolve and strength of character. There will be a lot of nos until you get your yes for a job opening, investor pitch or acquisition. Don’t let failures get in the way of your dreams; every failure is a brick laid in your foundation of success. Keep your mind and your eyes on your goal, and never stop learning. We should always be improving by learning, and our failures are a great moment to reassess what is working and what is not. People don’t realize that we develop by trial and error from our earliest days as a baby. So don’t be afraid to make mistakes; it’s normal and part of the process of life.
Favorite quote: “If it is to be, it is up to me.” –W. H. Johnsen
Something someone would be surprised to learn about you: People would be surprised to learn that I’m a part of four businesses in four different sectors and active on community boards. Outside of Ocean Park Inn, my other involvements include The San Diego Convention Center, The San Diego Foundation, The San Diego County Lodging Association, San Diego Alcohol Policy Panel, G4 Risk & Insurance, HOTELbeat.com, Abnormal Company Beer and Wine, and The Cork and Craft @ Abnormal.
What makes someone fabulous: Action. A person who is committed to making the world a better place is a fabulous person.