When Alan Eisner (BS ’89, MEng ‘92) first arrived on Cornell’s campus as a freshman, he put his name on every club’s list to "really get involved.” However, at the close of his freshman year, Eisner felt dissatisfied that he hadn’t left his own mark on Cornell. When a friend from home at Princeton University told him about his tuxedo rental business at Princeton, Eisner thought he could take this idea to Cornell’s campus.
With the seeds of a new business in Eisner’s mind, he approached the Student Agencies President at the time, Peter Everett (BS ’87, MBA ‘90), with his new idea. He credits Everett with encouraging him to make his business idea a reality. From there, a new Student Agencies business was born: SAI Tuxedos. Eisner says that starting this business was invaluable, as he learned how to write a business plan and execute a marketing strategy.
Eisner focused primarily on the Greek system with this new business. His strategy was to get in communication with the social chairs of different fraternities, and from there, he would go to the individual houses during their dinners to set up a table and take measurements of people for their tuxedo. Within the first month, Eisner exceeded the number of suit rentals anticipated by the wholesale company and impressed them enough to get a 50% discount. Eisner also credits this business with giving him the “rudimentary tailoring skills” he has today.
SAI Tuxedos allowed Eisner to gain the skills necessary to become an entrepreneur, and during the process, he learned how to hire good workers and also how to be a good worker himself. Eisner states that “making difficult hiring and firing decisions gave me the opportunity to walk in the shoes of my workers—when someone couldn’t be on a job, I would go.” Eisner’s flexibility also translated over to the VP of Development position that Student Agencies created just for him.
His senior year, he handed SAI Tuxedos to another student and focused on his job as VP of Development. Eisner reflects “my strength was starting businesses”; the businesses that Eisner launched during his senior year include a photography agency aimed at Greek organizations for their formals, and a relaunch of the Student Agencies laundry and dry-cleaning service—a business that is still profitable today. Eisner had fun trying to “figure out how to source businesses for less than the competition.”
After graduating from Cornell, Eisner worked at Mobil Oil for a year, then moved to United Technology as an advanced technology engineer. Thereafter, Eisner embarked on a journey to obtain his doctorate. Eisner received his Ph.D. from the Management Department, Stern School of Business, New York University. Thereafter, he went straight into higher education at Pace University, where he has been ever since. At Pace, Eisner is a professor in the Lubin School of Business as the Chair for the Management and Management Science Department, and he teaches courses ranging from Entrepreneurship Implementation to Global Business Policy.
Eisner says “working in education is much more interesting than working for a company—each semester there is a brand new crop of students, and I get to do research and teach simultaneously.” Today, Eisner creates the case studies for a strategic management textbook, and in doing this, he analyzes about five new business each year, reminiscent of his job as Vice President of Development at SAI.
Eisner believes that he can relate nearly all the aspects of his professional career back to his time at SAI. In teaching his entrepreneurship course at Pace University, his experience at SAI gives him authenticity since he was once an entrepreneur himself.
Reflecting back on his college experience working at SAI, Eisner is grateful for friendships that were made with colleagues, including Michael Karangelen (BA ’90) and David Lesser (BS ’87, MBA ’88). They still see each other ever so often, and when they do, they remember the old times at 409 College Avenue.
Looking to current managers at SAI, Eisner advises that “this is a great opportunity to explore and make mistakes in a relatively risk-free environment. Sometimes being an entrepreneur can seem like a lot of work, but you have to focus on the fun aspects of it and become a better manager by putting yourself in the shoes of your workers.” He hopes that each manager at SAI takes advantage of their time running businesses at Cornell and applies the experience to their future endeavors.