People: Glenn Eisen, Retired Logistics Professional
After a long and distinguished logistics career, Glenn Eisen could have embraced a guilt-free retirement filled with golf, travel, and early-bird specials. Instead, he spends his days lending his logistics and emergency medical skills to disaster relief efforts, and mentoring young entrepreneurs about the ins and outs of business management.
"I have a lot of trouble with the word 'retire,'" Eisen says. This strong work ethic has served Eisen well throughout his career, in his varied roles as logistics executive and consultant, business owner, and emergency medical services enthusiast.
His ultimately successful career started out on shaky ground, however. Discharged after three years as a non-commissioned specialist with the U.S. Army Security Agency, Eisen returned to his native Chicago in 1961 and began looking for a job.
He didn't have a college education, and he didn't have a career plan, but the Army taught Eisen how to gather and productively evaluate information. As it turned out, he could not have learned a more useful skill.
When Metalcraft—which later became Intercraft Industries, one of the nation's largest picture frame manufacturers—needed a production control analyst, Eisen was the right man at the right time. And so a career in logistics management was launched.
For the next three years, while attending night classes at the Illinois Institute of Technology, he learned inventory management, warehousing, and production control and supervision at Metalcraft's facilities.
In 1964, Eisen was hired by automotive cleaning products manufacturer Simoniz Company as a senior buyer—a role that dramatically expanded his understanding of logistics. At Simoniz, Eisen assumed responsibility for purchasing packaging materials, as well as printing, chemical, and maintenance supplies.
Next Stop, Packaging
The next stop for Eisen was packaging coordinator at the packaging plant of Gillette's Paper-Mate division in Chicago—his third job in four years. The plant manager was George Keiffer, one of two mentors whose influence was key to Eisen's professional growth.
"George taught me how to manage people successfully," Eisen says. Because the majority of Paper-Mate's sales pivoted on four important selling seasons—graduation, back-to-school, Christmas, and January restocking—the company's workforce was constantly in flux. Most workers were hired for short stints, and were seldom experienced or well-educated.
"They showed up on time and were productive though, thanks to George Keiffer's leadership. He taught me that with the right incentives, anyone can contribute," Eisen recalls.
For each of Paper-Mate's seasonal promotions, Eisen was responsible for executing and delivering point-of-purchase promotional materials and ensuring that merchandise was in stores to correspond with aggressive national advertising campaigns.
Nationwide, every store selling Paper-Mate merchandise needed stock on the same day, but none were willing to receive it earlier. In this just-in-time pressure cooker, Eisen refined his understanding of logistics and began to bloom as a leader.
A Risky Move Pays Off
Two years into his stint at Paper-Mate, Eisen got his big break. Keiffer's vacation coincided with one of the company's largest promotions and Eisen was appointed acting plant manager.
In the warehouse, he soon discovered the shipping foreman was overwhelmed with orders that the traffic department unwittingly dumped on him without realizing the logistics problems they were creating.
"I found orders that were literally stacked five-feet tall," Eisen recalls. "The plant was in chaos and shipping fell way behind schedule."
Seizing the moment, Eisen instituted his own systems, contrary to those in place. This risky move could easily have blown up in his face. Instead, following Keiffer's leadership model, he rescued the promotion, and, as a result, was named purchasing, warehousing, and package engineering manager, a position he held until 1969.
That year he joined packaging outsourcing firm The Packaging House Inc., as an associate. While selling a wide range of packaging materials and services to customers throughout the Chicago area taught him to think on his feet, it was Aaron Schmidt, the company's owner and CEO, who taught him to be an entrepreneur. A highly motivational manager, Schmidt encouraged and rewarded Eisen's creativity.
"Schmidt called his employees 'associates,' and urged us to take responsibility for our careers. I was 29 years old and still attending college when I worked for him, but he helped me grow up professionally," he says.
Being only 29 years old didn't deter Eisen from jumping into the guest speaker circuit—while working at The Packaging House, he became a seminar leader and guest speaker for the American Management Association.
Over the next 29 years, Eisen continued to teach procurement, maintenance management, and materials management seminars to thousands in the United States and Canada—a role that helped solidify his reputation as a logistics authority.
In 1973, after earning his college degree, and with Schmidt's business lessons firmly in mind, Eisen accepted a one-year assignment with the Israel Institute of Packaging, in Tel Aviv.
Helping shippers throughout Israel solve packaging, materials management, and logistics problems developed Eisen's understanding of the demands of the international marketplace—a significant edge in the days before global supply chains were common.
Eisen went on to log many frequent flier miles as a consulting principal with management firm Emerson Consultants in New York. As director of the firm's materials management and procurement consulting practice, Eisen travelled extensively—once for an extended stay in Belgium—refining his global logistics expertise.
"My job was to help clients successfully manage their global logistics strategies," he recalls. "They often needed answers to questions about specific global markets."
One such global jaunt, in 1980, proved to be a fruitful career move. While flying to a business meeting, Eisen met an Arthur Andersen executive who hired him to direct the company's worldwide procurement consulting practice.
Two years later, Eisen had racked up enough consulting experience to make the leap to entrepreneur. He established his own consulting firm, The Eisen Group, based in Connecticut, in 1987.
Slowing Down—a Little
His firm, which eventually changed its name to Omega Consultants, remained Eisen's focus for the remainder of his career. But by the late 1990s, Eisen decided it was time to explore other interests for which his work had left little time, and he embarked on his second 'career': retirement.
Putting a long-time passion for emergency medicine into practice, Eisen became a certified emergency medical technician with the Wilton and Westport, Conn., Volunteer Emergency Medical Services.
Shortly after, Eisen relocated to California, where he took positions as a health and safety services instructor for the American Red Cross in the San Gabriel Valley, and at the UCLA Center for Prehospital Care as a clinical instructor, training the university's emergency medical technician students and certifying them in CPR.
Eisen hasn't left logistics behind entirely, however. As a supply management officer with Los Angeles County's Disaster Medical Assistance Team in Santa Fe Springs, Calif., he participated in federal medical responses to 2004 and 2005 hurricanes, including Katrina, where his background in both logistics and emergency medicine served him well.
Today, Eisen continues to embrace both business and emergency medicine as part of his retirement. As a counselor with the U.S. Small Business Administration's Service Corps of Retired Executives, he helps clients address business problems and improve operations. The role that a thoughtful leader can play in helping young businesses and their owners is not lost on him.
"I've always liked solving problems, and I still find ways to satisfy that urge," he says. "Plus, these activities keep me busy and productive."
Eisen wouldn't have it any other way.