Q&A: Eitan Winer Pinkas, newly appointed CEO of Stanford Student Enterprises, discusses his plans for the job

Eitan Winer Pinkas ’12 M.S. ’12 was recently appointed CEO of Stanford Student Enterprises (SSE), the organization responsible for maintaining the long-term financial stability of the ASSU. He will begin work in July, leading a staff of almost 100 employees and managing more than $15 million in investments and $2 million in annual revenues for a two-year term. Winer Pinkas sat down with The Daily to discuss how he is preparing for the job and what his plans are for the SSE.

The Stanford Daily (TSD): As part of your application, you were asked for three objectives for SSE. What were they?
Eitan Winer Pinkas (EWP): I think the three things have changed a lot since I started training…In terms of going forward, the most clear objective is maximizing the creation of value that SSE provides the Stanford community. I think in order to maximize the creation of value we have to try to run [SSE] as closely as possible to real businesses.

TSD: What do you believe makes you qualified for the position, and why do you think that you were chosen?
EWP: I think my involvement with the Stanford community in the past several years, as an RA or with student groups or TAing classes, showed my passion and dedication for the school. Along with that, it was probably a personality fit, too. I like to think I’m a happy person, a fun person.
A lot of this business has to do with strategy and also with management, and I think that my background, whether through internships or outside projects or just personality, would contribute to that.

TSD: Since you were selected, what have you been doing to prepare for taking on the role of CEO?
EWP: I actually have started formally training together with Neveen [Mahmoud '11], who is the current CEO. Today, for example, we were together for three hours. The first couple hours was more of a formal training where we started going through things that we would want to do in coming weeks. One hour was dedicated to specifically looking at the operations of the Stanford Student Store.

TSD: Are you planning on restructuring or refocusing the SSE in any way?
EWP: In the past, many CEOs have focused a lot on expansion. Of course, expansion should always be the end goal, but I think in the position we are in now it is very important to strengthen the foundations we have. We have very good businesses in the Stanford Student Store and advertising and Ground Up. [We should] strengthen those bases a lot, then [look] to expand.

TSD: What do you see as the main challenges facing the SSE, and how do you plan to overcome them?
EWP: I think something that every CEO has to struggle through is the fact that we are a student-run business. That has limitations specifically in terms of the high turnover rate of students and how that affects our ability to accomplish long or even medium-term goals.
I think increasing our ability to deal with high turnover, whether it is through the passing of institutional knowledge or the better training and transmission of previous learned experiences from one manager to the next, is important. I think recruiting will be a great part too, making sure that the people we are recruiting are hardworking and really care about the organization and want to be a part of it.

TSD: Campus Mobile, the cell phone store managed by SSE, was predicted to be financially stable but is now closing. What went wrong with Campus Mobile, and how can the SSE prevent this from happening to its other enterprises, like Ground Up?
EWP: I think it’s very important to understand the reasons behind why Campus Mobile is closing. It definitely is not a management failure or a business strategy or an execution failure, in that sense Campus Mobile was very well run…We live in a bubble, and I think the bubble that we serve was just not the best market we could have had for [Campus Mobile].
To prevent things like this from happening in the future, I think something I will focus on a lot is developing future projects and future enterprises based on needs.

This interview has been condensed and edited

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