TRURO - When Ken Eisner was about 12 years old he was already working at stocking store shelves in his native community of Berwick.
Arguably, however, one could say his business career actually began years before.
"At seven years old I was going out of the house working ... I picked strawberries," the Truro property developer said. "The man would pick us up at 7 o'clock in the morning, deliver us home about 5 o'clock in the evening."
The rate was five cents per box, but pickers only actually received four cents per box unless they completed the season without missing any time.
"You had to work every day of the season to get your five cents or he would take a penny away. That's 20 per cent. And back in the olden days you could get away with that," he said of his introduction to the work force.
But, showing the business acumen that would eventually make him the success he is today, Eisner said he made sure he received every penny owed to him.
"I never would lose that," he said with a chuckle, of the additional penny per box. "That was just too much money to leave on the table."
On Monday, Eisner, 62, was honoured by the Truro Rotary Club with its prestigious Paul Harris Fellowship, an award usually reserved for Rotary members. Occasionally, the club will honour non-Rotarians such as Eisner, when they have given extensively in some way to the Rotary Club.
In Eisner's case, the recognition is for providing space for the club's annual major fundraising auction for almost a decade.
He has also proved his community mindedness by serving on numerous charitable boards and being involved in countless other deeds and functions.
"And, it's consistent ... he's been very generous to us," Rotary president Jim Goit said. "He's just a community minded person as well.
"Ken is one of those quiet people you don't hear from him so much in what he does. He just works in the background helping out where ever he can. He doesn't draw attention to himself. Just as an example, when I told him we were going to give him this award, his reaction was: 'Oh, there must be somebody else.'"
After leaving university, Eisner initially spent some time with MacMillan Bloedel in British Columbia before going to work at the Kent Homes plant in Debert.
After nine-and-a-half-years there, first as an industrial engineer and then as plant manager, Eisner left to begin his own property development company and he has not looked back.
Nor have his work habits lessened from those days as a young boy when he was determined to pick strawberries under a hot sun every single day of the season to ensure he earned that additional penny per box.
And it is that type of commitment that Eisner believes is the single-greatest factor to his success.
"I would attribute hard work. When I leave the office that night, I wish to be ready for the next day. And that doesn't mean coming into the mess that you left that night. That night you've got to get that mess out of the way so you are ready to start fresh the next morning."
Eisner's workdays now generally run from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., with another eight hours spread out over the weekend.
He may not go into the office anymore on weekends, he said, "but the briefcase is full (at home).
Of the property development projects that Eisner has been involved in, from the owning and managing the Truro Centre on the Esplanade, to the re-construction of the former post office to numerous subdivisions in the area, one of his most proud was the redevelopment of the former Centennial Cinemas on Prince Street into the Marigold Cultural Centre.
"I look at my profession as a builder and a doer and I look at the arts community as arts people and we have to work together to make something like this ready for the public," he said. "So my part is to help the arts community get a building ready for the public. It's not like I'm very connected to the arts community, because I am not. But business has to help the art community and the art community helps the business community and we have to work together."
That is also the motto he carries into his business dealings.
"My motto has been, no matter what I make on a deal, I want to leave the situation that the person on the other end of that will do another deal," he said. "Because that's progress. That's making the ball roll downhill for you."
During the Truro Rotary Clubs annual Charter night next Monday, the following individuals will be recognized for their contributions:
- Lloyd Coady - Avenues of Service Citation.
- Dave Mills - Rotarian of the Year.
- Eleanor Casey - Community Service Award.