Jeffrey Jacobson ’81, recently named CEO of Presstek Inc., credits his UB education with laying the foundation for a successful career in the business world.
As a high school senior, the Brooklyn native was unsure about his future goals, but he chose to follow his older brother to the University at Buffalo School of Management. Looking back, he feels the decision was a sound one.
“I enjoyed my four years at Buffalo,” he explains. “I think the School of Management has an excellent program. It provided me with a broad-based skill set and a diverse education.”
Jacobson lived on campus while at UB and served as a resident advisor in both Goodyear and Clement Halls on the South Campus. He recalls in particular guest lecturer Frank O’Connor, then vice president of ArcataGraphics in Buffalo, who taught labor relations, a topic that had always intrigued Jacobson. (In fact Jacobson went on to earn an MS in industrial relations from Cornell University.)
Overseeing multi-million dollar companies requires both sharp business acumen and a commitment to hard work. Jacobson comes by his disciplined work ethic the old fashioned way: he earned it. Eight years after graduating from UB’s School of Management, Jacobson decided to attend law school at night while working full-time as director of human resources for Polychrome, a graphics company in Yonkers, N.Y. For four years Jacobson’s life followed an exhausting pattern of working all day, attending classes at Pace University in the evening, studying until 3 a.m., and then getting up three hours later to do it all over again. Jacobson says the completion of his law degree in 1993 was probably one of the greatest challenges of his life, but also one of the most beneficial. “I think when you go through something like that you learn to apply that same kind of work ethic and discipline to business. I believe that it serves you well for the future,” Jacobson notes.
Jacobson was admitted to the bar in New York and New Jersey, and he initially intended to practice law full-time. However, opportunities for advancement with the business sphere presented themselves and Jacobson decided to stay in the graphics industry. That decision paid off as Polychrome merged with a division of Kodak and became Kodak Polychrome Graphics. Jacobson was named CEO of that $1.7 billion company in 2000, a position he held for five years. Then in 2005, Jacobson became chief operating officer of Eastman Kodak Company’s Graphic Communications Group, a division formed by the integration of six different Kodak companies into a $3.6 billion global business.
Now as CEO of Presstek, Jacobson continues in the graphics industry he first entered twenty years ago. Presstek, a $265 million company headquartered in New Hampshire, sells full digital solutions to commercial printers. While his new venture is not as large or well-known as some of the companies he has overseen in the past, Jacobson points out that for him the move to Presstek made professional sense. “I look at this as a great opportunity to see what we can do with the company, and how large we can grow it in a domain that I know very well,” he says. Much of Presstek’s current business is based in North America, and under his leadership Jacobson envisions growing the technology-based company’s global influence. In addition he plans to continue to emphasize Presstek’s commitment to developing intellectual property through research and patents, as well as increasing sales to larger commercial customers. Jacobson relishes the challenges that come with being a CEO. “As a leader, you have a certain responsibility to the shareholders, to the customers and to the people that work with you. I think the thing that I take the most pride in is that the decisions that we make as a leadership team impact the lives of the people that work for you. I enjoy that responsibility.”
Jacobson is married and has two teenage children. He likes spending time with family, including watching his son and daughter play sports. Jacobson offers words of wisdom for future business leaders that he has gleaned from his own life lessons: “UB’s School of Management is a great school and provided a great background and education for me. Anyone can be what they want to be, provided they are willing work hard, have discipline, and are committed to winning.”
Written by Jessica Dudek