Henry Bloch made an immeasurable impact on Kansas City. The H&R Block co-founder’s April 23 death shook many of us; though we knew it was inevitable, we still felt somehow unprepared for a Kansas City without one of its most influential entrepreneurs, philanthropists and humans.
Henry’s mentorship trickled down through his 96 years. Even those who never met him have had their lives touched by Henry in some way: be it students at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, art lovers, or recipients of any number of under-the-radar grants that the Bloch Foundation gives out each year.
His fingerprints will be on this town forever.
I heard the news of Henry’s passing while at a conference in Atlanta. It took me a minute to gather myself, wipe away some tears, and let the news sink in. I sat there, thinking back on how much Henry has personally been part of my own journey.
I opened LinkedIn and Twitter, stunned by the outpouring of emotion over Henry’s death. One thing hit me above all else: the messages were celebratory and appreciative.
“He attended every Entrepreneur of the Year Gala, took impromptu visits to E-Scholars lectures, made guest appearances on First Wednesdays, and joined award ceremonies for the annual Venture Creation Challenge,” pointed out Tin Ho, 2016 Entrepreneur of the Year.
I attended UMKC in a building with his name on it. His mentees were my mentors. He (and Ewing Marion Kauffman) developed Kansas City’s entrepreneurial brand.
One of those mentees is Danny O’Neill, founder of KC coffee powerhouse The Roasterie. Danny was Henry’s mentee in the HEMP program. And now Danny is my mentor. We work in dramatically different industries, but I’ve learned from him important lessons about how to work with people, how to show up in the world, and how giving is so much more important than taking.
I’ve heard second-hand stories about Henry since I’ve known Danny, and never once have I heard a single thing the “Bean Baron” learned about accounting from the H&R Block legend.
Henry’s superpower was his way with people.
I so wish I could’ve been around to see what Henry was like in his heyday. When he was the spokesman for H&R Block, when he was doing ads for other big brands. The man was a star. An incredibly humble, down-to-earth star.
He is Kansas City entrepreneurship.
Every year as we plan for the Entrepreneur of the Year Awards at UMKC’s Bloch School, we focus on picking candidates that embody “Henry’s brand of entrepreneurship.” It’s now up to us to carry on that brand.
How? Three actionable steps:
- Don’t take yourself too seriously. If you’ve ever talked with Henry or heard him interviewed, one thing is clear: the man wasn’t afraid to break the stereotype of a successful executive. He was convinced that your story was more interesting than his, no matter who you were.
- Be kind. No explanation necessary here. Henry was simply a warm-hearted human. Something we could all work to embody a little more often.
- Be present. When you spoke to Henry, you were the only one in the room. He wasn’t glancing around for a better conversation. He was with you, he knew your name, and he had questions.
Henry’s lessons also worked their way down to his son, Tom Bloch. I sat down with Tom in early March to record the first episode of my podcast, “For Fintech’s Sake,” and talk quickly turned to the untold story of H&R Block.
Click here to check out the podcast and hear Tom Bloch in his own words.
Henry led an amazing life and helped create a Kansas City business community that went beyond spreadsheets and tax forms. We have a duty to carry on his brand of entrepreneurism and humanity.
Let’s make him proud, KC.
Zach Anderson Pettet is vice president of FinTech strategy at nbkc bank and managing director of Fountain City FinTech.