Henry W. Bloch is co-founder and honorary chairman of the board of H&R Block Inc., which he and his brother, Richard, founded in 1955. Based in Kansas City, Mo., H&R Block Inc. is the only major company with subsidiaries offering a full range of software, online and in-office tax solutions, combined with personalized financial advice about retirement savings, home ownership, and other opportunities to help clients build a better financial future. As the world’s largest tax services company, H&R Block served nearly 21 million clients in the United-States and 11 countries in 2003.
Henry and Richard Bloch were born and raised in Kansas City, the second and third sons of a prominent Kansas City lawyer. Henry graduated from the University of Michigan, while Richard graduated from the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania. (Older brother Leon studied law at the University of Missouri-Columbia.) During Henry’s junior year, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and he enlisted in the Army Air Corps, which eventually sent him to Harvard Business School to study for a military career. While there, a chance visit to the library played a pivotal role in the birth of the brothers’ business.
“I always wanted to do something different, something more than just a job, something to contribute to society,” Henry recalls. “And my brothers and I were always thinking up different businesses we could start, but none of them felt right. Then one day I saw a little pamphlet in the Harvard library that gave me the idea we were looking for.”
The “little pamphlet” was a copy of a speech a Harvard professor had delivered to a group of insurance men. In it, he said there were three kinds of business: big business, small business, and labor. “Big business and labor were both very powerful, but small business really had no one to turn to,” he said, “and small business was really the backbone of this country. The future”, he declared, “would be in helping small businesses.”
Henry excitedly wrote his brothers about his vision of providing accounting, temporary workers, collection, management services, and more for small business.
The full list included well over a hundred services – even income tax preparation.
Henry worked as a stockbroker briefly after he got out of the Air Force. Then, with a $5,000 loan from his aunt, the 24-year-old Henry rented a storeroom office for $50 a month and opened United Business Company. Working with his brother Leon, Henry landed a bookkeeping assignment for a hamburger stand eight blocks south of the rented Main Street office. More accounts followed and the business grew. Eventually, Leon returned to law school, and Richard became Henry’s partner.