Henry W. Bloch is the co-founder and honorary chairman of the board of H&R Block, which he and his brother, Richard, founded in 1955. Based in Kansas City, Mo., H&R Block is the only major company with subsidiaries offering a full range of software, online and in-office tax solutions. As the world's largest tax services company, H&R Block in 2009 served over 24 million clients at its more than 13,000 retail offices and through digital tax solutions.
The early years
Henry Bloch was born in 1922, the second son of a prominent Kansas City lawyer. He attended Southwest High School, began his college career at the University of Kansas City, and later transferred to the University of Michigan, from which he graduated in 1944.
Henry joined the Army Air Corps shortly after the United States entered World War II. Serving in the Eighth Air Force as a navigator on B-17 bombers, he flew 31 combat missions over Germany, three of them over Berlin. He was awarded the Air Medal and three Oak Leaf Clusters.
During the war, Henry and his brothers, Leon and Richard, began corresponding with each other about starting a family business, something that the boys parents had always encouraged. The Army Air Corps later sent Henry to the Harvard Business School for graduate training in statistical control. While at Harvard, he read a transcript of a speech by Professor Sumner Schlicter, a noted authority on economics and labor relations. Big business and labor had many resources, Professor Schlicter explained, but small business did not have comparable resources geared to meet its needs. Henry and his brothers saw an entrepreneurial opportunity in providing support and resources to small businesses.
A dream becomes reality
In 1946, Henry and his brother Leon founded the United Business Company, starting the business with a $5,000 loan. The company offered bookkeeping and other services to small businesses. After a disappointing few months, Leon left the business to return to law school, although Henry persisted.
Later, as the company began to grow, Henry published a help wanted advertisement, seeking to hire an employee. His mother responded to the ad, and recommended that Henry hire his brother, Richard. The two brothers then worked together as a team.
United Business Company’s primary focus was bookkeeping, with tax preparation offered as a courtesy to customers and friends. Shortly before the 1955 tax season, Richard and Henry decided to discontinue tax preparation services, which were not a significant source of revenue. But one of their clients, John White, offered what turned out to be momentous counsel. John, who worked in display advertising at The Kansas City Star, suggested that they advertise their tax preparation service. After much discussion, John finally persuaded them to run the ad twice, late in January 1955.
Henry was visiting customers on Monday after the first ad ran in The Star. When he responded to a message to call the office, Henry found himself talking to a breathless Richard.
“Hank, get back here as quick as you can. We’ve got an office full of people!”
The ad, which was published shortly after many people received their W-2 forms, uncovered an overwhelming need for tax services. And in Kansas City, the Internal Revenue Service had just discontinued its practice of preparing tax returns at no charge to taxpayers.
H&R Block is born
In July 1955, Henry and Richard created a new company, replacing United Business Company with a new firm that specialized in income tax return preparation: H&R Block Inc.
They named the company “Block” because their family name, “Bloch,” had always been difficult for people to pronounce and spell. “Block” was simpler and could be spelled phonetically. Within weeks, the company grossed more than $20,000 -- nearly a third of the annual volume United Business Company had taken years to develop.
Success prompted Richard to suggest expanding the business to New York City, the next city the IRS had scheduled to discontinue its tax preparation services. H&R Block targeted locations as close as possible to IRS offices and opened seven offices in 1956. In its second year, the company more than tripled revenues to over $65,000.
Henry and Richard shared responsibilities for the New York offices with alternating two-week schedules. Both had families and neither wanted to move to New York, so they decided to sell the New York City operation. The two CPAs who wanted to buy their New York business could not meet their asking price, so the CPAs agreed to pay the Blochs $10,000, along with royalties. The H&R Block franchise network was born.
In January 1957, H&R Block opened franchise offices in Columbia, Mo., and Topeka, Kan. A year later, the company opened franchise offices in Des Moines, Iowa; Little Rock, Ark.; and Oklahoma City.
By 1962, the company had 206 offices and nearly $800,000 in revenues. In that year, H&R Block Inc. became a public company with a $300,000 offering of 75,000 shares ($4 per share).
Setting the pace for the future
In the 1970s, H&R Block built a national brand by offering professional services for a mass market. The company established a national presence, increasing the number of tax offices to more than 8,600. Its combined annual growth rate in number of clients served was a slow but steady 2.7 percent, the company’s network of tax offices increased 99 percent.
In 1972, Henry Bloch first appeared in the television commercials that helped build H&R Block into one of the most widely recognized brands in American business. Henry’s personal integrity along with his simple and direct Midwestern style personified the company’s sincere commitment to clients. He continued to appear in H&R Block’s television ads for more than 20 years.
By 1978, H&R Block offices prepared more than one out of every nine tax returns filed in the United States. With that growth came the challenge of hiring enough qualified tax professionals. The company created H&R Block Income Tax Schools to fill the need. In 2003, more than 250,000 people took an income tax course from H&R Block.
The company faced another challenge in 1978: Richard Bloch, the chairman of the company, was told that he had terminal lung cancer with three months to live. Richard refused to accept this bleak prognosis, participated in two years of intensive therapy, and defeated the disease. In 1980, he dedicated his life to helping others fight cancer. In 1982, he sold his interest in the company and gave up his position as chairman.
H&R Block took a leadership role in electronic filing. Working with the IRS and Sears, in 1986 H&R Block filed 22,000 returns electronically from two cities: Cincinnati and Phoenix. The test was a success. Electronic filing significantly reduced the amount of time required for a taxpayer to receive a refund and the number of filing errors. In 2003, the company filed 16.4 million returns electronically.
In 1989, Henry became chairman of the board, filling a position that had been vacant since his brother, Richard, left the business in 1982.
Building stronger relationships with clients
Speed of refund, along with refund anticipation loans, was a key driver of client growth in the late 1990s and the company enjoyed a decade of the fastest growth in its history.
In 1998, H&R Block began building a distribution channel under the RSM McGladrey brand, to deliver tax, accounting and business consulting services to privately-held, mid-sized companies, along with wealth management services for the business owners.
Henry retired as chairman in 2000, when he assumed the title of Honorary Chairman. In 2006, the company opened the H&R Block Bank, a federal savings bank and member FDIC. During the 2007 tax season, the Bank launched the H&R Block Emerald Prepaid MasterCard as a way to help many of its tax clients begin to use traditional financial services products. The Bank opened more than two million prepaid debit card accounts its first year.
A legacy of leadership, commitment
“I’ve always wanted to do something different, something more than just a job, something to contribute to society,” Henry once said. In addition to building a successful business, Henry is committed to building stronger communities.
Henry lives in the Kansas City area with his wife Marion. They have four children, 12 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, and are avid art collectors.
Henry is widely known as a business man, civic leader and supporter of the arts and education who works to improve the quality of life in his home town of Kansas City. Henry and Marion’s generous gift to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art helped create the Bloch Building. The building, which houses the museum’s contemporary and African art as well as photography and special exhibits, increased the Museum’s capacity by 55 percent. Henry’s generosity also created the Henry W. Bloch School of Business and Public Administration at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. The school also awards scholarships and faculty chairs in Henry’s name.
The company today
H&R Block is dedicated to being the most trusted, state-of-the-art tax preparation firm at the best value. In addition to its more than 13,000 retail tax offices and its TaxCut software and online solution, H&R Block continues to provide consulting services through RSM McGladrey and to connect clients to traditional financial services through the HR Block Bank.
Henry and Richard Bloch founded H&R Block on a culture of providing superior customer service and on a pledge to stand behind their work. Today, the company remains committed to these tenants and to serving clients in the manner in which they prefer – in a retail office, using digital tax solutions or both.
Henry W. Bloch's Personal Achievements
- Born July 30, 1922 - Kansas City, Missouri
- Married to Marion Helzberg on June 16, 1951
- Father of four children: Robert, Thomas, Mary Jo and Elizabeth Ann
- Served as First Lieutenant in the United States Air Force from 1943-1945
- Decorated Air Medal with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters, Presidential Citation
- 12 Grandchildren and 3 Great Grandchildren
He holds a Bachelor's of Science Degree from University of Michigan. He also has received honorary doctorates from:
- Doctor of Laws, University of Michigan - 2005
- University of Kansas Distinguished Service Citation - 2001
- Doctor of Fine, Arts Kansas City Art Institute - 1999
- Doctor of Laws, William Jewell College, Liberty, Missouri - 1990
- Doctor of Business Administration, University of Missouri-Kansas City, Missouri - 1989
- Doctor of Laws, New Hampshire College, Manchester, New Hampshire - 1983
- Doctor of Business Administration, Avila College, Kansas City, Missouri - 1977
Over the past 45 years, Henry has been honored as an entrepreneur and philanthropist and for his exceptional service to the Kansas City business and cultural communities. Among his honors are:
- CASE Distinguished Friend of Education - 2010
- St. Luke’s Foundation – Foundation Fellow - 2008
- President's Citation, MCC Penn Valley - 2007-2008
- BCA Leadership Award - 2007
- Business Committee for the Arts Leadership Award 2007 (National Award)
- University of Missouri - Kansas City Legacy Award - 2007
- Brain Tumor Foundation Inaugural Tribute - 2006
- University of Missouri - Kansas City International Entrepreneur of the Year - 2005
- Swope Health Services Great Leaders Award - 2001
- Henry Wollman Bloch Memorial Fountain - 2001
- National Business Hall of Fame, Junior Achievement - 2001
- Centurians Leadership Award - 2000
- Southwest High School Hall of Fame - 2000
- MRI Citation Award - 1999
- Baker University Distinguished Business Leadership - 1998
- Boy Scouts - Distinguished Citizen - 1997
- United Way deTocqueville Society - Special Recognition - 1997
- Delta Sigma Pi International Fraternity - 1996
- Juvenile Diabetes Foundation - Walk for the Cure - 1996
- Stop Violence Coalition - Kindest Kansas Citian - 1996
- Starlight Theatre Star Award - 1995
- Academy of Distinguished Entrepreneurs - Babson College - 1994
- Gillis Spirit Award - 1993
- Missouri Arts Award - 1993
- Entrepreneur of the Year - Ernst & Young/Inc. Magazine/Merrill Lynch - 1993
- Man of the Year, Zeta Beta Tau Fraternity - 1992
- Quincentennial Columbian of the Year, American Sons of Columbus - 1992
- The Sales & Marketing Executives International Academy of Achievement Award - 1991
- Kansas Citian of the Year, Native Sons of Kansas City - 1991
- Distinguished Business Award, Missouri Community College Association - 1991
- Honorary Member, Golden Key National Honor Society - UMKC - 1989
- Philanthropist of the Year, Greater Kansas City Council on Corp. Philanthropy - 1989
- State of Missouri Academy of Squires - 1989
- Mainstreeter of the Decade - 1988
- Corporate Superstar - Cystic Fibrosis - 1987
- Distinguished Service Award, University of Hartford - 1987
- Entrepreneur of the Year, UMKC - 1986
- Bronze Award, Chief Executive of the Year-Service Industry, Financial World - 1985
- Entrepreneur of the Year, Babson College - 1984
- Lester A. Milgram Humanitarian Award - 1983
- International Franchise Association Hall of Fame Award - 1983
- Distinguished Missourian Award, National Conference of Christians & Jews - 1982
- Executive of the Year, Jackson County Economic Development Commission - 1982
- Hall of Fame Award, International Franchise Association - 1982
- Bronze Award, Service Industry, Wall Street Transcript - 1981
- W. F. Yates Medallion for Distinguished Service in Civic Affairs, William Jewell College - 1981
- Chancellor's Medal, University of Missouri at Kansas City - 1980
- Civic Service Award of the Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy - 1980
- Golden Plate Award, American Academy of Achievement - 1980
- Business Leader Hall of Fame, Junior Achievement - 1980
- President's Trophy, Kansas City, Missouri Jaycees - 1980
- "Mr. Kansas City" Award, Chamber of Commerce of Greater Kansas City - 1978
- Salesman of the Year, Kansas City Ad. Club - 1978
- Distinguished Executive Award, Boy Scouts of America - 1977
- Who's Who in America - 1976
- Financial World Chief Executive Officer of the Year (Service Industry) - 1976
- Man-of-the-Month Fraternity - 1976
- National Jewish Hospital Philanthropic Award - 1976
- Marketing Man of the Year, Sales and Marketing Executive Club - 1971
- Retired Officers Association Life Member
Henry W. Bloch's Business Affiliations
Mr. Bloch's present affiliations include:
- H&R Block, Inc (Honorary Chairman)
- Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art (Honorary Trustee)
- St. Luke's Hospital Foundation (Trustee Emeritus)
- The H&R Block Foundation (Chairman)
- Business Committee for the Arts - Kansas City (Honorary Chairman)
- World War I Museum (Board of Directors)
Mr. Bloch has served as past corporate director for:
- H&R Block, Inc.
- SBC Corporation
- Graphic Technology, Inc.
- Jason Empire, Inc.
- National Fidelity Life Insurance Co.
- The Vendo Company
- Valentine-Radford, Inc.
- Path Management Industries
- Employers Reinsurance Corporation
- Commerce Bank of Kansas City
- Commerce Bancshares, Inc.
- CompuServe, Inc.
Mr. Bloch has served as past president or chairman for:
- Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
- Henry W. and Marion H. Bloch Foundation
- Business Council of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
- Midwest Research Institute
- Civic Council of Greater Kansas City
- Foundation for a Greater Kansas City
- Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce
- University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC)
- Heart of America United Way - General Chairman
- Symphony Ball (Honorary Chairman)
- Alexis de Tocqueville Society (United Way)
- Indian Hills Homes Association
- Jacob L. & Ella C. Loose Foundation
- Menorah Medical Foundation
- National Alliance of Businessmen
- UNCF Annual Campaign
- Kansas City Area Development Council
- Greater Kansas City Community Foundation (past Vice Chairman)
He also has served as past director of trustee for:
- Business Committee of the Arts (National Board)
- Brain Tumor Foundation (New York)
- Harry S. Truman Library
- St. Luke's Hospital Foundation (Campaign Cabinet)
- American Jewish Committee
- American Royal Association
- Construction Users Council
- Menorah Medical Center
- Rockhurst College Board of Regents
- Clearinghouse for Midcontinent Foundations
- Scientific Education Partnership Foundation
- President's Advisory Council of Kansas City Philharmonic Association
- Council of Fellows of the Nelson Gallery Foundation
- Harry S. Truman Good Neighbor Award Foundation
- Jewish Federation
- Kansas City Symphony (Founding Trustee)
- Kansas City Art Institute
- Americans for National Service
- St. Luke's Hospital
- St. Luke's Hospital Foundation
- Corporate Fund of The Kennedy Center
- Kansas City Museum of History and Science
- KC Minority Supplier Development Council