Roots of Success: Linda Block
In this article, we speak with Linda Block, a woman known as an entrepreneur and trailblazer in the staffing industry and for supporting other women business owners. Linda shares thoughts about her 35+ year career, her perspective on success, and how her philanthropic work has shaped her views.
When Linda and Monte Block became owners of their first staffing company more than a quarter century ago, Linda was determined to make a name for herself by being a visible presence and resource for other women. She joined the American Staffing Association (ASA) and took on leadership roles that connected her to other business leaders. “It was a small group of us; there were fewer women in leadership roles than there are today. Being in the relatively uncharted territory was not easy in the beginning,” she said. “It was great to have this sounding board of other women willing to help each other become profitable and successful.”
Hotdogs on the Menu and Truth Telling
The business’s early days were a bit of a bootstrap, and Linda admits they had no idea where things would go. In the leaner days, she would joke with Monte about being willing to make the ultimate vegetarian sacrifice, “Don’t worry, we can always eat hotdogs.”
Linda attributes much of her success to learning from Monte and his father, Jerry Block, who had become a force in the industry within the preceding decade. “Jerry taught us the business and instilled his core values in us. His teachings have become part of our lives, both in business and personally. For example, Jerry said always to tell the truth because then you don’t have to remember that you told someone a different story. That’s the secret of building trust; people need to know that you’re straight up with them.”
A Room of Her Own
Once the Blocks’ first company got rolling, they saw additional opportunities. Linda became the owner of the couple’s third staffing entity and went through the rigorous process of obtaining the WBENC (Woman’s Business Enterprise National Council) certification. By this time, Linda had mastered the art of knowing when to push back and when to concede. “During the WBE certification process, the Port Authority returned to me six times requesting additional information.”
“Business is a process of give and take.” Linda said, “Whether you’re working with a regulatory agency, client, vendor, or an employee, being a great leader is about coupling perseverance with empathy to reach a win for both parties.”
Getting the balance between strength and making concessions in business deals can be a learning process. Linda said she learned the most by experience. She said, “The best thing is to debrief every situation with someone willing to give you feedback. Sometimes you can get it from a client, or an employee, and sometimes you can talk it out with a third party or friend.” Linda said the family dinner table was, and often still is, grounds for work discussions and getting perspective on moving forward in difficult situations.
Work Ethic and No Procrastination
One of the ways Linda kept her energy level high was to begin each day at the gym. She was among those people waiting outside for the doors to open at 5 a.m. “Working out was my outlet, and starting my day that way put me in a good frame of mind, ready to tackle the challenges in the office.”
Linda’s style of getting things done was “sooner rather than later,” which often meant rolling up her sleeves alongside her team after hours. She said, “Why put things off? Something could come up; I prefer having a cushion to manage the unexpected.” Linda saw hard work and the extra hours as something that goes with the territory of being in the staffing business and being a business owner. It also aligned with her core values, “Jerry Block taught us that success is the fruition of hard work.”
Making an Impact Beyond the Business
Philanthropy and sharing have been part of Linda’s goals all along. She made it a point to include each of her children on selected journeys to help them become conscious of how others live. She’s led multiple humanitarian missions worldwide, including taking Bradley to Russia, Jourdan to Ethiopia, and Shannon to Israel. “My kids learned that when they walk outside wearing a jacket, somewhere there’s someone who doesn’t have a jacket. Monte would often say, if you make a dollar, give away fifty cents.”
Linda is passionate about sharing the stories of women she’s met living in difficult conditions in places including Siberia, Ukraine, Israel, and Ethiopia. She also continues pushing for women’s equity in the United States, “We’ve made great strides, but we haven’t reached gender equality. There’s still more we can do in the workplace.”
Chiseling Marble, Pickleball, and Empowering Success
Another outlet for Linda’s creative energy was creating sculptures from marble, including an intricate violin. It’s dirty and time-consuming work that entails mastering a range of specialty rasps, picks, hammers, and sanding equipment. Linda has pursued this hobby for over a decade, chiseling out about one piece of finished work per year. She said of the violin, “I grew up playing and even was a concertmaster of an orchestra. I thought music was a potential career path for a while.”
While Linda now prefers Pickleball to early morning gym sessions, she stays informed about the business’s operations and keeps her eyes and ears open to how she can provide encouragement, guidance, and support. She said that she’s reached a new level of fulfillment resulting from the conglomeration of years of hard work. “It’s exciting to watch the leadership team we now have in place bring things to the next level. Everyone has stepped up to the plate. We have the right people in the right spot to take Equiliem where it needs to go.”
Equiliem (www.equiliem.com) believes in empowering success. It’s our job to cultivate relationships that connect people and employers in a way that is inclusive, intelligent, and allows both to thrive.
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