Roots of Success – Monte Block
Today, Monte Block supports Equiliem in an oversight role, having handed over the reins of leadership to his children, Bradley, Shannon, and Jourdan Block, and a team of handpicked experts that lead the direction of the recently rebranded company. Monte enjoys time with his grandchildren and on the pickleball court while lending his professional expertise to issues ripe for innovative staffing solutions. He’s involved in proposing programs to state and federal government entities to support veterans and solve growing and emerging concerns in the healthcare industry, as well as providing input to legislation as part of the ASA legal committee. He continues cultivating relationships and remains a presence and a force in an industry shaped by himself, his wife Linda, and his father, industry pioneer, Jerry Block.
We recently caught up with Monte to capture some of his rich archive of knowledge from inside the trenches of the staffing business. With over fifty years of wisdom accrued building successful staffing brands, those stories could form a novel. Monte has a book in the works under the working title “Building Blocks.” He described it as filled with milestones, turning points, and incidents ranging from serious to silly to hilarious. As part of this Roots of Success series, we share a glimpse of Monte Block’s unique formula for success.
Sometime in the late 1970s…
Success began for Monte Block by working for $8.12 an hour at a staffing company. “In a commission job, you had to earn your own money,” he explained. “All the years I worked there, even after growing a huge block of business, I never got a raise on that base pay.” That point still ruffled his feathers, but it could have been the keystone motivator that drove his work ethic. Monte’s desire for success was inextricably tied to a second desire: to keep pushing forward toward better service and solutions for the clients and employees that his employer, and later the businesses he owned, supported.
In his early days, Monte learned the ropes alongside his father, Jerry Block, who worked at the same firm. After hours, Monte went to school to continue advancing his business knowledge, ultimately earning his MBA. Meanwhile, the Block duo steadily grew business relationships and opportunities, including new lines of business, that generated significant income and success for the staffing company.
Monte said, “Jerry Block was the smartest person I’ve ever met. He was street-smart. He came up through the ranks by living his values. That included being friendly with people, treating everyone equally, enjoying the work, and putting in the effort. He often said luck is the fruition of hard work.”
Decades later, hard work and cultivating relationships are two things the company focuses on and values today.
Time Management, Passion, and Persistent Follow Up
Monte embraced the “harder you work, the luckier you get” mentality. “Clock-watchers aren’t going to make it in the staffing business. You have to enjoy it and reach people when they are available. My days often started at seven o’clock in the morning, having conversations with clients over coffee. By five or six in the evening, I’d transfer my attention to people on the West Coast.”
One of the “secrets” to his ability to cultivate relationships with people was keeping track of details, including personal information. Monte’s memory of those details could likely be described as eidetic. On one occasion, he pulled out a pad filled with handwritten notes. It was dated in the early 1980s, so laptops were not yet standard tools. Monte had columns filled in for each of the hundred or so engineers he had on assignment. As he scanned the list, he instantly recalled stories about each person as he noted their pay rate, date deployed, supervisor, and other vitals.
Monte pointed to a stack of similar pads filling a file in his office, evidence of his ritual of managing the details. He explained that following up was an essential part of earning trust. Then he grinned as he recalled a particularly difficult-to-reach prospect. “He wouldn’t call me back. So, I left him a message telling him that I read something in an article, and they were lambasting you! They said…and then I hung up.”
His cliffhanger strategy worked. When the prospect returned the call, they laughed about the well-played prank. “Success also involves some tenacity and creativity,” Monte explained. “If you simply leave a message for someone—he paused to note that it might be a text today, with answering machines being largely a remnant of bygone times—what’s going to make you different from fifty other people leaving a message?”
Expect Setbacks, Learn from Them, and Know When to Walk Away
“There are times when no matter how great your solution is, you might not win. There could be a relationship you don’t know about or politics at play. Be prepared for it, and don’t let an undesired outcome take you over.” Monte’s philosophy was to shake it off but be sure you looked for the lesson in losses. “To rebound, focus on learning why you lost, so the next time you can succeed.”
Monte also advises to be prepared to walk away from situations you don’t think are right. “I have said no thank you to multi-million-dollar contracts. If there’s no trust, there’s no partnership. Hold your head high and be proud of your actions and how you do them. People will respect you for that.”
How to Handle Tough Decisions
When it comes to guidance that shapes his decisions, Monte reaches for books by and about business phenoms, including Sandy Weill, Jamie Dimon, and Jack Welch. He recalls Jack Welch writing that he had to fire many friends to make the business work, but he believed in doing it with dignity.
Monte embraced Jack’s belief that “no employee should ever be surprised.” He defines expectations and is transparent with people so they know where they stand. He explains that if everything is clear, “they realize that they fired themselves.”
Monte believes in parting as friends and being there for people who leave his company to pursue other things or a career elsewhere. “I can never bring myself to let someone go over the holidays and imagine them sitting around depressed,” he admitted. “When someone who has left us reaches out to me, I wish them luck, and I offer to help in any way I can.”
This pattern of “not burning bridges” often results in surprising future opportunities and the personal reward of being a positive resource for others. Monte scrolled through his text messages and pulled up a reply from earlier in the day from a former employee he offered to mentor. It read, “Wow, thank you. What a kind and generous offer. I wasn’t expecting that response….”
Fulfillment from Working with Good People
Monte still frequently shows up in the East Brunswick headquarters. He enjoys surprising the people who work with him with congratulations for something they’ve accomplished or checking in with them about what’s going on in their personal life. Cultivating relationships with people has become a natural art form he fondly calls “hobnobbing.” He draws energy and happiness from connecting with people during in-person office visits.
He says his career is no longer about achieving personal success but empowering others. “I am pleasantly surprised by and proud of the new leaders and management team we have put in place over the past year or two. We are communicating well and frequently, and they have embraced a vision that will take Equiliem to unbelievable new heights. We don’t always agree; I am learning from them and love it. This is the new Equiliem.”
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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