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Eugen Block - © Sandra Platzer

How to start a company successfully

Eugen Block, founder of catering operation, gives entrepreneuers tips in an interview with Hamburg News

“A company is never complete. Why should I stop, if I still see visions, trends and developments?” said Eugen Block, 77, in mid November when presenting his biography penned by Jens Meyer-Odewald, Reporter-in-Chief at Hamburg’s daily Abendblatt. Block has apparently no intention of retiring and has also presented his latest project. Yet, Block settled his legacy first and gave each of his three children a 30 per cent share in his company. Around 10 per cent of the profits will go towards the new Block Foundation which will be headed by Eugen Block, Auxiliary Bishop Dr. Hans-Jochen Jaschke and Dr. med. Gerian Grönefeld. The foundation will fund and conduct research into conditions for a healthy diet, breeding animals according to their species and supporting academic and vocational education. “I wish to help people who live in difficult and far worse circumstances with this foundation,” said Block.

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In September, Block received a “Lifetime Achievement Award” at Hamburg’s “Gründerpreis”. But even after 50 years as a successful entrepreneur, Block believes: “A company is never really complete.”

Hamburg News: Mr. Block, what is the secret to your success?

Eugen Block: I always have a goal in mind. I know the market, our product and the guest’s wishes. Our success is also based on the fact that my group of firms has many different pillars. If one company is not faring well, another company can balance it out. You have to think holistically.

Hamburg News: To promote efficiency, experts recommend the 80:20 rule. You are obviously and entrepreneur to the core. What advice do you offer start-ups and managers?

Eugen Block: I am no longer involved in the daily business, but I certainly take an interest in fundamental developments. When you manage a thriving company passionately from the start, you do not simply hand over responsibility – like hanging up a coat. For an entrepreneur who started from scratch, a company is never really complete or perfect. It is important not to become bogged down in details and to delegate tasks.

Hamburg News: Except for Hamburg Airlines, your success has been unprecedented. The Hamburg-based airline shut down in 1997 after a ten years in business. But one learns from mistakes and in the era of start-ups, a stronger “no-fear to fail mentality” is called for. Do you agree?

Eugen Block: Being independent takes courage. Those who become independent and set up their own business should know the market and their product well and proceed self-confidently. The risk should be calculable.

Hamburg News: You say in your biography: “I’m an entrepreneur, not an adventurer.” Is there a right degree of risk? You took a great risk with the first “Block House” in your chain of restaurants.

Eugen Block: Yes. At first, I spent a long time thinking about it. My wife, Christa, eventually convinced me. I had everything prepared in my mind – the concept, the decoration and the name. I just lacked the courage to actually run the risk.

Hamburg News: Your courage has paid off. Is it important to think outside the box? You trained and worked in Switzerland, France, Britain and the United States.

Eugen Block: Travelling is educational. Looking around at what others are doing is good. I still travel a lot and I study the market in other countries. From a humane point of view, one learns to be far more tolerant.

Hamburg News: Can you mention three of your essential entrepreneurial traits?

Eugen Block: Persistence, a nose for the market, and a sense of feasibility.

Hamburg News: Which character trait would you wish for?

Eugen Block: Patience to listen.

Interview by: Yvonne Scheller

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