You come from a very successful family of business owners. Was it clear to you from the outset that you would follow in your father’s footsteps, Eugen Block, or did you have completely different plans?
My father is very passionate about his profession and his independence, which of course also influenced us children. I didn’t know any other life than to go to Block House on Sundays and later, at the kitchen table, to talk about what was good and what could be done better. New Year’s Eve was and still is celebrated at the Grand Elysée in Hamburg. The companies of the Block Group and their employees were always part of our childhood. That was beautiful and special. We were endowed with entrepreneurship at birth, so to speak. At the age of 14 or 15 years, I wanted to get to know the multifaceted hotel world even better by doing my school internship in a hotel other than ours. I enjoyed it so much that I decided to do my vocational training in the hotel business.
You are a very successful business woman today who by all means has pursued her own business projects and goals in recent years. Which path did you take to do this?
The foundation stone is of course a solid and thorough education. I completed my training as a hotel manager at the Bayrischer Hof. I wanted to learn this profession from the ground up, I always want to know and understand everything in detail.
One experience during my training at Bayrischer Hof had a particular influence on me, I was lucky enough to manage one of the departments as a substitute. That’s when I realised that being independent and self-responsible appealed to me, and that’s what became my driving force. After my training I went to France, worked in the kitchen and experienced the hard daily grind of a chef. Afterwards, my path led me to the practical experience of the American hotel industry and to Cornell University in New York. After that I went to Beijing for a hotel opening and then to Edinburgh, where I completed an MBA to deepen my knowledge in business and economics.
When did you discover politics for yourself?
Since I am a business woman, I was and am automatically in touch with the political events of my city and the country in which I live. Everyone should feel that way. As businesspeople and freelancers, we are always responsible for our environment. I personally started my own business in 2000 by opening the upscale sandwich bistro “Prima Pane”. The necessary steps were the search for a location, visits to the authorities, clarification of financing issues, employee search, product development and so on and so forth.
On my way to establishing a business, I was confronted with many obstacles and difficulties. This is when you start to think about how to make things less bureaucratic and more user-friendly.
Did you already do voluntary work back then, or did that come later?
While I was self-employed, between 2000 and 2015, I did nothing but work. Because the truth is also, if you are self-employed, you do everything yourself and that all the time. Unfortunately, there is little room for voluntary work, especially in a small company.
In 2011, my father approached my brothers and me, asked us if we would like to join the family business and offered us shares. So, going forward, I decided to devote myself primarily to the new task in the family business. My brothers and I are members of the holding company’s supervisory board. When you’re no longer involved in day-to-day operations, you automatically have a little bit of leeway to think outside the box and do some voluntary work. And I think it is the responsibility of our family and our company to get involved.
What goals do you pursue with your voluntary work?
We must support the economic performers. Those who do good for the economy. The ability and productivity of these tradespeople, these businesspeople must pay off again. We always talk very much about the social aspects of our society. But the fact that everything that is spent also has to be earned often takes a back seat. This can only be done by re-focusing on the capabilities of business people and tradespeople.
Does your experience in the hotel and restaurant industry help you to better manage political processes? Or is the approach different from that of traditional politicians?
Yes, it’s quite different. In our large company, of course, I have to pay attention to a large number of people, listen to them and engage them. This begins with our employees, who do their work every day, and continues with our partners, the Supervisory Board and the Management Board. Nevertheless, as a business person you are of course more capable. You can act much more decisively, you can push things forward, you can accomplish more things and bring about changes and achieve both of these more quickly. In politics, this path is a different one and much more tedious.