Raymond M. Blank

Management Consultant Who Advised The Rouse Co. Believed Teamwork Was The Key To Company Success

August 18, 2009|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

Raymond Michael Blank, a management consultant who believed that teamwork and not executive bonuses made for good business practice, died Aug. 10 of a protein disease, amyloidosis, at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. The Fells Point resident was 76.

Born in Baltimore and raised on Park Heights Avenue, he helped his father run his Atlantic Richfield filling stations - at Pratt and Light streets and another near old Oriole Park on Greenmount Avenue. When the ballpark burned in 1944, the family changed business strategies, and Mr. Blank worked at the High Hat bar in East Baltimore, which his father owned.

He was a 1951 City College graduate who earned degrees at the University of Maryland, College Park and at the university's law school. While in his 20s, he and his brothers Alvin and Morton founded the Northern Acceptance Corp., or NAC Charge Plan, which grew into a national entity.

"Ray said that he and his brothers talked to a cousin named Selma, who was the hostess at the Pimlico Hotel [restaurant]," said Myrna Poirier, his wife, who is an architect. "They asked about who was making good money and was told that people in the loan business were doing well. They decided to give credit to consumers they approved and would guarantee."

The Blank brothers enlisted small neighborhood shops and their customers for credit accounts. Mr. Blank, who was still at the University of Maryland, was put in charge of advertising.

In the early 1960s, a new discount operation came to Baltimore - E.J. Korvette - and Mr. Blank and his brothers pursued it as an NAC credit customer.

"I was in New York, almost daily pursuing Korvette's," he said in a 1991 Warfield's Magazine interview. "It took six months of train trips, and a discounted interest rate, but NAC won the account."

Mr. Blank, who was a new law school graduate, went on to be a Korvette's administrative vice president.

"There I was, on the board of a major New York Stock Exchange company, in meetings in the big board rooms, the big stuff. But I realized they didn't know how to manage that company. It was a zoo."

His criticism of Korvette's management got him fired. He told friends that the experience of losing his job taught him a lesson that he would use throughout the rest of his life.

"Ray learned about the politics of corporations this way," said Michael Ewing, a friend and former Rouse executive who owns a retail leasing business. "He was a critic of the bonus system and competition within the company. He believed that people should work toward a shared goal."

Mr. Blank became a consultant to the Rouse Co. nearly 35 years ago after setting up a consulting business in New York City. He returned to Baltimore in 1980 and wrote "Playing the Game, a Psychopolitical Strategy for Your Career." He later said he wrote his book while sitting at the counter at Nick's Seafood in Cross Street Market.

"He would take a humanistic approach to business," said Donald Manekin of the Seawall Development Co. "In all my learning experiences, I don't think I had a better teacher."

Mr. Blank had a blog where he listed some of his precepts: "Always start a meeting by reminding everyone to turn off cell phones, BlackBerrys and pagers," he wrote. "No one should accept calls during a meeting. Although it may seem important to take a call, it is rude and insensitive to others."

He also said, "The world is fair. Maybe not day-to-day, but in the long run."

Mr. Blank was a lifelong tennis player who enjoyed bicycling on overseas trips where he visited country inns. He befriended French chefs and persuaded them to spend time at Harry's, a restaurant in Greensboro, Caroline County.

"We had two chefs from Normandy, two from the South of France and one from South Africa who came on his say-so," said Jeri Wyre, Harry's owner.

A memorial celebration will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday at the Inn at the Colonnade, 4 W. University Parkway in North Baltimore.

Survivors include his wife of four years; three sons, Paul Jeffrey Blank of Stewartstown, Pa., Adam D. Cherier of Mill Valley, Calif., and Peter Joshua Blank of Greenbelt; a daughter, Jamie A. Hammond of San Diego; and a granddaughter. An earlier marriage ended in divorce.

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