Lori Blaker has traveled all over the world for work, but this May she’ll be heading to Norway for a very different reason: to accept the 2018 Oslo Business for Peace Award.
Blaker, CEO of TTi Global, is one of three recipients receiving the award this year. She’s the only woman honoree and is joining a very small list of honorees from the U.S.
So how did it feel to find out she was getting what’s considered the Nobel Prize for business?
“To me, it was just validation that we’re on the right track and we’ve been on the right track all along,” Blaker said.
TTi Global was founded by Blaker’s parents in 1976. After being hired as the company’s first full-time employee, Blaker worked her way through a number of different positions before taking over the company’s training division in 1990. Then, her father died suddenly in 1992. Soon after, Blaker took over management of the entire organization.
After becoming CEO, she decided to take the company global, opening the first of their international expansions in China in 1994. Now, the staffing, recruiting, and consulting firm operates in more than 24 countries on five continents, including their headquarters in Bloomfield Hills. The company recently moved there after spending nearly 40 years in Rochester Hills.
“My mom, a handful of years back, looked at me and said, ‘You know, your dad could have never done all of this,’” Blaker said. “So that was a really nice pat on the back to hear.”
Blaker has opened every single one of their international offices, including the retail Automotive Service Center and Training Center in Kabul, Afghanistan. They have also developed a few programs in India that teach women projects that they can build and sell from home, like solar lanterns.
“I always say, ‘If you can educate a woman, you educate a nation,’” Blaker said. “Because an educated woman is going to make sure that her children are educated. That’s how we stop this whole vicious circle.”
She also thinks that more organizations and companies should get involved, and she’s not suggesting everyone do something overseas. They can do it in their own backyard, and it doesn’t have to be financially draining or time consuming.
“It’s important to me as a business leader…if I don’t lead by example then who is going to follow?” she said. “I just think it’s important for all of us to make an impact somewhere.”
The reactions Blaker gets from women when she goes places shows she’s making some pretty big impacts around the world.
What often happens with her schedule will be to go to say a school, speak a few words, and then leave. But she very rarely leaves right away, often finding herself mobbed by girls who want to talk to her.
Blaker shares her story with them, how she was a single mom of four boys and struggled. She’s the first to admit there were times when it was hard to get food on the table and shoes on their feet.
“To tell your story, it gives them hope. Sometimes, that’s all they need because they give up,” she said. “They think, ‘How am I ever going to be able to achieve those dreams?’ When they see someone that’s actually done it and it hasn’t been an easy path, I think it, hopefully, gives them the strength to persevere and do what they are meant to do.”
Photo: Laurie Tennent