Advice for Every Steward Leader
By Kelsey McFaul
Pete Ochs on the power of mentors, friends and listening to your wife
How much is enough? Even Christian business leaders and entrepreneurs who understand God’s the true owner of their resources struggle with this question. If I’m really the steward, we might think, don’t I have a responsibility to grow God’s money? At what point will He tell me, “well done, good and faithful servant”? In the same way, Pete Ochs knows that money, or more specifically the love of it, has the potential to be his greatest downfall.
“I’m really thankful for a couple of older mentors who came alongside me and laid out this concept of stewardship. When I really understood that God owns it all and I’m just the manager, it was revolutionary.”
The current chairman tells a story of an early moment in his stewardship journey. Capital III was invested in a lucrative home health care business, and Pete and his wife had recently started a ministry on the side.
“My wife came to me one weekend and said ‘Peter, I think we need to sell this business and give the money to this ministry.’ And I said, ‘You are crazy. There’s no way that we are going to kill the goose laying the golden egg.’”
After a weekend of conversation and prayer, Pete put the home health venture up for sale. Within two weeks, he accepted an all-cash option to sell and routed the money to the ministry. Within two years, Congress reduced the Medicare reimbursement rates the company relied on, and his former investment filed for bankruptcy.
“So there’s two morals for this story….One is listening to your wife, and two is hold on really lightly to the resources God’s given you to manage.”
For successful business leaders striving for stewardship, accountability is key. For Pete, this looks like a trusted group of like-minded friends who know the details of each other’s’ finances and provide guidance and “salary thresholds” for living below their means.
“This group of loyal friends is one of the greatest tools helping me become a better steward. We’ve truly lived out Hebrews 10:24, where it encourages us to spur one another on to love and good deeds.”
Understanding they work every day for an owner who loves them and whom they love, steward leaders experience the fruits of joy and freedom from worry.
“It’s not necessarily I do a specific thing and get this big joy or happiness. We’re living life as stewards and as we go on this journey, overriding peace and joy tend to filter over everything.”
Of course there are bumps in the road, but those bumps don’t instill nearly the worry in Pete they might have four decades ago.
“We literally know that they’re there for a reason…and we’re going to be faithful anyway. And a year or two or three later, when we look back in retrospect, we see exactly why that happens.”
With over 35 years of practice with the principles of stewardship and a business model that’s exploded from two to approximately 700 employees, Pete is a firm believer in the importance of developing emerging leaders.
Of his seven key officers, three joined Capital III in the last five years and four are under 40.
“We’ve worked really hard to round out the management team with people who have different skills, different personalities. With the ultimate goal that we’re really the steward of the assets of our employees.”
He believes stewardship is relevant to leadership styles and arenas as varied as business, military, politics, pastoral care, and nonprofits. And to those looking to develop as a steward leader, Pete offers three insights:
First, understand your purpose.
“Living for yourself will be soothing for a time but in the end it’s disastrous. The opposite of living for yourself is living for something greater than yourself, and for those of us who are Christians it’s to live to glorify God and enjoy Him forever…So it’s not just an intellectual decision, but it’s also a decision of the heart.”
Second, live with passion.
“If your purpose is to live for yourself then you’re going to be about prides, places, and possessions. But if you live to honor God, your passions will turn to service, to excellence, and to stewardship.”
Finally, leverage your platform.
“When you live like that, God will give you a platform that provides you with great influence. I don’t think God cares what the platform is, but He does care how you use it and why you use it to impact others.”
One of Pete’s favorite acronyms (and he’s got a few), spells LIFE. When you live as a steward, he says,
“your labor will be sweet. Your influence will be great. Your financial resources might be greater, and you’ll have expertise you can give to people.”
The ultimate bottom line?
“Life as a steward will be the most satisfying thing you’ve ever done.”