What’s in Your DNA?
Pete Ochs, impact investor, shares the impact of stewardship on his triple bottom line model
A farm kid raised in Kansas, Pete Ochs grew up planting crops, setting irrigation lines, and bringing in the harvest. Like most farmers and business entrepreneurs, he has self-reliance in his DNA.
“I love to serve, but it’s very difficult for me to get up first thing in the morning and prostrate myself before the creator of the universe and say, ‘Lord I’m here. What do you want me to do today for you?’”
Principles of stewardship were far from Pete’s mind in the early years, where he majored in business and spent eight years in commercial banking. In 1982, Pete started his own investment banking company, Capital III, which brokered the sale of small and medium private companies.
“Then I had a couple of mentors come alongside me and lay out the concept of stewardship, which I’d never heard of before.”
These days, Capital III is a social impact investment company owning and running businesses that fuel Pete’s passion. His ventures range from manufacturing and real estate to energy and education and include inmates in a maximum security Kansas state prison.
And the “III” in the moniker?
“We’re focused on creating not only economic but social and spiritual capital in each and every company we invest in.”
It’s been quite a journey for Pete, whose trifecta of priorities maps onto his own spiritual development, his discovery of God’s vision for business, and his role as a steward of the things God owns.
“At the age of 40, I woke up and understood that I’d become successful, but I wasn’t very satisfied.”
Older mentors introduced him to the concept of stewardship, the idea that God owns the entirety of our resources and we’re merely managers. For Pete, the idea was “revolutionary.”
“Within just a few weeks I had done a 180-degree turn in my life philosophy. With that new approach, I went from success to significance, from holding on tightly to the things I created to holding on lightly with open hands to the things I wanted God to use.”
Still, Pete believed stewardship equalled financial generosity.
“I used my businesses as a vehicle to generate as much money as I could so that I could be a generous person financially. My goal, instead of making money for myself, was to make money for God.”
Then came 9/11. Within 60 days, Pete’s business assets lost half their value and his family was in danger of bankruptcy.
“I’d been holding on lightly with open hands to the things I wanted God to use. But then God broke me to the point of surrender….At that point in time whatever I held loosely in my hands I just emptied upside down, put it on the table, and said, ‘Lord, it’s yours.’”
Pete had been generous with the 10 percent he thought God was due, but here God was knocking on his door, asking for it all. The decision to be a steward in every part of his life required surrender beyond financial generosity—his time, treasure, tribe, and talents.
“I probably have not grown spiritually outside of significant trials. I really claim James 1 because I know that the testing of my faith develops perseverance. So whenever I hit a bump, I go, ‘Oh Lord, it’s just your way of making me more mature and more complete, and a more joyful and happy man.’”
These are insights Pete brings into his work at Capital III, where they inform his vision of God’s intent for business.
Business is a dynamic engine for capital creation, a purpose most people conceptualize in economic terms. But for Pete, godly business should ideally pursue a triple bottom line—the creation of economic, social, and spiritual capitals. All are deeply interdependent, and all lead to the human flourishing God intends.
“We used to measure success by financial bottom line results. But as a measurement of success this is kind of hollow, unless it’s used as a resource for the business to enrich the lives of others.”
Business creates social capital, the second third, when it makes value creation for others its priority.
“Social capital for us really revolves around relationships, all the things money can’t buy. The ability to work together as a team and seek a common good so that we all benefit and we all flourish.”
For Christians, social capital creation aligns with Jesus’ commandment to “Love thy neighbor.” In Pete’s world, it’s assessed through annual company surveys about work environment, how much employees like the people they work with or see themselves growing, how often they’ve been told they’re appreciated.
Ten years ago, the results hovered around 40 percent workplace satisfaction. Today, they’re over 90.
“People love coming to work here. They’re getting something out of work other than a paycheck, while they’re getting a paycheck.”
In his own life, Pete’s come to realize that the significance business can offer—meaningful career, flourishing work environment, financial generosity—isn’t all that God envisions. Temporal flourishing is part of His plan to create the Kingdom of God on earth, but it’s not the highest objective.
“God wants our hearts. And I came to the understanding that business, partnering with the Holy Spirit, can impact the eternal lives of those it serves and employs, and its neighbors, by working to restore their relationship with God.”
That’s spiritual capital, the final third.
“Of course, as Christians we think the most important form of spiritual capital is the moral code by which we live, which comes from God’s word and a personal relationship with Jesus.”
Capital III has witnessed a number of employees come to Christ in recent years, while others just begin to live differently: they are more disciplined financially, more loving in their relationships, more forgiving.
Pete admits it’s difficult to define or assess the outcomes of spiritual capital creation. With this kind of harvest, surrender yields greater results than self-reliance, and the Holy Spirit is often at work in ways we can’t see.
“But we are very diligent about our efforts….We measure our sowing and our watering, and then we’re kind of leaving the rest to God. But we do get to see growth and fruit every day, and God gets the glory.”
Follow upcoming blog posts on Pete’s economic, social, and spiritual work in a maximum security prison and his stewardship advice for young leaders.
The second post from this interview titled “Blessed to be a Blessing” was published on October 26, 2017. To read it, please click here.