When sitting down with Pete and Debbie Ochs, one immediately gets a sense of their hospitality and kindness. Sitting side by side in the summer South African sun, all the way from the US, Debbie and Pete tell us more about their experience in South Africa and how their organisation engages in the process of reaching harmony.
Job title and more about Debbie and Pete Ochs
Pete Ochs is currently the Founder and Chairman of a company called Capital III, a private investment banking company. What can be considered a social impact company, Capital III invests in privately held companies and employ approximately 600 people across the spectrum of the company and have locations in the US, Mexico and Honduras.Debbie, a homemaker and former teacher,supports Pete with their business and family.
What do you think some of the challenges are in building a more harmonious South Africa?
“I would say the greatest problem is poverty,” says Pete.Pete adds that when talking to poverty, he is referring to economic, social and spiritual poverty as Pete believes these are the three things that create greater poverty. Pete further explains that if we have enough basic needs, great relationships and a moral code to live by, the result is flourishing and harmony.
Economically:There is a huge diversity of great wealth vs great economic poverty. “That has to get,” Pete states firmly in his strong accent and a tone that is best described as reassuring, warm and authentic. “I believe that the way change happens is through work and job creation,” Pete says confidently. This is where Pete says the business community needs to step in and do the best they can to create new jobs and to create new good jobs. “It all revolves around work’’, Pete reiterates. “In Genesis 2, we are told that God put us here because He wanted us to work and tend the gardens.’’ Where we can, Pete thinks we need to encourage people to work diligently.
Governmentally: ‘What is the role of government?’ Pete asks as he explains that he believes God put the church and the family in business on the earth to create economic, social and spiritual capital. God put thegovernment on the earth to protect those. “When government becomes the provider instead of the protector, we start to lose individual freedoms,and that creates even more problems,” says Pete.
Spiritually: Pete talks about how nothing is going to change unless our hearts change. “If you want to know, in my opinion, what creates harmony – it’s a changed heart,and it’s understanding who the creator is. When we understand who the creator is, or the ‘spiritual capital’, as we call it, we will understand the rules as to how to reach economic and social harmony,” Pete explains.
How do you and your organisation engage in this process of change?
Pete starts off by explaining how in the past, he would typically view an employee as just another employee or another asset that he had to manage in order to accomplish the end-result – which was profit. They were then presented with the opportunity to move their rapidly growing business intoa prison because they simply needed more workers.
When Pete entered the prison, it was a “desert of human flourishing,” says Pete. Pete paused and emphasised that “There is no harmony in prison.”
God opened Pete’s eyes to what harmony should look like, as it was the opposite of what he sawin prison. “At that point in time, God truly touched my heart to do business differently,” says Pete. Now, instead of viewing his employees as assets to create more wealth for the shareholders, Pete views them as a gift from God. “It is my responsibility, as a steward, to help you to get to where God wants you to be and to be all that you can be. When we do that, it totally changes the way you view people,and it’s revolutionised our business,” says Pete.
How do you see the way forward for yourself and South Africa?
“We have this saying in our business,” Pete says, looking at his wife. “Leaders bring vision, hope and courage to a coordinated effort.”The way forward, according to Pete, is to raise up godly steward leaders withhearts that have been touched by God. They will then provide vision – a head thing, hope – a heart thing and courage – a hands thing to whichever sphere of influence God has put them in. “Whether it’s family, the church or business, we need leaders to provide the vision of what should be done, the hope to believe that it can be done and the courage to persevere until it is done.’’
In the prison, Pete stood before the inmates and said, “my vision for you is to have the best prison in the United States of America.” Pete and Debbieboth smile and Pete continues to say that if ‘best prison’ isn’t an oxymoron, he doesn’t know what is.
Pete continued his story, “probably 50 or 60 inmates were standing around when we had these monthly meetings, and they just laughed. But, over the last few years, they understand that when we make a promise, we keep it. A promise made, creates hope and a promise kept, creates trust,” says Pete. They trusted Pete as a leader, and that allowed them to take on challenges right behind Pete, ready to go.
Can you briefly name a few of the opportunities you had while growing up that made you the person you are today?
Being raised in a Christian home, Debbie feels very thankful for the examples of generosity and love her parents were in her life. When Debbie met Pete,generosity and love were high priorities for them too. They raised their family with these same principles of honouring God as well as company values that include honouring God, serving people and pursuing excellence and steward resources. “That’s just as important in our family as in our business,” Debbie explains. “We continue to learn how to really love people and serve them, whether it’s our family, our circle of influence, our city or our world.”
Pete added that he grew up on a farm, which gave him the opportunity to understand what hard work was. He had the opportunity to learn individual responsibility and how to make things work because they had to make due. “I was blessed by the opportunity to seea pretty well-functioning family. My parents loved God and loved me,and that was shown in the home, which is a huge opportunity.” Beyond Pete’s grown-up years, he had the opportunity to work in a corporate environment, which taught him a lot about people. Pete continues to explain that he also had the opportunity to fail and learn about failure. He has had the opportunity to be successful and learn from that too.
Any words of advice to those who feel as if all hope is lost?
Debbie answers that their hope undeniably comes from their relationship with Christ. “It enables us to look at life from a different perspective. I like to think of it as a hot air balloon, going up and allowing me to soar over my life, the world, the problemsand view it from God’s perspective. As far as for South Africa, I’ve met many people who have such a heart for this country and who are praying for this country.”