Charities

Podcast: Offering inmates freedom to flourish

Pete Ochs decided early on that he would be an entrepreneur. He wrote a life plan, asked the  the godliest businessmen he could find to be his mentors. And then this young man, who’d grown up on a farm and had learned that hard work could be fun and creative, set about his business.

He set monthly goals, checked in with his wife to be sure she was ready for what was coming, and over the course of 40 years, never made a big decision without seeking a mentor’s godly wisdom. And he was successful. But not satisfied. At the age of 40, he became sure that he needed to look at life differently.

So he went back to his mentors and asked, “What do I need to be doing?”

This is when he was first introduced to the concept of stewardship. “It shook my world,” he says. “I had always taken pride in being a 90/10 guy; I wanted to make a lot of money so my 10 percent to charity and to God was a big number. And you can imagine what I was going to do with the other 90.”

This new view of himself as a steward set him on a journey, reevaluating his views on wealth and poverty, capital, and stewardship. He focused on flourishing and what it takes for that to happen. He determined that, for people to flourish, they need three kinds of capital: economic, social, and spiritual. He committed to maximizing these in his own life and the lives of those who worked for him.

Over four decades, he has collected and remodeled a portfolio of companies that now operate by these redemptive principles.

When one of these companies, Seat King in Hutchinson Kansas, couldn’t seem to hire enough good workers, Pete accepted an offer to put his principles to the test … inside a maximum–security prison. “I remember that first day, the gates are clanging. And I just kept thinking to myself, “There’s no way we’re gonna be able to operate a business in this environment.”

“But gosh, I think God just did a work on me,” Pete says. As he got to know the guys there, he realized something else important about work. “I took work just as something we all did. Gosh, when we got in there and put these guys to work … all of a sudden their heads were held a little higher, their chests stuck out a little bigger … dignity!”

Gosh, when we got in there and put these guys to work … all of a sudden their heads were held a little higher, their chests stuck out a little bigger … dignity!”

In this episode, Pete traces the arc of how this workforce approach developed from its tentative early stages into a scalable, purposeful model that has “transformed” him as much as it has changed the lives of his employees.

Listen to the podcast to learn how Pete found the business he had hoped for from the time he first started writing business plans in a place he had never imagined, right inside a maximum–security prison.

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