Christian Leadership to Change the World
Regent Leaders in the World: Gary Ottman
CBN.com “I’ve worked my life backwards,” laughs Gary Ottman. After nearly 28 years as a successful businessman, why did Ottman choose to pursue not one but two degrees at Regent University? The answer is simple to this energetic visionary. “Life seems to be a series of opportunities for persistence, staying the course ... being where God wants you,” Ottman remarks. He explains that he felt compelled to finish what he began many years ago in his youth.
As the founder and president of AMSTAR, Louisville, Ky., Ottman has accrued 25 years of experience in commercial construction and is chief strategy officer for two subsidiary companies, which complement the operation. In addition, he founded and served as chairman of SOZO International, a nongovernmental organization to serve the disadvantaged in Afghanistan and Sri Lanka.
Even with these prosperous endeavors under his belt, Ottman had a passion to know more about doing business God’s way. While attending a meeting in 2003, Ottman met Dr. John Mulford, director for Regent’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Economic Development. Ottman was intrigued with a newly launched distance-learning program at Regent and was soon on board, ready to take on this new enterprise.
Regent filled the educational niche Ottman desired. A major attraction was how he could integrate his studying into an already demanding schedule, online from home in Kentucky. Ottman speaks highly of the professors who inspired him, referring to them as firmly grounded, outstanding leaders. “Fun to do! Fun to gain education in that environment!” says Ottman. He reports some surprise at the easy camaraderie established among fellow online students, people with whom he forged encouraging relationships that he maintains even today.
Ottman sought specific and realistic answers as he attained degrees in organizational leadership and management: What does it mean to have a Christian business? What does it mean to apply Christian principles in the marketplace? “My studies were extremely valuable both for me, and ultimately for others,” Ottman says. Personally taking great care to employ a principled approach at AMSTAR, quality, honesty and expertise have been trademarks of Ottman’s growing commercial construction business. Now carrying his quest a step further, he has taken his knowledge to others. Hosting men’s small groups, Ottman has mentored many in ways to make workplace decisions with integrity.
When Ottman heard of the enormous needs in a newly freed Afghanistan, he desperately wanted to act. “I’m one of those ‘just do it’ people,” he reflects. In 2002, Ottman founded a private agency to serve the thousands of disadvantaged refugees. The government of Afghanistan provided several hundred acres, an ad hoc refugee area. The challenge? Sand, lots of sand, and no water, no food, no anything. With these obstacles before him, Ottman plied his skills in community development. The agency established wells, housing, micro-lending for small businesses, agricultural projects and education, accruing resources and building hope for the hopeless. Ottman knew he was to be the road builder, one to develop the organization with the opportunity serve; likewise, in 2007, he knew it was time to turn the leadership over to others.
Though Ottman may have lived some life events in reverse, integrity has been his theme throughout. “You can’t be 90 percent filled with integrity. You either have it or you don’t,” he says. “Whatever we do, because we’re glorifying God, we want to be great.” To live that high standard, Ottman works to be transparent and accountable to those around him: family, friends, faith groups and business associates.
This remarkable man is not finished learning. Ottman has been accepted at Oxford School of Missionary Studies in England and is confident he will continue studying. Despite living his life “backwards,” he says, “God has continued to bless me and my family. I’m more excited about tomorrow than I’ve ever been.”
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