Season 2
42 Minutes

E46 | Thomas Vozzo | When Work Takes You On A Spiritual Trip

Thomas Vozzo has a lite before and after becoming the CEO of Homeboy Industries, the largest and most successful gang rehabilitation program in the world. Prior to Homeboy, Tom served as an Executive Vice President with Aramark, a 13 billion dollar revenue leader in the food services industry.

Serving as the first-ever CEO of Homebody Industries has taken Tom on a profound spiritual journey, with many lessons about leadership, life and love. Loyola Press just published Tom’s deeply moving book about the insights he has gained, The Homeboy Way.

Links in this episode:


To help make this podcast more accessible to those who are hearing impaired or those who like to read rather than listen to podcasts, here are our show notes.

These show notes come via the service. The transcription is imperfect. But hopefully, it’s close enough – even with the errors – to give those who aren’t able or inclined to learn from audio interviews a way to participate.

Thomas Vozzo  00:00

As people are changing their life, they’re changing it via their own spiritual growth. There are people with such traumatic past they’ve been demonized, forgotten and abused. And yet they’re they’re finding power in their own spirituality and finding God. Which in what witnessing that made me realize that maybe my view of my own spirituality is pretty superficial. I should. I should open my eyes along the way. Learn from the homies and learn from this community.

Achim Nowak  00:37

Hey, this is Achim Nowak, executive coach and host of the MY FOURTH ACT podcast. If life is a five act play, how will you spend your FOURTH ACT? I have conversations with exceptional humans who have created bold and unexpected fourth acts, listen, and to be inspired. And please rate us and subscribe on whatever platform you are listening on. Let’s get started. I am really happy to welcome Tom Vozzo to the my fourth act podcast. Tom has a life before and a life after becoming the CEO of Homeboy Industries. Prior to Homeboy Tom served in senior executive roles in corporate America. His last corporate role was as executive vice president with Aramark, a $13 billion revenue leader in the food services, uniform apparel and facilities management industry. That’s a mouthful, but if any of you have ever stepped into a corporate cafeteria, anywhere in United States, there was probably some Aramark stuff in there. As an executive coach has eaten in many of those, I’ve seen Aramark everywhere. Now, since 2012, Tom has been the first ever CEO of Homeboy Industries, the largest and most successful gang rehabilitation program in the world. Founded by jesuit with priest father, Greg Boyle, Loyola press just published Tom’s deeply moving and inspiring book, The homeboy way. So welcome, Tom.

Thomas Vozzo  02:22

Well, thank you. Thanks for having me.

Achim Nowak  02:24

It’s great to have you. We’re obviously going to talk about Homeboy Industries, the work you do there and, and the lessons you’ve learned there as a business leader, but also as a human being. But before we go there to create a little bit of context, because I have a hunch when you were a little boy growing up, you didn’t think I’m gonna run a company like homeboy at some point. So when you were growing up, and mom and dad asked you So Tom, what do you want to be as an adult? What were your thoughts?

Thomas Vozzo  02:53

Yeah, yeah, that’s an interesting question. I gotta say, when I was growing up, I was a fourth of fourth children. Yeah. And we didn’t, as a family, my folks worked hard, we didn’t have a lot of resources. My brothers and I were the first ones in our generations to go to college. So we didn’t have a lot of, you know, it wasn’t a typical where a lot of dreams where I want to be, you know, an astronaut, or a lawyer or doctor. But, you know, along the way, I sort of understood, I think I always knew I had a sense for business. And I liked leading people. And, you know, listen, I was good at math. So I went to college and became a math major along the way. So you can’t it’s hard to monetize being being a math guy. But my thoughts of you know, as a youth, you know, my parents got us focused on helping out other people who are in a tough spot than we are so bad, obviously influenced me through my life imprinted on me that to do good for others.

Achim Nowak  03:49

That phrase, you just said, I had a sense, I was good at business. I want to prove a little bit because I come from the other side. I never had a sense, I was good at business. I’ve been successful in spite of myself. And I feel like I’m good at it now. But, but what in you thought, Oh, I think I’m good at this. Can you give an example of how, what that sense was?

Thomas Vozzo  04:10

You know, it’s two things I think it’s one is there’s the the understanding of being around different types of people. You know, it’s all the time so whether you have poor friends or rich friends or, or friends that have smart friends that are Tom, you know, it’s like, if you can move within a bunch of circles. Now, those are very high school cliches about cliques. Yeah. But if you can move in a bunch of circles then you the sort of a sense that you have inner confidence. And then there’s only then later on then through later on summer jobs and college jobs, they sort of the I paid more attention to the business stories than I did to the stories of academic type folks.

Achim Nowak  04:48

What I thought of again, I relate everything he’s saying to me and to our listeners and what they might be thinking about but you said it so beautifully. I think we succeed in business also through by working well within through others, right? And the ability to move in different circles, which I trust you’re totally doing at Homeboy Industries now is really critical to, to business success. Now you had 25 plus year in very senior roles in I’m going to put them in the bucket more when I think of manufacturing industries. If that’s the wrong bucket, please correct me that comes from the world that I know. And I just, if you could give our listeners a glimpse of the usually two sides of every coin, the moments where you go, God, this is amazing. I love when I get to do here. So a moment maybe that stands out, but also maybe a moment we go shoot this as hard. Why the hell am I doing this? Can you take us to both of those opposites as you reflect on that part of your life?

Thomas Vozzo  05:49

Yeah, sure, sure. So I was, I felt fortunate. You started with my younger life. So I went to graduate school, got my Master’s in mathematical sciences. And then, you know, among the first jobs coming out, I was coming out of graduate school, had an opportunity to NSA offered me a job. And American Airlines offered me a job. So the big corporations or NSA is not a corporation. It’s a big organization. Right? Right. But I went to a small entrepreneurial mail order catalog company. Now this is back in the 90s. So E commerce but it was like, Yeah, we’re dating ourselves dating ourselves, right. So hopefully, your audience understands this. But, you know, for what appealed to me among all those choices was going to a small company, entrepreneurial, really looking to grow fast. And again, as I was saying early before, glibly you know, a cow can a math guy monetize himself. But listen, so in a in the mail order world, you know, how many catalogs you mail out, you know, how many orders you get back, and then you can you produce to the statistical modeling and be smarter about who you mail to, and the direct marketing aspects and, and that business grew, I sort of joined what it was about $30 million, and it grew to $300 million. And so I grew along with it. And what I that had a culture was a family owned business, had a culture of, you know, just just come on, just work hard, and everything will be successful in the end. And then that business was acquired by what turned to be Aramark Corporation. And so I got to learn from what is family run companies about high growth to a big corporation that was a managed services company, so much of manufacturing, but a service bucket service industry bucket. And what Aramark kind of taught me was take the longer term view, invest in leadership, invest in personnel and invest in ideas. And so if you are a young person, had a good thought, but also could lead in wanting to work really hard. These were two business experiences, say, Wow, you can be successful, and move your life forward. So I think that the spirit of your question is what I loved about all those opportunities was the entrepreneurial aspect of it. We’re all in it as a team, Eric Mark has a very interesting case example of back in 1985. Before my days, it didn’t. a management buyout, an LBO, which was very unique at the time. And for many years, Aramark was a private company that employees own so we as employees have fairly sizable ownership shares at depends on how level high up you are in the corporation. So what I’m saying there is what we learned at Aramark is to be is to run the organization as employee owners, and everybody had the same incentive structure to do well, so that someday we would go public, and then everybody was gonna have a great look liquidity event. And so that was all that the positive side of what I learned, entrepreneurial, work hard. Everybody’s incentives aligned. It’s all successful there.

Achim Nowak  08:45

I want to read a quote from your book that really grabbed me that I think goes maybe, to the dark side. Yep, sure. Since you wrote it, these are your words. So you got it. You wrote, I was the $6 million man, a true and trained apparatus of corporate America. I was to be among the best of what is produced. Yet I knew I was missing one aspect of in quotation marks the package to make my way to the very, very top, a killer instinct, that instinct to trample over others to get there to reach the top rung on the ladder. I read that and I say, gosh, that sounds harsh. Would you elaborate on what this experience relates to Tom?

Thomas Vozzo  09:30

Sure. Well, it’s interesting. You’re reading it as an executive coach there along the way, right.

Achim Nowak  09:34

Give it a little bit of drama. Right?

Thomas Vozzo  09:36

Yeah, that’s great. Let me cut up there’s a few things here. My reference, you know, you see this in the in the book I wrote my reference to the $6 million man is back to my youth when there was that TV show with Lee Majors. Oh, yes. Astronaut, the astronaut burn and they rebuilt him and he became a $6 million man and, and I always thought of on my corporate days and hats off to Aramark and companies, corporations like them who invest in their leadership team. And I was it was just normal investment at normal training, but then they took the high potential folks. And so today we’re gonna do more for these high potential folks. And I was always in that realm of, of being invested in and having executive coaches. And finally, the St. Louis did all this testing and poking and prodding and asked me about my story for you for the body. Right? And all the different types of tests I heute. Admire and all that stuff. I’m saying, I’m joking that because it’s your world here, it’s my world. Yeah. But listen, but they did it for a reason. Because if I’m a better leader, and a better executive, it’s, you know, everybody in the corporation benefits, right. And so, so I always felt like I was the I was that, you know, $6 million man astronaut that today, hey, I’m going to build this weapon, this great person with a lot of tools to do well for the corporation. So you keep moving up moving up the ladders, but the second half of the quote was, you know, you get to a certain level, and then it’s like, then it’s like, well, what’s the difference between it’s not so much functional skills anymore. It’s sort of C suite politics. In some senses, you also have to understand the business model he ran, like, who’s your ownership structure, who you really working for, you know, we were public, I had the experience of being working in a public company. And this is $1,000,000,000.13 billion dollar business officer in a public company, then I was an officer in a company owned by private equity folks, and how’s that incentive structure change? What are the rules of the game there? What are your deliverables? And then what’s it take to be the not just the one of four EVPs of a $13 billion company? What’s it take to be a CEO? And so to me, it’s like it’s in some senses. It’s, it’s to have that in the way I’ve thought about in the quote is the final Killer Instinct where you got to just be 100%, dedicated, in my sense, march over people, and I want to take some time to answer this a little bit more. My seminal moment, for all this comes down to if your folks list remember back to the 2008 recession, the Great Recession in 2008. Now, it’s different from the recession we just went through in the pandemic 2008 recession was caused by the economic environment we all lived in, right? And so the economy really shrunk by about 10 to 15% in a short period of time. So here, I was here at Aramark, right and we I was running a $2 billion division seven companies. Our deliverable that year for profits was $150 million recession hits. We do all we need to do we downsize we right size, it’s we we, you know, changing prices and customers and all that right. Before the recession, we thought we’re gonna do $150 million profit with all the changes we made, we were still gonna do $140 million profit. So I remember having a conversation with Chairman like, after my reprojection came in. And I remember him telling me, Tom, that’s not good enough, we need to get back to the 100 and 50 million. So we need to get that extra $10 million. And I knew as he’s telling me that, like, it was a terse conversation, as he’s telling me, that 10 million I gotta get to, I’m now gonna have to lay off. But another round of people, long term employees, people care so much they spend so much of their time on behalf of this corporation, I’m thinking to myself, for what reason, because we’re only doing that I knew, I knew, we’re only doing that so we can keep to our commitments that we made to Wall Street to the bankers, because we just had become private. But it wasn’t gonna change the valuation of our corporation, that extra $10 million in profit. And something what we’re sacrificing long term was experts and people, no corporation can be fine. We’re sacrificing people just to play that, that game and be successful and so fat at that point, I knew I did not have that gene in my body that want to sacrifice people, just to make my numbers. That’d be one thing. If we were losing money, we weren’t losing. We just weren’t making enough money.

Achim Nowak  14:09

I’ve had a version of what you just said the conversation with so many executives and I know how painful that moment is, in their the numbers, but then there’s the human part of being a leader, which you just spoke about. So thank you for your clarity. I do want to get to Homeboy industry. Yeah, please. Before we get to how you got there. Would you just give us a little overview of what Homeboy Industries is as an organization and its mission before we speak about how you ended up there?

Thomas Vozzo  14:41

Yes. So Homeboy Industries is a nonprofit organization. We help former felons and former gang members changed your life. You need two criteria to become a member of Homeboy Industries. As a client, you need to have been incarcerated you need to have been affiliated with a gang. And then obviously The third is you want to change your life and get out of that. And so Homeboy Industries just started over 30 years ago, Jesuit priest, Father, Greg Boyle was his first station as a priest was in Dolores Mission, which is the poorest parish of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, happened to be the epicenter of gang violence in Los Angeles, which says something because Los Angeles is the gang capital of the country, and probably the world along the way. And so too many young men were dying of gang violence, Greg wanted to change that dynamic. And he hit upon what’s a pretty simple thought. Now, if you get if you can get these young men a job where they have enough money for food and shelter, they’re not going to go run with the gangs, because that’s what really what the running with the gang is the only family they think they have. It’s false family, they think that’s the only hope they have. But that’s how they’re making money. So Greg started really essentially getting a jobs program, the Pullman that out of the gang lifestyle, and then over the time, change to having social enterprise businesses, we have a bake, we have a cafe, but along the way, as the businesses grew and change was the knowledge that all these all the folks we’re working with are second third generation gang members, for sure. But they’re all victims of complex trauma. And so for the really for them to get out of gangs, and mainstream back in society is about helping them heal from their trauma. So here we are now, Homeboy Industries, just a $30 million nonprofit, we raised $30 million, we spent $30 million. Yes, we help people leave gang life. And it’s a it’s amazingly successful. Although I’ve been there a number of years, I feel like it’s my job still to brag on their behalf. And it really, it’s the secret sauce is as people walk through our door that simply as don’t judge them for the color of their skin or tattoos on their face or the gang they’re from just to say yes, in some type of way of helping them and build a relationship and have them feel love for the first time in their life. And that’s what changes people.

Achim Nowak  16:57

I’m glad we ended on love, along with all sorts of other skills in reading that you do and trauma healing. I love so many things about your story, but also our listeners. I’m sure everybody’s going that was my fault. So how does an executive vice president from Aramark as the first ever CEO of Homeboy Industries, that seems like another side of the planet, and you just tell us the mechanics of how did they leave? How were you recruited? Like, how did that happen?

Thomas Vozzo  17:31

I left Aramark I knew after Aramark, we became more of a public to private and the way the private equity deal was written. We all had handcuffs on for four years golden handcuffs, right. And so at that four year mark, I nearby I knew I wanted to leave that corporate part of my life and look for the next chapter. By the fair remarks but a board member I’ve been on the board of Salvation Army of Los Angeles for many years. You know, Aramark always encouraged us to be, you know, local and, and be part of the community. A friend of mine there was on the board of homeboy, after I left Aramark, he invited me down to the home girl Cafe, and we had lunch. And he asked me to get involved. And I thought, well, you know, I’ve been board member plenty of time. I got time on my hands. How can I, I don’t want to be a board member. Let me help out in a different way. And I was kind of curious, could could my skills be used everything I learned along the way? Could they be used in a different way to help people now I’m a big, I want to say, even today, going to conferences representing homeboy, I start by saying I’m a committed capitalist, I believe well, run companies are good for our society. They provide jobs if customers want to pay you for your service great, and they provide jobs for people. And if you’ve run a excellent place to work, people want to work for you as well. But when I was sitting there in the home girl cafe, having lunch with my friend, Victor, I’m looking around, I’m thinking, well, here’s a bugbear I would have never thought about hiring former felons and gang members back in my corporate world. And I’m looking around watching them how dedicated they are work and how happy they are working. And coming to learn later. It’s really a first job they’ve ever had. And so when Victor asked me to get involved in the businesses at that time, homeboy businesses were struggling. Typical thing happening a lot of nonprofit folks were running businesses as opposed to up and business people run the business side of it all. Yeah. And so he asked me to get involved. I started volunteering in the businesses that sort of give them some advice. And I got to two months later, I Father Greg and Victor decided that, you know, hey, you know, maybe we should ask Tom to come in and be CEO. And I didn’t think I was going to work again. Honestly, I but I want to do something else in my career. Then when probably Greg asked me to DC I’m thinking well, what does a for profit guy know about a nonprofit? Running it? But really, I mean, the chance to be in father Greg’s orbit for a while he’s to me is a living saint, in the chance to be in Among a community that needs help, in my at that point, my view needs help. And maybe my skills can help out. was too great to pass up. So I, I jumped in. Yeah. And I took a leap of faith. Yes, yeah, I had all the hubris of a corporate executive where I thought I could. Not sure I’ll do this for like six months to a year, I helped them get in a better financial position and something different. And here I am nine years later, and I just love I love the opportunity to love what I’ve done and love being part of the community.

Achim Nowak  20:36

A word from your sponsor, that’s me, I invite you to go to the website associated with this podcast, fourth, you will find other equally inspiring conversation with great humans. And you will also learn more about the my fourth act mastermind groups where cool people figure out how to chart their own fourth acts. Please check it out. And now back to the conversation. I was struck, because this is so true for all of us is the fact that your friend Victor, taking you into a place like the home girl cafe and introducing you to just an experience that was new for you, and how that was the beginning of a whole other wonderful journey. And the power of just going into a different world. In this case with a friend or an acquaintance. I want to read another quote from your book that really touched me and I you said you’re brought in I’m sure because you’re good at running businesses, turning businesses around being a finance guy. But then the journey becomes something else. So again, this is from your book, The homeboy way, I have been so thankful for my time and homeboy, it has led me into his spiritual journey, I would have been blind to otherwise, I see and witness God’s work here every day. This concept of the call of the king is action, versus just thoughts. So this is you. Would you just elaborate a little more on what part of this journey has been?

Thomas Vozzo  22:19

You know, I say this in with reflection, right? Back in the corporate world. You can’t you can never really talk about your own face. And God you know, it’s like it’s you can you can say a lot of things in the corporate world. And let’s I’ve learned what are the rules, I’m gonna live by the rules and when within those rules, right, and one of the rules in the corporate world is you’ll talk about unwritten rules. You don’t talk about your faith, God, you know, anyway, so coming to homeboy, when I first came in as a, I’ve been a volunteer. So as I first came in, I’ve been trying to get there every day a week, I would learn so many head spinning concepts in life would be different. You know, it’s like, you know, when you first come in, it’s like, it’s about relationship. Homeboy is about relationships, allowing somebody to finally have a good relationship. And so, it tugs on the goodness of each of us. And that’s how they change your life. You know, and so it’s, there’s a lot of humor happening a homeboy, there’s a lot of hugs, I’m me, I would walk 10 Hugs before you get to the office. Now, if you ever imagined that in the corporate world, no, no, no, right. And humor is used in a good way. It’s, it’s humble way. And it’s in my own world, I’d be walking hallways and see in seeing some guys hanging around laughing, thinking while they’re just lazy and not getting anything done. But guys hanging around laughing at Homeboy means they’re forming connection with their gang enemy, laughing over something in common. And that’s what’s helping them move, move life forward. I mean, that was like the some of the strange things at the beginning and doing what’s right for the individual person not worrying about you setting precedent for the whole organization. And we can talk more about that if you want. But to the spiritualities part, what I started noticing early on was that as people are changing their life, they’re changing it via their own spiritual growth. There are people with such traumatic past they’ve been demonized, forgotten and abused. And yet they’re, they’re finding power in their own spirituality and in finding God, which, in what witnessing that made me realize that maybe my view of my own spirituality is pretty superficial. I should, I should open my eyes along the way, and learn from the homies and learn from this community. It’s been now you know, a nine year journey, learning more about my own faith, my own spiritual journey. And it’s been so wonderful. And I truly say although it’s, you know, Father, Greg’s Jesuit priests and we learned from him. I’m really learning that spiritual journey from the homeboys and homegirls

Achim Nowak  24:48

because we’re not in the corporate world and we can talk about this year. How has your relationship to your faith and understanding of faith and God changed as you What I’m hearing hang out with people that are really different from you that have very different pasts. And you’re encountering them as humans. Right. And that is affecting your own understanding of God Spirit, whatever. Can you give us some specific examples of what this change within you this evolution looks like?

Thomas Vozzo  25:22

Yeah, you know, that’s a hard question to answer. Let me take a shot at it. It’s very reflective, right? churchgoer, all my life, learned all those things. But I homeboys always saying that what we try to do as as folks, as people come through our doors, gang members come through our doors, looking to change the team, essentially, essentially, metaphorically hold up a mirror so they can see the goodness that’s in them. So what I’ve learned deep down God is with every one of us, in this goodness, and every one of us, no one’s evil, there’s goodness in every one of us. And so recognizing there’s goodness, in every one of us, it’s when our folk are, have struggles right and do things that in the corporate world, we would fire them or would trample them out, or probably wag our finger at them. Those behaviors, you realize it’s not just about those, but what’s what’s driving those behaviors? Right? What is the deep what is a trauma? What is a struggle that’s driving those behaviors? And it’s realizing what a fundamental view now understand that there’s goodness in everyone and no one’s evil. That makes you think about the sitch, every situation differently. Secondly, we know what you need to communicate to everybody is, everyone’s loved that, you know, as probably Greg says, God’s too busy loving us to be judging us. And so as you’re working with folks, it’s like, you got to get across to them that they are love, they are cared for, by God and by us. And that that’s a mind shift. It’s not like it’s the corporate world wouldn’t would say no to any of that. Just use don’t think about those things in those situations. And so it’s understand those two big tenants that that I follow now.

Achim Nowak  27:00

Now, you and I are both two, we’re both White Men of a Certain Age. And I’m just thinking back when I was 35, I moved for a while living this tiny island, the Caribbean, Tobago. And it’s the first time I lived in a little village where I was the only white person and that I was very visible as the only white person. You are white to CEO and you’re engaging with I would imagine predominantly people who are not white, our whiteness represents things to people, right. Does that come up? And are there any lessons around how they gets negotiated within Homeboy Industries? I’m really curious.

Thomas Vozzo  27:38

Yeah, sure, sure. It comes up in a lot of ways. Let me give you a couple different angles on this for you and whoever’s listening, hang in there with me. Because I’ve learned that talking about race is very dangerous way, right? And yeah, homeboy and I talked about this a couple times in the book in terms of race and race relations. I think homeboy does a wonderful job. Wonderful job of being the end, though, to racism in racial issues, and racial and justices along the way. So yeah, I mean, I just fill in your question a little bit more. Essentially, the folks we work with the gang members, you know, as I said, we’re gonna we have may give you a little bit numbers, we have over 300 clients trainees on payroll, so that means they’re former gang members looking to leave that lifestyle, right. And over 10,000 people come through our doors every year looking for some type of service or help. Right. Okay, so, and they’re nearly all those gang members are all people of color, black, Latino, you know, Asian, you know, no, maybe 5% are white gang members, right. So, listen, so race is a huge race. And racism is a huge issue among our population. So as the as they’re joining gangs, the gangs are split up by race, right, as they get incarcerated, the way to survive in jail in prison is to stick with your race along the way. Right. And so on top of that, they all have this pain of fellow gang members being killed by someone of another race. They all have this concept of the correctional officer being a white guy standing above on the railing looking down, right. And so they come clearly people come home with for the first time looking to change your life, but they come with a lot of anger and a lot of frustration, not just because of race, but race is sort of mingled into Yeah, mixed in with all that. So it is front and center to what we do every day. And from what as Father Greg says, and what we do and what the culture is, it’s about kinship, and caring and relationships, and compassion. And so we work with gang members, not gangs, which means we work with people, not racial gangs, right. And so we make sure like our home as example, one of our social enterprise businesses are bakery, we make artists and bread we deliver bread to restaurants around Los Angeles. artisan bread means is mainly made by hands our guys from different gangs, different races are standing on our bread table rolling to Oh, next to each other, you can’t end up not demonizing somebody’s relationship with. And so we don’t use a lot of the language around race we just sort of live by. We’re all in this. We’re all in this together. We all have, they all have anger, they all have pain. Let’s work it on through. So our team, our team of managers, who are former, live their lifestyle, really understand how to get men and women at a gang life. So that’s sort of the big point of race at Homeboy, Ed, we work with individuals. Now to your question about me as the CEO, and yeah, I mean, at the beginning, whenever I’m talking to somebody, there’s a little bit of that hesitation. And, you know, it’s, again, I’m gonna answer your question to MIT, but to your point is, and I talked about this is like, look, in corporate America, it’s nearly all white, right. And so if a person of color sits in a room, they feel, you know, that’s, that’s unusual. There’s so many times I’ve been looking around a room, and even among my leadership teams, between them, and I’m the only white guy there, which is good as what we should be about as an as Homeboy Industries. But you know, people have very respectful and care about what each of us does. And so I thought, honestly, here’s the bottom line. I thought way more of that in my first six months, then afterwards, it’s just many ways I want to say people are too busy. People have their own struggles, and it’s hard to be poor in America. And as we are helping them to be so focused on whether I was white or not white and helping them out in my role.

Achim Nowak  31:32

I’m also very curious, like, what are some things you have learned about business and leadership? Being the CEO and a non for profit organization with a powerful mission, in comparison to how previous corporate companies were run, like what you’ve learned about, I hate to use the cliche, like these are actually better practices and what in the corporate world we call best practices. So what are some better practices that you want to share with our listeners that jumped out at you?

Thomas Vozzo  32:07

Yeah, couple things. Culture, its cultures and nonprofits. Every organization really focused on their they, they focus on the culture, because that’s what sustains over a period of time. It’s, I find it’s a little bit harder to fork profit company to sustain that culture, nonprofit, particularly mission driven company that’s a human services organization is sort of right on that people join our organization, homeboy, because they believe in our mission. And so that’s the first step is that what do you do every day to kind of reinforce that mission. It’s not just by reading the mission statement, but it’s living by those values. And it’s, it’s the values of people, and particularly my corporate life, most of it was a service oriented business. So we go back, and Aramark, there’s no special patents or technologies, and we manage people, that’s what gets the job done. What I would take back to a service organization, or I guess, any organization, it’s about the individual, you know, in the in the corporate world, you make a policy, you think on behalf of everybody else, and no one should deviate that policy, because then everyone won’t deviate from that policy. Right? What I learned that Aaron more or she’s not homeboy is no, no, no, we’re helping the person who’s in front of us. And so if we got to give them an extra loan today, or give them some money for housing, or we got to sort of excuse them for the fifth time for their tardiness. That’s okay, because that’s what that person needs today. And we’re not going to worry about somebody tomorrow saying, Well, you did that for him, but not for me. Everyone has a different situation. So I’ve, so I’ve kind of learned is all these structures and structures that are in the corporate world. Oh, they’re so confining, and they’re, they’re to kind of stop the bad apple from doing something in the corporate world. And yet, in this world we live in today, it’s like, no, let’s let’s do what we do to help those people are struggling, as opposed to putting rules against making those people who struggle sort of work themselves on out. And that’s that’s a big one about treating the individual and the other one is about mindset, it’s, you know, in the corporate world, as your you know, if you see somebody in the hallway, you stop and have a quick chat, but you got like nine other things running in your brain. When when you’re working with people who are trying to change your life and pain and trauma in their life, when you stop and talk to him, you get centered and you it is just about what you got to do to help that person. You put all that functional stuff aside that you got to run the report. You got to get this make that phone call. No, no. It’s about being centered people and I think those are two attributes that any leader should use going forward.

Achim Nowak  34:54

That’s a beautiful lesson for all of us. You you articulated it so wonderfully. Now a very personal question for you. And this is not about how long you’re going to be at Homeboy. But as you look forward to your own life, you know, what are some things that you were that’s an homeboy? Or said you would like to do a little more of? Because it would either make you happier or bring you closer to God, whichever way drove with this, or? Or what are some things you might want to do less of? So if you had to dream for a moment, you know what comes up with that question?

Thomas Vozzo  35:28

Yeah, I’m gonna go back to one of things you said in your earlier questions about the call the king, right. And to me, that phrase means for me, this is just for me, you can tell I’m a corporate guy, like getting nervous, talking about God, all of a sudden,

Achim Nowak  35:41

Please, talk about God as much as you want.

Thomas Vozzo  35:44

It’s the follow my faith in not just follow it intellectually, but do something with it. In doing something, it’s the call of the things action, in my mind is that, and that’s what keeps me so motivated to be a homeboys to help people in. And again, it’s not just helping people, because I’m the CEO, I can do this, but it’s actually being in kinship, mutuality, shoulder, with people in relationship with people. And that’s what I learned to do. That’s what I want to do more of. And that’s what I’m trying to get across in this book, as we all could do that as humans is be with people being mutuality with people in so I say, Now, I don’t think I ever stopped you. And I guess I want to do more of it takes on a different fashion. And so this very question, I want to say two things about me as CEO, I’ve loved my time as CEO. It’s been one of my desires. If Me and My Father Greg and I both agree that someday, homeboy, the homeboy should run homeboy. Yeah, we need to keep growing our team from within. And it needs to have a blend of outside people and people with lived experience and people who are former clients. And we’re pretty good over 50% of our management team. People who lived experience getting into more senior level, it’s a much smaller percentage, but we’re working on that as we go forward. So I would love to sort of do less day to day, I mean, look, running a nonprofit, you wear lots of hats. And I think we got a team coming along who can do more of that. But just spend more time in action helping people. Yeah.

Achim Nowak  37:24

Final question. You’re told the story so beautifully of how you have ended up where you are at Homeboy, how you being a leader in a very different way, in the things you’re learning. Our listeners might think, Wow, that was probably easy for him, he made a lot of money in the corporate world, he didn’t have to work easy for him to do whatever he wants to do. But if you had to give some wisdom to listeners who go, oh, I also have another passion I like to pursue or I have another business I like to start or I like another non for profit that speaks to my heart and I want to get involved. But I don’t know where to start or how to do that. What kind of guidance would you give? Folks?

Thomas Vozzo  38:11

Yeah, it’s a good question. I think I think a lot about I think a lot about how fortunate I am in my life to have been able to do this and have the ability to do this. But then I want to quickly say, Yes, I’m grateful for that. What I’ve see is how just moving to the, as Greg talks, moving to the margins, moving to the people who are in the margins, and being in kinship with them, and being in relationship with them, not only changes their life, but changes in our lives as well. And so homeboy has so many volunteers that come in and help us and they’re not people from my background. They’re all sorts of backgrounds. And so it if people are sort of thinking they want to do yes, go take action, do more. There’s people who are poor in our society is a very difficult struggle. And so we need to bring more resources to them, whether it’s a business needs to do better for society, and he’s doing better for him. I’ve come to learn there’s two Americas, I talked about that in the book as well. But it’s more about, yes, we can help and I say this, a lot of people love homeboy, we have a great reputation for well earned. We do a good job for our founder, probably Greg Boyle. And people think, Well, you got to be like, well, you have to be like a Jesuit priest to do this work. Or you got to be a successful CEO. No, no, anybody can kind of just move to the margins of people who are not like us, and be in relationship with them, and to help them out. And when you get there, this is the most important thing I’ve learned is you find joy. Yeah. And that’s brings balance in life is having foundational joy. You are doing so whether and so that’s one thing I have learned, if I could have known that back when I was 35 or 40 years old. Yes, I would have been better off. Right, but finding joy in what you do. Now, you can do it. Your whole life doesn’t have to be about working with people who are poor. It could be only like Saturday, Saturday mornings. You can everybody’s got to live to run as well. Thanks, like to do it all week long, but it’s okay. If you can only do Saturday mornings or Sunday morning. There’s nothing like that. But it doesn’t have to be complete, but it says, Move to your own brings you joy.

Achim Nowak  40:26

Yeah. Beautiful. Where would you like to direct our listeners to curious about Homeboy Industries and what I learned more about it or they’re curious about your book, where should they go and

Thomas Vozzo  40:38

get? Yeah, sure. So for Homeboy Industries, let me just say we’re a $30 million organization we have we raised about $20 million of funds every year, our businesses contribute about $8 million, and we only get about $2 million from government. So in other words, I’m in my fundraising mode. We’re always looking for sponsors and donors along the way. So that’s terrific. So We have a lot of content on the site. A lot of great YouTube videos, a lot of people with lived experience telling their personal stories, and you really do see how people change your life right before your eyes. My book, all 100% of the proceeds go to Homeboy Industries. What I try to talk about in the book is on Amazon called the homeboy way. What I try to talk about on the book is Hey, homeboy has been successful in the rest of us should take some lessons from the way we go about working with people who are not like us, and how we can move life forward and make a better society.

Achim Nowak  41:36

Thank you so much, Tom, for this inspiring conversation.

Thomas Vozzo  41:41

I appreciate it. Thank you very much. Bye, goodbye.

Achim Nowak  41:48

Like what you heard, please go to my fourth And subscribe to receive my updates on upcoming episodes. Please also subscribe to us on the platform of your choice. Rate us give us a review and let us all create some magical fourth acts together. Ciao


Stay Connected to Get The Latest Podcast Alerts

Congratulations! You have successfully subscribed. We look forward to staying connected with you!