How the Business-Minded Vogelpohls Are Raising Their Kids and Putting Family First
In the Vogelpohl household, you never lose hug privileges. You can lose TV privileges, dessert privileges and a host of other things — but mom and dad’s unconditional love will never go away. That’s what they call hug privileges.
Carl and Sharon Vogelpohl set their expectations high for their kids; they’re thinking ahead and raising Carson, 9, and Jonathan, 6, to be responsible adults. But as Carl says, the expectations in the family go both ways.
“We want them to be successful as people — it’s not just that I want you to do well in a team sport, I want you to be a good teammate,” he said. “I don’t care if you win at the game, I care that you try hard and have the right attitude. Those are the kind of expectations that we set right now and stress to them … And they know they can expect unconditional love from us.”
Some of the other expectations that Carson and Jonathan are held to include responsibility for homework and simply being kind and respectful to those around them. But of course, all of this is within reason for two elementary school kids.
And while they are expected to be responsible for their own school work, mom and dad are more than ready to take them the store and assist with a project — as long as they’re prepared.
“If you don’t set expectations, you can’t expect them to achieve,” Sharon says. “So we’re very teamwork and goal oriented.”
As executives in their respective companies, you would expect nothing less from Sharon and Carl. They’re both high achievers and goal-setters themselves and are working to pass those traits on to their two kids.
Sharon is the principal and president of Mangan Holcomb Partners, a digital marketing company, and Carl, formerly the chief of staff for the attorney general, is the president of Split Rail Consulting. Their jobs are nothing short of demanding.
“I have zero idea how many hours a week I spend on my job,” Carl said. “But it’s a seven day a week job, especially in campaign season … so it’s a seven days a week, 24 hours a day balance of kids and family.”
Sharon and Carl dated for seven years before getting married and then were married another seven years before having kids — so they had ample time to thoughtfully and intentionally plan out the way they would parent and operate as a family. Yet no amount of conversation or experience as business leaders could fully prepare them for the challenge of parenthood.
“Parenting is the ultimate leadership challenge,” Sharon said. “Carl and I are both pretty successful with what we’ve done and have had a pretty good track record with that. But we laugh often that this is the hardest thing we have ever done and I know it’s just going to get harder — they’re not even teenagers yet!”
As executives and as parents one of their core character values is to always admit when they’ve made a mistake.
“Integrity is everything and it’s always important but it’s most important when it’s really hard,” Sharon said. “You have to admit when you’ve made a mistake. I’ve had to sincerely apologize and admit fault with both of my kids a couple times … I feel that it’s important as a leader to admit your mistakes and let them know that I appreciate the fact that you were right and I was wrong and apologize and try to do better.”
Teamwork is another key value in the Vogelpohl household. The family owns and operates a farm west of the city and everyone has responsibilities there to keep it running smoothly. They process chickens, clean out barn stalls, clip goat hooves and work on projects together.
Carl jokingly calls their garage the “farm makerspace” where they work on hands-on projects together. He and Sharon both believe in letting their kids fail in order to make their successes that much more meaningful.
One of Sharon’s favorite stories to illustrate this point is what she calls “bumper bowling is what’s wrong with America.”
She said that several years ago, Carson was at a bowling birthday party — her first time bowling. While other young partygoers used bumpers to bounce their bowling balls down the lane and into the pins, Sharon was firm that Carson was going to do it all on her own — without the help of bumpers.
Carson was frustrated at first because, for the majority of her turns, the ball ended up in the gutter and the pins remained standing.
“But then like the ninth frame she hit her first pin and that look — she turned around and her face was like ‘I did it! I did it!’” Sharon said, laughing. “I told her ‘that’s right because you tried and this is what bowling is and that’s what learning is.’”
These decisions to create learning environments and push their kids out of their comfort zones are just a small part of the intentionality that Sharon and Carl bring to parenthood. Another element to their parenting and family strategy is that family always comes first — even when that’s not mom and dad.
Sharon’s parents live in Hot Springs and Carl’s parents live about 30 minutes out of town next door to their family farm. Sharon said when she and Carl got married, they pinky swore to never move because they wanted their kids to be raised around their own parents.
“We both have great relationships with our parents and are in alignment about how we childrear and we both grew up by our grandparents,” Sharon said. “One of the things that is unusual is that when we go out, our goal is always to have the grandparents there. So even though it’s not family time, it is. The first time they had a babysitter that wasn’t one of our parents was last year when they were 8 and 5.”
Oftentimes, they’ll avoid having to leave their kids at all and, as Sharon puts, it, “divide and conquer.” Dad will attend a work event and Mom will be at a kid's sporting event or vice versa.
But they wouldn’t want it any other way.
“There are sacrifices in every respect, but we knew that our life would be our kids and that is what we want,” Sharon said. “We can go on date night when they’re in college.”
And that’s something that they are 100 percent on the same page about. As Carl says, “If you have a shared vision, then leadership gets really easy.” And that applies to business and family.
Good leaders are also understanding that not everyone will do things the same ways that they do.
“I don’t think there’s a single one best way to have a family and raise children,” Carl said. “Every family’s situation is unique; every child is unique.”
Sharon agrees and said that for many of the major decisions, it comes down to listening to your emotions — not what anyone else is telling you. For example, deciding to be a working parent was an easier decision for her, but for some moms the pull between work and home can be overwhelming.
“I would say to follow your heart and what your heart’s telling you,” Sharon said. “I’m a businessperson so I’m very pragmatic and I’m all about evaluating and making decisions but I also have my passionate side and parenting is about passion not pragmatism. It’s a deeply emotional thing — maybe the most emotional thing you’re going to do in your whole life. So follow your heart in that endeavor.”