Sharon Tallach Vogelpohl doesn’t necessarily buy the notion of women’s intuition, but she may have a sixth sense when it comes to business.
The CEO and president of MHP/Team SI, seemed at least a bit clairvoyant earlier this year when one of her favorite organizations, the Women’s Foundation of Arkansas, spread the word about a new grant program for women-owned businesses suffering in the pandemic.
Vogelpohl, who was the foundation’s 2017 Woman of the Year in Business, heard about the initiative and called the foundation’s executive director, Anna Beth Gorman, with what she called a “wild-ass scheme.”
Vogelpohl said the women of MHP/Team SI, who fill 78 of the firm’s 151 positions, stood ready to go beyond financial support of WFA’s initiative by offering pro bono professional expertise in the grant program. The firm is one of Arkansas’ largest advertising and marketing agencies.
The idea was to provide virtual marketing workshops and one-on-one remote mentoring to the grant applicants and recipients.
When Gorman fell silent for a moment, Vogelpohl said, she feared she’d blown her pitch.
“Then she said to me, ‘Sharon, you won’t believe this, but we just finished a survey of the more than 400 grant applicants and recipients, asking them what their biggest hurdles to success are,’” Vogelpohl recalled last week. “‘Do you know what the No. 1 answer was? Marketing.’”
Since then, Vogelpohl’s team has produced and promoted a series of free virtual seminars, reaching dozens of female-owned companies statewide.
“We hit on key areas such as maximizing digital media dollars, employing organic social media best practices, content marketing guidance and basic web development,” said Vogelpohl, who was also one of the architects of the Women’s Foundation’s Gender Equity Scorecard, a tool businesses use in improving gender equality in the workplace.
‘Chief Mothering Officer’
Vogelpohl, who played four years of Division I volleyball at Centenary College of Louisiana and is now a dedicated baseball, basketball and soccer mom, relates to keeping score. Her term for the role is CMO, “chief mothering officer.”
“The voluntary scorecard is designed to be taken by a senior-level executive or HR director to gauge their company’s current gender equity,” she said.
“It’s easy, free and eye-opening. It demystifies the term ‘equitable’ and is a checklist for things firms can do to be a better employer. I encourage every business to request a scorecard. You’ll learn something whether you choose to fill it out or not.”
Firms with high scores, including MHP/Team SI, are eligible for the foundation’s Olivia Farrell Gender Equity Leadership Award that is now awarded in conjunction with the Arkansas Business of the Year Awards.
Farrell was the longtime CEO and principal owner of Arkansas Business Publishing Group before the company was sold to Mitch Bettis in early 2019. Farrell was also a founder of the Women’s Foundation.
“The agency and I have been closely aligned with the foundation’s mission to ensure economic security for women and girls through collaboration and focused philanthropic investment,” Vogelpohl said, reciting the organization’s mantra. She announced the training and mentoring partnership with the foundation in March of this year.
To meet its mission, the foundation makes grants, gets women’s businesses together and offers resources to improve the status of women and girls in Arkansas.
‘Envision What You Want’
One core belief is that improving women’s lives does more than promote equity; it also improves “the health and wealth of families, communities and the state as a whole.”
Asked what professional advice she gives to entrepreneurs, Vogelpohl joked, “Don’t be in the agency business!” Seriously, she said, women in positions of authority must turn inward. “Envision what you want,” she said.
“Decide what you value and what you believe in. Then, believe in yourself, but surround yourself with positive forces that challenge and inspire you. If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re doing it wrong.”
Gorman, the foundation’s director, said more women than men own businesses in Arkansas, but often receive less support. “The data [from the grant program survey] showed that women in business list marketing support as their No. 1 need,” Gorman said. “MHP/Team SI’s expertise is invaluable to enhance our ability to equip these women-owned businesses for success.”
Vogelpohl said the pandemic gave all workers, but particularly women, a chance to re-evaluate work-life balance.
“COVID accelerated adoption of technologies that have made it possible for women professionals and all professionals to be more productive, more creative and more engaged in work, in family and in living their best life.”
So what’s her final takeaway on the future?
“We have 10 positions open now,” she said. “Call me!”