Kyle and Sharon Krause understand the power of partnership. And Greater Des Moines is the better for that.

Des Moines has an abundance of dedicated and talented community leaders. Some of those leaders happen to be married to or partnered with each other, so we at the Business Record will occasionally profile some of the Metro’s most dynamic duos. When considering who to feature first, it took us about a nanosecond to settle on the Krauses. 

The influence and dedication of this attractive, energetic couple is hardly a secret. In recent years, they’ve been recognized repeatedly, individually and as a couple. Both have been honored in the Business Record’s annual Forty Under 40 list. In 2011, The Des Moines Register gave them its Iowa Star award. In 2013, Sharon was named a Woman of Influence by the Business Record, and Kyle was the youngest person ever to be inducted into Junior Achievement of Central Iowa’s Hall of Fame. 

Kyle’s success in transforming Kum & Go LC, a family-owned network of Iowa convenience stores into what Inc. magazine has repeatedly named as one of the fastest-growing privately held companies in the country, has given the Krause family personal and corporate wealth. Kum & Go’s corporate policy is to  donate 10 percent of its profits to charitable organizations. Both Kyle and Sharon have long histories of hands-on dedication to organizations dedicated to helping children and families, protecting the environment, and nurturing vibrant and growing arts and culture organizations in Greater Des Moines.  As a couple, they are among Greater Des Moines’ leading philanthropists. 

But more impressive than their individual dedication is the consensus among key Des Moines leaders that the Krause partnership seems to boost their effectiveness, both as individuals and as a couple. 

“They work as a team as well as any couple I’ve ever seen,” said Doug Reichardt, a longtime friend, chairman of Businessolver.com Inc. and the Iowa Sports Foundation and retired chairman at Holmes Murphy & Associates Inc. “She’s got a passion equal to his for the community. They anticipate each other’s direction and momentum and they work together.”

Kristi Knous, president of the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines, which encourages and grows philanthropy among Greater Des Moines’ business leaders, works with the area’s most generous and dedicated philanthropic leaders, including the Krauses. 

“When I think of them, I think of the word ‘game-changers’. They are really trailblazers. They are not making decisions on a whim, and they are putting a lot of thought into the kind philanthropy they support,” she said.

Mark Oman, who retired as a Wells Fargo & Co. senior vice president in 2011, serves on Kum & Go’s advisory board and has watched Kyle’s leadership of the company with admiration. And yet, he said, he tends to think more often of the Krauses as a couple. He and his wife, Jill, are among a Krause circle of close friends.

“I think they are a very close couple. They share a lot. They talk a lot. They move together. … It’s hard for me know where one starts and the other stops.” 

The Attraction

Kyle and Sharon were budding leaders when they met in the late 1990s. Both were involved with Junior Achievement of Central Iowa, and a mutual friend in the organization who thought they might make a good couple set out to introduce them. They met after a Menace soccer game and dated for more than three years before marrying in 2002.

The relationship started with quite a bit of commonality. Both were grounded in their Roman Catholic faith. Both came from families that valued community service. 

“And I think from a lifestyle point we fit on some level on what we liked to do,” added Kyle. “Neither one of us were late-night bar people,” he said, noting that they were both divorced and raising  young children at the time.

“Sharon’s obviously a beautiful woman, a very intelligent woman, well-educated, a great mom,” Kyle recalled of his early attraction to her, but neither said they foresaw the partnership that would evolve over the next 15 years.

Why they are good together

Dissecting the exact reasons a particular partnership works can be difficult even for the individuals in it. (Think Lennon and McCartney.) So we asked Kyle and Sharon to give this some thought in advance of our interview with them. Here’s what they came up with: Kyle believes in their priority to talk to each other every day, usually over dinner. They almost always make decisions - both big and small – together. “If it’s a decision that affects each other, which most of them do, unless it’s an absolute lay-down that we know we’re going to do it, one of us will come home and talk to the other and say, ‘Hey, what do you think?’ ” he said.

“We bounce ideas off each other, and we vet decisions with each other,” added Sharon. “I think what Kyle brings to me is a very process-oriented, pragmatic approach. And while I’m that way too, I also tend to look at things from an emotional side. Maybe I bring a little of the softening to it, and he makes sure we’re making pragmatic decisions.”

Both stressed their open communication, but Sharon had another take on their strength as a couple.

“I think we are so good together because we pursue things separately and then we pursue things together,” she said. “Kyle’s extremely supportive of what I do and I’m extremely supportive of what he does, and those interests aren’t always parallel. You can learn from each other and yet not be too independent so that certain things overlap. And that piece that’s in the middle, that’s both of us.”

So what does that “piece in the middle” look like for them?

“I think probably it starts with our commitment to faith and family,” Sharon said. The couple have five children, ages 29 to 18. “Our kids are the absolute most important thing in our lives,” she said. “And likewise our faith, and I’ll speak for myself, but it’s really the foundation for all decisions that I make. It’s kind of the barometer of whether or not you’re going down the right path.

“And so I think we start with those activities first, which (involve) our faith and our family, and then you just keep building around that. And that becomes community, and community becomes regional, and the corporate piece falls in there.”

How they help each other

Sharon jokes about the secret to their marriage: “I make him oatmeal in the morning and he makes me a cocktail at night. That’s why it works. He’s well-nourished in the morning, and I’m calmed down at night.”

But like most successful people, they understand the value of learning from one another.

“One of my favorite memories of when we were first dating,” said Sharon, “was on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, we would drive around and I would say to Kyle, ‘Teach me something.’ And he would just teach me about something that I hadn’t been exposed to before. It might be about what makes a good Kum & Go site, or how a bank deal works. And those were really fun conversations.”

“And then she would teach me to look up and see,” Kyle added. “I can be a focused person – doing my stuff - you know. We have great wildflowers and prairie grass as you go up  the drive to our house (near Booneville). You can do one of two things: You can drive home and drive down the driveway and pull into the garage, or you can look up and look at the flowers and appreciate how they’ve changed from week to week or from time of day to time of day. So I do a much better job of looking at the flowers than I did before we were dating. We both are task-oriented, but she does ‘look up’ or ‘see’ better than I do.”

Their advice to other couples

As a couple, as parents, as midcareer professionals and as community leaders, the pair have enough experience that we asked them for their advice to other couples who want to lead together.

On balancing self vs. couple:  

“You each have to have something that you’re an expert in,” Sharon said. “You have a sense of independence because that makes you better when you’re together. 

“And I think the other side of that is about honest and open communication. Kyle would never ask me to read my emails or read my texts, but there’s nothing in my life that I wouldn’t share with Kyle and nothing would ever come as a surprise to him.  I think that’s why we don’t ever have any conflict, or little conflict.”

“We talk about things,” Kyle said. “If I’m home at night and my day was ‘x, y, z,’ I talk about that and we have that conversation. I think our dinners together allow that. Even when the kids were running around, we tried to be disciplined about having that time at the dinner table and not eating in front of the TV. It’s not perfect. With five kids, there were times you were eating on the run. But we really try to create that opportunity to communicate. ”

On managing demands for their time:  

“There are some sacred times,” Sharon said. “As an example, we go to Mass as a family every Sunday. And we are committed to family dinners as many nights of the week as are possible.

“Our last (child) just graduated from high school, but really the kids’ activities, up to this point, have been the sacred things. Then we build our free time around that. ... Then we allow other things to fill in as time allows. I think just putting family first is our first line of defense.”

“A lot of people ask us to do things. And that’s a privilege to be asked,” Kyle said. “But after you are asked, then you have to decide.

“So we talk. What is the time commitment? What is the mission, and what’s it mean to be part of that? Is that how we want to spend our time? What are my other involvements? Whatever we’re volunteering to do has some level of effect on the other.” 

Sharon, ever the engineer, began using a spreadsheet. She plots the times of the month or year that are peak times for various board or committee responsibilities, and uses that to evaluate new requests for her participation. 

She said that when she logged the actual time she spent, she found that she was uniformly underestimating the time commitments for each project by at least half. That helps her to be more realistic about the time required when she agrees to take on a new responsibility. 

Their next big thing: Downtown Des Moines

Three of Kyle and Sharon Krause’s interests have come together to make a bull’s-eye in downtown Des Moines:  * The Krause family business, Kum & Go LC, is relocating its headquarters from West Des Moines to downtown Des Moines,  just west of the Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield headquarters and north across Grand Avenue from the John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park. 

* Kyle and Sharon have been purchasing buildings around the sculpture park with the intent of contributing to the revitalization of the Western Gateway area.

* The couple, who began collecting art about 15 years ago,  have been involved in elevating Des Moines’ arts and culture through contributions to the Des Moines Social Club and other arts and culture events and organizations, and by leading the governing boards for the Des Moines Art Center and Bravo Greater Des Moines.

Each of those things developed separately on its own, but they have come together in a way that presents lots of opportunities for synergy downtown.

“The interest in moving (Kum & Go) downtown was really separate from the others,” said Kyle, who admits that moving the headquarters downtown bucks the trend of companies moving from downtown to the suburbs.

“We liked the idea of being downtown, having more interaction than you get in suburbs with other people, being around more, having some of those unplanned interactions - you know bumping into the people - just being involved with the positive energy that’s happening downtown.

“As we searched downtown for sites, we were lucky enough to be able to find something that was across from the sculpture garden. That was certainly a bonus that made the site fantastic, but the desire to be downtown was the first desire, and the site became a great site because of what John and Mary had done in the sculpture garden.”

The decision to purchase and revitalize several buildings around the sculpture park actually preceded the selection of the site for the headquarters, said Sharon. 

The couple want to be a part of developing the area as a vital downtown neighborhood and have purchased the Arlington and Hallett apartment buildings on the east end of the park, saying they expect they will upgrade the apartments there. They also own two buildings across from the park on Locust Street and are planning renovations there.  

Their motivation?

“I think it’s just the energy behind all of the momentum that is downtown right now -- all the events, festivals and the activity downtown,” Kyle said. 

“It was a chance to keep and restore two old buildings that are neat architecturally,” he said. “So how do we bring them back and put people in them and have the tenants on the first floor be (retail or commercial) tenants that are street-friendly? The additional real estate purchases that you see is part of helping to create those areas around us. “

Sharing his passion for soccer

One of the more obvious examples of Kyle Krause’s impact in Greater Des Moines is the Des Moines Menace soccer team. Before Krause’s leadership in the family business became obvious, metro area residents  were more likely to know him in relation to soccer.

Krause helped grow the Menace soccer team , which was founded in 1994. Four years later, Krause had acquired majority ownership of the team. He has grown both the team and its impact on youth soccer in Greater Des Moines in the past 20 years. 

Doug Reichardt said Krause translated his personal passion for the game into an amateur team that  became successful in the USL Premier Development League, the fourth tier in the American soccer pyramid.  

The Menace attracted higher-level athletes as players, which attracted fans to the game, but also helped fuel the growth of youth soccer leagues. Menace athletes coached at youth soccer camps, and over time, many of those athletes became volunteer coaches in youth leagues, said Reichardt. 

The Menace also maintains an academy structure of youth teams and in 2004 launched Greater Des Moines’ first Women’s Soccer League team. 

“It really just helped grow the soccer scene that, 30 years ago, nobody saw,” Reichardt said.

The Menace started out playing on Dowling Catholic High School fields to an average crowd of 67 people 20 years ago. Today, the team plays at Valley Stadium, and the paid attendance averages over 3,300 people.

In 2011, Kyle was inducted into the United Soccer Leagues’ Hall of Fame.

Their Biographies

Sharon

Profession: Owner, rancher, Dalla Terra Ranch LLC, raising organic sheep. She also keeps bees, and manages an organically certified vegetable and fruit garden, chicken flock and apple orchard.

Hometown: Davenport

Age: 46

Education: Bachelor’s degree in industrial and manufacturing systems engineering, Iowa State University;  Executive Master of Business Administration degree, University of Iowa

Achievements: She co-chaired a successful $41.5 million fundraising campaign for the Des Moines Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church. As president of Bravo Greater Des Moines, she led the group in hiring a new executive director and in its efforts to revise its strategic goals. She led several successful fundraising campaigns and events for Children and Families of Iowa;  chaired the Des Moines Art Center Gala in 2008; and she and Kyle chaired United Way of Central Iowa’s Tocqueville Campaign in 2011 and 2012.

Current Board Service: Mercy Medical Center and Mercy Capitol; Bishop’s Council for Des Moines Diocese and the Catholic Foundation of Southwest Iowa; Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation committee member; National Gallery of Art Collectors Committee; Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines Leadership Circle.

Honors: Business Record Woman of Influence, 2013, and Forty Under 40, 2005; Des Moines Register Iowa Star award, 2011; Outstanding Individual Philanthropist of the Year (with Kyle), 2010; American Red Cross Community Mentor, 2007; Diane Tvrdik Memorial Award for volunteerism against domestic violence, 2006; graduate of the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute, 1999.

Kyle 

Profession:  President and CEO, Kum & Go LC ; owner, Solar Transport Co.; majority owner, Des Moines Menace; owner Des Moines’ first Women’s League Soccer team.

Hometown: Hampton

Age: 51

Education: Bachelor of Business Administration in finance, University of Iowa 

Achievements: Under his leadership, Kum & Go, a family-owned business of convenience stores, started in 1959 by his father, Bill Krause and grandfather, T.S. Gentle, has grown to more than 420 stores in 11 states and is the fifth-largest privately held, company-operated convenience store chain in the country. For five consecutive years, Inc. magazine has named it one of the country’s fastest-growing privately held companies.

Current Board Service: President, Des Moines Art Center board of trustees; co-chair of the National Gallery of Art Collectors Committee; Bishop’s Council for Des Moines Diocese board; Sacred Heart Catholic Church Finance Committee; University of Iowa, Henry B. Tippie College of Business board; Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines board and chairman of its Advancement Committee; Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines Leadership Circle; Des Moines Redevelopment Board ; Iowa Motor Truck Association board member.

Honors:  2012 national finalist for an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year; 2012 ranked a top private CEOs by ExecRank. He’s been named to numerous lists of up-and-coming business leaders, including the Business Record’s Forty Under 40 Class of 2000. 2011 Distinguished Leadership Award for Business from the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute. 1997  National Gold Leadership Award for Junior Achievement.  2010 Des Moines Register Iowa Star award with Sharon.