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Charlie Young: “Never stop moving”

You know, I think that diversity is one of the keys to our greatness as a country. I think that the ability to celebrate all different voices that we have in this country and the opportunities that we have now in front of us, give us an opportunity for real change. And that diversity includes our […]

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You know, I think that diversity is one of the keys to our greatness as a country. I think that the ability to celebrate all different voices that we have in this country and the opportunities that we have now in front of us, give us an opportunity for real change.

And that diversity includes our aging population. It is time for all of us to recognize that aging is inevitable. We need to welcome it and prepare for our later years. And for our aging loved ones, we have to have conversations now about how they want to live their golden years. We have to be respectful of their wishes.

The baby boomers are fiercely protective of their independence. But at some point, that can become a challenge for themselves and their loved ones. We all want them to remain independent. But to do so, children and their aging loved ones have to recognize the need for healthy dialogue and not be afraid of it. Both sides also need to be comfortable that having some care long before a crisis may be beneficial. We can remove barriers that impede independence.


As part of my series about people who stepped up to make a difference during the COVID19 Pandemic, I had the pleasure of interviewing Charlie Young.

Charlie Young was named the Chief Executive Officer of SYNERGY HomeCare in April 2020. He is the second person to lead the company, succeeding Founder Peter Tourian who is now the Executive Chairman.

Prior to arriving at SYNERGY HomeCare, Young spent 18 years in leadership positions at noted franchisors Cendant and its spinoff, Realogy Holdings Corp.

Young served as President and Chief Executive Officer of Coldwell Banker Real Estate from 2016–2020. He oversaw an international franchise system that grew to more than 700 franchisees and 3,000-plus offices in 44 countries. He managed business strategy development, franchise renewals, sales, marketing and operations for the company’s real estate, luxury residential and commercial brands.

Young had spent the previous seven years as President and Chief Executive Officer of ERA Franchise Systems, where he gained acclaim for growing revenue by 51%, while also creating “Powered By,” an innovative franchise sales growth concept. Young directed global business strategy development, sales, operations and marketing leading 250 franchisees and master franchise relationships in 35 countries.

Young served 11 years on the Realogy Operating Committee and Realogy Franchise Group Senior Leadership Team. He was routinely named as one of the real estate industry’s most influential people by several media outlets including Inman News and T3.

Young joined Cendant Mortgage as the Vice President of Marketing in 2003 and a year later was named Senior Vice President of Marketing at Coldwell Banker. He was promoted to Chief Operating Officer of Coldwell Banker in 2007.

Before joining Cendant, Young served as Vice President, Client Services at Frequency Marketing, Inc. (FMI) from where he led the loyalty strategy practice and worked with leading franchisor ExxonMobil, Verizon, GE, Home Depot and others. He also had an executive position at Foote, Cone and Belding (FCB Direct).

Young is a graduate of Emory University.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about how and where you grew up?

I was born in New York City in the 1960s. In fact, I lived very near Columbia University. And so some of the social unrest we’re seeing today I was very familiar with as a child as I lived in New York City until 1972 when we moved to suburbia in New Jersey.

I’m the youngest of three and my parents were very adventuresome. My mother still is very adventuresome. My parents always made sure that we saw the world around us. My mother made all of her kids live abroad for a year before they went to college.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

I think the books that made the most impression on me were the classic American books that they make you read in school. Hemingway in particular really stuck with me because he always took me to a very far off land and I saw a world that was really big even during those formative years. I know Catcher in the Rye is a very cliché book from that time period but again, you know as a coming-of-age story and being adventuresome.

In my adult days, I’d have to say Jim Collins’ Good to Great.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

I think the one that I probably use that is the most important to me is, “never stop moving.” I always tell people never stop moving. Whenever I’m in a rut it’s because I’ve become complacent about where we need to go next. Whether it’s in business or in my personal life, “never stop moving” is really important to me. I have tried to learn as I’ve gotten older that there is also a place for stopping to smell the roses. But that’s harder for me.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. You are currently leading a social impact organization that has stepped up during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to address?

Well, I think first and foremost, when you look at Synergy Home Care, our mission is to help people stay independent and to allow them to remain at home and it’s an important mission to us from that regard. Much of our work is with seniors. So I think COVID-19 has amplified the importance of our mission in some ways.

But the confinement to home has also been a double-edged sword, as those who need assistance may also have isolation issues as well. We created a six-step safety protocol that allowed us to safely enter their home, continue with our work and to provide companionship.

In your opinion, what does it mean to be a hero?

I think hero is a broad term. I think that there are many forms of heroes. I think for me, being a hero is about putting others above yourself. The very obvious examples of that are firefighters, first responders, those kinds of heroes, but there are also other kinds of heroes in everyday life. I certainly believe that our Synergy HomeCare caregivers, who are out there every single day and in the homes of our clients to make sure that their lives enriched, are heroes. So many of our caregivers view eldercare as an honor. They equate the lucrativeness of their job in the value they provide to the generations that came before them.

In your opinion or experience, what are “5 characteristics of a hero? Please share a story or example for each.

I don’t know if I can come up with five or if they’d be the same five if you ask me tomorrow, but I already touched on one — selflessness. Putting others before yourself is really important.

I think ingenuity is another characteristic. It’s really key for being a hero because you’ve got to be able to figure out when the picture is not always clear and what is the best thing to do.

Humility, not seeking any credit for what you’re doing. We see heroes rise in moments of great pain.

I think we overlook the importance of planning and patience of heroes. While it appears that many rush into the heat of a moment, we don’t see the hours of behind the scenes preparation and mastery of previous experiences to impact on that moment.

My most important characteristic would be compassion, empathy, for others.

I think the SYNERGY HomeCare franchise in Teaneck, New Jersey, is a great example of all of those five functions coming to life.

They were in the country’s original epicenter for the COVID-19 crisis. They decided that they were going to serve their community by caring for those infected with COVID-19, as there was a shortage of caregivers and caregivers who were willing to risk infection to help others. They bought special PPE (personal protective equipment) for their COVID-19 caregiver team, trained them to handle COVID-19 patients, taught them CDC safety protocol and created teams of caregivers who were committed to caring for a population that other home care agencies were reluctant to serve. I never knew about all of this; I discovered it by accident! They didn’t seek credit for doing all of that. They just went out and did it, under the radar. They became a lifeline to many assisted living and skilled nursing facilities in the northern New Jersey-New York metropolitan area because they were one of the few who were willing to help. They were a lifeline of another sort for hospitals, as they donated money to have food delivered to the hospital staff who were having difficulty getting food delivered by conventional services. They also donated PPE to hospitals that couldn’t keep PPE in stock. I’ll never forget their acts of kindness and commitment during the outbreak of the virus we still don’t understand well to this day.

If heroism is rooted in doing something difficult, scary, or even self-sacrificing, what do you think drives some people — ordinary people — to become heroes?

Heroes come in many forms, but many have an inherent desire to take action. This action may be visible or behind the scenes. It may be large or small. While most might equate heroic acts coming out of a quick reaction in a time of distress, our caregivers showcase a different side of heroic behavior. They are driven to provide comfort, care and joy to others around them. They get that incredible feeling of knowing they are making a difference in people’s lives.

What was the specific catalyst for you or your organization to take heroic action? At what point did you personally decide that heroic action needed to be taken?

Being in the homecare industry, we were driven to engage even more with our clients and their families when COVID-19 began through today. We were concerned right away with following CDC guidelines and had a six-point COVID-19 safety protocol plan almost immediately. Our franchisees worked together to quickly learn best practices to provide appropriate care. Remember, so many of our clients do not have someone nearby who can care for them. We also understood how nervous and scared their families might be which necessitated even greater communication.

Other families were able to provide more support than normal because they may have lost their job or been furloughed. But even in those instances, our franchisees worked so hard to stay connected to our clients. We didn’t want them to have a feeling of isolation.

Who are your heroes, or who do you see as heroes today?

You know today it’s very, very easy to talk about first responders and healthcare workers, and they truly are heroes. You know, I would say beyond that, I’d like to shine a spotlight on the broader category of essential workers: grocery store clerks, people who are stocking the supply chain with food for all of us, sanitation workers and those making sure that the electricity and the water are working.

On a personal note, I also want to make sure our teachers are acknowledged. I’m married to a teacher and my mother was a teacher. My brother is a teacher and I have many other teachers in my family. The impact they make every day is unmatched.

We should also acknowledge our caregivers. As I shared before, they view their jobs far beyond just getting a paycheck. So many, whether it be for cultural or innate personal reasons, view their work as being an honor.

Let’s talk a bit about what is happening in the world today. What specifically frightened or frightens you most about the pandemic?

The persistence of it. The spread. The fact that you cannot see it before it’s too late.

As the leader of an in-home care franchise and the son of an aging mom, I would be remiss if I did not bring up how COVID-19 is disproportionally impacting the senior community.

Despite that, what gives you hope for the future? Can you explain?

I’m very optimistic. My hope is fueled by the selfless acts that are being conducted all over the country. And while the pandemic is unlike anything we have faced in our lifetimes, we have a very resilient country.

COVID-19 has unearthed some fundamental flaws in our nation, one being ageism and how society has not been comfortable in how we care for the elderly. We have to all understand that aging is inevitable. But at the same time, the way we age is morphing. Baby boomers especially have defined America since birth. They are redefining aging. They are working longer, retiring to locations that match their interests and to be near their children and grandchildren. They have also shown a propensity to want to Age in Place.

And while COVID-19 exposed challenges with some skilled nursing facilities, I am heartened by the desire of our industry to step up and meet the needs of the aging population as they stay home and help protect their independence.

What has inspired you the most about the behavior of people during the pandemic, and what behaviors do you find most disappointing?

I think it always has been the thing that stands out from a crisis is the way a community comes together.

I think that the thing I found most disappointing is that we’ve found a way to politicize the pandemic and that has had direct impact on public health and impact on the spread of the disease.

Has this crisis caused you to reassess your view of the world or of society? We would love to hear what you mean.

You know, it’s been a scary time for Americans. And while I am not happy about the politicizing of the pandemic, I’ve also been inspired about how so many have gone to great lengths to help others. People are donating money and food, volunteering to deliver food to the needy, giving blood, creatively celebrating high school and college graduates. The list goes on and on. I am optimistic and confident that our society will grow stronger because of the crisis.

What permanent societal changes would you like to see come out of this crisis?

You know, I think that diversity is one of the keys to our greatness as a country. I think that the ability to celebrate all different voices that we have in this country and the opportunities that we have now in front of us, give us an opportunity for real change.

And that diversity includes our aging population. It is time for all of us to recognize that aging is inevitable. We need to welcome it and prepare for our later years. And for our aging loved ones, we have to have conversations now about how they want to live their golden years. We have to be respectful of their wishes.

The baby boomers are fiercely protective of their independence. But at some point, that can become a challenge for themselves and their loved ones. We all want them to remain independent. But to do so, children and their aging loved ones have to recognize the need for healthy dialogue and not be afraid of it. Both sides also need to be comfortable that having some care long before a crisis may be beneficial. We can remove barriers that impede independence.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

After I urge them to stay out of the bars, social distance and wear masks, I’d encourage them to keep doing what they are doing. Earlier I spoke about empathy. The coming generations seem to have it. They are much more aware, respectful and appreciative of minorities and diverse groups than we were at the same age.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

There are three big things happening in the country right now. We have the horrible loss of life caused by COVID-19 and its impact on societal norms and the economy along with social unrest. I am confident that our medical and scientific community will create a vaccine and get us to a better place.

And I’m equally confident that our young people are ready to take our nation on a path towards greater inclusion and welcoming the value of diversity. They welcome different points of view.

I don’t think I need to start a movement. I want to be able to work with these young people, lend my voice and help amplify and support some of the good things that are going on out there.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

It would probably be kids that are creating change because they see the world in such a different way than we do. It would be amazing to sit with a group of social-minded influencers to learn how they harness the power of their digital world to create good.

How can our readers follow you online?

That’s a great question and a challenge. I have kept my social presence relatively small with my friends and loved ones. But I do have to get better. I want to utilize our SYNERGY HomeCare Facebook page to create content and be a resource. It’s Facebook.com/SYNERGYHomeCare.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

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