Mark Piegza of Synergy HomeCare: 5 Things You Should Do To Become a Thought Leader In Your Industry

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Be decisive. Trust your gut instincts. We did this when implementing compensation arrangements for our best employees, and it has set us apart from the competition in terms of being a place where the best of the best want to work. Once you make a decision, implement it without delay!

As part of our series about how to become known as a thought leader in your industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mark Piegza.

Mark Piegza is co-owner of Synergy HomeCare of the Lowcountry in Hilton Head, South Carolina, a provider of high-quality in-home care.

He started the company with his wife Lisa and Bob and Melissa Risk, with a mission to provide outstanding care to fellow residents of the Lowcountry while creating a collegial and rewarding work environment for their team.

Additionally, Mark is experienced executive and entrepreneur with a history of building, growing, and operating businesses and also providing strategic advice to clients with expertise in corporate finance, venture capital, acquisitions, investment banking and strategic partnerships.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

Prior to getting into the home care industry, I spent 25 years in investment banking working for companies like Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, Bank of America Securities, UBS and many more. I then co-founded U.S. Space LLC, a business that provided satellite communication services to the U.S. government and spent 10 years as the Chief Financial Officer. After witnessing my own parents’ aging process, as well as my in-laws, my wife and I saw the need for quality in-home care for seniors who wished to live out their lives safely and to their fullest. Alongside our friends and partners, Bob and Melissa Risk, my wife and I decided to open SYNERGY HomeCare of Lowcountry, located in Hilton Head, SC., where we could provide proper care to those in need, including family caregivers who required respite. Although this was a big second-career change for all of us, we felt a personal connection to the in-home care industry, and we knew it was the right time to switch gears.

Can you briefly share with our readers why you are an authority about the topic of thought leadership?

I have a long career in business and working in fast-paced environments where you have to become a thought leader in order to excel and differentiate yourself with unique and creative ideas that set you apart from the competition. That’s how I learned how to think outside the box and come up with new strategies to become an influential leader in my field. Transitioning over to home and health care, I was able to take that business approach and manage SYNERGY HomeCare of Lowcountry effectively.

Our team is constantly coming up with new ways to market ourselves, maintain positive client relationships, and recruit and retain caregivers, which is our bread and butter in the business. We strive to make our office an attractive place to work, with a beneficial compensation plan that makes our caregivers and staff members want to stay with us.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

At the height of the pandemic, we had an incredible client come to us after she had injured her foot from a fall in her home and required professional care.

Since 1990, Jeanette Cram, also known as the “Cookie Lady,” has been sending homemade cookies to troops overseas with her nationwide nonprofit organization, Treat The Troops, alongside her hundreds of volunteers called the “Crumbs.” Jeanette has received national acclaim for her charitable work, including meeting with President George H.W. Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush, as well as appearing on The Montel Williams Show and alongside Martha Stewart.

When Jeanette came to us, she was mentally and physically distraught from her challenging recovery and fell into a deep depression. Right away, we began 24/7 service to improve her condition and we were pleased to find that Jeanette got along exceptionally well with her primary caregiver, Julia Marshall.

Julia challenged her and was able to get her to a point where she could move around the house again. Their bond grew so strong that they view each other as family now, with Julia even spending Thanksgiving with Jeanette and her adult children.

Seeing the effect that Julia had on Jeanette’s life is a reminder as to why I got into the in-home industry in the first place. Jeanette has gone from having no will to live to living a fulfilling and independent life, all thanks to the considerate care given by Julia, someone who was once a stranger to her. After talking with Jeanette, she let us know how grateful she was not only for the care, but also because we reminded her that she was not a burden and she did not have to live out the rest of her days in isolation.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When we started SYNERGY HomeCare of Lowcountry, our office space wasn’t ready to move in just yet, so we had our first opening day running out of our partners, Bob and Melissa’s home. As we were getting through the first-day jitters, we were startled by a tree falling across their porch outside. Talk about bad timing!

Although the damage wasn’t too bad, it had added some stress onto an already nerve-wracking situation. Looking back, we’re able to laugh about the situation, however we learned how important it is to have a quiet back-up “office” just in case something unpredictable happens.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define what a ‘Thought Leader’ is? How is a thought leader different from a typical leader? How is a thought leader different from an influencer?

A thought leader is someone who has the ability to drive industry discussions and inspire others by thinking of new ideas and being able to turn their thoughts into successes. Not only do they offer value to their company and their peers, but they also provide strategic guidance to help pave a way for growth in their field. While they share many similar qualities with typical leaders, thought leaders have gained a certain credibility that comes from exceeding expectations in order to gain masterful expertise and knowledge to succeed.

Today’s depiction of an influencer is portrayed as an individual who has gained influential power by being well-known in their field. However, popularity, or the ability to capture an audience, does not equate to reliability. In order to be reliable, you have to be an authoritative figure who possesses both experience and knowledge.

Can you talk to our readers a bit about the benefits of becoming a thought leader? Why do you think it is worthwhile to invest resources and energy into this?

One of the biggest benefits of being a thought leader is that people want to work for, and do business with, companies and those who are perceived as thought leaders. Creating an energizing workplace for individuals who appreciate a challenge and being able to share their own innovative ideas attracts valuable talent. Meanwhile, clients and consumers want to work with leaders who know how to run a business that is ahead of the curve.

When it comes to brand awareness, it’s incredibly beneficial to become a thought leader, because consumers are more likely to value knowledge over a product or service — especially one that can be accessed from multiple sources. Those who trust your expertise will be those who turn to you for business.

Let’s talk about business opportunities specifically. Can you share a few examples of how thought leadership can help a business grow or create lucrative opportunities?

Good employees want to work for thought leaders because they feel challenged.

Thought leaders are able to create new product/service opportunities, which lead to additional revenue sources.

Thought leaders appeal to potential industry partners because partners like to work with other people that they respect.

Ok. Now that we have that behind us, we’d love to hear your thoughts about how to eventually become a thought leader. Can you share 5 strategies that a person should implement to become known as a thought leader in their industry? Please tell us a story or example (ideally from your own experience) for each.

  1. Be willing to listen. In my opinion, if you are not listening, you are not learning. I like to think of the 80/20 rule — listen 80% of the time and talk 20% of the time. For example, if you are with a potential client, be quiet and let them talk. You will learn a lot about their needs and that will make your business more effective. In doing so, the client will also feel more comfortable trusting you and your service. The same can be said if you apply this rule to your staff and how you manage your team if an employee comes to you with a concern, idea or even just to talk.
  2. Challenge convention. You’ll never truly be able to succeed if you find yourself settling for the status quo. Always push yourself and your business to go above and beyond in order to differentiate yourself from the competition. I like to remind myself and my team that there is always room for improvement in this industry.
  3. Be open to new ideas. There is no monopoly on good ideas, especially in the health field. In our business, we have regular dialog with other franchise partners in our franchise system to gauge what they’re doing in their business and how we could possibly work it into ours. We listen to one another’s good ideas, and we implement them.
  4. Surround yourself with good people, even if they are smarter than you! As I previously mentioned, you don’t need to be the smartest person in the room to be successful. On the contrary, having very smart people around you helps not only in terms of idea generation (if you listen), but also in making sure your ideas are implemented.
  5. Be decisive. Trust your gut instincts. We did this when implementing compensation arrangements for our best employees, and it has set us apart from the competition in terms of being a place where the best of the best want to work. Once you make a decision, implement it without delay!

In your opinion, who is an example of someone who has done a fantastic job as a thought leader? Which specific things have impressed you about that person? What lessons can we learn from this person’s approach?

One of the first persons that comes to my mind when I think of an influential thought leader is Elon Musk. Not only does his name and successful business ventures bring about impressive credibility from those within his industries and those on the outside, but he is also willing to challenge longstanding conventions. Everyone knows about Tesla and the electric vehicle (EV) revolution but take a look at what SpaceX has been able to accomplish. With that company, Elon has revolutionized the launch industry and broken the mold of big government thinking. He brought the cost of launching payloads into space way down by using more of a commercial mentality, but also by pioneering the use of reusable rocket stages. Lessons we can learn include: don’t settle for the status quo; think outside the box; establish big ideas that captivate and drive your employees.

I have seen some discussion that the term “thought leader” is trite, overused, and should be avoided. What is your feeling about this?

In my opinion, that is far from the truth. The term “thought leader” is appropriate, because it differentiates those from typical leaders. It essentially refers to exactly what it sounds like — someone who uses thoughtful, innovative ideas and turns them into reality. If we don’t have thought leaders that are able to determine different ways to solve problems, then our industries will never accelerate.

This is especially true for the elder care industry. More and more, we’re seeing seniors who wish to live independently in the comfort of their own home, instead of live-in facilities. In fact, a study by Capital Caring Health and WebMD found that 90% of surveyed adults over the age of 50 want to age in place. It is necessary that our company and industry has thought leaders who are able to meet the demands of this growing population, so that our business may continue to thrive.

What advice would you give to other leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?

Taking on a leadership role means so much more than giving orders or running meetings. It is a role that requires time, energy, patience and determination and after a while, that may cause burnout. In my experience, I’m able to avoid this by surrounding myself with people who challenge me. Oftentimes many people in leadership positions strive to be the smartest person in the room and will refrain from hiring someone who is able to challenge their intelligence. Not only is this a critical error for the business’s growth, but it’s an error for their own growth as well. Having a team of individuals who are ambitious, bright and are able to come up with new solutions, makes it easier to distribute laborious tasks so that everything does not fall onto you.

Another crucial piece of advice is to have interests outside of work that you enjoy doing in your free time. The health industry, especially, is an all-consuming and 24/7 field. As a way to unwind and distance myself from my work, I like to play tennis and spend quality time with my family.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire 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. 🙂

As the owner of an in-home care business, I see countless families in desperate need of help for their aging parents. Whether they just had a dangerous fall, they require post-surgery care or a family member had just visited and noticed a steep decline in their cognitive or physical abilities — so many seniors are left unprepared, because they fail to discuss their needs with family members.

At SYNERGY HomeCare we found what we call the “Awareness Chasm,” that highlights why families are not comfortable with, or try to avoid, having any conversations regarding the older parents’ long-term care planning. Digging deeper, we discovered that parents have a parental instinct to want to protect their children from the hardships of their aging process. Meanwhile, the adult children have a similar parental instinct that urges them to focus on their own children and/or spouse. This is why so many adult children will only engage with their Mom and Dads in a crisis. Aging is process and proper planning is essential. We hope that by communicating the importance of having these critical conversations, we may be able to help families and shrink the awareness chasm to ensure that everyone involved can feel empowered, safe and comfortable.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Two of my favorite “life lesson quotes” that have really spoken to me are:

“I owe my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice, and then going away and doing the exact opposite.”- G.K. Chesterton.


“Not only that, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” — Romans 5:3

The first quote has taught me that oftentimes the right answer can be found by taking a step back and challenging conventional wisdom. The second quote is relevant in my life because it acts as a reminder that we cannot grow without facing the trials and tribulations of life.

We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have lunch or breakfast? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

If I could sit down and have a conversation with anyone in the world, it would be with one of the most innovative thinkers of our generation, Elon Musk. As I mentioned before, Musk has a powerful mind that allows him to create solutions that we could not even imagine were possible a few years ago. Any conversation with him would surely be an interesting one!

How can our readers follow you online?

Readers can find us at our SYNERGY HomeCare of Lowcountry Instagram page, as well as our LinkedIn page.

Thank you so much for your insights. This was very insightful and meaningful.

Mark Piegza of Synergy HomeCare: 5 Things You Should Do To Become a Thought Leader In Your Industry was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.