Young’s of Ridgefield does not have a chief executive officer — but there is hardly a leadership void at the fencing-and-landscaping business.
Owners Chris Couri and Dan Rella have worked together since 2000, when Couri came on board, a couple of years after graduating from Babson College.
They have known each other for more than 40 years. Rella, a Queens, N.Y. native, joined Young’s, at age 26, in 1981, and he became an owner a couple of years later.
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Couri’s parents, John and Elaine Couri, bought Young’s in 1978. They took over from Bob Fowsky, who bought the business in 1973 from Joe Young, who started the enterprise in 1948.
Reflecting the effectiveness of their longstanding partnership, Couri and Rella have won the Top Leadership Award for small employers in the 2023 edition of Hearst Connecticut Media’s Top Workplaces. Young’s, as a whole, was also recognized, placing first in the small employers category.
Click here to see how the winners list was made.
In an interview, Couri and Rella discussed their management of the business, including their keys to collaborating as owners and strategy for engaging employees. The conversation was edited.
Q: As the owners of Young’s, how do you manage the business?
Rella: I’m very old school, and he is new school. And between the both of us, we figured it out. I get a lot of referrals because I’ve been here so long and know so many people. But he’s getting all the new stuff, going online and doing different things. We complement each other, and it works out well.
Couri: We’re partners. Dan is really the heart and soul of Young’s. He’s developed and built it out. I have another business and another couple of things that I work on. The landscaping piece is where I focus a lot of my time and energy, and Dan really runs with the fencing and kind of the overall day-to-day operations.
Rella: We help each other. If I have a problem with fencing, and I’m not sure which direction I want to go in, of course I’m going to go to Chris and say, ‘Hey, what do you think about this?’ And the same with landscaping. He focuses on landscaping, but sometimes I might know the customer and he might come to me. Nothing’s really carved in stone.
Q: What are some of the ways in which you strive to keep employees engaged and motivated?
Couri: We’ll host lunches, breakfasts, team meetings. Part of the meetings are really just catching up with everybody and talking about what’s happening in their lives.
Rella: It’s about five minutes on actual business and 40 minutes on everybody’s personal life!
Couri: We have a great team and people know what they need to do.
Q: The operations of Young’s today are much different than they were in 1948, when it began as an agricultural feed, lawn and garden supply store. Changes in recent years have included the closing of the feed and garden store and the equipment-rental business in 2010, when John Deere pulled the licensing rights for Young’s. Since then, the fencing business has expanded. How does Young’s continue to evolve?
Couri: For years, we didn’t advertise. It was word of mouth. Then with the internet, we started getting involved there. As we’re looking to scale up, we’re doing a lot of online advertising. We updated our website. … When you tell someone you’re celebrating 75 years in business, that gives you a certain level of credentials or trust. They know we’re not going anywhere.
Rella: Everybody keeps asking me, “Dan, when are you going to retire?” I’m going to be 69 years old. But I don’t want to retire because I have so much fun. How many places can you say that you get up in the morning and want to go to work? To me, that’s a big thing — and I’ve been doing it for almost 50 years.