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The senior living industry has a voice. You can hear it on Bridge the Gap podcast!

CW 117: Christy Van Der Westhuizen

In this episode, host Christy Van Der Westhuizen discusses how important it is to face adversity with flexibility and strength, how to take care of your team, and how to “sprinkle that positivity everywhere.”

It’s the perfect time to improve the ever-important personal connections with prospects, residents, families, and your team members. Here’s where you can start…

Ask how you can help.
Ask how they’re doing.
Ask about their family.
Ask questions to get to know them better.

Then, take it a step further and make someone’s day!

Christy Van Der Westhuizen: 

I love celebrating small wins because truly how do you eat an elephant? It’s one bite at a time. And so unless you celebrate those small wins, sometimes it’s hard to see how much really you’re accomplishing.


Welcome to the Contributor Wednesday series on the Bridge The Gap network. This series is sponsored by Peak Senior Living by Functional Pathways each week. You’ll hear from a thought leader, discussing topics that are relevant and impactful to the senior living industry.


Hi, I’m Christy Van Der Westhuizen, VP of Sales and Marketing for MBK Senior Living today. I’d like to talk with you about a different approach to getting through hard times. And who am I kidding? There’s been a lot of that lately. Huh? Over the past two years, we’ve just dealt with so much adversity, but also flexibility and strength. And I wanna talk to you a little bit more about what is your automatic reaction when you’re faced with adversity? Do you run for the Hills? Do you dig in and fight to the finish? Do you freeze in place, unsure what step to take next? And I’m totally guilty of that. Sometimes I love to put my head in the sand and pretend that everything’s gonna be okay. It’s just, as soon as I take my head out of the sand, it’ll be right.


Or do you embrace the problem like a long lost friend? So for this podcast, we’re going to start with the state of the world right now, as it is. Mark Twain once said, “The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up.” And honestly, that is a quote that has really resonated with me, both working in sales as a director of sales at the community level and leading a team of sales directors here at MBK, Senior Living. And I think it’s fitting considering we’re in a health and human industry. An industry focused on taking extremely great care of seniors, building trust with their families and providing our team members with a positive work environment. It’s absolutely crucial to look at ways to make someone else’s day better. So lingering fears related to COVID, new concerns about the economy and the looming recession potentially has everyone really on edge. Or is it just me?


No, it’s you two. Great, well, keep listening. Some companies are talking layoffs. Others are tightening their belts and cutting expenses. So I’d like to consider a different tactic. Now hear me out. I’m not suggesting we throw caution to the wind. What I’m suggesting is that we tackle hard times with a smarter not harder approach, and a heavy dose of positivity and fun. And if you can’t tell by now, I love to have a lot of fun and really do my best to share positivity and optimism with anyone that I get to speak to. So why should you give this approach to adversity a try? And, again, that is with lots of positivity and fun. And honestly, I think you should try it because it’s known to help keep the challenge perspective. You develop critical thinking skills, which is extremely important for any industry. It helps maintain or build your confidence.


And honestly, who couldn’t benefit from that? I’m pretty sure everyone can benefit from confidence building. Help you identify new opportunities, inspire innovation. And definitely the senior living industry is going through huge amounts of innovation at this point. Allow for collaborations that strengthen your team and increase your endurance and resiliency. Okay. So your mission, if you choose to accept it, let’s get right into it. So challenge accepted. 


So these all sound like great reasons to me to try a new approach to adversity, but if you still need convincing and that’s okay, let me share some of MBK Senior Living successes by taking this challenge accepted positive approach. During the pandemic, many of our competitors chose to shut down sales efforts and reallocate budgets. Not us here at MBK. Our sales team rallied to come up with unique drive-by events, dropped off information at prospects homes through operation front porch, held tours virtually and increased our digital advertising budget.


I am a firm believer that your reaction to setbacks will determine the speed in which you achieve your goals. And that’s why we chose to embrace the situation and not use the pandemic as an excuse to why we hadn’t made our sales numbers. So as a result, we educated prospects and the public about senior living, many of whom were very misinformed about what was happening inside our communities. And I bet, you know what I’m talking about. We calmed fears and reassured seniors isolated at home that they weren’t alone. We communicated consistently and openly with residents and families and that built trust and loyalty. We supported families who were overwhelmed with how to care for loved ones. We found creative solutions to move new residents in, while also keeping our current residents safe. We positioned ourself for success and achieved a number of company records. So I think adversity often is what makes you stronger.


That was certainly what we experienced. We rebounded in record time and expanded our portfolio by three new communities. So this is my favorite part of this podcast. And I’m gonna talk about sprinkling that positivity everywhere. So that wasn’t just our methodology with prospects and residents and families. Although they are extremely important. We took the same positive approach with our team members and more specifically our sales team members. So leadership at our home office sent regular written and video updates and a lot of attaboys to inform and boost morale. We ensured they had supplies, training, and support to serve residents. We provided them with hero pay, created new reward programs. We celebrated small and big wins. Actually I love celebrating small wins because truly how do you eat an elephant? It’s one bite at a time. And so unless you celebrate those small wins, sometimes it’s hard to see how much really you’re accomplishing.


And when you bite off little small chunks, eventually that’s gonna be a really big accomplishment. And above all, we made sure that our team members knew how important admired and appreciated they were. I think we learned a lot about ourselves as a company and as a company with a true sales culture. And I think we also learned a lot about our team members and how resilient they were and what they needed in order to maintain that positivity. That is so important at the community level. So during this time, connections were made, interdepartment collaboration grew in a lot of beautiful ways. New mentorships were created. New leaders emerged, which was so exciting to see. And team members realized how approachable, accessible and willing to help the MBK leadership team really was. So here we go again. I know I’m talking about the pandemic, but sometimes it feels like, yeah, right now is a little uncertain and we’ve come a long way since our COVID early days.


And yet the hits just keep coming. Inflation is out of control. Operating costs continue to rise. The employee candidate pool is shallow. There is a real possibility of a recession and we continue to combat burnout and stress on a daily basis. So for me, it’s the perfect time to improve the ever important personal connections with prospects, residents, families, and your team members. So here’s where you can start.


Four little tool: Ask how you can help. Ask how they’re doing. Ask about their family. Ask questions to get to know them better. But then I want you to take it a step further to make their day. And this was probably my favorite thing to do truly at MBK is when you learn something about someone and this is not just in, in leadership, but this is in life, especially in sales, but take it a step further.


It’s one thing to know about someone, about the little things that make them who they are. But it’s a step further and really a wow experience for that person to have you act on those things. So here are some things that we did to really brighten other people’s days. Send their favorite Starbucks drink through an online delivery service. I can recall when I was letting Shane Nest he’s a regional director of sales. I was letting him know that I was having kind of a crummy day and he said,  “what’ll make your day a little better?” And I said, “Gosh, I’d really love a skinny vanilla latte from Starbucks.” And this was at the very beginning of the pandemic and kind of the beginning of food delivery services, as we know it now. And he said, okay, let me see what I can do. 


Less than an hour later, there was a knock on my door and a very nice tasty Starbucks, skinny vanilla latte was at my doorstep. All because Shane knew that that would make my day better. And I’m certain it brightened his day. You can send an Amazon gift card or provide a pizza dinner for family. I love pizza dinners, but I also love sending a GrubHub gift card saying, “Hey, I recognize your hard work, dinner’s on me tonight.” So sending that food delivery service gift card to someone and it doesn’t have to be expensive, it just has to be meaningful and a reason behind it. I love this, sending them a handwritten. thank you note, love that. How about maybe creating a LinkedIn post or even with a quick text or even giving a shout out in a meeting. Again, celebrating those wins as small as they may be. They all add up to really big results.


So we love to find ways to have fun here at MBK. We dress in costume. We also play virtual games together. So when we couldn’t be in person for the holidays, we had a holiday murder mystery virtual party, and it was who kidnapped Santa. And we all had characters and it was just a really fun way to engage in a unique way. But even now, when we’re really resuming in person meetings and exciting things, we love as a team to do escape rooms or cooking classes or just going out to dinner and getting to know each other. To me, that’s what a team does. They get to know each other. They spend time together. So another way that you really can make their day is drop off a personalized gift. I know you sales people out there are quite familiar with wow gifts for prospects, but what about doing that for your team members as well. Share a smile and a hug. Be extremely approachable and available. And be open to change and out of the box ideas. 


You’ll find that these gestures have extremely big benefits. I feel like not only will they make your residents, families, prospects, team members feel seen, heard, and appreciated. Your day will be brighter too. So adversity will always be a part of life. So I think why not embrace the challenge with positivity and determination? Shower those you serve and your team with good vibes and good Juju, and you’ll find it breaks through the doom and gloom and brings back the sunshine. And with that, you’ll create long lasting relationships. You’ll inspire colleagues and build amazing teams of which I am so grateful to be a part of MBK sales team. You’ll conquer challenges and achieve goals together. You’ll feel accomplished, productive, and most importantly happy. So I can’t wait to hear how you tackle your next challenge with positivity and make another person’s day just a little bit brighter. Thank you so much for listening and have a great day.


Thanks for listening to the Contributor Wednesday series on the Bridge The Gap network sponsored by Peak Senior Living by Functional Pathways for a full library of episodes. Visit


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CW 117: Christy Van Der Westhuizen