Welcome to Bridge the Gap with hosts Josh Crisp and Lucas McCurdy. A podcast dedicated to inform, educate and influence the future of housing and services for seniors. Bridge the Gap aims to help shape the culture of the senior living industry by being an advocate and a positive voice of influence which drives quality outcomes for our aging population.

The Power of Personal and Professional Brands with Christy Van Der Westhuizen and Sara Mitchell

Learn how the power of personal and professional brands can be leveraged with LinkedIn from Christy Van Der Westhuizen, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Legend Senior Living.


This industry is growing. It's diverse, it's innovative, and I want people to know there's room for everyone here.

Christy Van Der Westhuizen

Guest on This Episode

Christy Van Der Westhuizen

Sales & Marketing

Christy, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at MBK Senior Living, is no stranger to senior living. She brings 13 years of senior living experience to the table, the past three at MBK Senior Living.

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Sara Mitchell

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Be intentional and listen for those gold nuggets.

Quick Overview of the Podcast

Learn how the power of personal and professional brands can be leveraged with LinkedIn from BTG Ambassador and Contributor, Christy Van Der Westhuizen, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Legend Senior Living, as she sits down with guest host Sara Mitchell, President of Solinity Marketing.

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Welcome to season six of Bridge The Gap, a podcast dedicated to informing, educating, and influencing the future of housing and services for seniors. Powered by sponsors Accushield, Aline, Hamilton CapTel, Service Master, Patriot Angels, The Bridge Group Construction and Solinity. And produced by Solinity Marketing.

Sara 0:40

Welcome to Bridge The Gap podcast. I am not Josh and Lucas. This is actually Sara Mitchell, and I am so happy to be at the ASHA midyear meeting in Utah with my dear friend Christy, Senior Vice President at Legend Senior Living. And we're going to talk about all things sales and marketing.

Christy 0:58

Oh my gosh, I love it. And I love how it's just #girlpower today.

Sara 1:03

I love this.

Christy 1:04

No offense, Lucas and Josh, but I do love me some, Sarah.

Sara 1:08

Well, we were just thinking, you know, Christy is BTG Ambassador, you've been a great contributor, still are contributing. And so we had a brainstorm session this morning and I was nominated/assigned this role. So I have not done this side of the microphone in quite some time, but I can think of no one else I'd rather have this conversation with than you.

Christy 1:29

Me too. I am so glad you picked me to dip your toe into this again.

Sara 1:34

Here we go. I know. I love it. So right before this, we were talking about a lot of different things that fall under this huge umbrella of sales and marketing. And I thought back to one of my personal favorite Contributor Wednesday shows that you had, and it actually was a very popular and one of the most popular contributor shows that you had. And you talked specifically about, I'm going to put it under this bucket of influencer, how to leverage social media platforms with the knowledge, with the education, with the experiences that you have, sharing that, posting it online. And specifically for you, that's LinkedIn.

Christy 2:06


Sara 2:07

So you are a LinkedIn influencer. We're so glad to have you on the BTG boat.

Christy 2:11

Thank you.

Sara 2:12

Let's dive in and talk about that, because I think both of us have a passion for obviously sales and marketing in senior living. But I think for both of us, the goal is to go outside of just our workforce and our people. And talk about the industry and talk about the great things, the great people, the great topics that we're hearing about. So let's kind of recap that show, and I want to hear kind of now, fast forward to 2023, what does that look like for you as far as leveraging your influence specifically online?

Christy 2:40

LinkedIn really gives us a platform to show what senior living really is, right? And the people who work in senior living and who they are and how passionate they are about what they, what they do, and who they serve. For me, that propelled me to get even more crazy involved with LinkedIn. Not only posting stuff, original content from myself, but really following fellow influencers in senior living, commenting or sharing their stuff as well. But I think that our industry and actually just in general LinkedIn professionals have a lot to say and a lot of insight into sales marketing and specifically in senior living. And it's a passion to listen to those voices, right? And so I feel like I'm just really lucky to be just a small voice in the industry, but one that's continually staying optimistic. Even when challenging times came, I think that my love of LinkedIn really came from, okay, mid Covid years, I need to be able to connect with people who are in the same boat as me. How in the world do I do that? And social media for me connected those dots. It's a great tool to utilize to again showcase all the things that senior living has to offer the world but also to support fellow senior living folks and also to shout them out and to share their content as well.

Sara 4:11

I love that. At Solinity and Solinity Marketing, we talk often about the love stories of the industry. And so when I put on my marketing hat and I'm trying to learn about communities and learn about brands, and what is your community doing and what are your people doing? The people that make up communities, management companies, developers, all of these different players that are in the industry, how do we mine for that content? So that as a marketing agency, your back office marketing team, how do we share the great things that are happening day in and day out of your community? And really getting people to talk about that and think about, "Oh, did we take those resident photos?" And maybe from your perspective it's, "Oh, did you intentionally spotlight a team member or a community level staffer?" And what does that look like with the strategy? And really just the thinking about, okay, these things are happening all day long. So how do we encourage our team members? And specifically you, I think when you put on your sales hat when you're training those team members to mine for that content really think outside of the box. What are some tips or maybe suggestions and encouragement on the ability to influence the industry just by posting. So what are some of those tricks that you tell?

Christy 5:25

One thing that I feel like is really important in creating social media content specifically for communities is to be intentional. Every single person that lives or works at a community has their own story. And it's really up to us to learn what those stories are. We all have something unique about us. And I also love to ask, tell me something about yourself that sounds made up, but it's not. And then we create content based on those really cool stories. For example, we had a resident who we did a home visit with and the rug that they were standing on was a rug that Abraham Lincoln used at one point.

Sara 6:05

Oh my goodness.

Christy 6:05

Right? So I like, have goosebumps on me. And so of course our salesperson took a picture of the rug.

Sara 6:11

Of course!

Christy 6:11

Made a big deal, right? And it's like, man, that's something that sounds totally made up, but it is real. So it's like, what content can we bring to life from learning those nuggets of gold, being intentional and listening for those gold nuggets. And I just think that as salespeople, sometimes we get a bad rap because we are not known to be amazing listeners. So we're really focusing on being really great listeners, but taking action with those nuggets of gold that we learned from listening intently.

Sara 6:44

Well, and I think that that's a hard practice. I think a lot of people enjoy hearing themselves talk and being the, maybe the center of attention or whatever it is. So really listening and diving into what are your team members saying? What are your residents saying? And I think that so easily overlaps into the sales and marketing component because there's so many great stories that just need to be heard and then shared.

Christy 7:07

Yes. Absolutely. At Legend, we are doing all of this training based on mining for gold. And it really is digging for gold, not only in your own database, but in our own prospects and figuring out what makes them really special and unique individuals. So that's one point, but again, it's taking that information and what do you do with it? It's being intentional on crafting stories based on their unique qualities and unique stories. But I think just being intentional. And then from a home office perspective, we ask for content, we ask, and I don't think a day goes by where we're not asking for more content or really cool pictures of something really awesome that we did, but we need to make sure that we stay top of mind when it comes to asking for that content.

Sara 7:55

So let's flip this and let's talk to people that are here at ASHA, at conferences. You're a traveling boss lady.

Christy 8:02


Sara 8:02

Yes, you are. And so what is that strategy for you? How do you remind yourself and at what point does it just become natural if it does to where you think about this event at ASHA? Or what are the photos that you're going to recap to use your influence to tell about this week? What are some of those things?

Christy 8:22

So it has become kind of natural. It just has. It's kind of part of who I am. I love to document anything that's in my personal life and my professional life. Part of what I think about when I attend things like ASHA is I want other people to know, "Okay, what really goes on at these conferences?" So I like to take a lot of pictures, group pictures of people that maybe I've just met or people that have been dear friends for many years. I also like to post content on things that we're learning. So it might be the keynote speaker that I'm taking a picture of and writing a caption underneath so people know what really goes on. It is very natural. And I think when people, when I walk up to them, they know, "Oh, she's got her camera out."

Sara 9:05

Here's the camera lady!

Christy 9:05

If it's not on LinkedIn, it didn't happen. I just want people to know this industry is growing. It's diverse, it's innovative, and I want people to know there's room for everyone here.

Sara 9:20

I think too, a lot of people, and we get in the habit of this, even at Bridge The Gap, we're talking to so many guests and so it's very easy for any of us to snap a quick photo, but then to follow up with that and tease almost the conversations that we're having. I think that goes back to even what you said about taking the photo of the panel or the keynote and doing a little summary of that. I think when our teams back at home can see that it's more than just the parties or the cocktail receptions or whatever that is that's on our calendars, I think that that's a special thing that we can share. And I think that's one thing that you do a great job of. So let's segue that into recruiting. Because I feel like you do a great job and we could all take lessons from just leveraging your day in and day out to capture and share that story. How do you think that being an influencer, and this applies to anyone, impacts others, either looking to the industry as a potential career opportunity or encouraging others to be a part of it. What's the tool there?

Christy 10:20

The tool is to be as authentic as humanly possible. It's to share your company's culture, your own personal beliefs, and just be authentic. I have loved utilizing LinkedIn and social media in general for recruiting. When we have a position open, I'll post something like, "Hey, are you awesome? Come join the team." My goal is to be enthusiastic about any open positions, but also the company culture, to do our best to create this really cool vibe around senior living because it really is the best industry I've ever been a part of.

Sara 10:51

Yeah, me too. And there's so many great people. We keep saying this: great people, great topics, lots of things that are happening. So if there was someone that's listening that is on the conference tour, like you and I are, what is like one or two takeaways that you could provide them on the next steps? Just do this next until it becomes like you where it's a normal habit in just your nature. What are just some very easy low hanging fruit items. You're like, "Okay, just do this, just practice this" and then it becomes a habit.

Christy 11:22

You can just take one picture and post it. You could take a picture of the keynote or maybe even just a group picture. You're out on the patio for a happy hour. Take a picture and tag your professional friends there. I mean, that's probably the easiest thing, but I also like to use social media to shout out others as well. So if the keynote speaker did an amazing job, tag him or her on social media, you don't have to be in the picture. Like, that's the thing that I think people get really tripped up about. It's like, "Ugh, I don't like my picture taken. I don't want to be in the picture." You don't have to. It's great if we can see that you're this real authentic person that is making connections with others, but you don't have to be in the picture. Those are two things that you could easily do, is tag others and then just take one picture and post it and see what you get. Because I guarantee you will make an impact based on just that one post.

Sara 12:17

Yes, I love that. And it's pretty easy once you get into the habit. It becomes, like you said, kind of second nature and natural. Okay, so we talked about this before. You and I have similar backgrounds before arriving in the senior living industry.

Christy 12:33

Before senior living, yes.

Sara 12:34

Before senior living. And I feel like probably, as it did for me, perhaps influenced some of what is natural for you now. Could we let everyone know a little bit more about Christy and how you practiced all of these things? This confidence that you exude, this ability to network and talk and make friends. Many people strive to be that influencer. And we have an awesome group of people, and I think a lot of them, and I would say a lot of people just in general in our industry, know you because of your presence online. But take us back to take us back to Christy in pageant land.

Christy 13:10

Oh, yes.

Sara 13:11

Talk us through that. And what were some of the characteristics and the roles or the lessons that you learned through that experience that impacts today.

Christy 13:20

Sure. Absolutely. I was Mrs. California many years ago. And many people don't know that there are Mrs. Pageants, pageants for married ladies. But I did it and was pretty successful at that. But I started out as a 12, 13 year old girl. Super awkward, but grew up watching Miss America and I always wanted to do that. What that kind of translated into and over the course of my life, I think I counted, I've done 25 pageants. Now, I've lost a whole heck of a lot more than I've won, by the way.

Sara 13:52

And first runner up is no fun.

Christy 13:53

I know! And I was like a first runner up queen.

Sara 13:56

So many. Yes.

Christy 13:57

Well, it teaches you resilience, right? Where if you lose today, that doesn't mean you're gonna lose tomorrow. And I think that that taught me a lot of perseverance in sales. It's like, "Man, you get told no today, but that doesn't mean it's no tomorrow." That doesn't mean the next phone call you make is going to be a no. It could be a yes. I think it taught me perseverance. But it also taught me I'm very comfortable speaking in front of groups and without pageantry I know I would never have been able to speak in groups, one-on-one interactions. When I was a little girl I would get to meet Ms. Long Beach or miss whatever city I was living in at the time. And the queens always had this amazing ability to make me feel like I was the only person in the room. Like I was their best friend that they've known forever. That is what I hope to do, is really make people feel like, "Man, you're the only one that I am watching and listening and paying attention to." And I'm hopeful that that can translate into success in the business world. And I think it has.

Sara 15:02

I still think you're a queen. I think once you have that crown, you're always a queen, even though you don't wear it today.

Christy 15:07

Thank you.

Sara 15:08

So speak to the young influencer. There's so many platforms now with TikTok and Instagram and YouTube and so many opportunities to make a name for yourself. Talk to those people that are curious about senior living that have perhaps a background in something else, but they're confident and they could so easily jump into a sales role or a marketing role or operations, or even on the vendor side, the provider side. Speak to that person and give some insight or encouragement to leveraging what you're good at and consider senior living.

Christy 15:40

Oh my gosh. So I have this conversation quite a bit with different members of our sales team. We don't train people to be other people. We hope to help you be the best Sara ever, that ever did live. So authenticity, honesty, connection, that means so much more than a scripted response or again, a robotic non-empathetic response. So my suggestion for anyone wanting to join the senior living industry is be yourself, as trite as that sounds, be yourself, be authentically you. And you know what? Don't just dip your toe into it. Just go full on, dive in head first, because there are people who are also wanting to be innovators. There are also people who want new blood into the senior living industry. I'm one of them. So call 1-800-Christy, I'd love to chat with you. But actually don't call that number. I have no idea what that is. I definitely want to be a part of what the next 30 years of senior living looks like. And we are just ripe for new innovators in this space.

Sara 16:51

Calling all the queens and all the influencers! There's a space for you in senior living. And there's so many opportunities. There's so many fabulous people that are here for mentorship and training and coaching. And as you said, just be you, bring what you have to the table, right. And just find your spot.

Christy 17:10

Early on in my career, I thought I had to be someone who I wasn't, right? And I had to put my professional mask on. But to me that doesn't create authentic relationships, especially in a sales role. So that is my biggest advice, is just be you, be authentic, be hungry, be ready to learn. I'm learning every single day. There is not a day that goes by that I think, "Oh, I knew that already." No way. We're all learning how this industry is going to continue to change and morph and innovate into the next 10, 20, 30 years. And I'm certainly glad to be a part of it. And I'm glad you are too.

Sara 17:47

This has been so fun. I'm so that Josh and Lucas allowed us to take over their spot here. This has been so fun.

Christy 17:54

I know. I love it.

New Speaker 17:56

Well, we'll get Josh and Lucas back on headphones and microphones here. We have a full afternoon of podcasting at ASHA. It's beautiful in Utah.

Christy 18:05

Yes, it is.

Sara 18:05

I love this conversation. Let's snap some photos. I think I have my takeaway, so just be me. Post the caption. We got to get a selfie because we're going to post that on LinkedIn.

Christy 18:15

Yes, we are!

Sara 18:15

Everyone connect with Christy. She's fabulous. You're great to learn from, you're fun to follow and totally an influencer in this industry. So I'm glad that you're here.

Christy 18:25

Thank you.

Sara 18:25

Thanks for listening to another great episode of Bridge The Gap.


Thanks for listening to Bridge The Gap podcast with Josh and Lucas. Connect with the BTG network team and use your voice to influence the industry by connecting with us at btgvoice.com.

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