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.
Bridge The Gap

Best of Operations 2023 Featuring BTG Guests

What a year 2023 has already been! Check out these episode highlights featuring operators and thought leaders in our industry.


Everybody wants a sense of belonging. They want to feel accepted. They want to feel like they still have purpose.

Chris Hoard

Guest on This Episode

Josh Crisp

Owner & CEO Solinity

Josh Crisp is a senior living executive with more than 15 years of experience in development, construction, and management of senior living communities across the southeast.

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Lucas McCurdy

Owner & Founder The Bridge Group Construction

Lucas McCurdy is the founder of The Bridge Group Construction based in Dallas, Texas. Widely known as “The Senior Living Fan”.

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Heather Tussing

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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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David Eskenazy

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Leon Grundstein

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Anthony Ormsbee-Hale

Developing Emerging Leaders: How Organizations Can Set New Leaders Up for Success

Anthony Ormsbee-Hale serves as the Senior Vice President of Strategic Operations at Civitas Senior Living, a premier operator with senior living communities across six states.

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Chris Hoard

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Dan Williams

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The last years of their lives could be an experience they look forward to.

Quick Overview of the Podcast

What a year 2023 has already been! Check out these episode highlights featuring operators and thought leaders in our industry. Hear from Heather Tussing, Christy Van Der Westhuizen, David Eskenazy, Leon Grundstein, Anthony Ormsbee-Hale, Chris Hoard, and Dan Williams.

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Welcome Bridge The Gap listeners and welcome to another great episode of Bridge The Gap. On today's show, we will be looking back at some of our greatest conversations with the top operators in the industry. Take a listen and enjoy.


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.

Lucas 00:39

We've got a great guest, a Bridge The Gap Ambassador. We have Heather Tussing, she's the president of Aspenwood. Welcome to the show.

Heather 00:47

Thank you so much for inviting me.

Josh 00:49

So what are your initiatives in this new role leading the charge for a new brand new development initiatives? A very exciting time. What's on your mind and what are you looking at over the next year or two to do?

Heather 1:02

So initially I obviously went in and evaluated a team. Obviously we had some great long-term members, who I greatly appreciate, and then I've just added to that team and brought on some really strong leaders in the industry that I can learn from every day, and that we can work together, collaborate, come up with a great solution, and then poke holes at it and nobody gets offended and we come up with a better option because of it. And so definitely that. Definitely we're refocusing on our sales and marketing efforts which is both a lot of work and very, very exciting at the same time. So that's been a primary focus. And then just really looking at everything we do and how can we tighten it up to be even better. So they've had a great product but we want to make sure that we're the best product. And so really redeveloping our memory care program, and that's something the residents deserve. Reimagining what our life enrichment programming looks like, which is very diverse between IL, AL, and memory care, but just ensuring that we're really offering what our residents deserve and what the market wants.

Christy 2:05

I am Christy Van Der Westhuizen. I'm SVP of Sales and Marketing at Legend Senior Living, and I'm so thrilled to be here with Josh and Lucas of Bridge The Gap podcast.

Lucas 2:16

"Hey everybody. All right. We're not gonna call it a tour anymore, we're gonna call it an experience. You can't go back to the same way of doing it." You know, if you're buying a house and you just recently moved, right? You don't walk in the house with your realtor, well, you hope not, and they walk you into the kitchen and they say, "This is the kitchen."

Christy 2:33


Lucas 2:34

Wow. You just earned your commission buddy. This is cutting edge stuff, right? No, you don't want that. That's not what you're looking for when you're there, right? But when you buy a home, there is some of that magic that where you feel this could be our home, right? So how do you craft that same experience in a senior living community?

Christy 2:57

It's with the people. It's doing really great discovery before they even walk into your building. It's finding like-minded people that you can introduce them to. So to me, again, talking about Airbnb or just vacation experiences, my favorite experiences are not the fanciest places. It's the times where I got to connect with people. Maybe it was my own husband and family, or maybe it was people from another country that we got to meet, but it's the people that make the experience. And how do you do that in senior living? Unless you're getting to connect to one another and people and like-minded people and team members and residents and family members. How do you create an experience without connecting people? And I don't know. I mean, one of the simplest things that we can do and again, I'm totally guilty of doing this, when I was a Sales Director, but calling it a 10 o'clock tour. "Oh, we got a 10 o'clock tour and a noon tour and a two o'clock tour."

Christy 4:00

Well, that's great. And that shows that people are interested and you're making a connection on the phone and scheduling the appointment. But who are they? Who is the 10 o'clock tour, right? Who is she as a person? What is her life story? What is something that a team member when hearing it can connect the dots and then make that connection when they see the 10 o'clock person walking through the door and looking a little lost and a little nervous? It's creating tools and usually that's a couple sentences about who this person is to the entire team so that we know who's walking in our doors. There are so many other ways to do that, but I think we need to stop thinking of tours as numbers and not even have names. And think of them as people with amazing life stories that we want to get to learn from and how do you learn from them unless you ask, right?

Josh 4:59

Absolutely. It's totally a relational driven experience. It's not transactional.

Lucas 5:06

We are at ASHA in Scottsdale, an incredible guest on today. We want to welcome David Eskenazy. You are the CEO of Cogir. Welcome to the show.

David 5:15

Thank you.

Lucas 5:16

Love to know, number one, why you're so passionate about the industry, why you've dedicated your entire career to this, and then we'd love to know more about Cogir.

David 5:25

Sure. Well, my entrance into the - you know, I don't think people, when they grow up and they're seven years old aspire, you know, astronaut, firemen, senior housing, I don't think that happens. I mean, maybe one day it might, but that's just not quite how this works. I think everybody has probably a little different story as to how they got here. For me I was a CPA and a big eight accounting firm, KPMG guy coming out of college. And senior housing, I don't think I'd ever heard of it. I went into the hotel business. I was 20 years in the hotel business in Seattle. We developed about half the big box hotels downtown. We built them, we developed them, we operated 'em.

David 6:14

And I was very much in the hotel business. Ultimately my mother had early onset of Alzheimer's, so they found themselves in the same nursing home. And what I won't forget about that is what that looked like. And what that looked like was kind of like One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest. I will remember the shiny floors and they were uneven and this visual of what that was like, it was so institutional. And this was the best that money could buy. My family could afford great care, and that's what you got. That's what that looked like. And that was sort of a pitiful memory to be honest with you. But I also didn't realize what the industry had done to change that until later in my career. So, when I was in the hotel business a while, I got a phone call, would I consider going into senior housing?

David 7:07

And I did remember that visual and I wasn't terribly interested in that. But I took a tour of a building and it was a building that looked nothing like that visual. And I was like, wow, this is great. That this industry has transformed into this - that I could get my brain around. And it quickly became a collision between hospitality and that nursing home. And I thought that's pretty cool. So on paper the senior housing industry is not a lot different than a hotel. There's occupancy and rate, food and beverage, and various departments. So I could certainly get my brain around the business side of it. But the real estate piece of that and the design and some of the things that could advance away from that visual that I had was something I thought was very interesting and very worthwhile. So it seemed like a real fitting part to where I could take my career. And so that's kind of how I got there.

Lucas 8:11

We're in San Diego at the Spring NIC Conference and we're having a great time with a great guest. We want to welcome Leon Grundstein. You're the founder and the CEO of Gencare Lifestyle up in Seattle. Welcome to the show.

Leon 8:23

Thanks for having me here. I'm really excited to be on your podcast.

Josh 8:27

Well, I'm curious because you talked about the team, I know you've talked so much about the rich culture you guys have, we've obviously heard the impact of the average length of stay, which I think is a huge statistic in support of this model when so many operators, I think, are trying to figure out how to remove responsibility and remove task and scale back what the team members are having to do your model sounds like, "Wow, we're raising the bar. Our team is really getting in there and doing a lot." But it sounds like it's actually having a positive impact and you're taking a little bit of an opposite approach to what many operators are doing to the labor challenges. Tell me about that approach and that strategy, how you're seeing that even in the recruitment of team members.

Leon 9:12

People who want to work in our industry want to have some job satisfaction and purpose. It's not just, "I'm going in, collect my paycheck, go home." This generation of workers and some older ones really want to feel that they've had an impact. And when we provide a meaningful outcome for our residents and really care about them, that gives them a feeling of pride in what they're doing. They have a relationship with the residents and they feel that they're doing good for the residents and not just serving them a plate of food or going to the gym. We're actually making your life better. You're going to live longer, healthier, you're going to enjoy yourself better and there's a great deal of satisfaction. And seeing that and the appreciation the residents give back to the staff is really gratifying. And we've had staff who've stayed there for years just because of our program philosophy.

Josh 10:14

I love it. Positive outcomes for the live and the work environment.

Lucas 10:19

We've got a great guest on today, one of our Bridge The Gap contributors and Bridge The Gap Ambassador. We want to welcome back to the show Anthony Ormsbee-Hale. He is with Civitas. Welcome to the show.

Anthony 10:32

Thanks, Lucas. Thanks, Josh. It's great to see you guys again. Great to be back on the podcast.

Josh 10:36

One of the things that strikes me is obviously we talk about this a lot. We have a large spectrum of listeners and thought leaders on the Bridge The Gap Network. And so there's people listening to this right now at various positions from C-suite owners, small to large organizations as well as middle management, community level management. And I think at each level we can think about what does transformational leadership and change look like for whatever my scope of influence is. Thinking of it from that lens, what would be a few systematic type of processes that someone could take away that's listening to this that they may think, well I can't be a transformational leader because I'm not in the C-suite or I'm not a VP or whatever. But I feel like from hearing you talk, there are some basic ingredients that no matter what level you are, you can create this transformation in leadership with the circle of influence you have. Whether that's huge or whether that's small. Can you give a few takeaways to no matter what the listener is, some things that they can begin no matter what the position to do today?

Anthony 11:52

One of the things that we've started doing at Civitas is the objective and key result planning process. And I talked a little bit about that in my Contributor Wednesday series, but we've also started sharing weekly updates across the company of hey, here's where we are. For example, this morning on our daily team huddle we talked about where are we with our controllable move-outs. Here's where we are for this month, what can we do to prevent that number from increasing? And it's great to have an entire company focused on our objective of enhancing our financial performance. And there are other ones too, enhancing our customer experience, our employee experience, and we rotate those out. But I don't know a CEO or a founder out there who doesn't want his or her entire organization focused on what can we do to enhance financial performance or enhance customer experience. And the way you do that is by getting people to talk about it and other people. So it's not just Anthony or Josh or just Lucas, it's years and years from now if I ever left, other people would know how to carry on that practice. It creates a culture within a community or within an organization where it's not just dependent on one person. And that's really how you cement organizational change and that's transformational leadership when it lives beyond you.

Lucas 13:09

Here in Park City at the ASHA Summer membership. Not a retreat. It's more like a conference, right?

Josh 13:16

It's the midyear meeting.

Lucas 13:17

It's the midyear meeting. Okay. Now that we've established that we can move on to our good guest today. He's a very big deal at Distinctive. He has several titles: President, Chief, he's over development and a good, good friend and ambassador of BTG. Chris Hoard, welcome to the show.

Chris 13:32

Thank you. Thanks for having me, both of you.

Josh 13:34

You've used building those relationships to really get you to the success you've had and where you are today, how is that uniquely positioning you and your brand for like the very challenging times that senior living has been through? And I don't think we're finished with.

Chris 13:51

No, I think what I found was everybody can work through anything, whatever the challenge may be, but they just have to be treated with respect. And hey, let's gather everybody around and see how we can overcome these obstacles. Or maybe even not an obstacle. Maybe we just have something that we all need to work on together. And there's a couple different good ways we could go, what's the best way we can move this thing forward? I've always felt if I give, it'll eventually come back. And I know it's kind of a little bit cliche, I know there's lots of that around there, but it's very true. I've always found that if I can go help Josh somewhere down the road, Josh and I are going to have the opportunity to work together or he's gonna put somebody else in my pathway, which has happened by the way, right? So I think our brand today, we call ourselves at Distinctive Living, a "boutiquey" operations, right? We're Distinctive Living. And so we're trying to focus on the positive. We want people to come and live. It was 1980s, those 1990s. It was as if we were taking our adult parents, our grandparents, and we were putting them away. The atmosphere was very hospital, right? It was very medical and it wasn't a home. And so after going through that with a few of my own family members, even before my own family members, just being in the industry as a whole, and we didn't call it senior housing back then, felt like it could be a little bit different. You know, I felt like something could happen because I watched all these residents who were sitting around nurses stations, right? Or sitting in a living room by themselves and nobody talking to 'em.

Chris 15:22

Yet, every interaction I had with them, I would find this download of history and amazing lives that they lived and they weren't done living. And so I think that's what our focus is today. I think that's what my passion has been. My passion is people, it's great that I get to go do construction. It's great that I get to do development, get in finance, but at the end of the day, we're talking about human beings and we're talking about family members who are making these unbelievable choices of I got to somehow separate myself from my mom or my dad who's always taking care of me. How do I put them out? Or a spouse, how do I put that spouse away? And how do we bridge the gap, excuse me, of not having that thought process of "putting away." Hey, we're going into a new chapter and it's going to be a lot of fun and we have this wonderful environment. We want the grandkids to come, we want the children to come and we want them to live more experiences and memories. So I think for me, going back to hopefully your original question here, what can I do? What can we do as an industry? I think that's be community, watch out for one another. And I have done it with you guys. I have a lot of people in my network where I don't know if I've done any deals with them, but what I have found is opportunities to help somebody else. And I see that come back. So that's what I'm grateful for.

Lucas 16:39

Beautiful Utah Day here at the ASHA Summer membership meeting. And we got a great guest on. Want to welcome Dan Williams, the president and CEO of Ally Senior Living. Welcome to the show.

Dan 16:53

Hey, welcome. Thanks for having me, Lucas. Appreciate that.

Josh 16:55

You go in and you start executing a strategy that you have that you know, if we'll work the strategy, if we're committed to the strategy, it's going to get us to these results. But oftentimes what I've found is that some of the capital that's maybe purchased, they don't really understand or have the patience to get there, to take all the steps and they want to just a short term, put lipstick on it and make a miracle happen. So how do you set the tone for expectations going into a project like that and give them an executable plan and get everybody rallied around that? I mean, that seems like a big part of the challenge.

Dan 17:34

It is. And the key, one of the key words you just said was executable. Because there's a lot of trial and error to begin with. You have confidence you can turn a building around. So you tell, you tell 'em, "Hey, yeah, I can do this. I'm fine. Don't worry about it." You got spreadsheets, I get it. Go look at those spreadsheets, let me do this. But their patience runs out. Because I get it. I mean they have, the pressure comes all the way down. Money makes the rules. It can come from the lender, it can come from the LP equity, it comes from GB comes all the way down and you're down there trying to execute certain plans that will turn that building around, managing those expectations.

Dan 18:17

I have people that work for me that do it much better than I do as I get a little impatient myself, frankly. All in all, when you get a capital provider or an owner investor that's been in the business a while, they understand that you just, you can't flip 'em overnight typically. I mean you sometimes can, but that's rare. It takes patience. It takes executing a plan over and over. And a lot of times these turnarounds, they depend upon the leadership and the building. You got to change that out. The fact is most, when I do a turnaround, I would say that unfortunately, and this is not the way that we go look at it, but after six to nine months, there's usually no department heads left. A lot of the building staff has turned over. They've either, their choice or by our choice, had to be replaced or they've chosen to go work for somebody else or where they're a better fit. While you always try to hire the best person, you really don't know that until they get in there and start performing. And then you give a little time. And if you go through that two or three times to find the right person, well that's stretching it out and in capital usually that's tough on them. That's tough on them. But luckily we've been able to come up with some good screening systems and stuff and hire better.

Lucas 19:34

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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