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40 Under 40 - Class of 2020
Business Observer Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020 1 year ago

Erin VanderVeen, 33

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Stratum/Tidewell Hospice, Director of Transformation and Integration
by: Kevin McQuaid Commercial Real Estate Editor

Erin VanderVeen learned compassion and a desire to help while working for her family’s funeral home in a small town in Western Michigan in her teens.

But after graduating from college in 2009, VanderVeen found the job market tough. Her dreams of working for the United Nations would be put on hold.

To make ends meet, she began working at a Michigan golf club, where she met an executive of Grand Rapids, Mich.-based self-help company It Works! Global.

In January 2011, VanderVeen became first employee of It Works! to relocate to Florida as part of a headquarters shift. She rose quickly, from customer service representative to department manager.

Before long, the company was expanding to New Zealand, the U.K. and other parts of Europe, with VanderVeen in charge as international market manager — a job that would require her to be away from Florida for months at a time.

In all, she opened more than two dozen foreign operations. The work was grueling and demanding at times, but for generating results she was promoted to director of operations.

Despite the success, VanderVeen had a nagging feeling she wasn’t fulfilling her destiny. During periodic conversations with mentor Jonathan Fleece, a former Blalock Walters attorney who had joined Stratum Health System and Tidewell Hospice as president and CEO, she became convinced she wanted to get back to her roots.

“I realized that, for me, there’s less of a draw in selling and more in bettering the world,” she says. "It’s what wakes me up every day. It’s what motivates me."

COURTESY PHOTO — Erin VanderVeen, with Stratum Health/Tidewell Hospice, relaxes at home while showing off her card-handling skills.

Fleece decided to give her that chance. In March — as the COVID-19 pandemic first began to rage — she joined Stratum/Tidewell as the director of transformation and integration.

In that role, she’s charged with seamlessly blending Tidewell’s expansive hospice care with a similar operation in Pinellas County — a merger that will create the largest nonprofit hospice entity in the nation over the next two-plus years. “I want to be a part of making people’s final days as fulfilling as possible,” VanderVeen says, adding that the best part of her new job is the “purpose” it provides.

“I think this could be the beginning of an incredible career. I hope that it is,” she says. “For now, I’m working with some brilliant minds, and every day I can try to positively change the world. I think the sky’s the limit for me.” 

 

Employer

Stratum Health System

Title

Director of Transformation & Integration

Birthplace

Kalamazoo, Michigan

Years on the Gulf Coast

10

Marital Status/Children

Single

Alma Mater/Degree

University of Michigan — international relations and Spanish

What community group or organization are you most involved with?

Turning Points

What's the weirdest job you've ever had?

Working for my father's funeral home

What's your top tip for being productive?

Get creative with ideas away from your desk then dedicate blocks of time to working without distractions.

If you could have a side hustle, what would it be?

The possibilities are endless, and I hope to have many.

What's your favorite off-hours activity?

Yoga

What's your favorite board game, game show or video game?

I really liked Candy Land as a kid.

What’s your go-to delivery service? (DoorDash, Uber Eats, GrubHub, Bite Squad, etc.)

Bite Squad because my favorite Thai spot uses them.

What do you use most — Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams or Google Meetings?

I regularly use a variety of platforms depending on the host.

What’s the best binge-worthy show you have enjoyed during the pandemic?

"Dynasty"

What’s the longest virtual meeting you’ve been on since mid-March?

They've all been efficient meetings. However, I excited about the occasional brainstorm or planning sessions that last 90 minutes or two hours. It generates energy and chemistry among colleagues by breaking up our task-driven days.

How many times had you used video for a work meeting prior to the pandemic?

Regularly for international business

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned during the pandemic?

Gratitude

What do you miss most about the world pre-pandemic?

Being close to people, hugging, shaking hands and seeing smiles

What have you been spending more time doing during the pandemic?

Checking out local parks, reading and real phone calls

Do you prefer working from home or working from an office?

Home because it's a new challenge

How have you kept up camaraderie with colleagues during the pandemic?

Yes, but I actually had to establish it during the pandemic. I started a new job the week my colleagues were moving to work from home. After six months, I have never seen most of them in person.

What’s the first thing you’ll do after the pandemic?

Visit my grandparents in Michigan

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