Dan Isard

November 28, 2023

Cremation, Memorials, and Virtual Visits

I am old enough to remember the very first episodes of The Jetsons. This futuristic primetime cartoon showed us the world of tomorrow. While so many of the concepts still have not come to be, many have! But The Jetsons never had a cartoon character die, so we never got to see how George or Jane would have been interred in the future. With all due respect to Hanna-Barbera Productions, here is my best guess at the cemetery of the future. Why is this concept even print worthy for this magazine? Well, you have a major investment in this business for which you have stewardship. Your stewardship will last until you retire and pass that responsibility on (in a nonprofit) or until you sell it (in the case of a management agreement or a for-profit). In most cases, you have […]
November 28, 2023

Finance 301: Chapter 23: The Intersection of the Annual Business Plan and Your Life Plan

Every year for almost 40 years, I have worked with funeral home owners and managers, as well as cemeterians, to create their annual business plans. As I prepare to exit my chosen career, I want the next-to-last lesson plan I offer you to be about, er, well… planning. I have learned more than I ever thought possible about planning for my lifetime, so allow me to be your wise “Uncle Murray” this month. The “big picture” is actually not one image but more like a jigsaw puzzle, made up of all sorts of pieces, small and large, that together form your life. While those of you who chose to become business owners have a picture within the big picture called your business, each individual’s pieces should all fit together to form their life plan. It’s only after retiring that you […]
October 25, 2023

Finance 301: Chapter 22: Autopsy and Eulogy: Business Autopsy, Part II

Last month, I provided a postmortem of the most common causes leading to the death of a funeral business. Here, I share a few thoughts on eulogizing those firms. Funeral directors are mission-driven people, not profit-driven people. Just as a church can fail if its revenue does not exceed its expenses, so, too, can a funeral home. Unlike other for-profit businesses, funeral providers cannot generate more revenue by advertising or somehow “stimulating” business. At-need services cannot be driven. The death of many iconic businesses can be tied to technology. Do funeral homes face the same risk? Big-box retailers were hurt by technology, for example, and Amazon is now the independent-business killer that Walmart was accused of being 30 years ago. That said, Amazon can’t even deliver caskets in a timely manner, so I doubt it could handle cremation very well […]
October 25, 2023

What Happens When You Hit the End of the Road?

Owning a fully subscribed cemetery is not a good thing. In fact, no one wants to be the owner of a fully subscribed cemetery! City and state planners, being what they are, have made many mistakes when it comes to cemeteries. Crazy how that cemetery, which was planned to be on the farthest reaches of the city a century ago, now is located practically in downtown! How does that happen? Well, cemeteries are not mobile, of course. Once that land is consecrated, it is fixed. The city’s growth must grow around the cemetery, short of disinterring the cemetery. In my experience, managing what is now an “urban” cemetery is a great problem to manage. But the bigger issue is when that cemetery becomes fully subscribed and there are no interment rights to sell. State regulators planning for a cemetery usually […]
September 26, 2023

Finance 301: Chapter 21: Autopsy and Eulogy: Business Autopsy, Part I

In the last generation or so, the funeral industry has lost more than 2,000 funeral home rooftops – from about 22,000 to just under 20,000. How many more are on the brink of going under in the next decade? This month, I offer my assessment of why funeral home businesses die. Charles Darwin is well regarded as a naturalist and biologist, but his thought-provoking propositions dealing with evolution do not just apply to zoology. I believe they equally apply to economic matters. When it is too easy for people to make lots of money, a Darwinian “economic pall” will occur so that only the best and brightest can dominate the business landscape. In short, I think businesses must “migrate, mutate or die.” Some think prejudicially that cremation is a factor in funeral home failures. I disagree. Cremation is only the […]
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