Dan Isard

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 […]
August 28, 2023

Cemetery Operations Without the Benefit of Key Performance Indicators

In the June 2023 Memento Mori, I explained why no one has yet to develop Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for a cemetery. That doesn’t mean that cemeteries should wonder aimlessly in their operations, bumping into financial walls at each turn. Below are my management objectives for running a cemetery—with or without advance sales. Revenue Revenue is the key starting point of operations. You should not be confident that since you have plenty of lawn space that you are a well-run cemetery. Revenue is the key. More revenue is more beneficial than less. Revenue is driven by four items. These are: Sales of Merchandise Cemetery Service Revenue Endowment Care/Perpetual Care Trust (“EC/PC Trust”) Income Sales of Interment Rights In your bookkeeping, you should separate the At Need Sales Revenue from the Advance Sales Revenue. Each of the first three items above […]
August 28, 2023

Finance 301: Chapter 20: The Critical Importance of Being Your Own Best Example

The chemistry of funeral service is changing dramatically and I fear the profession is at the point of crossing the Rubicon, i.e., the point of no return. Funeral providers currently face declining funeral gathering rates, meaning they won’t need (and might not be able to afford) their 10,000-plus-square-foot buildings. Thus, the average revenue per call is declining because when a family doesn’t hold a gathering before the disposition, some five points of sale are eliminated from your general price list. Funeral service today is just that, a service. For you youngsters, prior to the early 1980s and the issuance of the Funeral Rule by the Federal Trade Commission, funeral homes were in the merchandise business. They sold the casket and all the other services – embalming, facility use, livery, etc. – were pretty much included in the price of the […]
July 27, 2023

Convincing Outsiders to Take the Leap

Being born into the deathcare business is the way that most of the owners and leaders of cemeteries and funeral homes chose their careers before 1970. Almost 75% of cemeteries or funeral homes were transferred from family member to family member. Families that wanted to increase the odds that the next generation would take over the business had large families. But family or not, those who chose to come into the cemetery business started in one of three career paths: outside, administration, or sales. If you were a kid who didn’t like sales, then it was either wear the outdoor uniform or sharpen your pencil. In thinking about the future, I am going to focus on the path to working with a cemetery more than on the path to working in the funeral services business. That said, it should be […]
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