August 6, 2020

Step 8: Alternative Services

What can you do to raise the revenue on each call you get?  In my professional lifetime, I’ve been exposed to many different types of businesses. Some were service, some manufacturing, some retail; I was even professionally acquainted with the casino industry for about three years (remember this, blackjack players, do not split sixes!). Most of my career, though, has focused on funeral service businesses and, comparatively, I can tell you there is no business more difficult to run. Every dynamic of running a funeral business is difficult. Marketing a funeral home is like marketing an intangible service, yet it has a high capital investment and a high fixed cost of operations. It’s more like operating a hospital than any other business. Revenue mix is going through a change in this profession as well. Thirty years ago, merchandise was about […]
July 17, 2020

A Polaroid Picture of Funeral Service Post Covid-19

Editor’s Note: This is the first article in a two-part series on the results of a survey The Foresight Companies commissioned on the effect COVID-19 has had on how consumers think of funeral service.  On Jan. 1st, we all thought Corona was a beer. Now, it is the virus that has killed so many, sickened so many more and indelibly struck at all aspects of our lives and livelihoods. It is a moment in our history more impactful than the Battle of Concord, the attack on Pearl Harbor and the multiple attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, all rolled up together. Funeral service stood tall during the initial outbreak. Many went into the hot zones to help the living care for their dead. Many worked long days for numerous weeks under conditions that were a risk to their own safety. This […]
July 17, 2020

HR Reality Check: Case Study #18

Scenario: James and Martha Smitherton own a funeral and crematory business in the northwestern United States, Smitherton Family Funerals and Cremations. Smitherton’s serve 240 families a year with a staff of three full-time licensed funeral directors/embalmers (James, Todd and Kimberly) and a part-time apprentice. They also employ a full-time office support person to assist Martha in the office. The rest of their staff consists of 18 part-time employees who are scheduled as needed and based on their availability. Both Todd and Kim have worked for the funeral home for several years, and while both have children, they are in high school and college. The recent pandemic has stretched the funeral home staffing resources rather thin as nonessential employees are sheltering at home per their state mandate. As a designated essential business, the funeral home continues to operate and provide services […]
July 17, 2020

Step 7: Preneed in the Age of Pandemic

COVID-19 has significantly impacted existing preneed agreements.  The editor of The Director, bless his heart, wanted 2020 to be a time of vision and planning, a year during which this magazine might help lay out the future of funeral service. Given that we’re neck deep in a pandemic, this year’s goal must be scrapped because of COVID-19 – and because Henny Penny has risen. In case you’re not familiar with her, Henny Penny is a chicken featured in a European folktale who believes the world is coming to an end and runs around saying, “The sky is falling!” (In the United States, you might know this story as Chicken Little.) Feeling a bit like Henny Penny as I write this, I’m slightly uncertain that I will live to see it published; people go from being alive and feeling fine to […]
July 17, 2020

Step 6: Building and Livery Investments

Some big decisions must be made on these major capital assets. To remind you, the goal of this year’s series of columns is to give you a new vision on every aspect of the management of your business. This month, I want to address the major capital assets – building and vehicles – used in the business. So, in light of our new forward thinking, allow me to pose four questions. Simply answer them in your mind as I’m working with a new AI software to tally these results. (After all, the financial decisions of many owners managing their businesses are made on artificial intelligence, aren’t they? I’m just on the cutting edge.) After answering the questions, you might either write the rest of this column for me or feel like you’ve read it without actually reading it. Here we […]
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