Finance Column Collection

January 23, 2023

Finance 301: Chapter 13: Three Business Resolutions to Make Now

The first funeral home profit and loss statement I ever saw showed that the firm had spent $30,000 on “escort services.” Back then, my immediate, uninformed reactions were, “That’s not deductible!” and “What a pervert!” I have grown smarter in the past 40 years, and my goal now is to leave this profession smarter and better prepared for the future than it was when I first encountered it in 1985. On New Year’s Eve, as we toast to auld lang syne, we often promise to all within earshot our forthcoming resolutions to do better. Thus, we might promise to lose weight, be a more caring spouse, not curse as much and other superficial things. On New Year’s morning, however, while eating our third doughnut, defending ourselves from the criticism of our spouse for eating three doughnuts and cursing the jelly […]
December 19, 2022

Finance 301: Chapter 12: Taxation Basics

As a new business owner, the first decisions you must make involve taxes. In most cases, however, you will feel so elated during your first days of ownership that you’ll just abdicate those decisions to your accountant and/or lawyer. Then, someday in the future, you will read an article, like this one, and wonder to yourself, “Hmm…” You therefore clip the article and send it to your accountant and/or lawyer. They, in turn, give you a long-winded explanation as to why the author of that article is wrong. Or, worse, they will write to the author and tell him why he is wrong. Please, save your breath and your typing fingers. I am not wrong. Here are the taxation basics you need to know. Decision One: Business Entity There are several ways businesses can be classified for tax purposes. The […]
November 21, 2022

Finance 301: Chapter 11: Marketing to Your Friends and Adversaries

I entered this business when your grandparents were running it. Back then, it was easy to market a funeral home: go to Rotary meetings (or other social organizations) weekly, attend church services each weekend, park your cars in the parking lot each day after washing them, and wait for the phone to ring. Ah, the good old days. There was really very little to call acrimonious about your marketing efforts then (other than that stupid competitor down the road) because the issues that mattered to families were their religion, where their family was buried and which firm had served them in the past. I remember a study we conducted on funeral market share in the late 1980s. We found that a town’s “churched percentage” was the same as the number of people who knew which funeral home they would use. […]
October 24, 2022

Finance 301: Chapter 10: One Critical Question

As you might imagine, when planning my scheduled columns so many months in advance, I keep them organized using the Dewey Decimal System and color coding. This allows me to write something in January that will be published in April and read in May, thus making my editor happy. Well, everything was running smoothly until NFDA published its 2022 Cremation and Burial Report, which ruined my nice, orderly life! Now, even though my life is upended, I have no desire to ruin yours. Therefore, before you read another word of this column, stop and get a copy of this report. It’s free for NFDA members. If you’re not an NFDA member, you have two options: Steal a copy from a friend who is a member or pay the nominal fee to get your own. Why? Because I think this NFDA […]
September 28, 2022

Finance 301: Chapter 9: Trust But Verify

As this column has been memorializing the key points of knowledge I have acquired and want to pass on to you, here’s another to remember: Nothing prevents problems better than writing things down. I have found that many life-changing matters can occur when business owners, employees or both go on nothing more than a handshake and their memory. President Ronald Reagan summed it up when he repeated an old Russian proverb: “Trust but verify.” Now, I am not an attorney, so I am not giving legal advice here. I have been a business owner for 40 years, however, as well as an employer, expert witness in more than 100 cases and one who has paid for a few points of litigation, so I have learned a few things about the law. In my experience, I tend to see funeral directors […]
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