The late Winston Churchill said it best when he said, “Fear is a reaction; Courage is a decision.”
As we usher in a new year and what appears to be a new administration in power at the federal level, there is one certainty on the horizon…change! Some changes many hope to see include the eradication of the COVID-19 virus, elimination of masks and other restrictions, and the return of freedoms we all enjoy. Other changes bring worry and anxiety over the strong likelihood of increased income tax rates, including capital gain hikes, the effects of the rising minimum wage, and the potential for sweeping legislative changes that may negatively impact your business. Although we may not be able to alter the course of history moving forward, we do have the ability to choose whether to react with fear or to face life’s challenges with courage and conviction. If you are like me, you choose the latter not the former. So, what must we do to face the future with courage, especially with the uncertainties that still exist? Here are three simple steps for success.
Valuation of Business
Like the early explorers in search of the new world, we too must develop a plan of action that charts our course to our desired destination…the land of success! Now that we know our destination, we must be cognizant of our port of embarkation (a.k.a. starting point) of our journey. Why is this important? Because if we do not know where we are today, how can we know in what direction to head to reach where we want to be tomorrow? One of the best ways to acknowledge your starting point is with a valuation of your business by a professional who specializes in the funeral and cemetery industry. Your company is most likely the greatest asset in your portfolio, but unlike your stock portfolio, most business owners have no idea of the market value of this asset. Some may be thinking, I get monthly financial statements from my accountant or from QuickBooks, but your financial statements are simply a snapshot in time. They may show the current financial health (or illness) of your company, but they do not reflect the market value of your business. A valuation will provide you with a baseline for what your business is worth today, and it will serve as the foundation for building your future, whether that is continued growth, retirement, or sale. After all, every business will be sold or transferred at some point in its evolution.
In addition, given the recent pandemic, a valuation is even more important today. The recent 2020 Funeral Business Planning Survey conducted by Foundation Partners Group and the National Funeral Directors Association revealed that 56% of funeral business owners, age 55 and older, plan to retire in five years, and 25% plan to retire in two years. Alarmingly though, 78% of owners are either “still developing a plan” or “have no plan in place” with regards to succession planning. The good news for these owners, it is not too late to start now so you are in the best position when you are ready to sell or transfer your business.
Strategic Performance Analysis
Now that we know our starting point and our desired destination, the next step is to chart the course to get from where we are to where we want to be. When I think of strategic planning, especially in funeral service, I always think of Peter Drucker, the management expert once dubbed by Business Week as the ‘the man who invented management’, and his quote, “People in any organization are always attached to the obsolete – the thing that should have worked but did not, the things that once were productive and no longer are.” Letting go of the past can be difficult for many people but focusing on the future and what lies ahead is most rewarding. Developing a strategic performance plan is more than simply creating a budget for the coming year. It is about understanding your goals, your timeline, your marketplace, your competition, your advantages and disadvantages, and your financial position. Then, it is about developing a plan that benchmarks your company against industry standards on a national, state, and local level. It is also about measuring company performance to celebrate successes and address any areas of concern while you still have time to make course corrections.
At The Foresight Companies, our team of business analysts and industry experts stand ready to assist in creating a Strategic Performance Analysis that provides you the insights and confidence needed to pull the mooring lines and set sail on a brighter future. As Fritz Shoemaker, former CEO and author of a book on corporate emotional intelligence, shares “Either you run the business, or the business will run you.”
In keeping with the voyage theme of the article, you have used a valuation to determine where you are and where you want to go. You have charted a course to reach your destination using a Strategic Performance Plan, having released your lines you are afloat. Now you must decide, do you want to row the entire way, or should you hoist the sails and achieve greater speed to your destination? Hoisting the sails of customer experience will significantly impact the results you achieve in raising your sales. As a multitude of sources have shared, people buy on emotion and justify their purchase with logic. This is an important concept to understand because a well implemented customer experience will boost the emotional buy-in of your customer. Much like in real estate sales, your customer experience begins with your curb appeal and works its way in from there. In addition, how you handle phone inquiries, and now online inquiries, can significantly impact whether the inquirer becomes your customer or your competitor’s customer. The way in which your customer is greeted and the terminology your staff uses all make an impact on the buying process. As my father always preached, “you never get a second chance to make a great first impression.” It is important to remember that we are in the service business, but unlike many service businesses, we are selling a service no one wants to buy. That is important to remember because it changes the dynamics of the relationship. Over the years, many funeral colleagues of mine have implemented various services or programs into their funeral homes only to achieve lack luster results. Why? Because they modeled the program after a service that people wanted to buy rather than adapting it to fit a service that people do not want to buy. At The Foresight Companies, we provide industry experts who are well-versed in creating a winning customer experience program, whether it is training staff how to handle price shoppers, creating value statements that resonate with customers, or re-imaging facility design to complement your current services or add to your services to improve your bottom line results. We also teach your team members how best to handle complaints, turning those raging customers into raving fans. As Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, says “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”
No one can predict with certainty where the next year or more will take us. No one knows better than a funeral professional that we are not guaranteed a tomorrow. Therefore, it is imperative that you act today to begin your journey. Can you do it alone, without professional help? Perhaps, but I will leave you with this final thought, from Proverbs 13:20, “He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.”
If you are ready to implement these strategies in your business, or would like to learn more, contact me at John@TheForesightCompanies.com and our team will help you set sail.