What are we doing to the next generation of funeral directors?

arms I have had recent conversations with several young funeral directors  about their future.  These were both male and female, legacy (those that  their family owns the firm) along those that are employees.    Interestingly, the majority of their visions of the future were similar and  mostly dependent on where they are currently positioned; legacy, employee, corporate owned or family owned.

The common theme was their leaders/managers rarely solicit their ideas or viewpoints of how, if they had an opportunity, would improve upon different subjects.  I don’t think this issue is strictly a funeral home occurrence as “junior associates” in many industries such as banking, legal and such fare the same.  From my personal experiences, I am excited to listen to fresh perspectives from newly licensed or apprentice directors.  Our particular brand had greatly benefitted in such areas as use of technology, our proprietary arrangement process and other operational aspects.

The most concern I have from these conversations, even from legacy directors, was the lack of excitement for their future.  When these bright minded and aptly educated directors aren’t engaged in a culture that is propagating continuous improvement, why would they be excited?  Basically, the notion of doing their job, following the mundane routines of a funeral director and long hours should suffice.  I always ask “if you were in charge, or you could start your own firm, what would you do” and I get a litany of ideas.  These folks are thinking and have interesting perspectives. 

My favorite question is “would you like to own a funeral home” and most answer that it would be impossible…which bothers me the most.  I’m afraid we are losing the entrepreneurial spirit with our next generation of directors.  In many cases, they face an uphill battle.  Securing the capital to purchase  is difficult enough and funds for a startup funeral home stepping out on their own are even harder.

So as a matter of conversation, from “tenured” funeral directors to those at the beginning of their career, what are your thoughts?  Are we providing our next generation with enough engagement to maintain their interest or squashing their spirit? 


  1. Jeff, as always I feel that you are sitting in our office meetings. I am proud to have 22 staff members that I am working with and setting them up not only to help me succeed but to allow them to grow in all aspects of this industry. It would be a huge compliment to be able to compete against one of them some day. I feel that the concept of low pay added to the concept of virtual funeral homes, only cheapens the Funeral Director as well as the process. My company is better for having them on my team and I believe that they are better for being a part of our company.


  2. Jeff Harbeson said:


    First, thank you for sharing and commenting. Secondly, I am so glad to hear that you “lead your troops” in the manner you describe. When I had the opportunity in the Army to choose my subordinate leaders, I always sought after better, brighter and ones that would challenge me. Please share with me more about your firms…



  3. Jeff,

    I feel like you were summarizing one of the many conversations we have had in the past, and I think it is great that you have opened it up to everyone on your site. I hope that more people respond as I would love to hear what their thoughts regarding the subject matter. Being a 35 year old newlywed and 5th generation funeral director, I can say that you represented my sentiments perfectly and for that, I thank you.




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