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Monthly Archives: November 2014

back homeThe Wall Street Journal just provided an interesting article Younger Generation Faces a Savings Deficit which outlines how the millennial generation is financially struggling.  Basically the economy has not been particularity kind to this group and due to many factors; they pretty much have no savings. Why is this an issue for the funeral industry?

We all know the millennial generation, for the most part are children of Baby Boomers.  And as we are also aware, Baby Boomers have not been the most fiscally responsible generation of all time.  Yep, we (Baby Boomers) are living longer which means we are spending more money on medical care to keep us alive and depleting our funds towards end of life. In many cases, we are still supporting our college educated millennials that have returned home in debt and unemployed (or underemployed working at low wage jobs with a high cost degree).  I am privy to daily inquiries for funeral funding of a relative that had no life insurance or made any provisions to pay for their own funeral, but relegate such to survivors.  It’s shocking to know that people actually say they have nothing, no funds to pay for their deceased loved one’s final expenses.

If the deceased left noting and their survivors are the generation depicted in the Wall Street article, how is your funeral home going to get paid?  Even more disturbing is the fact that millennials will most likely struggle to pay for a cremation out-of-pocket much less a funeral and all the cash advances like cemetery charges.  How does that affect the financial health of your funeral home?

I recently posted The Orchestra is Lovely regarding the bad news about Genesis Casket closing and indicators about the future of such companies.  If you are in the casket business and depending on millennials to buy caskets for their deceased Baby Boomers, the future is rather dim.  Another post from earlier this year Is it About Honoring the Life or Paying the Bill? reiterates the facts regarding how funeral homes are facing an increasing consumer base in financial difficulty.

Whats the good news?  We all have time to make smart decisions and choices to meet the changing demographics of funeral consumers.  A thorough analysis of operating costs, processes and re-engineering of how our funeral home operates is essential for not only growth, but survival.  I am fortunate to have “the secret sauce” with a team of real professionals that essentially function on “continuous improvement.”   There are some great consultants that will provide you and your firm the due diligence, solutions and oversight necessary to meet this tide of change.  I can attest they are not the ones hawking “new and improved” caskets (not to mention all the other goodies in their bag like websites, urns and funeral toilet paper), but consultants that actually know what a robust and healthy funeral home P&L should contain.

Want more insight?  Send me a message and I’ll gladly offer you some ideas of who can help you and how to prepare for the what lies ahead. From the Command Post: Cheers y’all! #thefuneralcommander

 

2Lt. Jeff Harbeson, 1984

2Lt. Jeff Harbeson, 1984

It’s the eve of Veterans Day 2014 and this particular day of honor, I become even more patriotically emboldened regarding our great Country.  Yes, I am a flag waving believer in the foundations and Veterans that provide us the freedoms we enjoy.  On Sunday, I was watching a news show and the CEO of Starbucks and author of the book For Love of Country, Howard Schultz was being interviewed.  Mr. Schultz said “Two and a half million extraordinary young men and women have served for the last ten, 15 years in an all-volunteer service. As a result of that, most of America, 98% have not had real skin in the game. We need to have a conversation, be empathetic, be understanding, and do everything we possibly can across the country, in rural America and every town, to hire a veteran.”

His phrase “skin in the game” really struck me and I consider his words profoundly honoring to all Veterans.  To have “skin in the game” one must give something of value and take a risk of achieving a goal.  Yes there are rewards for having skin in the game, but the risk of losing the skin that you put in the game is a real possibility as well.   Our Americans  with real skin in the game come from every walk of life, ethnic group, and from the poorest to the most wealthy zip codes.  But here is the underlying difference between our Veterans and everyone else; they volunteer to put their skin in the game.  They raise their right hand and swear that they will actually support and defend our way of life, even if it means giving their own life.  A US Veteran is anyone that took the oath and not exclusive to combat duty; if they served under this promise, they had “skin in the game.”  Below is the oath:

“I (name), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will be true faith and allegiance to the same, and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and The Uniform Code of Military Justice.  So help me God.”

Our Nation is grateful for the sacrifice and we have a national debt to honor our commitments for Veteran recognition, education and health care.  Our history is our history because of Veterans.  Upon returning from duty after World War II, Veterans used their skills, work ethic and education opportunities to build what we now know as the middle class.  Since then, nothing has changed because our young Veterans today have even better skills with an understanding of hard work and commitment; they deserve to be first in line for the job, period.

Please watch this video by USAA:  Especially on Veterans Day, when you see a Veteran, step up and thank them for their service.  After all, they put their skin in the game for you and your family.

Hunter HarbesonI have respect for those that served before me, alongside me and serve today.  I am proud that over the years my family put skin in the game to make this Country great and we are still doing so today with my oldest son’s service. From an old Veteran; to all of my fellow Vets that also put their skin in the game, my salute to you and my undying support, So help me God. From the Command Post:  Cheers y’all!  #thefuneralcommander

5th yearRecently I started receiving emails and notifications from LinkedIn congratulating me on my work anniversary of 5 years.  I’m pretty staunch about remembering important dates especially after being married 30 years, but frankly I had to look at what the salutary messages were referring to as an anniversary.  Just a short 5 years ago, I left the “security” of a big company to become an entrepreneur; what a journey it has been and continues to be!

I personally believe, “a vision is only a dream without execution.”  I had a vision of an operating platform for a funeral home developed with Six-Sigma principles; a new way of operating and adapting to meet the changing consumer demands of caring for their deceased loved ones.  The vision 5 years later is being executed; 2 locations in competitive markets serving over 300 families a year led by team of associates that earn a good living because our culture dictates and supports their efforts for success.  The dream at times was a nightmare.

Starting a funeral home from scratch has it’s unique challenges.  One just doesn’t walk into a lending institution, share your vision and get your capital for startup, but if you have a compelling story people will invest in you.  A lesson I learned in the military; Officers eat last.  Basically a leader makes sure his troops are cared for above his own needs; as an entrepreneur associates often may get a paycheck when you don’t.  You just can’t walk into Verizon or sign leases, etc. to open a new business account without significant deposits (or as I see it, betting against your failure).  Of course we received the typical competitive “the bit dog yelps” rhetoric from many especially the “we have been serving since Sherman burned down the South” crowd, however I also had the pleasure of a threatened lawsuit “making sure I did not violate my non-compete.”  Yes, apparently I had a good idea because we had quite the attention from our local purveyors of funerals, but now the Toby Keith song “How Do You Like Me Now” is playing in my head as I write this.

“My failure gave me strength, may pain gave me motivation”- Michael Jordan.  Not all of the visions could be executed.  There are days when defeat and self doubt are the thought of the day.  Such days are where I found out what I was really made of; do I practice what I preach to my sons and everyone else on the planet about perseverance, effort and resilience, or throw on the proverbial towel?  When one of the initiatives does not work out, I know that my detractors find glee, but my fans wonder, “what is he going to come up with next?”  Determination, intellectual curiosity and the ability to connect with people breeds opportunity.  I am a living example.

“None of us is as smart as all of us”-Ken Blanchard.  I know what I don’t know and I am certain of what I do know.  I am blessed to have a business mentor Buddy Watson along with partners like Steve Zittle and Chris Tharp that I continue to seek guidance about many things “out of my wheelhouse.” After literally “burning my boat at the shore” in the funeral industry, I have developed relationships from professionals like Frank Immordino, Ryan Thogmartin, Kate Hamilton, Ryan Lehto, Simon Rothwell and Francine Trendler that spurred more visions which are now being executed internationally.

Interesting that this week, 5 years later I was so busy and excited “executing my vision” that I failed to even notice my anniversary of becoming a funeral industry entrepreneur.  Today, I am at the pinnacle of all the cumulative successes, failures and lessons over a business lifetime launching a life changing business.  Lives of consumers, our team and our families will be better from this journey I embarked upon 5 years ago.  In essence, Happy Anniversary to Me…it’s only going to get better.  This path is not for everyone, but it is for me, thank God for the blessings along the way.  From the Command Bunker, Cheers Y’all! #thefuneralcommander

 

 

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