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Monthly Archives: August 2015

analogy P or p

A few days ago while assisting Mrs. Commander at the grocery store, there was a shortage of “baggers” that normally place our purchases into bags at checkout. Of course being the man of action that I am (Mrs. Commander issued a command), I jumped into position and began performing the bagging myself.  As you read this post, here is where you insert “well, you have finally found something that matches your talent” comments.  I’m old enough to remember when all the groceries were placed in paper bags which meant if something leaked or if it was raining, the bags disintegrated and the contents would spill out.

As our society changed, someone invented the plastic shopping bag that eliminated the leaking/disintegrating problems.  Additionally, the plastic bag also was less expensive to manufacture and I recall something about saving trees making the plastic bags environmentally better.  During this time of transition, we were asked “paper or plastic” by the bagging staff at most grocery stores…remember?

The environmental superiority of the plastic bag took a turn for the worse as they do not fare well in trash dumps and identified as a litter hazard.  Then, in some states, the paper and plastic bags were “outlawed” or taxed.  A consumer must purchase an environmentally friendly bag for repeated use or reuse the plastic they had from “days of yore.”

If you read this blog, you know that I am one that enjoys providing analogies about the funeral industry (see Funeral Directors: Are You Practicing Basic Blocking and Tackling Skills and The Hotel and Funeral Industry: What Can We Learn?).  There was a time (not so long ago) that we all went to the funeral home and it was assumed that we would have a burial (just like we got paper bags at the grocery store).  At some point, and perhaps about the same time we started getting the question “paper or plastic,” consumers increased their ask for cremation rather than burial while at the local funeral home.  Just like the transition from paper to plastic, cremation is becoming the preferred choice over burial for consumers.  Consumers are shopping online for their funeral needs and DIY choices are becoming popular (just like bring your own bags to the grocery store to “save the environment”).  Not only are consumers not pining for the paper bags, but some are not even going to the local grocery store (ordering online and grow your own)!  See the shift?

Unfortunately as a whole, our industry is still acting like we are going to have a huge comeback to the paper bag era.  The casket companies continue to try convincing the sheep that “paper will never go out of style” offering useless contracts, taking up valuable funeral home space with “showrooms” (Hallmark stores…how well are they doing?), and of course charging more/discounting more, etc. etc.  Consumers are flocking in droves to the internet for information, yet few funeral homes post any pricing forcing the consumer to either call or “stop by” if they want information. I have asked this question many times; if you were shopping online and the website had no pricing information, what do YOU do?

Our society is continuing to change for many reasons including diffusion and views about how we treat our dead is certainly noticeable.   What is your funeral home doing to transition from “paper to plastic?”  From the desk of The Funeral Commander, Cheers Y’all! #thefuneralcommmander

block and tackle

Basic Blocking & Tackling Practice

I have once again survived the drought that begins at the end of the Super Bowl and finally starts sprinkling this time of year…ITS FOOTBALL SEASON!  From little boys to professionals, pre-season practices and scrimmages are abundant preparing for official kick off.  Whether a 6 year on the field for the first time to the seasoned pro veteran, everyone works on the basics of blocking and tackling.  So why don’t funeral directors have regular “practice” on the basics?

Just recently, I was part of a training exercise at a large volume funeral home.  The training focus was for phone discussions with consumers whether they were a shopper, pre-planning or at-need inquiry.  This part of a funeral director’s job is rarely practiced, monitored much less honed.  The engagement with callers is critical to the success of funeral homes as the conversation between the funeral director and inquirer can determine if the firm is selected for services.

Fortunately for this particular funeral home, their leadership understands and provides directors regular relevant training for various aspects of a funeral directors job.   However, with certainty I know that training is the exception rather than the rule for a vast majority of funeral homes.  As an owner or director, have you ever wondered why business is slow, your firm is losing market share to others or the revenue per call is in a downward spiral?  A coach on the sidelines sees when his offense consistently jumps off-sides, missed tackles, fumbles, interceptions and so on.  What is the difference in the approach to the problems?  Training, practice and coaching.

Funeral homes have sidelined their “players” by not offering regularly scheduled meaningful training.  Unfortunately the industry has created a mess for funeral directors educationally.  Once graduated from Mortuary School, the only “training” that is offered for funeral directors come from CEU’s or seminars.  CEU’s are mandated, however often provide no practicum (with the exception of regulatory classes) and none have a pass/fail requirement.  Basically, just attending is the standard.  As for seminars, the majority of directors are not privy to such because the firm leadership/owners usually attend.  Thus, “the field” is full of players with no practice for a game plan with potential for devastating losses.

Solutions?  First, funeral home leadership must recognize that training/practice is a solution to literally every challenge.  Second, find an experienced/credible coach and program for training.  There are “consultants” that make a lot of money prolonging the problems by not producing measurable results…many that never even “played the game” and don’t own a team.  A casket rep training YOU on how to handle phone calls…pathetic!  Finally, be determined.  Successful teams build programs with consistency; not fancy plays, a star player or gimmicks.

TIME OUT!  I’m working with an experienced team of funeral professional training “coaches” and I we would like to have conversation with you about your thoughts/ideas for training at your funeral home.  Visit G2 Funeral Group http://www.g2funeralgroup.com, email stevez@g2funeralgroup.com or contact me.  Don’t forget to like my Facebook Page http://www.facebook/thefuneralcommander and follow me on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/thefuneralcmdr From the desk of The Funeral Commander, Cheers Y’all! #thefuneralcommander

Tough Discussion

Association Discussion; Opening A Can of Worms

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak and present a CEU session to a group of funeral professionals of a state funeral organization at their annual convention. The audience was great with excellent discussions and engagement.  What I found perplexing was there was another funeral organization, from the same state, meeting at the same time a few blocks away.  I’m going to address what appears to be obvious and initiate a conversation that may “open a can of worms.”

Why is there two organizations with common issues and needs meeting at the same time, in the same city, but separately? For that matter, why are there so many organizations that are so similar yet choose to segregate themselves?  In Virginia alone, there are 3 state funeral director organizations that all are autonomous with their own conventions/meetings, staff, memberships and money spent. With all the scrutiny that we face by the news media, consumers, governmental and regulatory agencies; is all the segregation really the best portrait of funeral directing?

It’s 2015 and on the surface, one would think, gasp…that some of the organizations are divided by race.  Okay I said it…so, now refute it.  I am also aware of local “funeral director organizations” that are actually part of state associations that will not allow certain competitive funeral homes to join. Yes, licensed funeral homes are not allowed to participate.  I personally have knowledge of firms that are refused membership. What’s your take?

Not long ago I was a vendor and working the convention schedule in a few different states.  In some cases, the dates overlapped but in all cases the money spent to register, display, stay, eat and entertain was pretty much equal.  The company I worked for began scaling back budgets for state conventions because of escalating costs, lack of ROI and dwindling need to physically display because of new technology for messaging of products or services.  But at each convention, pretty much the same vendors and programs were provided.  The differentiation was the staff running the convention, location, people in attendance and non-essential time activities.  Make sense to you?

As for national organizations, one does not have to conduct in-depth research to surmise that the secondary tier organizations are struggling. It’s all about resources and value to the membership.  If a “one stop shop” organization offers CEU’s (education/training), legislative representation (advocacy), cremation resources (education/training) and a well presented annual convention which has a tremendous expo/trade show, why do the other “second tier” organizations even exist? What’s your take?

Just a few days ago, one second tier organization touted “breaking attendance records” at their recent annual gathering.  A breakdown of the “participants” shows that less than 1/3 are actual funeral directors and the rest of the attendees are comprised of vendors, spouses or kids.  Great spin, but the reality is that this type of “national organization” is drawing less than some state conventions.

What are your thoughts about all the different organizations that for the most part have a common purpose of representing the funeral profession? There are organizations that have excellent positive impact for education and influence, and others that seem to be more fraternity in nature. For sake of discussion, what are your thoughts of how we as an industry best should be represented…collectively with a strong and cohesive voice or segmented?

Don’t shoot the messenger, I’m just stating the obvious (as usual) and addressing what seems to be a colossal waste of resources. Cheers y’all!  #thefuneralcommander

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