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What is your funeral home business culture?  To define business culture; a set of similar and collective values, beliefs as well as attitude.  The culture of a funeral home has significant impact on just about every facet of the operation.  Culture is also a trained attribute…does your funeral home provide training at all?

The culture of a company is undeniably noticeable in other industry’s like the Ritz Carlton and Chic-fil-A brands.  Ritz with impeccable high end service and Chic-fil-A with value/friendliness “my pleasure” service. Interestingly, these two company examples vary widely in their pricing and customer base yet both accomplish the same goal: a definitive culture and a significant effort to provide consistent training on the subject.

In my funeral career I have  met with owners, managers and staff of over 1,000 funeral homes that conduct as little as 25 to over 130,000 annual cases, both public and privately owned.  I have been privy to strategic planning and executive level discussions about the approach that many funeral homes take to their business.  Frankly, almost all commonly desire to serve the family of a deceased person with compassion, dignity and respect.  But the culture  of funeral homes widely vary to these core tenets of funeral service.

What is your funeral home culture?  Here are some that I have observed:

  1. Perfunctory: Just getting the job done without much fanfare or creativity.  Staff going through the motions not overly friendly nor curt, but primarily waiting for their day off and paycheck. Data collection on the deceased (always around a table or from behind a desk), choose a casket, choose a vault, choose a service, choose a date, choose a time, thank you for choosing us.  This culture is akin to a bank teller line; “thank you for your deposit, next please!”
  2. Excessive: Over the top and oozing of obvious false compassion.  “We are your new best friend and family” which makes many people uncomfortable and suspicious of the intentions.  Perhaps the best analogy would be an overzealous car salesman or clerk at a clothing store that refuses to let you just shop.  “My mother drove a car like that, I love those shoes, I had a cousin in the military (I wanted too but I have fat ankles/asthma which means I can’t run), I was in the scouts, you remind me of my own family,  I love dogs, I love cats, I have a hamster too, blah, blah.”
  3. Tense:  As if the boss is going to give a predetermined amount of lashings if a mistake is made or someone would dare think out of the box.  This culture is certainly the “we’ve always done it this way” crowd that requires women (if any work there) to wear below knee length skirts, pantyhose and non-heeled ugly shoes.  No, the owners are not sexist because they don’t allow male personnel to take off their jackets to show off their white shirts at anytime (especially when the temperatures are desert-like because that would be deemed unprofessional).  This crowd can be best described as a cross between an Amish formal dinner and an ancient Monastery…can you feel the love and joy?
  4.  Relaxed:  At ease; comfortable yet professional.  No hurry yet cognizant of time, respectful but not too chatty, everyone seems comfortable in their own skin.  I suppose that this culture can be most notably like being at a great restaurant.

Of course all that read this will vehemently know that they fall into #4 and their competitors are all #1-#3 and I understand there are other forms of culture existent in our chock full of nuts funeral homes.   How would you describe your funeral home culture?

It’s nearly Christmas and I’d like to wish everyone a joyous time with your family along with hoping for a little peace (and quite) for you at your funeral homes…a little message from me and Mrs. Commander:

From the Command Post and fog of a 60 ring gauge cigar, Cheers Y’all! #thefuneralcommander

 

 

Payment Plan 2

This post is a continuation of the discussion I started in last week’s post Funeral Payment Plans for At Need regarding an epidemic of consumers that are struggling to pay for funeral expenses.  Determining if your firm needs a funeral payment plan to offer families you are serving requires a bit of research and math.  It’s a relatively simple exercise; however much like any program for improvement, the first step is to question if you have a problem.

Here is a quick way to determine if your firm should have a funeral payment plan:

  1. Look at the last 100 cases performed at your funeral home.
  2. On each goods and services statement, did you collect the exact amount for each item equal to the amount listed on your General Price List?
  3. No matter the reason is there a difference between collected/charged and listed price (was there a discount)?
  4. List the amount of difference per case and add the difference for all 100 cases.
  5. Do you have any accounts receivable (money owed from those services) over 30 days?
  6. Now add #4 and #5 together…what’s that number?

If there is any amount of money either discounted or owed to you, then you have a problem.  Your firm either gave something away (discounted) or you have not been paid for what your firm provided (goods & services receivables) which inhibits your cash flow (the lifeblood of a financially healthy funeral home).  I know that there are thousands of funeral directors out there that tout “we collect all our money up front before services rendered, period!”  Yeah, okay so why do you have accounts receivable and why did you discount from your GPL prices?

Now that you have determined and recognize that your firm has a problem, the second question is what are the steps/process for correction? This is a critical yet difficult part of the process; do you have the intestinal fortitude (noun: courage; resoluteness; endurance; guts) to make a change in your arrangement process and behavior?  Or in Funeral Commander terms can you grow a pair, take charge of your business and actually lead your people to the promise land of getting paid for the work you do?

The third question to ask yourself is how do I fix the problem?  Well, I have the answers with training and I’ll be rolling out a new suite of funeral payment plan solutions shortly with At Need Credit.  In the meantime, I challenge you to do the math above and send me an email jeff@theharbesongroup.com so we can initiate the conversation.

From the Command Post through a thick fog of smoke on the front lines in the war of funeral reality, Cheers Y’all!  #thefuneralcommander

 

 

 

at need payment

Funeral payment plans used to be an option for consumers pay funeral expenses that did not fund pre-need, had limited life insurance, cash or credit card balances.  The days of funeral homes offering in house payment plans have gone away with the sales of bronze and copper caskets.  Why?

Administering the process of billing, collecting and accounting is a colossal waste for the actual return of the revenue sought after.  Another reason is the age old “when the tears dry up so does the checkbook” theory of consumers failing to pay for funeral expenses over time.  Finally, the credit worthiness of consumers has dramatically shifted in a downward spiral due to continuing unemployment, falling home value and of course other negative economic pressures.

But these folks are dying too and funeral home owners are struggling to maintain a balance between offering services/products that family’s desire with getting paid for services rendered.  This dilemma is not new and I have written several posts At Need Payment PlansDon’t Ask the Kids to Pay, along with Is it About Honoring the Life or Paying the Bill?  This “underbelly issue” of the funeral home business is not being addressed and is one that will continue to grow as fast as the shift from burial to cremation.

Think I’m wrong about this?  Take a look at all of this years (2015) convention and meetings.  How many seminars were presented that shared how to deal with consumers that are financially struggling, how to bridge the gap between wants of families vs. revenue generation, or cash flow solutions for at need funerals?  Nope, we still are listening to the soothsayers and pundits blithering about “charge more/show more value,” “how to market your funeral home (with no measurable results),” along with other subjects that are basically repackaged from the last seminar offering nothing remotely important to serving the broke ass consumer (I threw that in just to see if anyone reads this far down and paying attention).

Over the coming weeks I’m going to further delve into this particular subject and offer solutions.  At this very time I am working with a team of lending experts and organizations to create new a suite of funeral payment plans that will be offered by At Need Credit with several choices of options that funeral directors may choose based on their particular needs.

The new roll-out will be in January and will include everything from offering payment plans to excellent credit consumers, poor credit rated consumers, billing opportunities to accounts receivable collection.  If you know me, it’s not just talking, it’s all about execution.  The Funeral Commander is “getting it done” for funeral payment plans. From the command post through the smoke of a fat maduro cigar, Cheers y’all! #thefuneralcommander

 

 

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