Serious Funeral Home Barriers to Success

What are the top three obstacles funeral homes are facing that challenge their success? The seriousness of this question muddled with chatter about all sorts of unimportant blither; car model/style, which embalming fluids are best, pants, skirts or white shirts, discounters, direct disposers, the funeral consumers alliance, showing/not showing prices on websites, have a talk, talk about someone else, casket color, urn type, which organization to join, corporates, family owned, and so on. It’s time to address important matters, initiate solutions and take action.

Declining revenue and profit is placing severe pressure on the overall funeral home market. To make course corrections a funeral home has three options:

  1. Raise prices.
  2. Increase market share (conduct more calls).
  3. Cut costs.

Perhaps a combination of all three are necessary, however firms require a complete professional analysis of overheads, pricing and operations.  Identify gaps, create new processes, train staff to follow the specific processes, and measure results. Measurement and training are ongoing, not an annual event. This is quite a simple solution; however the majority of funeral home owners lack the will and ability to make this type of commitment to hold everyone employed in the business accountable including themselves.

Embedded in the solution of re-calibrating financial stability is training. Let me be clear, there is a difference in education and training.  The funeral industry plays patty-cake with training funeral directors post school and license testing. There are no ongoing or relevant pass/fail requirements once a director finishes school and national/state testing.  For the most part the CEU’s offered and presented are a serious waste of time. We all know the truth: sit through the class, sign an affirmation of attendance for credit, and return to the funeral home doing the same old thing the same old way.  There is not one problem in the funeral industry that could not be corrected by training.  Training is behavior modification.  Don’t think so? A young 18 year old man fresh out of high school is trained in the military and in a short few years work on gazillion dollar equipment leading two or three more under his supervision.  In five years the same young man is leading five to ten people with multiples for the future.  Training change everything, however it’s non-existent in regular funeral home operations or priorities.

Management abounds and leadership is rare.  Many owners rather be liked than respected simply refusing to demand behavior modifications of the very people that receive checks from their own funeral home payroll. Most owners do not possess the ability or wherewithal to “take the bull by the horns” of their own business.  They are too cheap, prideful or embarrassed to raise their hand asking for help from professionals that have the acumen to provide analysis, solutions, training (behavior modification), measurement and accountability.

A funeral home can overcome barriers by analysis, implementation, training, measurement and leadership. The seriousness of the problems above are evident in P&L statements, national statistics (consumer trends) and the continued decline or funeral revenues. I solicit comments, opinions and of course refute of the content of this post.  From the smoke filled Command Post, Cheers Y’all! #thefuneralcommander


  1. So let me see if I got this right. Are you suggesting that self-appointed generals go back and cycle through funeral service boot camp? (rhetorical question). Good luck. Many would prefer to shuffle off into the sunset than admit they don’t know something.


  2. Jeff Harbeson said:

    I am laughing at “self appointed generals” Hilarious. thanks Ray!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Howard Beckham said:

    It is amazing that funeral homes owners and managers have expectations from their staff and NEVER implement any effective training program for staff to met and exceed expectations. This would never happen in a PROFESSIONAL organization, such as a ball team, military unit, but it happens all to often with funeral homes (among other businesses).


  4. Anonymous said:

    ….I thought it was just me…and look at the price we pay for CEU’s. As far as I’m concerned we buy them. Proper training and leadership, would possibly eliminate your employee from becoming your competitor, simply out of respect. Unfortunately many owners are not leading because they haven’t been trained. Thank you for sharing.


  5. Jeff Harbeson said:

    Expect what you inspect and if you don’t train, you cant admonish because no standard exists. Thanks for reading Howard!


  6. Jeff Harbeson said:

    Someone: it’s a sad commentary that there is not a distinction between education and training. Thanks for reading and engaging on The Funeral Commander blog. Please like my Facebook page and follow me on Twitter! @thefuneralcmdr Cheers! Jeff


  7. yve said:

    How about addressing the situation of managers taking on more work than they have resources to do? I have first-hand knowledge about overworked funeral directors who are expected to work 80+ hours because management can’t/won’t hire additional resources. Not a way to run a business!


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