If your funeral home has accounts receivable, your payment policy is worthless. The funeral director in charge of arrangements perpetuates the problem and owners are guilty of holding anyone accountable with a lack of leadership. As a funeral business consultant, I can quickly diagnose the situation by studying the A/R and role playing as a family member in an arrangement session. Fortunately, I have the solution to fix the cash flow problem; however the decision lies squarely on the shoulders of funeral home ownership.
Why is the decision so difficult for funeral home owners to make a commitment to improve their cash flow and significantly reduce their accounts receivable? By doing so it’s an admission that their arrangers care less and are unaccountable. Owners would rather scramble to make ends meet (because cash flow is suffering) than actually take charge of their business by changing behavior of funeral directors. Additionally, there is a cost for professionals to conduct adequate training. Professional training solves cash flow and other funeral home operations problems, yet owners rarely seek training as a source. Rather they create knee-jerk processes with no accountability or device to measure success or failure. Ultimately, the inmates are running the asylum.
A working payment policy is predicated on use of the GPL and offering payment options near the beginning of the arrangement session. “Talking about the money” should not be put off until the goods and services statement is provided at the end of the arrangements. Ever wonder why families must take a bathroom or smoke break when the goods and services statement comes out? It’s because the funeral director failed to do his or her job by addressing the second most important issue for a family (right behind the death of a loved one); “How are we going to pay for this?”
If a funeral home has accounts receivable, the payment policy isn’t working and neither are the funeral directors. Don’t like it? Do something about it and make a damn decision, or just continue the failure to collect the funds needed to make payroll.
Back and refreshed from cigars, libations, great food and time with my family at the Command Post (East), Cheers Y’all! #thefuneralcommander
As a funeral consultant, I interact with at least 25 funeral home owners on a typical week and through social media I’m in contact with hundreds of funeral directors. When I ask, “What’s the biggest challenge you face in the funeral profession?” almost on key I hear, “cremation is killing us.” Cremation is by no means the major challenge we are experiencing, it’s our failure of “doing the business of the business.”
Let me explain by asking questions.
- Cremation is a disposition. As such, funeral directors have the same opportunity to embalm as burial. Why doesn’t that conversation take place during cremation arrangements?
- Why do burial families pay full price for basic service fee and cremation families get a discount on the exact services performed?
- Why doesn’t every family receive a complete presentation for disposition of cremated remains including interment, scatter, keep, urn, and jewelry options?
- Why don’t funeral homes get paid in full or secure payment prior to signing a goods and services contract?
- Why don’t funeral directors train on their profession (not CEU) weekly to improve their skills (like the four questions above)?
- Why do funeral home owners pay accountants that give them a P&L statement and balance sheet but no advice on how to increase their profit?
Take a moment and answer these questions honestly. It’s not cremation; put some mirrors up in the funeral home and you’ll see the problem.
From the Command Post (West), Cheer’s Y’all! #thefuneralcommander
The answer, “We’ve always done it that way.” The question, “What do funeral home owners say when their market share is declining, profits are dwindling, and business in a downward spiral?” Really?! Can’t we agree that, by definition, this is insanity – doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results? Wake The Funeral up!
I am continuously astounded when I talk with funeral home owners and listen to their reluctance to address the real problems they are facing in their businesses. “I just don’t think I can get our directors to do that” and “It’s never worked in the past” are common laments. Both statements indicate that the Inmates are running your asylum. You may be in worse shape than you think!
At some point you are going to want to sell or transfer your business and the value is going to be less than you expect. Lackadaisical leadership (aka poor business management) is the root cause of funeral home financial failure. Even more interesting is that owners know they have problems but fail to hire professionals to resolve issues. If you are a funeral home owner and your profit margin is less than 8%, you have no Human Resources manual or consistent training for your staff, and you have any accounts receivable over 60 days: I AM TALKING TO YOU!
I find it amusing that you, funeral home owners, consistently opine, “People now-a-days just don’t plan and find themselves in a mess scrambling to pay when death occurs.” Funny thing, Mr./Ms. Funeral Home Owner, you are just as bad. Take a look at your profit margin, accounts receivable, cremation vs. burial revenues, and market share. Are you planning for what’s ahead or just doing the same thing you have always done?
Snap out of it! The first step in getting well is to acknowledge something is wrong. Congratulations if you’ve done so – you’re half way there. Now, get well! Raise your hand and ask for help. From the Command Post (West) in the cigar bunker, Cheers Y’all! #thefuneralcommander
I have trained thousands of funeral directors in my tenure and hearing I don’t like to talk about money from some always gets a reply from me: “Well, then your funeral home owner shouldn’t deposit your salary into your bank account since money is so distasteful to you.” Now hear this! It’s your job to talk about the money! The FTC provides you with a document that actually has numbers on it; it’s called a General Price List. The GPL is not a general services list or a memoir of the history of your funeral home. It’s about the MONEY!
Why don’t funeral directors like to talk about the money? A few excuses come to mind. The first, “I just do this as a ministry.” No problem, I’ll donate your earnings to the charity of your choice. Another, “I don’t want to upset the family when they are experiencing such a difficult time.” It’s your job, Skippy. Do you think that families show up thinking the funeral is gratis? (That’s free for y’all in West Virginia.) Still yet, “I’m here to serve and the money will take care of itself.” Yes, you are here to serve. However, it’s your responsibility to make sure the family knows the costs of their chosen goods and services as well as what options are available for payment…otherwise, are you going to make them guess?
The FTC makes it easy for funeral directors because it mandates (not asks, not suggests) that the General Price List be presented to a family prior to engaging in the selection of services and products. Do me a favor; open up a GPL (you know, the leather bound, embossed folder with old English lettering and the dove on the front cover). Take a look at the descriptions of services and then note the $ symbol with numbers next to it. That set of symbols and numbers notates the prices; you know…how much your firm charges people for services or products.
It’s worth repeating. The FTC mandates that you share this document, the General Price List, with each and every family you serve. What makes you think that you shouldn’t talk about THE PRICES? Are you ashamed of what your firm charges? Are you scared to actually do your job? Do you think you’re doing the family a favor by keeping them in the dark? Are you making a choice to be out of compliance with the FTC? What is your reluctance? Please, help me understand!
By the way, I have the “secret sauce” of how to talk about the money with families. And guess what? Everyone pays and we have $0.00 accounts receivable. From the Command Post (West), Cheers Y’all! #thefuneralcommander
With cash flow solutions being my primary emphasis in my consulting business for at need services, I am continually confounded when I learn that a funeral home does not utilize an insurance factoring company. As many know, I pretty much believe in the “I’m not going to tell you to go to hell. I’m going to tell you the truth and it feels like hell.” The truth: Wasting in-house resources (time, personnel, effort, and overhead) to collect insurance is ridiculous. Now, you may not feel like hell, but you may feel unenlightened and marginally distraught.
If you don’t know how this works, please allow me to enlighten you, and in the process, offer your the families you serve, you, peace and payment! When a family presents you a life insurance policy for the deceased, you may tell the family member that you will accept the policy to pay for their loved one’s funeral expenses. However, the policy must be valid, non-contestable and the beneficiaries must assign the funds necessary to pay for the expenses to the funeral home. Tracking so far?
At this point, you also inform the family that your firm has engaged a company that will confirm the viability of the policy, accept assignment, and pay your funeral home the proceeds directly. If the policy has more funds than what is needed for funeral expenses, the company will send funds to the family in about 4-6 weeks. The fee for this transaction is .0x% and that fee will be taken from the life insurance proceeds. So, by using this process, your loved one has provided you a gift of life insurance to pay for their funeral expenses and it is a cashless event…no money out of pocket.Peace.Payment.
I can hear the rumbling and grumbling from the unenlightened. “I don’t want to charge a family a fee.” Let me ask this question, Skippy: “Why not?” At best, Miss Edna is going to make several phone calls to insurance companies trying to track down your money…yes, it’s your money. Why are you going to wait the customary 3-4 weeks for your money? The family will pay for the convenience and relief of a “cashless event.” Oh, another question, Skippy:“Have you ever conducted the service, buried the casket or cremated the body prior to learning that the policy is not viable?” Brilliant. Now Miss Edna is on the phone trying to get the firm paid and guess what the family will tell you: “We don’t have that kind of money.” Miss Edna just has to become a collection agent because you refuse to use common sense and sound business practices.
Peace and payment for both you and the family. The family will pay the fee, certain they wont have unexpected bill later; you will get paid with surety and faster. If the policy is declined, you know immediately and deal with it before the service. Read what I rant and write, DO NOT SIGN A FUNERAL CONTACT UNTIL PAYMENT IS SECURED!
This is one of many steps in the business of doing business that will keep your firm in a $0.00 accounts receivable status. Yep, I’m smoking a 6×6 Maduro blowing a thick cloud of smoke on the observation platform of the Command Post (West). Cheers Y’all! #thefuneralcommander
The three “R’s” will literally poison a funeral home; Human Resources, Accounts Receivable and ‘Rithmatic. I recently attended The Foresight Companies funeral boot camp where my fellow recruits and I were provided an in-depth look at our funeral homes. During the three days of training, it became glaringly obvious that the vast majority of funeral homes are just a lawsuit, failed collection or miscalculation away from serious problems.
Human Resources: Does your firm have a Human Resources professional on staff or on retainer? If not, here is an example of the poison I’m referring to that will make you spit out your coffee this morning. Perhaps you are a funeral home owner that crowns managers making them “exempt from overtime” so that you can go to your beach house and not work weekends. Yet the manager isn’t authorized to fire the funeral director that goes to the big church replacing them with a much better intern; and/or if said crowned manager cannot give the employee under their command a raise, you are in big trouble if DOL (Dept. of Labor) knocks on your door. The classification of “non-exempt employee” according to the US Department of Labor includes several more specific parameters such as managing two or more employees (mere supervision doesn’t count), and the authority to hire and fire, or establish compensation. In fact, the DOL can make your funeral home DOA pretty quickly over an overtime dispute. There are many more facets of HR that can poison your firm; these are just a few examples. Beware.
Accounts Receivable: Unless you are mega firm and have serious funds stored away, cash flow is king at a funeral home. With the average funeral home in the US holding over $17,000 of receivables, financial failure is a real possibility. Leadership, training and accountability are the collective remedies to reverse the AR poison. However, the majority of funeral home owners simply ignore the slow death from drinking the tainted AR Kool-Aide rather than address the obvious and take charge of their business.
‘Rithmatic: Do the math. I mean conduct a complete analysis of costs/overhead structure, then pricing, monitor and adjust. I may be insensitive to those “running the ministry the grieving.” However, even churches pay attention to their books. If you and your staff are not capable or you don’t have an accountant that conducts a complete P&L review including measurement of budget to outcome, hire a professional. I know you love the families you serve, but you may love them to death-the death of your funeral home.
Yep, I’m a retired Captain and I have captioned the moniker of The Funeral Commander for a reason. “I’m not going to tell you to go to hell, I’m going to tell you the truth and it may feel like hell.” Quit poisoning your funeral home. That’s the truth. Oh, and a new one I picked up over the weekend (thanks Mark Fisher): No one gets offended by a statement that doesn’t apply to them.”
If you are offended, then you are drinking the 3R poison and fooling yourself. Want to get off the Kool-Aide? Email me firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s set up a time to chat. If not, plan your own funeral home funeral…but of course, that’s a post for another day. From the blurred and smoky Command Post, Cheers Y’all! #thefuneralcommander