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Leadership

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I was recently shocked when a couple of friends that work for a big funeral industry supplier were told by their management “relationships don’t matter, it’s all about productivity.”  This is simply not true because a relationship is the only glue that binds the brand to the customer. Say what you may, the funeral profession is about relationships. I have yet to meet an owner of a funeral home that buys from or does business with someone they really dislike.  In fact, in many cases it costs more to work with someone you like because of the value brought to the relationship.

As funeral home owners and directors, pause and consider that the families you serve are exactly the same. The majority choose a funeral home because they have a relationship with the owner or staff. Just below in rank of why a consumer chooses a firm is because the firm served a family member or friend in the past (notice price is not even at the top two).

Large gatherings like NFDA and ICCFA offer us a reason to arrive from all corners of the earth to commune with each other for a common purpose.  These few days of the “Funeral Super Bowl” in Philadelphia provide attendees many opportunities to become better educated and access to what’s new. However, the most important aspect of the gathering is strengthening old relationships and developing new ones.

As you know, I’m all about technology, Social Media, and new sources of reaching people. But the most effective form of communication is looking into someone’s eyes, conversing face to face, and listening.  A handshake, warm introduction, and genuine conversation are more captivating that “20% discount.”  Of course my preferred method is Mano y Mano, with libations and a cigar perhaps even during a round of golf. I have a very keen bullshit meter and I easily separate authenticity from superficial and the Mano y Mano method tends to prove true.

Interesting that even lower costs or fees has no relevance in a positive relationship (unless you want a cheap date). Relationships are a two way street with mutual trust and respect at the forefront. If you are here in Philly, let’s connect at booth 4318 or send me an email jeff@f4sight.com so we can schedule time together.  I’ll shake your hand, look you in the eye, and listen.  If we can get to it, I know a great spot for a libation and cigar which is always in order.

From the FOB in Philadelphia, Cheers Y’all! #thefunealcommander

 

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I consider vacation a blessing that provides time for me to relax and reflect prior to returning to “the world.”  I learned several years ago that just a few days off does not offer me the time necessary to “download and relax.” Therefor annually I take anywhere from ten to fifteen days off.  Of course, my favorite place on the planet to vacation is in Aruba.

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Relaxing from the fast pace and my own self prescribed high energy constant motion is no easy task.  The beautiful beach, cigars, libations, and being with my bride creates such an atmosphere for me to completely unwind.  I become introspective about my personal and work life while on this annual trek. Similar to a birthday, I believe that God provided me another year to enjoy such a time as this and I look forward to what the future has in store for me, my family along with my professional life.  I am blessed.

I have returned to the Command Post (West) ready to continue leading on the battlefield of funeral industry innovation and making positive changes in our profession.  I’m back…#thefuneralcommander

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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…email jeff@f4sight.com and let’s chat.  From the Command Post (West) in the cigar bunker, Cheers Y’all! #thefuneralcommander

 

 

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I recently had the opportunity to attend a professional baseball game in Phoenix.  Besides sitting in great seats in an air conditioned stadium (the only problem was the lack of a cigar bar), I enjoyed watching the preparation of the players prior to the first pitch.  Guess what?  Highly paid professional baseball players were taking batting practice, fielding balls and throwing to warm up.  If pro baseball players practice, why don’t professional funeral directors?

I’m not talking about CEU’s where you doodle on the handout and spend most of the session on your smartphone chatting about how bored you are. I’m talking about training.  The funeral industry has falsely manifested the notion that CEU’s are training.  They are not. They are education.   Consider the difference in reading about how to throw a strike from 60 feet versus getting on the mound and actually doing it.  Do you think that you may have to spend time honing your craft?   Unfortunately, I see and know of many instances where funeral directors are throwing lots of balls nowhere near the plate.  Behavior modification is achieved through practice and consistent work on perfecting any particular segment of our business.

I am certain that the “you don’t know what you’re talking about” crowd is reading this with a mindset that redundancy in performance negates the need for training or practice.  What if you are doing it wrong in the first place?  How many of you offer the GPL at the proper time and in the prescribed fashion required by the FTC?   The fact that the FTC reports annually that about 25% of all funeral homes are in some violation regarding the GPL presentation is damning proof.  “We’ve always done it that way” does not reduce the fine levied on you by the Government.

We all know that when a funeral director goes into the arrangement room and closes the door, they have their own way of doing things, right or wrong.  How many owners/managers take the time to sit in on arrangements to measure performance of things like presentation of the GPL, the discussion of the payment policy, explanation of products, and services?  Does your firm even have a standard for the arrangement process that a funeral director should follow?  I’m not suggesting “gotcha” stuff; I am asking how do you know WTF (What the Funeral) is going on in there if you don’t take the time to observe?  There is a saying “expect what you inspect.”  Of course, if you have no roadmap or process for the director to follow, then Mr. /Ms. funeral home owner/manager…that’s on you.

Here’s a challenge:  Tell me what problem in leading a funeral home could not be solved with training and practice?  Throwing even the most seasoned funeral director on the mound to pitch a perfect game is not providing the leadership necessary to have consistent success.  If you own/manage a funeral home, it’s your responsibility to create a continuous improvement culture.  If you are a funeral director and you don’t have any leadership in your firm, ask and take the lead.  Taking 15-20 minutes once or twice a week is absolutely possible but only if leadership exists.

Our funeral directors train at least twice per week on a myriad of different subjects for the short time period I described.  If you want to know more, email me jeff@f4sight.com and we can discuss how to initiate a training program at your firm.  From the Command Post (West) through the fog of cigar smoke, Cheers Y’all!  #thefuneralcommander

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The funeral profession has some really quirky regulations and irregular standards that cause undue scrutiny every time one of our illustrious colleagues performs a stupid stunt. We have states that require a dual license (embalmer and director), we have a state that requires no license (Colorado). We have states where a funeral home must have at least 6 caskets in the building.  Another prohibits casket sales other than from a funeral home. And even a state that requires a hearse be parked on the premises. Most fascinating is that regulations are “interpreted” just like some interpret the Bible-whatever suits personal position. The Funeral Rule is one of the clearest cut and simplest regulatory set of rules I have ever seen.  Yet, nearly 30% of funeral homes inspected annually are in violation.

Who makes all these silly regulations? Funeral directors. Consider dual licensure.  Does anyone think some personalities and talents are more suited for arrangements versus embalming?  Bringing Igor out of the dungeon expecting a Billy Graham arrangement session is ludicrous.  Why not 3 caskets in the building, or maybe an even dozen?  What’s the legal definition of a hearse? Could it be a van with the respectful “landau” strip of metal on the side?

We are our own worst enemy creating barriers for success because we attempt a façade of some messed up nobility which supersedes common sense. One thing I really like about the “new generation” of funeral directors that are entering the marketplace. They don’t take your word for it, they Google and fact check.  You know, actually find the regulations on their smart devices and challenging the absurd when Foghorn Leghorn starts crowing.

We are entering a new era in the funeral business where the light is being shined on the darkness simply because of information.  And when you have information, you become educated.  When you get educated, you have a platform to effect change.  Rather than embrace “what is,” run the risk of failing scrutiny because you’ve processed regulations in a self serving way, let’s get educated and busy. Perhaps the time has come to clean up this ridiculous mess.

From the sunny Command Post (West), Cheers Y’all! #thefuneralcommander

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US funeral homes are owed over $300 million for services and products already provided. Let that sink in. Just this past week I was made privy to a firm that has over $500,000 of accounts receivable. If you are a funeral director that proclaims “I’m here to serve families and I don’t talk about money,” then you have an owner in dire need of a spine implant or major cajones attachment surgery.

The ridiculous notion of allowing such behavior is squarely the fault of funeral home ownership and management.  Why is there over $300 million owed to funeral homes? Because funeral home owners and managers allow the inmates to run the asylum by not training, monitoring, measuring, and continuously improving their staff. Apparently the pain of not getting paid for services rendered isn’t near the pain of leadership by training and holding funeral directors accountable for their actions.

If you are a funeral director reading this and your firm has accounts receivable, then you are the problem  (make sure your owner doesn’t see this post).  If you are a funeral home owner/manager and your firm has accounts receivable and you are reading this, I give you two options:

  1. Take charge and lead your funeral directors with training to resolve your AR problems.
  2. Do nothing and allow your funeral directors to run your business out of business.

If number one above looks palatable and you don’t have the ability or the capacity to effect this change, then email me jeff@atneedcredit.com. If you think number two is your best option, then I have a question for you: How do you stand up without a spine?

Yep, I’m clearly on the battlefield today and loving the smoke of combat. Remember, I’m not going to tell you to go to hell, I am however, going to tell you the truth and it feels like hell. For those of you that feel like hell, Cheers Y’all! #thefuneralcommander

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Quick question:  How much do you currently have in your firm’s Accounts Receivable?  What could you buy right now for your business if that money was in your bank account?  New computers?  A new hearse?  A total remodel?   A new location?  If your funeral home has accounts receivable, your payment policy (immune system) is broken and your firm is suffering from a serious disease.  What I find astounding is that some funeral homes don’t know they are sick.  People die every day because they failed to get regular check-ups and pay attention to their health.  When the news strikes and depending on the stage of the disease, it is sometimes too late for any treatments or even surgery.

Funeral home owners are no different. Ignoring the very information in front of their face; accounts receivables.  I talked to an owner recently with over $300,000 owed for services and products already provided!  The average funeral home has $17,000 in AR’s…folks that over $300,000,000 (three hundred million for those of you that “don’t do numbers, we just serve”) that is due for hard work.

Get a financial check-up.  If you have any money due over 30 days, you’re sick.  It may be a cold (a small amount) or full blown stage 4 cancer.  At Need Credit has the cure, you just have to take your medicine.  Simple Funeral Payment Plan is easy and the technology is far better that poor Mrs. Edna sending out those letters from the book of promises every month, but few checks coming in return.  It’s just that simple, why won’t you do something to make it better?

From out west in Sunny Scottsdale (yes, I’m in training), Cheers Y’all! #thefuneralcommander

 

 

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