As a funeral business consultant, I scour internet articles and search for relevant business content that is industry specific. Interesting, but not surprising little fresh content is available for the masses regarding funeral or cemetery business. Try yourself; google funeral business news. The top of the page is none other than www.connectingdirectors.com which is no surprise. Frankly, that’s the only accessible site for daily funeral and cemetery news at one location. Everyone else in the space demands payment or a subscription. I do believe the effort necessary to create and deliver in-depth content, a fee should be charged to access the information because of the expense to produce such work. Not everything you read should be free.
But from a different angle of “how to,” let’s dig a little deeper. What if you were a funeral home owner wanting information on particular subjects, let’s say “how to reduce accounts receivable for funeral homes?” Go ahead, Google it. There are a few articles that pop up including yours truly Funeral Director Training: Failed Payment Policy is on the Owner’s Shoulders and Funeral Director Training: When is the pain too much? . Still, there is no one easily accessible collection point for professionals to conduct research or “study up.”
Wouldn’t it be great to have volumes of relevant funeral and cemetery business content at your fingertips without having to subscribe or dig thorough printed magazines for articles? What if, and this is a big one, I hate to use Dan Isard’s most hated F word, but let me state it here: THE CONTENT WAS FREE?
Of course, there is a point to this post. As a loyal follower of The Funeral Commander you know I have a purpose for my penetrating questions and provocative prose. Friends, there is good news and I’ll give you a little whisper in this season of joy: there is new innovation on the horizon. It will offer a new way of sharing business content that can be implemented to make your business better.
Yep, it’s a magical time of the year and The Funeral Commander is busy innovating and creating. Be on the lookout…more to come. From the Command Post (West) and yes, a thick fog of cigar smoke, Cheers Y’all! #thefuneralcommader
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
The largest expense for funeral home overhead is payroll and employee expenses. Unfortunately, many funeral home owners poorly manage this facet of their business and in doing so not only decrease profit but place themselves in peril for labor lawsuits. Some firms over-staff which puts pressure on margins and others under-staff which places the owner in violation of Department of Labor violations. Speaking of the DOL, we are only weeks away from significant rule changes that have effect on the majority of funeral homes in the United States. Below are three highlight of the changes that take effect December 1st:
- The minimum salary level an employee must earn to qualify for overtime will change from $23,600 to $47,476.
- Highly compensated employees have a new minimum earning level requirement of $134,000
- New mandatory mechanisms to increase levels of compensation will trigger every three years.
What does this mean? Frankly, in many cases it’s going to cost funeral home owners more money to operate their business. This means that the three basic tenets of running a business come into play; raise prices, conduct more calls, or cut costs. Some owners will ignore the regulations (just like the 25% violating the FTC rules) and do nothing. However, if owners choose to operate hoping that a director will not keep his or her notes regarding overtime worked without just compensation, those owners are really placing themselves in a bad position.
I have found in my practice as a funeral and cemetery consultant that many owners think they have covered their bases by having an employee handbook (which has not been updated in years), assigning “exempt” status to employees that don’t qualify, and refusing to get professional advice or council. As I have said many times, I find it interesting that funeral professionals chide families for “buying cheap” or using other services/products than what is offered at their particular funeral home. You know the, “You get what you pay for crowd.” But when it comes to hiring professional experts in subject matter other than funeral, they themselves “cheap out” and regularly fail at the “DIY” method.
Folks, these new Department of Labor changes in overtime status are serious and could have grave (yeah, deadly) consequences for funeral homes if employees are not compensated properly. If you think that having a state inspection is a big deal, try having the federal government on your ass because of an employee complaint. One way or another, funeral home owners are going to have to write checks; when and how much will only be determined based on following the regulations.
From the Command Post (West), Cheers Y’all! #thefuneralcommander
I have funeral home owner clients that are astounded when the epiphany of the number of calls are irrelevant to their profit. In a few weeks, the Super Bowl of funeral service is in Philadelphia where the pontificating will be at extreme heights. One of the biggest of all is the “tale of calls” (not to be confused with the tail of a whale).
Allow me to explain. A firm touts they are having a great year tracking to conduct 250 death calls over the 225 last year. If the casketed calls this year are only 40% (100 of 250) of the total versus 50% (112 of 225) last year…is the firm really doing better? If the firm “picked up” 38 new calls this year which are non-casketed, did those calls even budge an increase to their profit margin, most likely not.
In a recent Funeral Boot Camp where attendees learn how to properly charge for goods and services as well as understand measurement of profitability, I saw something remarkable…or so it would seem. A 60 call firm had more cash in the bank and net profit than a 200 call firm. How is that possible? Revenue per call, proper pricing, and frankly they are a great client of ours (meaning this firm is making good decisions). Since the revelation or the before mentioned “epiphany,” the 200 call firm has seen the light and now on their own path to profitability with our guidance.
So the next time you hear Foghorn Leghorn “crowing” about his call volume, ask ‘ole blabby what his profit margin is…and listen for the crickets. The more you know, the smarter you are.
From the Command Post (West), Cheers y’all! #thefuneralcommander
In my funeral business consulting practice one of the most frustrating phrases I hear from funeral home owners and managers: “Oh, my local guy handles our accounting.” I take a deep breath and think, “your local guy doesn’t know a rough box from an alternative container, yet he is in charge of your business’ financial advice?” A Profit & Loss statement tells a story for a funeral home. However if your accountant doesn’t know the language it’s doubtful the next chapters are going to change and the story is going to end poorly. The average funeral home makes 7% profit; if your funeral home is at or below this average then you need to consider changing your accountant.
- If your accountant has not addressed the comparison between your current year budget/forecast (if you have one), current year actual activities, and the last few years…YOU GOT THE WRONG ACCOUTANT!
- If you your accountant does not provide you with analysis and suggestions of where to reduce cost and increase revenue (making profit) on a regular basis… YOU GOT THE WRONG ACCOUNTANT!
- Take a look at your P&L and compare it to the same month last year and the year before. If your funeral home is not making more money versus years past… YOU GOT THE WRONG ACCOUNTANT!
- If your accountant can’t look at a trocar and casket key and identify what they are…YOU GOT THE WRONG ACCOUNTANT!
So, ask yourself; am I going to keep doing the same thing over and over again because I’ve always done it this way? From the Command Post (West) and a cigar just waiting to be lit, 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
In my consulting practice, I spend quite a bit of time with funeral home owners and directors providing solutions to get paid for their goods and services. For the most part, when honest with themselves (and me), their payment policy is useless resulting in increasing accounts receivable as well as pressure on cash flow for the business. However, the acknowledgement doesn’t always translate into corrective action. So my question is, “When is the pain of not getting paid for your work intense enough that you actually take action to correct the problem?”
If your firm does not secure payment prior to conducting the service, you have a problem. If you are not getting paid within 5 days on your insurance assignments, you have a problem. If you have accounts receivable over 30 days, you have a problem. If you knew you had cancer, what would you do? Wait until the pain becomes unbearable before seeking help? Or, would you immediately seek the finest specialists to eradicate the disease?
You know you have a problem, but is the pain great enough for you to take action or are you going to wait for the lump to grow completely out of control?
If you have one of the problems above, let’s communicate. Yes, I am a specialist and I have the solution to your failed payment policy, lack of training, as well as accounts receivable problems. From the Command Post (West), Cheers Y’all! #thefuneralcommander.