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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

 

 

Today, we’d like to a moment and share a recent interview with AtNeedCredit.com managing partner, Jeff Harbeson.

Jeff has been in the funeral industry for many years, has founded or co-founded numerous funeral-related businesses and websites and shares valuable insights from his experience.

He regularly contributes his expertise to publications, both offline and online, is co-host of Funeral Nation TV (an online show for the funeral industry) and writes regularly on his blog, The Funeral Commander. We welcome Jeff Harbeson to the CareCap blog.


 

Ed:  Thanks for joining us today, Jeff, on the CareCap blog.  So, can you tell us a little about yourself and your background? What’s your story?

Pull-Quote-Jeff-Harbeson-01-768x768Jeff:  My story has many chapters and the story is ongoing.  The most important chapters are my marriage to my wife Jacque for 32 years.  Bless her heart, she deserves a special place in heaven!  We have two fantastic sons Hunter (off my payroll) and Jackson (finishing high school). 

Often folks ask what I do, and my response is: 

“I am raising my daughter-in-law’s husband and my grandchildren’s father.  My work is merely a support for their well-being and my habits (cigars, rum, golf and travel).” 

Ed:  (LOL) Well, that’s a pretty great answer, I can tell you have a healthy sense of humor. similar to my father- he served in the Navy for 20+ years, but I know you were an Army man, so I’m sure you’d still all get along! How long were you in service to your country?

Jeff:  I was honored to serve our country for 20 years in the Army including deployment to the Middle East for service in Operation Desert Storm.  I was trained to be a leader and had the opportunity to be a TAC Officer (drill instructor) at Officers Candidate School where I trained over 400 enlisted and non-commissioned officers to become combat leaders, some still serving today.

My official retirement papers came September 11, 2001 and I retired as a Captain.  I have a personal mantra of “A vision is only a dream without execution” and a gift of working alongside some very smart people.

Oh yeah, I also don’t want to leave out that I’m not going to tell you to go to hell, but I’ll tell you the truth, which may feel like hell! J And I expect the same from those around me that I place my trust and emotional equity.

Pull-Quote-Jeff-Harbeson-02-768x768Ed:  Well, that’s a no-nonsense approach to life and in doing business, one that I can appreciate. So, after your time serving in the military, how did you get started in the funeral industry and what drew you to it?

Jeff:  My original start in the funeral industry was as a manufacturer providing custom made cremation cabinets in Ireland.  I learned quite a bit about the landscape and was later recruited by Batesville Casket Company in sales.

As I worked with funeral home owners, I was astounded at the lack of business acumen and leadership that was pervasive in the industry. 

Many times I was told by funeral home owners and directors alike “we have always done in this way” and “you can’t change that.”

So after dealing with those challenges in the funeral industry, I decided that I would create an entirely different funeral home operating platform using six-sigma methodology which is today trademarked as TouchPoints.

Later on, some partners and I started our own funeral service provider brand in Virginia from the ground up, Family Choice Funerals & Cremations.

As a partner/owner I was provided a fantastic education and training of how to develop a successful business.  The funeral home operation also provided me a platform for trying new theories of service, marketing, technology and management.

I have a penchant to provide information so that families can make an educated funeral decision and our team is dedicated to continuous improvement.

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Ed:  After recognizing these challenges in the funeral industry and what you’re seeing on the market today, what are some of the top things funeral homes are seeing as advancements or trends?

Certainly, technology and communication has changed the funeral home operating landscape and the expectations of the funeral consumer.  As a whole, funeral homes are reluctant and slow to embrace anything new.  To their detriment, this legacy characteristic offers entrepreneurs like me to take competitive advantage.

Our funeral homes use computers and tablets for all operations,which eliminates waste in human resources expense, such as administrative staff. Combining technology with social media is a tremendous advancement for our industry; however, the vast majority of funeral homes have not embraced the opportunities.

Another example of keeping up with consumer expectations is an online cremation service called Select Cremation that our team developed, which allows a funeral consumer to make complete arrangements for their loved one online and the cremated remains delivered to their house without ever leaving their comfortable surroundings.funeral-nation-tv_300x300

The way we communicate even within our industry is changing, for example I co-host an online show Funeral Nation TV which is viewed by over 20,000 people monthly in over 75 countries.  Frankly, it’s the best FN thing going in the industry 😃.

Ed:  It sounds like you’ve got a great handle in developing a strong online presence and embracing technology to share your challenges, success stories, etc. within your industry, great work!

With so many changes in technology and communication coming at us so fast in the business world, what would you say is the #1 business challenge funeral directors are facing today?

Jeff:  The lack of leadership of doing “the business of the business.”

Funeral professionals are compassionate caregivers providing a necessary service at what is considered one of the most difficult events in life; the loss of a loved one.

However, the typical funeral home is poorly managed from the business and financial standpoint.  Failure of owners to take accountability and leadership of their business places many firms in shaky financial postures.

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Ed:  I’m sure, as you say, funeral directors face many obstacles to running a funeral business as best as they can, while remaining compassionate to people dealing with a difficult time in their lives.  Speaking of finances, when dealing with consumers and their challenges at covering funeral expenses, how can funeral homes help?

Jeff:  When a deceased person does not have a funded pre-need trust/insurance or little to no life insurance, survivors are placed in a difficult spot.  Many families have limited credit card balances and little to no savings set aside to pay for unexpected funeral expenses.

Most people do not realize that funeral homes as well as cemeteries require full payment prior to services rendered.

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At Need Credit offers Funeral Directors two payment options for consumers, for funeral homes to recover their costs for goods and services.

FuneralPayPlan (info available at AtNeedCredit.com) is an online loan company providing funeral consumers loans for funeral expenses.  Simple Funeral Payment Plan, powered by CareCaps (also found at AtNeedCredit.com) is a versatile payment plan for funeral directors to bill payments over time as well as recover accounts receivable due.

Of course, funeral home owners must be proactive in training their funeral directors on how to assist families that have financial challenges.

At Need Credit offers such training that eliminates discounting and extraneous accounts receivable work.  Yet again, it takes leadership to make changes.

Ed:  Do you see any drawbacks to any of the payment options currently available to the funeral industry, such as At Need Credit?

Jeff:  There is no downside to funeral homes offering payment plans through a program such as At Need Credit.

However, if funeral homes offer credit or payment plans that charges interest, they are most likely out of federal lending compliance.  When a loan is offered (payment plan, credit or accounts receivable recovery) consumers must be provided with a Truth-In-Lending Act statement as well as calculated Annual Percentage Rates, at the time of application.

I have yet to see a funeral home in compliance of these regulations, thus a third party company like At Need Credit is their best option.

Ed:  It’s clear that every business, including the funeral industry, needs to be compliant when offering financing and that by contracting with a third party to handle payment options, they can avoid the finance compliance issues.  In terms of searching for a third party funeral financing or payment plan solution, what type of advice would you offer to a Funeral Director when he/she is evaluating a payment solution for their business?

Funeral directors should research what others are saying about the payment platform, the tool should offer the ability to create and modify customized payment plans, ensure that deposits can be paid out quickly and that they doesn’t aren’t charged unusually high or unnecessary start up fees.

I’d recommend they also go through a full demo of the payment system, to test out the system before implementing in the funeral home business.

Lastly, select a company that has established and updated training for funeral directors, in order to understand how to offer payment plan options during the funeral arrangement session.

Ed:  You’ve owned, operated and managed many funeral industry-related businesses. What advice would you recommend for a family planning a funeral in today’s environment?

I would recommend to everyone they discuss their own end-of-life wishes with family members.  Although this may sound odd, it can be enlightening and provide impetus to collect necessary documents (life insurance policies, wills, advance medical directives, DD-214, etc.) and at least know the location of these important documents, in case of an unexpected death. 

Humor makes the conversation so much easier.  Discussing outfits, after parties and other events often leads to more important matters. 

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I have personally planned my event in Aruba at the Bugaloe Beach Bar headed by my Italian Catholic, Southern Baptist and Jewish funeral director friends leading the bereaved with cigars and lots of rum.  Sounds like a hell of a sendoff, huh? 

Unfortunately, we cannot predict death, especially when we lose those that are younger than us.  Just recently I had such an experience and shared the story on my blog: https://thefuneralcommander.com/2015/11/24/its-personal-grief-grace-gratitude/.

Ed:  Your event you have planned in Aruba, definitely sounds like a hell of a way to celebrate your life!

And I definitely agree with what you recommend, that people take the time to discuss and notate what their end of life wishes should be.  Too many times, friends or family members pass away and we as the survivors, face challenges and awkward moments planning and carrying out what we think are the best wishes on their behalf.  Your advice of taking care of creating and managing the necessary documents is something that might be a challenge at first, but important to do so for the sake of our loved ones.

Thanks so much for your time and sharing your story and advice from your years in the funeral business and serving our country in the military; do you have any last words you’d like to share with our readers as we sign off?

I would encourage everyone to take each day as a gift and love deeply those closest because tomorrow may not come.  Plan, talk, laugh and love.

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Ed Bisquera

Digital Marketing Consultant at Bisquera Digital
Ed is a guest author on the CareCap blog, providing articles and tips to businesses on using digital marketing tactics to gain more customers. You can reach him on Twitter or LinkedIn or post in the comments section below. Disclaimer: Views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official corporate policy or position of CareCap.

Secure Payment

The funeral isn’t over if the funeral home has not been paid in full for services rendered.  I recently read a statistic that the average funeral home has around $17,000 in accounts receivable or past due money owed for services that have already taken place. I have personal knowledge of firms owed hundreds of thousands of dollars. Why?

Funeral home ownership and management has failed. Frankly, simple solutions exist however it takes leadership to change behaviors in the arrangement session and accountability of funeral directors that sign funeral contracts. How? Let’s start with no funeral contract is signed until payment is secured. Payment secured, what does that mean?

  1. Valid pre-need trust with enough funds to pay for goods and services.
  2. Verifiable life insurance-assigned to funeral home by factoring company and fees paid by the family.
  3. Payment in full by cash, check, or credit card.
  4. If any payment above cannot be paid in full, at least 80% of funds must be paid with cash, check credit card or life insurance as a down payment with an approved payment policy in place. If a family cannot pay 80% up front, it’s the wrong service offered by the director.  Reduce services and products to match affordability of the family. If a family can’t pay the majority of the service, the firm will likely not collect the balance due.
  5. No discounts. If a family needs help, use #4.

Of course I know there are extenuating circumstances and funeral directors cry the proverbial “what if the family?”  What if the owner would do their job and train funeral directors process in arrangements to properly explain the payment policy of the funeral home (above 1-5)?  What if owners held funeral directors accountable to not sign a contract until payment is secured?  Here’s what if for you: “What if the funeral director signed a contract without securing payment and if the payment was not collected when due, the funeral director paid out of their salary?” Let that one sink in.

If you think this is all a made up scenario and impossible, then you are wrong. Our funeral homes and cremation company conducts almost 500 services a year; we have $0.00 owed to us.  Want to have the same for your firm?  Contact me jeff@atneedcredit.com and we’ll set up a time to further discuss how to lead your funeral home with training as well as director accountability.

Next week I’ll discuss steps how to recover from the failure of training and accountability of funeral directors which resulted in accounts receivable in the “book of promises.” From the Command Post, Cheers Y’all! #thefuneralcommander

 

TFC2

I have conversations daily with funeral directors nationally about funeral payment plans and collecting full GPL prices prior to engaging in a funeral contract.  More often than not I get questions from funeral directors: “What if the family?” I’m going to address some of those questions I get from the field.

What if the family does not have any money?  My immediate response (and yes we have trained our staff and we actually give the same response when asked in an arrangement session): How much is no money?  Not anecdotal, but I literally witnessed this same question posed to a funeral director and the family ultimately paid over $15,000 in cash for a complete funeral!  Does your funeral home train how to provide a response?  When a family says “they have no money” what exactly does that mean?  Most funeral directors dive straight to the bottom without engaging further to better understand the financial posture of the people they “are directing.”  The appropriate response is: “How much is no money?”  Then, close your mouth, listen, when appropriate inquire more, and then create a solution that suits their budget.  I know you’re sitting there saying “what if they have NO money?” Back at your here, what do you do?

“What if the family does not qualify for a loan at FuneralPayPlan.com?”  You go back to the drawing board.  The next step is to let the family know that you will accept a minimum of X% (our firm requires 80%) up front in cash, credit card or life insurance assignment.  The family is required to sign up to pay the balance on Simple Funeral Payment Plan which requires them to allow withdrawal from their bank account, not just get billed and send in a check to your funeral home.  By the way, if you are billing a family and charging interest (1-whatever %) and you did not provided a TILA (federal Truth In Lending Act statement) and/or their calculated APR, your firm is most likely out of federal lending regulatory compliance.  No funeral contract is signed by the funeral director until the payment is secured.

“What if the family can’t come up with the X% up front?”  You are offering them the wrong service and products; they simply can’t afford the current services or product selections!  I wrote about this a while ago “I Only Have Bus Fare But I Want a Cadillac” and basically once you know that a family can’t afford what you are offering, then you must change their options.  If not, you are part of the problem.

“What if the family gets money from FuneralPayPlan.com deposited in their account but they use it to buy something else?”  Well, I guess I can only answer this one: “here’s your sign”

TFC1

I have much more to say from experience and training firms to cash flow better for at need services, so this subject will continue in other posts. This post will generate enough fodder for those that #FNhustle and want to make #FNchange; so feel free to contact me to initiate training to make positive steps to build your #FNbrand. Of course, the others will simply smirk and continue upon their path of “often wrong but never in doubt.”

From the smoke filled Command Post, Cheers Y’all! #thefuneralcommander

 

FD training GP

Getting paid for services rendered and products sold should be as much of a priority as “a satisfied family” for funeral homes.   As a funeral home owner or someone managing the business, securing payment is one of the most important tenets of accountability, but rarely emphasized.  If you don’t think so take a gander of seminar presentation and CEU training provided at the majority of meetings or conventions.  Anyone training funeral directors to collect money due? No.  And most likely not at your funeral home either.

How can a funeral home get paid for every case, every time?  Training.  Why does a funeral home allow a contract to be signed without securing payment first?  Securing payment means a confirmation for pre-need payment, a life insurance policy is verified and assigned for payment, a check or credit card for full payment has transacted, or a payment plan has been agreed upon (signed) which includes a Truth In Lending statement along with full APR calculations of interest.  Otherwise, no contract signature from a funeral director should be made to engage for services.  It’s that simple.

If you are reading post and don’t think that your firm has an issue, I’ll give you a little process to follow:

  1. Look at every case from last month (January, 2016).
  2. Review each goods and services statement for signature of both funeral director and customer.
  3. Check total due amount.
  4. Check date funds received and amount paid.
  5. Is there any amount due today?
  6. If there is an outstanding amount due, why?
  7. If the case was not paid in full, what is the current status?

At Need Credit offers training to provide funeral homes the path to secure payment prior to contract agreement.  Anything short of $0.00 accounts receivable at a funeral home is simply unacceptable and a direct reflection of poor management.  If you want to get paid, train your staff.

From the Command Post and all payments secured, 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

 

 

 

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