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Tough Discussion

Association Discussion; Opening A Can of Worms

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak and present a CEU session to a group of funeral professionals of a state funeral organization at their annual convention. The audience was great with excellent discussions and engagement.  What I found perplexing was there was another funeral organization, from the same state, meeting at the same time a few blocks away.  I’m going to address what appears to be obvious and initiate a conversation that may “open a can of worms.”

Why is there two organizations with common issues and needs meeting at the same time, in the same city, but separately? For that matter, why are there so many organizations that are so similar yet choose to segregate themselves?  In Virginia alone, there are 3 state funeral director organizations that all are autonomous with their own conventions/meetings, staff, memberships and money spent. With all the scrutiny that we face by the news media, consumers, governmental and regulatory agencies; is all the segregation really the best portrait of funeral directing?

It’s 2015 and on the surface, one would think, gasp…that some of the organizations are divided by race.  Okay I said it…so, now refute it.  I am also aware of local “funeral director organizations” that are actually part of state associations that will not allow certain competitive funeral homes to join. Yes, licensed funeral homes are not allowed to participate.  I personally have knowledge of firms that are refused membership. What’s your take?

Not long ago I was a vendor and working the convention schedule in a few different states.  In some cases, the dates overlapped but in all cases the money spent to register, display, stay, eat and entertain was pretty much equal.  The company I worked for began scaling back budgets for state conventions because of escalating costs, lack of ROI and dwindling need to physically display because of new technology for messaging of products or services.  But at each convention, pretty much the same vendors and programs were provided.  The differentiation was the staff running the convention, location, people in attendance and non-essential time activities.  Make sense to you?

As for national organizations, one does not have to conduct in-depth research to surmise that the secondary tier organizations are struggling. It’s all about resources and value to the membership.  If a “one stop shop” organization offers CEU’s (education/training), legislative representation (advocacy), cremation resources (education/training) and a well presented annual convention which has a tremendous expo/trade show, why do the other “second tier” organizations even exist? What’s your take?

Just a few days ago, one second tier organization touted “breaking attendance records” at their recent annual gathering.  A breakdown of the “participants” shows that less than 1/3 are actual funeral directors and the rest of the attendees are comprised of vendors, spouses or kids.  Great spin, but the reality is that this type of “national organization” is drawing less than some state conventions.

What are your thoughts about all the different organizations that for the most part have a common purpose of representing the funeral profession? There are organizations that have excellent positive impact for education and influence, and others that seem to be more fraternity in nature. For sake of discussion, what are your thoughts of how we as an industry best should be represented…collectively with a strong and cohesive voice or segmented?

Don’t shoot the messenger, I’m just stating the obvious (as usual) and addressing what seems to be a colossal waste of resources. Cheers y’all!  #thefuneralcommander

stuck

I was recently at a funeral home strategy/training meeting and the Broken Escalator video above was presented as a primer for discussion.  This is a fantastic and thought provoking example for us in the funeral industry.  The NFDA just posted estimations that cremation will eclipse burial this year (see: Rates of Cremation and Burial) and consumers are as scattered in their views about death/disposition as cremated remains in a hurricane.

Yet, the majority of funeral service providers are “stuck on the escalator.”  Here are some examples:

  • “It’s not a problem in our community.”
  • “My families don’t/won’t blah, blah, blah.”
  • “We have been through this before.”
  • “We’ve always done it this way.”
  • “Training?”

The “stuck on the elevator” syndrome is also an epidemic in the funeral supplier world:

  • Repackage the same offerings.
  • Same casket, different color.
  • Discount and rebate games.
  • “Our research shows.”

Jessica A. Smith recently published a great post  I Want A Direct Cremation, Please on the OGR blog offering common sense approaches to assist consumers with cremation choices.   The pundits and talking heads (see Talking Heads; What We Allow Will Continue) continue to lead the blind sheep over the cliff with their “charge more and show more value.”  I guess my question is; why are there so many funeral providers stuck on the escalator?  Thoughts and comments?  From the desk of The Funeral Commander, Cheers Y’all! #thefuneralcommander

Earlier this week, I contemplated expressing my thoughts about receiving news that stuns…words that come to us that we never forget.  Unexpected news that alters the path of life we were traveling, perhaps changing us forever.  My friend and Pastor, Quigg Lawrence recently received news that his oldest daughter Annie, a young woman in her early 20’s had a massive cancerous tumor.  Aside from the obvious, my thoughts were how such a man that is in continuous support mode of others, is now in need of the blessings he has brought to so many.

However, I was prompted to write this morning because last night, my wife received the news that her father, who lives several hours away, had a stroke.  As with other times in our lives when we have received such news, we are temporarily stunned.

Everyone at some point in their life will receive news that stuns.  What follows the stunning news is a myriad of emotions, and then reality starts to settle.  We never forget the words delivered, the location we were at the time, and often the look on the face of the person delivering the news.  Several years ago my wife received a phone call that she had Melanoma and was scheduled for immediate surgery.  I vividly remember her face delivering the news and in my mind searching for words to comfort her.  Even further back in time, during the Thanksgiving holiday, my wife and I delivered the happy news to our families that we were going to have our first child.  In a matter of a few minutes of delivering the happy news, I received a phone call:  Deployment for Desert Shield/Storm overseas, going to a foreign land for war.

When we receive the news that stuns and reality begins to set in, it is human nature to envision the worst of outcomes.   But I have learned by experiencing such events that the best immediate reaction is   “keep calm and pray.”  I personally believe that once we receive the news that stuns, the event has already taken place, we can’t change what happened.  But what we can do is reach beyond our own understanding and have faith…In God, in our family, in our friends and in those people such as doctors, our leaders and decision makers.

In many of the events when we receive the news that stuns us, we don’t always envision positive endings.  In the personal examples above, Annie had the cancerous tumor removed and is diagnosed now as cancer free.  My wife, Jacque survived the Melanoma surgery and is cancer free.  My oldest son is 22 and, 21 years later, I am a Veteran of Desert Shield/Storm and all of the soldiers that deployed with me came home alive after a successful mission.  Yet, this morning, we are headed to a hospital with a relative in serious distress…but I have faith.

So, I solicit your thoughts, experiences and outcomes when you received the news that stuns.  After all, it’s the season for sharing and giving.

the phonecalljpg

On any given day you can find someone wearing a pair of running shoes.  I suppose that I would like to clarify that since the athletic shoe market is so broad and specialized, the shoes I am describing are those that are manufactured for the wearer to actually use them to run (exercise).

My thoughts are how many people actually use the running shoes for their manufactured purpose?  There are those that wear running shoes as a fashion statement; although I personally think by doing so the wearer has no sense fashion whatsoever, especially if worn with jeans.  There are those that wear running shoes because they are comfortable.  Of course, but the shoes were made to be comfortable while actually running.  What I find hilarious is many that wear running shoes in both these categories can’t or don’t run anywhere.

The analogy I want to share from my point of view is about our professional life.  There are many that put on their “professional shoes” to just be fashionable.  Basically, this person always looks the part, but frankly is just window dressing…never contributing other than showing up, much less creating something or actually leading others in their field.  However, the fashionable wearers are usually the first ones in line seeking advancement or praise.  Then we have the people who wear their “professional shoes” for comfort.  This person just goes through the motions, doing the minimum to get by, often complaining about the fashionable ones, but never stepping up for their “intended use.”

Finally, there are those that wear their “professional shoes” for the intended use…actual “professionally working out,” doing what fashionable and comfort could not fathom accomplishing.  Similar to the general populace, the funeral industry profession has “fashionable, comfort and intended use” wearers.  So take a minute to look down at your shoes, or in your closet; and use the analogy to self identify your type of shoes…do you wear your “funeral professional shoes” for fashion, comfort or intended use?

shoe

I am continuing a blog I wrote earlier this week on the subject matter of stepping out from a comfort zone and into a space where innovation is created.  The intent of the written thoughts are to generate discussion about others that have “stepped out” in the funeral industry to innovate, and explore the results of their efforts.  There has been good feedback about this topic and I solicit your thoughts.

Refreshing the point, I am blessed to travel extensively and meet many funeral industry professionals, both licensed and not.  A definition of innovate is “improve something with a new idea or procedure, or produce a product using a new or better way.”  This actually defines G2 Funeral Group www.g2funeralgroup.com and their truly innovative brand of funeral service utilizing a proprietary operating platform.

G2 Funeral Group developed, owns and manages the Family Choice Funerals & Cremations brand of funeral homes www.familychoicefunerals.com . What’s unique about Family Choice is the brand was created from scratch utilizing Lean/Six Sigma principles for every aspect of its operations, named TouchPoints.  Family Choice opened its first location January 2010 in Roanoke Virginia and it’s second in Virginia Beach May of 2010.  The distance between the two locations is 4 hours…purposely to prove the TouchPoints operating platform. Serving over 280 families a year, the brand has gained consumer acceptance, recognition and loyalty in a very short time period.

Unequivocally, one of the best franchises in the United States is Chic-Fil-A.  Their operating platform, training and culture, the service and product is the same from each location…always ending with “my pleasure.”  So why do funeral homes with multiple locations under the same name/brand have such operational differences from each location?  If a large firm has multiple funeral directors, why is there such a disparity of outcome in arrangements?

G2 has perfected the process with TouchPoints by each location functioning operationally the same making management simpler, training as a daily part of the culture, the proprietary arrangements provide that every family receives the same information, and that the entire process can be duplicated…anywhere.  The Family Choice brand is now working with funeral homes that want to expand in their own or other markets in a quasi “franchise” type operational agreement, with the first new location opening in early 2014.

 

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