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If you have been anywhere near a news source, you are aware of the dilemmas government leaders are facing explaining the Affordable Care Act roll out, website, what the Act does and does not do.  Let me be clear, I am not writing this blog to respond in any way to this particular issue.

However, I thought about the oversight of those in charge/responsible of the development process and roll out.  The highly publicized scrutiny by both elected public officials and the media has had a huge impact on consumer opinion.  So, to correlate such issues to the funeral industry; what are you doing at your firm to “dot your i’s and cross your t’s?”  From my experience, most funeral homes have a “policy and procedure” manual, but it’s something that an employee signs after they get the job…basically a perfunctory action.  I personally know of firms that have no such documents or process.

To manage crisis, we must work to prevent crisis.  Simply putting in place guidelines, procedures and policies are not the answer.  Training, review, and consistent leadership focus sets the tone for employees to understand their operating parameters, and if outside those guidelines, stop and ask up the chain of command for direction.

As I meet with funeral homes across the country conducting arranger training, I am continually confounded by the inconsistent performance by funeral directors of some of the basic tenants of our industry.  I am shocked that many funeral directors do not understand their own GPL prices and information listed.  Just recently in a group training session, a funeral director shared not ever providing families a GPL…she just explains the prices charged from of the goods and services statement at the conclusion of the arrangement to the family.  The funeral home owner almost passed out!  That’s only a $10,000 fine from the FTC.  But why should the owner be surprised?  What are the arrangement procedures, is it a written policy of the firm to provide a GPL, how many times has the funeral director been trained and observed during arrangements?

So if you are a funeral home owner or manager and a crisis occurs, how are you going to respond to not only the governing authorities (State Board, FTC, OSHA, etc.) but plaintiff (not if you are sued, you will be) attorneys, and the press about the mishap?  Will you have the guidelines and training in place to show that this was a “rouge event/employee?”  Or will you just explain how you are running a business that not only performs procedures on dead bodies, but you get paid substantial sums of money from consumers for your goods and services with no credible policies, procedures, training and supervision of your staff?

Based on what I’m personally witnessing with the current Affordable Care Act scrutiny in the news, I would urge that if you own or manage a funeral home, get out in front of problems or issues and take charge.  Or, just continue to do nothing.  If one day you are “under the microscope” explaining your position, you’ll wish you that you were proactive, not reactive.

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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.

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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?

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