For several years of my military service, I was a TAC Officer (Training, Advising, and Counseling) at an Officers Candidate School. Yes, that’s me in the photo providing some advice. The mission of the school was to train Non-Commissioned Officers and Enlisted soldiers to become combat leaders. Subjects from indirect fire to proper dining etiquette were trained all while being conducted in a combat simulated environment. Development of decision making skills under stress, leadership, and personal accountability; OCS is considered one of the premier leadership programs in the world.
Prior to a class graduating and receiving their earned Commissions, I would always offer this advice:
- Always keep yourself in shape; fat and sloppy is hard to follow.
- Polish your boots, press your uniform and have a fresh haircut.
- If you follow steps 1 & 2, no one will know you are an idiot until you open your mouth.
- Have something relevant to say, or don’t say anything at all.
Enough said. Cheers y’all.
I have had recent conversations with several young funeral directors about their future. These were both male and female, legacy (those that their family owns the firm) along those that are employees. Interestingly, the majority of their visions of the future were similar and mostly dependent on where they are currently positioned; legacy, employee, corporate owned or family owned.
The common theme was their leaders/managers rarely solicit their ideas or viewpoints of how, if they had an opportunity, would improve upon different subjects. I don’t think this issue is strictly a funeral home occurrence as “junior associates” in many industries such as banking, legal and such fare the same. From my personal experiences, I am excited to listen to fresh perspectives from newly licensed or apprentice directors. Our particular brand had greatly benefitted in such areas as use of technology, our proprietary arrangement process and other operational aspects.
The most concern I have from these conversations, even from legacy directors, was the lack of excitement for their future. When these bright minded and aptly educated directors aren’t engaged in a culture that is propagating continuous improvement, why would they be excited? Basically, the notion of doing their job, following the mundane routines of a funeral director and long hours should suffice. I always ask “if you were in charge, or you could start your own firm, what would you do” and I get a litany of ideas. These folks are thinking and have interesting perspectives.
My favorite question is “would you like to own a funeral home” and most answer that it would be impossible…which bothers me the most. I’m afraid we are losing the entrepreneurial spirit with our next generation of directors. In many cases, they face an uphill battle. Securing the capital to purchase is difficult enough and funds for a startup funeral home stepping out on their own are even harder.
So as a matter of conversation, from “tenured” funeral directors to those at the beginning of their career, what are your thoughts? Are we providing our next generation with enough engagement to maintain their interest or squashing their spirit?