Posted By Administration,
Wednesday, February 5, 2020
Updated: Monday, February 3, 2020
In 2020, maintaining and keeping good quality talent on your team isn’t just a want, it’s an absolute need. It’s what’s going to determine your success and the foundation of your business moving into this next decade.
This next generation needs a purpose, something that fires them up and gets them out of bed in the morning. Yes, millennials want to make a living, but they want to make a meaningful living. According to Forbes, millennials ranked meaningful work as one of the top needs they have from their workplace.
The Harsh Reality
“People don’t leave bad companies, they leave bad managers.”
If leaders and those in positions of power can take this quote by Marcus Buckingham to heart, I believe we would see so much more retention amongst our profession.
Here are some harsh realities:
These are some powerful statistics that mean if we aren’t encouraging a culture of growth, this next generation has no problem going to find it elsewhere.
How connected do you think your employees are to your company? If we are being honest with ourselves, there are plenty of areas we can improve in this category.
According to a study done by Gallup in 2017, 230,000 employees were surveyed in 142 countries on their current engagement. Employees fall into one of three categories:
- Not Engaged
- Actively Disengaged
Only 13% of employees they surveyed were truly passionate and motivated by the work they did every day. An astounding 63% were not engaged, and 24% were actively disengaged.
The impact of a disengaged employee can negatively impact your business in the following ways:
- They’ll be cutting corners, which results in poor decision making
- There will be no drive and no focus, which results in less creativity
- They simply don’t care, which results in negative customer reviews
- Less productivity requires more staff, which results in over-hiring with a lower ROI.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much we can do about the actively disengaged. They just need a path out. However, the statistics show that around 63% have the potential to be engaged if we put the effort in to putting meaning behind what they are doing.
What category would you put most of your employees in? Do they fall into the popular category not engaged? Maybe it’s time to rethink how you’re motivating your employees. Do you share a common purpose that they can buy into with passion? How often do you give praise? Could it be time to put more incentive compensation plans in place? Purpose and incentive are the keys to motivating engagement.
Once we have worked to get our employees into the “engaged” category, the positive benefits have an astounding impact. Statistics show that 50% will post messages on social media and 24% are more likely to help boost sales than disengaged employees. Find ways to bring meaning back so that your employees live in the engaged category, and your firm is guaranteed to reap the benefits.
Create Your Plan
Hire the Right People
Obviously, all this talk about having engaged employees is only possible if we hire the right people from the get-go that are naturally motivated. Service attitude is a big thing we look for at JCG. Recognize if they have the natural ability to go above and beyond to exceed a customer’s expectations. Are they good listeners, do they care, are they genuinely interested in other people and have a desire to always be learning? You can teach service aptitude (the ability recognize service opportunities), but you can’t teach attitude (the desire to serve).
Onboarding and Training
Develop a welcome program that makes them remember their first day. Decorate their desk with a welcome sign, write an internal spotlight, or take them to lunch with your team. Remember, their first day of work is one way to set the tone for their engagement. Spend a lot of effort on helping them to understand WHY you do what you do and how they bring value to that purpose. The first few weeks are critical to employee engagement. The more they buy in early, the more likely they are to want to stick around.
Initial training an on-going training is essential to employee engagement. You must teach them skills to be successful. Have a minimum standard for customer service expectations in writing and don’t train just once. Reinforce the expectations as often as weekly. This includes modeling, observing, and measuring behavior.
Retention and Relationships
Employees are more engaged when they are recognized, so communicate! Provide for feedback, and even ask for feedback yourself. Peer recognition is another way to keep employees engaged. Set up a quarterly award that gets everyone involved to recognize their peers. Feedback is the key, as this next generation craves it.
So where should we start? A good place to assess where your engagement is at is to survey your staff about their happiness at work. Ask about if they feel valued, and if they appreciate the kind of feedback they get.
It might be a rude awakening, but we all have to start somewhere. Getting the data is the only way you can grow from today into reaping the benefits of having engaged employees long into the future.
Want to learn more about increase employee engagement and improve customer service? Join Lori Salberg and more cremation rockstars in Las Vegas for CANA’s 2020 Cremation Symposium, February 26-28. Lori will present on “Developing a Collaborative Growth Culture” to re-invigorate organizations by fully engaging employees, improving performance of the business overall.
See what else we have planned and register for CANA's 2020 Cremation Symposium: goCANA.org/CGT
Lori Salberg, Director of J3Tech Solutions a Division of Johnson Consulting Group, joined Johnson Consulting Group in 2017, bringing experience in cemetery, funeral home, and pre-need sales management. Along with sales and operations management, Lori directed the development of two propriety cemetery and funeral home enterprise software systems.
Lori began her career in 2001 as a Family Service Counselor for the Catholic Cemeteries in San Jose. She quickly moved into management and rose to Associate Director of three cemetery locations. In 2010, Lori furthered her career as General Manager of Holy Sepulchre Cemetery and Holy Angels Funeral and Cremation Center in Hayward, CA, where she also joined the Catholic Management Services leadership team. As Director of Administration and IT, Lori brought management expertise and software solutions to cemetery and funeral home clients. In 2015, Lori joined PlotBox as VP of Sales. Lori contributed to the development of a SaaS cemetery software program, and was principally responsible for introducing it to the US market.
She is a frequent speaker at many state and regional industry events and an article contributor to many industry magazines. She is also a member of the ICCFA Sales and Marketing Committee, which plans and oversees the Annual World Wide Sales Conference each January. Lori balances her passion for helping clients prepare for the future with raising her three children, Catalina, JJ, and Lyla. She spends a lot of weekends at dance competitions and little league baseball tournaments.
Posted By Administration,
Wednesday, January 22, 2020
Updated: Thursday, January 2, 2020
“How long will my burial business last?”
As I was writing this article, our eight-year-old grandson shed some light on the responses from – well an eight-year-old point of view. My wife, a former teacher, was helping him with his homework – a fair amount of math work and then onto the dreaded reading. Our grandson, who was about at his concentration limit for the moment, started playing a video game.
When his grandmother mentioned reading a bit, his reply was surprising and unexpected. His delivery was neither harsh nor snippy. He merely said, “Maybe after this game or when I am dead.” In other words, my wife asked the question he did not want to hear and we got the answer that grandparents don’t want in return. Still, we found it quite funny, exactly framing his “not now” attitude. Discussions on changing consumer attitudes and funeral home finances today often elicit a similar response – not now.
If not now, when?
Earlier this year, a funeral home owner asked me, “How long will my burial business last?” On the surface some might scoff at such a question – too simplistic, too old school. I beg to differ. Looking at this question offers us an insight into the core revenue of a funeral home. The issue also allows me to re-address a topic I first covered several years ago.
Ten years ago, a funeral home owner asking a question on “how long a burial business will last” would have delighted me! To hear it today is a bit disheartening yet shows that owners are finally thinking about the impact of cremation. After all the forewarnings from myself and others, funeral home owners finally now feel the revenue effects. Neither I nor others take delight in the ‘sudden realization’, but we fully understand the dilemma that you face.
What to do?
If you are a funeral home owner close to retirement, maybe the answer is to find a willing buyer. In our valuation work, we find that top-performing firms obtain the highest values. Top performers attract skilled staff and maintain their facilities meticulously. If your firm is not a top performer, you may want to change your management style.
Many funeral home owners are not ready to retire. Funeral service may still be calling - kudos to you. What is the best course of action for those closely held to funeral service? There are a number of points to consider.
To be clear, I am not referring to remodeling the facilities (although that could be an issue too). In this case remodeling refers to remodeling the core business - a new business model, a business model based on the financial realities of a different revenue stream, probably with less revenue per call than in the past.
Much has been written about the current high employment rate and the difficulty in finding employees. Funeral service has its own challenges, which I hear about weekly – “There are no quality, qualified licensed funeral directors to be found.” Outside analysts agree that we are experiencing a shortage of trained personnel in funeral service and will for a number of years.
Outside of raiding other funeral homes, attracting top-notch people to funeral service is one solution. Regulations need to change by accommodating quality personnel who may not want an embalmer’s license.
A recent rush in acquisitions foretells the shift in funeral home ownership. Sixty-year-old-plus owners now face their own exit. Some are well prepared, but some are not. The consolidation of competitors began a few years ago and will continue for several years. This consolidation of owners, and perhaps rooftops, bodes well for the younger generation of owners. My 2015 estimate of 25% too many funeral homes in the U.S. needs to be updated, but I suspect that number has grown. Taking calls from declining firms or making prudent acquisitions ensures their success. However, successful owners must capture consumer needs today.
Easier said than done, understanding consumers takes on critical importance. Without relying on casket and vault sales as the main revenue-driver, new-age owners will allow consumers to express their grief in new ways – ways driven more by consumers right now, than orchestrated solely by what was done in the past.
Owners refusing to embrace the new consumer-driven business model can count their days by how many caskets they sell. If you did not watch the August 14, 2019 HBO special, Alternate Endings, find a way to view the show. The story of six endings contained several emotional departures from funeral service, but the biggest takeaway? While there may have been licensed funeral directors in the back stories, no funeral director took a vital role in these non-”traditional” funerals.
The 2019 NFDA Consumer Survey found that 53% of those surveyed indicated that they could do their own funeral or memorial service, without a funeral director. Thankfully many client-families still want or need a funeral director but the HBO special and the NFDA survey point to what could be a rising number of people who don’t see a need to use you. How can we attract more interest in ceremonies recognizing a life lived?
Imagination Gone Wild
For nearly a century, funeral service hid behind the casket and vault sale. The loss of casket and outer burial container sales clearly reduces revenue. We must focus more on the personal side, making solid connections with consumers – no more just glad-handing family members as they come in the door – because, they may not come in the door. We must give them a reason that “remembering a loved one” is important.
The move from merchandise-oriented to a service-oriented funeral business began many years ago in higher cremation areas. Now, the cremation upturn is hitting even the rural and largely unaffected areas.
In a recent AARP magazine interview, musician Carlos Santana commented, “You stay relevant by trusting you have something people need.” Funeral business needs to specialize in service now or risk irrelevance.
As the HBO special revealed, some consumers want a personal hand in a memorial (or living funeral). We have to help them truly capture the essence of their loved one. Making each funeral/memorial service special is the future of funeral service in my opinion.
Success in the 2020s
Themed good-byes represent one logical solution. Yes, they may take a lot more work than the old burial model, but they usually contain the “wow” factor for many consumers. Celebrants or celebrant-like ceremonies seem to make more connections as well. Look for off-menu choices that resonate with client-families. Let your imagination run wild and something magical may just happen. Success in the 2020s will be measured by story-telling, creating a compelling story about a loved one, a story even an eight-year-old can appreciate. Master-storytellers will excel.
Our eight-year-old grandson was finally persuaded to read that book he discarded. He actually found it thought-provoking. It was a small history book from nearly 100 years ago. Things have changed dramatically since then — many advancements but many old beliefs dispelled.
Losing 1.65 burial calls per 100 cases annually to cremation or $66,000+ over the next 10 years is not welcome news. Our 500-call funeral home owner exhibited the courage to ask the tough question. I hope he is ready for the answers. Are you?
This post is excerpted from the full article “How Long Will My Burial Business Last?” originally published In Volume 16, Issue 3 of Directions by Nixon Consulting, Inc. This newsletter content and information is sent to clients and associates of Nixon Consulting, Inc. Published quarterly. Subscription is by Invitation only from NCi. Reproduced with permission of the author.
David Nixon began working with funeral home owners in 1979. David is a Certified Management Consultant™ (CMC®), accredited by the Institute of Management Consultants, USA. David is noted for his ‘Listening to Cremation’ annual cremation study, which was first published in 1995. In addition to his work on funeral home financial analysis, he also concentrates on strategic planning, FTC Funeral Rule Compliance, funeral home budgeting and pricing, as well as funeral business valuations. David also focuses on exit planning and the transition of funeral home owners with all the complexities involved in selling or buying a funeral home.
Posted By Administration,
Wednesday, January 8, 2020
Updated: Thursday, January 2, 2020
After the celebrations are over, the beginning of each new year reminds us to refresh and improve our habits. It is not too late to resolve to accomplish the following items this year and establish a new routine for years to come.
- Update and review current governing laws and regulations.
Regardless of your role in the industry, it is important to understand the current laws and regulations that govern your work. Put aside the necessary time to review the federal, state, and local laws and regulations which affect your day to day operations. Right to control final disposition and cremation authorization issues dominate legal complaints against people and businesses in this industry. If you have difficulty finding the statutes and regulations, try searching the web sites for your state association or licensing board – they often have links available.
CANA Members: If you need further assistance, use your legal consultation benefit and give me a call.
- Educate and train staff on any new laws or regulations affecting your business.
Keeping yourself updated on new laws or regulations is just a first step. The next is to educate and train your staff and co-workers on what you have learned. Hold a “lunch and learn” with your team and give everyone the tools to succeed.
- Update your forms to bring them into compliance with any law changes.
Out of date, non-compliant forms are an easy target for regulators and plaintiffs’ attorneys alike. Confirm that your form documents include all the required notices, consents, and disclosures. Consult with an attorney if you have any questions regarding current legal requirements.
- Educate and train staff on the changes in your forms.
Compliant forms are important, but the persons who use them every day must understand how to utilize them to the fullest. Avoid the problems caused by improperly filled out forms. If done and utilized correctly, forms often provide the best documentation in defense of legal complaints.
- Review and update your operational policies and procedures.
OSHA compliance is critical to a successful operation. So, too, are human resource policies, and so much more. If you need assistance in your review, CANA has partnered with Cremation Strategies & Consulting to offer a program which will help you compile operational policies and procedures customized for your business. Learn more here.
- Review and update your employee handbook (including social media policy).
Employment issues are a prevalent headache across all industries and business models. Address common concerns in your employee handbook, so that everyone is on notice of the standards to which they will be held accountable. Implement clear, unambiguous policies on work hours, time off, sick leave, vacation time, and dress codes. Have appropriate sexual harassment policies in place. Communicate your expectations regarding social media use and restrictions on employee posts on business matters. Make sure employees are aware that social media is not for airing of workplace grievances or complaints.
CANA Members: Read up on what my office suggests for these policies as part of the Crematory Management Program.
- Educate and train staff on your policies and procedures.
Periodic training and review of operational and employment policies and procedures are critical. There cannot be compliance without your employees first understanding your expectations and standards to which they will be held accountable.
CANA Members: You can keep your standard operating procedures current and your staff informed with the Crematory Management Program and support from Cremation Strategies & Consulting.
- Meet with your insurance agent or broker.
Make sure your insurance agent or broker understands your business. Too often there are gaps in coverage discovered when you need insurance assistance or defense to a legal claim, when is too late to put the protections you need in place. Many gaps in coverage result from your agent or broker not understanding your daily work and operations sufficiently to make sure that what you actually do is covered. Just because you have “professional liability” insurance, you have no guarantee that all of your professional services are covered. Proactive insurance strategies will serve you best.
CANA Members: Have you looked over CANA’s newest benefit, a professional liability insurance program for crematories? Read what makes this policy different and how it covers businesses like yours.
- Meet with your tax planning professional.
Do not leave money on the table. A tax professional’s advice can add value to your business and improve its bottom line. Mitigate your tax risks and exposures prudently.
- Budget for and plan to attend meaningful continuing education opportunities.
Take some time to think about the education and assistance which will benefit you and your business most in the upcoming year. Then, search for continuing education opportunities that will assist in meeting your goals. There are in person and online resources available to address almost any concern as an industry professional or business owner. Some jurisdictions even allow you to get your crematory operator certification online. If you attend CANA’s convention in Seattle this year, please say hello. I look forward to seeing you!
CANA Members: Not sure how to get started developing a defined professional development plan for your employees? CANA Education Director Jennifer Werthman is here to help you achieve your goals – reach out any time.
Getting your new year off to a good start can jumpstart accomplishing your business’s New Year’s Resolutions. Best wishes for your success in 2020!
CANA Members: Your association is here to help! If you ever need these resources or anything else offered by CANA, reach out.
Excerpted from The Cremationist, Vol 53, Issue 1: “First Quarter 2019 Top Ten Legal Checklist” by Lara M. Price. Members can read this article and any other advice in The Cremationist archive. Not a member? Consider joining your business to access this and all archives of The Cremationist plus the many resources referenced here to help you find solutions for all aspects of your business – only $495
Lara M. Price is a shareholder at Sheehy, Ware & Pappas, PC, in Houston, in the products liability and professional liability sections of the firm. She has extensive experience in a number of substantive areas of trial practice, including products liability, professional liability, administrative law, commercial litigation, health care law, premises liability, and personal injury and wrongful death. She regularly represents corporations, other business entities, and individuals in complex litigation against claims for personal injuries, wrongful death, and economic loss in state courts throughout Texas and in federal courts in Texas and elsewhere. Ms. Price is General Counsel for CANA and Texas Funeral Directors Association.
processes and procedures
tips and tools
Posted By Administration,
Wednesday, May 8, 2019
Updated: Friday, April 26, 2019
At CANA’s 100th Cremation Innovation, Rick Baldwin and John McQueen took the stage to share their strategies for selling across multiple brands in a high cremation market. Their presentation discussed decades of changes in the marketplace, a history of trials and successes, and business strategies crafted in the trenches of Florida’s dramatically expanding cremation rate.
This post features highlights from John McQueen’s presentation that specifically address market domination via brand segmentation.
Anderson-McQueen Funeral Home
I want to give you a little bit of perspective about where we came from. Our father started our funeral home in 1952. It was a typical traditional family funeral home. He passed away when I was 22. I was very blessed to have a very intelligent brother who was in the business with me. We were two young guys, we were able to figure out “What are we going to do in the future going forward?” We continued to grow our traditional business.
Around 1997, we realized that our consumer was starting to change. The consumer of yesterday was mostly happy with an average product or average service. I even remember when I started in the business, the training program that Batesville used to instruct us for our casket presentation was “This is our average bronze casket” or “our average wood.” Everybody wanted to be average. It was a more product-focused industry in the past. We wanted to sell the casket, we wanted to do all that. Nowadays the products have become less and less important to the consumer.
By 1999, when we were getting ready to open our low cost alternative, we had figured out that the consumers had migrated to the two ends of the spectrum. So it kind of made that middle collapse. Basically, you have the price-seeking consumer on one end and the solution-seeking consumer on the other end. One of the problems with this, in our opinion, is that’s where the traditional funeral home lies—in the middle.
The Profit Zone
There’s a book out there called The Profit Zone, and they talk about how, over the last 15 years, the winners in the marketplace have been the price discounters. Those with the low-cost position. Walmart is the example.
The next is the superstores. Those that have a particular focus, along with a low cost combination. The best example of that would probably be Best Buy. If you want electronics, go to Best Buy. They have everything and anything you could possibly think of, and they have it at a really great price.
The third winner in the marketplace is the high-end specialists, those that differentiate themselves from everybody else in the market. They charge a premium price to do so. The best examples of those would be L.L. Bean, Ritz-Carlton, Harley-Davidson, Starbucks. You could throw Zappos in there.
Think about how scientific jargon and bureaucratic language could have killed the inspiration of the moment if they’d crept in. As a Harley owner myself, you can own any motorcycle out there. I can buy a motorcycle that’s a lot cheaper than that Harley-Davidson—but it’s not a Harley. You gotta be part of that class, part of that family. So they’re able to command that bigger price to do so.
To give you a couple other examples of firms that have used this, you have the Marriott International Corporation. They actually are the largest hotel corporation in the world from a profit standpoint, with the exception of MGM. But then again, MGM has casinos associated with them, so that revenue helps them out a little bit there. At the top, Marriott has their Ritz Carlton, in the middle they have their Courtyards, and at the bottom they have their Fairfield Inns. At every one of their locations, you get a quality night’s sleep. They’re going to assure you of that. But the amenities that go along with each of those tiers vary greatly. To give you an idea, they have 5,400 properties around the world with about 1.1 million room nights. Their revenues on an annual basis are about $15 billion as of 2017.
Another business is Swatch Watch Group. They started out as the firewall brand for Blancpain and Harry Winston, as the top Swiss watch company out there in the marketplace. Those are still their top Swiss watches, but they saw that they were losing market share because these other companies were coming in at a much cheaper price because they were able to undersell them. So they started Swatch. Swatch has grown so big now thought that they actually changed the name of the parent company. Now they’re the Swatch Watch Group, and they’ve rolled out a new low cost brand, which is their Flik Flak, for the younger children, to pull them into the loop. Their revenues last year were greater than $7.5 billion in watch sales. This model works in many industries.
Multiple Firms, One Market
We ended up adopting a similar business model, but we wanted to avoid cannibalization. We have multiple firms in the same marketplace. We don’t want to cannibalize that existing firm at the top because that’s where we maximize most of our profits. How do we avoid doing that? We need to differentiate ourselves – with location, hours of operation, pricing method, marketing and branding, but never staff. It’s just as important that the staff at your low-cost brand is as on-the-game as at the top end of the brand.
I will tell you on my final note for you here that as you move forward into this world, if that’s what you want to do, there’s some roadwork ahead for you. You need to forget some of those things that made you great at your high-end brand because things operate differently in that low-end spectrum. But you do want to borrow from your high-end brand. So you can use your back-end operations, share some of those commodities together. It’s a black limousine going on a funeral. Who cares where it came from, right? You can share that, you can share the crematory, you can share the preparation room. Those kind of things you borrow from one another.
But most importantly, I’ve found over the years, with the low-end brands especially, you have to be able to adapt. You’ve got to be nimble, you’ve got to be able to move quickly. If the market starts to shift or something you’re doing’s not quite working right, then you need to tweak it and move forward. Don’t just stay stuck in the road.
The Kia Effect
I’m going to finish with the biggest failure in funeral service today. It’s what I call the Kia Effect. I read more and more articles and hear more and more new consultants that have come into our industry. They all want to tell us that nobody values a funeral any more nowadays. Everybody wants cheap, cheap, cheap. If you’re not the cheap guy in the market, then you’re not going to be successful.
I’m here to tell you that I don’t believe that. Our high-end brand grew more market share over the last two years than our low-cost brands did. We ended up generating about another additional million dollars out of that high-end brand over those last few years than we were doing with our low-end brand. So, it is growing. But, the difference is, you need to be on your game if you’re going to have that high-end brand. You’ve got to be able to show the value to the customer, explain to them what we do, explain why we do it, how we do it, and really educate the consumer on that. If we do that, we’ll continue to have the business at the top end as well as picking up the business at the bottom end.
This post excerpted from Rick Baldwin and John McQueen’s presentation at CANA’s 100th Cremation Innovation Convention. The full presentation, including Rick’s contrasting strategy of “Simple and Easy,” is available on demand from CANA’s online learning platform. Members can also read a version of the full presentation in The Cremationist, Vol. 54 Iss. 3 titled “Local Innovation: Selling Across Multiple Brands in a High Cremation Market.”
The CANA Convention is known for highlighting local innovation each year. At the 101st Cremation Innovation Convention this summer in Louisville, Kentucky, Gwen Mooney and Michael Higgs of the historic Cave Hill Cemetery will discuss how the cemetery and its foundation work strategically to actively sell cemetery property and build community engagement – all through the "Art of Story.” Learn more about this session and what else CANA has planned and register now: GoCANA.org/CANA19
John McQueen is a 2nd generation funeral director and embalmer in Florida. Like many next gens, John started out working in the family business at an early age. Upon his father’s untimely death, John took over running the funeral operations when he was 22, along with his brother Bill and sister Maggi. In 2010, John bought out his siblings and together with his wife, Nikki, continued to grow the operations into the largest family-owned funeral home in Florida. Known as the “idea guy,” John and his team are always on the cutting edge of innovation within the profession. John has been active in numerous state and national associations serving in all capacities.
John sold his company to Foundation Partners Group in August 2017 and is excited about being a part of the FPG family. John and Nikki just released their book, Lessons from the Dead: Breathing Life into Customer Service which shares many of the customer service techniques they use, as well as some from other well known companies, to deliver exceptional service.