Posted By Administration,
Wednesday, August 14, 2019
Updated: Wednesday, August 14, 2019
As the rate of cremation in North America continues to grow, the amount of traditional burials is dropping. This trend affects many sectors of the death care industry, and cemeteries are no exception. Cemetery operators, designers, service providers, and suppliers are working to meet the inevitable challenges.
Elisa Krcilek, Vice President and General Manager of Mountain View Funeral Homes & Cemetery, was inaugurated as President of CANA in July at our 101st Convention. Elisa has many plans for her term as president, primarily focusing on cremation memorialization and the ways our industry can work together, learn, and share what we know.
The following is an excerpt from a past issue of The Cremationist about the ways that instilling a culture of memorialization to staff training in funeral homes and cemeteries to educate the public on the options and benefits of memorializing cremated remains.
Mountain View Funeral Home and Cemetery in Mesa, Arizona is, in my opinion, the most beautiful cemetery in the East Valley of Arizona. We have 52 acres, but only 24 are developed. So we have space for 150-200 years to come.
Like most cemeteries, originally all the spaces were for traditional burial. The sections for cremation were added in later. The cremation rate in Arizona, both by percentage and total number of cremations, is near the highest in the United States and predicted to surpass 70% by 2023. Cremation has changed the way people look at permanent memorialization on both sides of the arrangement table.
Changing the Mindset
I am not at all embarrassed or ashamed to say that we are a for-profit cemetery. We’re always looking for new ways to generate income and to give our families what they’re looking for and what they want. You know that if they don’t see what they want, they—in many cases—do nothing.
Because of the growth in the demand for cremation, a lot of what we’re doing at Mountain View is first working to change the mindset of our funeral directors and our cemetery staff to do a better job feeding into our cemetery. The first thing we did to work more efficiently is set up a two-up system, very similar to what you see in a lot of other combo businesses. This means that we have a cemetery professional go into the arrangement conference with the funeral director. When the funeral director steps out to make the final contract for the cremation, we make sure that that family is not left alone during the arrangement. Instead, the family service counselors take the family out to the cemetery to see what we have available.
It starts very simply, because right inside our funeral home we have a glass-front niche. It’s a matter of coming out of the building, taking four steps to the left, and introducing the families to the idea of memorialization.
From there, we direct them to our golf cart up front and we immediately take them to the cemetery. We don’t do a lot of talking. The beauty of the majestic cemetery speaks for itself. What we will do is point out areas in the cemetery that specialize in housing cremated remains.
Showcasing Cremation Options
At that first niche, just to the left, most of our cremation families will say, “Oh, no, no. We don’t need any of this. We’re taking Mom back to Iowa where she’s from.” We tell them, “We understand that that’s what you’re planning to do. However, it’s not fair to you if we don’t take you through the options we have available.”
Many times people tell us they’re taking the remains with them, but in the end that’s not what actually happens. Sometimes they realize that because they’re here, this is Mom’s new home. This is where Mom retired, this is where she wanted to be for the duration of her life.
What are people looking for? A lot of the families we serve have chosen cremation because they don’t want to spend thousands and thousands of dollars. So we want to give them something that’s affordable. We’re finding ways to expand our cremation garden. We have added in a green cremation area because a lot of people say, “Oh, we just want to scatter Dad,” so we offer them the option to do this in the cemetery.
We’re doing a memory vase memorialization package. The memory vase is just for vased flowers right above a bio-degradable urn that goes directly in the ground. They don’t need an urn vault, just a 12-by-12, 3-inch-thick granite base. These memory vases are affordable, and they do not take space out of our inventory because they’re spacers that weren’t in our inventory to begin with. We identified little nooks and crannies of space where there’s nothing, and now we can beautify our cemetery with flower vases.
Engaging Cemetery Visitors
The memory vases provide a way for us to generate more income, but, more importantly, they’re a way to get the families to come back. When they come back, when they visit, it gives them a reason to come in. It keeps us in touch with them. That way, when we have a Memorial Day service or a Veteran’s Day service, we have a way to be able to get in contact with these people to invite them to these events we have and then talk to them about, “Well, what about yourself? Have you preplanned your funeral? Have you preplanned your cremation?”
We do a lot of things to find out what people want. We do a lot of “park-rangering” – we just go up to people in the cemetery, give them a bottled water, and start a conversation. You would be amazed how many people will say, “I’ve been visiting my husband for twelve years and you’re the first person that’s ever come up and talked to me.” So it’s just a matter of being friendly and saying hello. I’ve never had somebody say, “Leave me alone.” Of course, you have to use some discretion, too.
You also start to see patterns of people who come in on a regular basis. Sometimes you’ll see a family come in on the weekend and it might be a special occasion, such as a birthday, so we don’t approach them right when they first arrive. We wait maybe a half an hour or an hour. When you see them wandering around, looking at other graves, that might be a good time to walk up.
I do a monthly training with my team and include “Best Practices” for park-rangering: these are the things you want to do, these are the things you don’t want to do. For example, if you’re doing a graveside service you are not to be out there handing out your business cards to everybody. You can keep your business cards with you, and if somebody approaches you and says, ‘Hey, I’d like to get some information’— and that, believe it or not, happens a lot—then you’re allowed to give out your card.
Most of that conversation comes at the end of an interment, where people are standing around. They like to see the vault lowered into the ground, they like to see the urn placed. We talk to them and make sure to say hello because they’ve already met us at the arrangement.
I start all of my weekly staff meetings with a victory story. We go around and every person has to tell a success story about something that’s worked for them. The people around think, “Oh, maybe that does work!” because when you hear a real-life story, with a real name attached to it, suddenly it becomes contagious. I want each one of them to have buy-in with their victory stories because they’ll have a passion for the things they were able to sell.
Nobody wants to be sold and nobody wants to be pushed into something they’re not interested in. But they will buy when they see value and they see something they like. But they’re never going to know that if you don’t take them on a tour and show it to them.
When you do a tour, it’s not always about the person who died. It’s about showing the family the possibilities. If you’re not taking them on a tour, you’re doing that family an injustice. More people will make a decision when they see how beautiful your cremation waterfall is in person. They can’t visualize it on their own.
If you say to a family, “Were you thinking of being buried in the cemetery?” they’ll say, “No, that’s why we chose cremation.” Instead, you can say, “Take a quick ride with me, let me show you something you might be interested in. We’ve developed things specifically for families like you,” They won’t refuse, they’ll follow you because they don’t do this every day. They don’t know what they don’t know.
We’re developing a very specific cremation tour, not showing our gardens that are all burials, but taking them to key cremation places. “Have you ever heard of a cremation boulder? This is what it looks like. We have areas where we can place it,” and then taking them to show them where the areas are.
The family they’re meeting with on the funeral home side may or may not buy in the cemetery, but they may have a relative who will. We keep saying, “In our business, it’s not about the family you’re serving today. It’s about all their friends and relatives that you should be thinking about serving tomorrow.”
On meeting the opportunities and challenges of an expanding demand for cremation:
- Plan for the future. Be prepared for what is coming, do not wait for it to get here. If you run out of space because you have not planned ahead you are not serving your cemetery or the people that want to be there.
- Continue to make cremation interments an EVENT for families. Do not minimize the interment process simply because it is easier to inter cremated remains compared to a casket.
- Be open to suggestions from families, have a policy IN WRITING —and STICK TO IT—regarding the disposition of cremated remains.
- Diversify as much as possible and promote the value of the experience at least as much as the goods and services.
- Offer everything. When a family says they want to take dad home, ask “Why?” and why they do not want a permanent placement?
- Always ask the family to take a tour of the cemetery before they make a final decision about what they are going to do with Mom or Dad.
- Provide as many options as possible
- Listen to the changing needs of your customers and adapt by providing solutions that are important to them. Provide more choice and options for people.
- Price it to make money. We in the industry have made cremation inexpensive, not consumers. And they do not mind paying for service and quality.
Elisa discussed cremation growth at CANA’s 101st Annual Cremation Innovation Convention. Missed it? Soon, you can catch up with the on-demand event recording providing the latest CANA Statistics Report and how to use it to benefit your business: gocana.org/CANA19
CANA Members have access to the complete CANA's Annual Cremation Statistics Report, but you can see the highlights for yourself on our website. Members — don't know your password? Contact CANA for your login credentials and make full use of the benefits of CANA Membership!
Elisa Krcilek is VP of Sales and Marketing at Mountain View Funeral Home, Cemetery and Crematory in Mesa, Arizona. Elisa has been a licensed funeral director and embalmer for 25 years, is a certified cremationist, and is licensed to sell pre-need life insurance and cemetery real estate. Prior to joining the Mountain View team she was the Market Manager over Pre-Planning Advisors for Dignity Memorial in Phoenix. She was Director of Cremation Development for Stewart Enterprises until they sold to SCI. Elisa spent seven years as the District Manager of the West for Matthews Intl. bronze division. Her career started in Illinois in 1990 working for the Cremation Society of Illinois, where she was the VP of Sales & Marketing until relocating to Arizona.
Elisa was elected as President of CANA in 2019, the fifth woman to lead the association.
tips and tools
Posted By Administration,
Wednesday, January 30, 2019
Updated: Monday, January 28, 2019
I had the pleasure of presenting for CANA in 2009, and the past ten years have seen changes across the business world. What’s new or different about leadership today? And what are the biggest challenges leaders face in their businesses and communities?
In my work I advise hundreds of leaders each year. From their experiences, questions, hopes and fears, combined with the assessments of those they lead about what their leaders do well and what they do poorly, I’ve compiled eight challenges I hear most often and some suggestions about what to do to find your solution:
- Use of outdated time management thinking.
The research is clear: multitasking is a myth – switching between two tasks can take up to 40% longer to complete both. Life balance doesn’t make sense either. It is about life design: devoting the right number of hours and energy to the most important things. It is time to reexamine outdated beliefs about time management and productivity. The ability to focus intently (“single-tasking”) on what is important should be at the top of your productivity list. And don’t feel guilty if your life isn’t balanced if it is well designed.
- Treating those they lead as “followers.”
When asked what I think is the biggest change in leadership, my answer is followers. Those we lead increasingly resist thinking of themselves as followers, and for good reason. This is a limiting term that poorly represents the relationship we need. Employees want to be (and deserve to be) thought of as contributors, colleagues and team members. The concept of “following” to those we lead is as negatively tinged as referring to those in customer service as “servile.” Unless you’re a religious guru, you are better served leading a team of contributors than a band of followers.
- Fear of the great unknown.
No leader likes uncertainty but today the size and impact of the unknown can be more devastating than in the past. Nassim Nicholas Taleb wrote the definitive book about overconfidence in our ability to predict, anticipate and plan. He describes the improbable black swan: an unpredictable or unforeseen event, typically one with extreme consequences. Many leaders act as if black swans never happen, or can be avoided, but leadership is as much about taking action in the face of the unknown as it is gathering information to eliminate the unknown and mitigate consequences. No leader is clairvoyant, so he or she must accept the real limitations of knowledge about the future and act accordingly.
- A false dichotomy of ethics.
Trying to separate personal ethics from professional ethics is a bad idea. There are just ethics, and trying to apply two different standards isn’t just confusing, it is wrong. Why would you trust someone at work that you know to be a conniving liar in his or her personal life? And why would you allow something that you know is wrong to happen at work? One psychologist calls it the normalization of deviance: making it acceptable to do at work what is wrong to do outside work. Leaders work hard to create what I conversely call the “normalization of integrity.” Without clearly defined values that are lived and observed by others, ethics slip dangerously.
- Overemphasis on generational differences.
Not that long ago leaders often seemed to ignore generational differences. The pendulum has swung to another extreme. There seems to be a belief that everyone is so different we can’t effectively lead! Generations are different, and understanding those differences can provide effective tools for communication and collaborating better. At the same time people regardless of age share much in common: the need to belong to a winning team, meaning in their work, satisfaction in the jobs they do, and much more. Leaders must balance understanding and using differences and unifying their teams with shared interests and beliefs.
- Employee engagement.
It is as important as competing for talent, a common dilemma according to my clients. One of the biggest myths I encounter is the belief that if you just get the best people on your team, your job is done. John Wooden wisely noted that he didn’t want the best players on his team. He wanted the players that made his team best. That points to the importance of engagement and teamwork. Talent is a start, but it is never enough. Divisive star players and disengaged genius are both liabilities. Good leaders find the best people and then focus on keeping them engaged.
- Lack of preparation to successfully lead.
My research shows that only one in four leaders feels prepared when they assume formal leadership positions. Leaders need to learn to lead before they get their marching orders, not after. And that isn’t accomplished just through books and coursework but through real world projects and assignments where leadership skills are developed. If you don’t give your team members a chance to lead before they become formal leaders, they will lack the skills and confidence to lead when they move into management.
- Business model innovation.
While speaking to a global technology company, I learned that their executives were more worried about innovation in business models than the impact of technology. A business model is the way a company makes money, and can be used defensively against competitors, to reinvigorate revenues in declining markets, or as a way of exploring new opportunities. Few business models are exempt from the need to be revisited and revised regularly. Business model innovation is increasing at lightning speed and may well be the single greatest high level business challenge leaders face.
Which of these challenges are you facing? And what are you doing to meet them head on?
Here’s a final thought: no challenge + no change = boredom. You might wish for fewer challenges than you currently face, but ultimately dealing with challenge and change is the essence of leadership.
Want to talk leadership? CANA’s 2019 Cremation Symposium highlights business innovation tactics, maintaining your leadership edge, hiring well, and mentoring across generations. Mark won’t be joining us, but we have experts from across our profession to talk these issues and more. Join us next week in Las Vegas!.
Excerpted from The Cremationist, Vol 52, Issue 4: “10 Challenges Leaders Face” by Mark Sanborn.
, CSP, CPAE is president of Sanborn & Associates, Inc., an idea studio for leadership development. He is an award-winning speaker, internationally recognized authority on leadership and the author of the bestselling books The Fred Factor and You Don’t Need a Title to be a Leader. To obtain additional information for improving yourself your business (including free resources), visit www.marksanborn.com
Posted By Administration,
Wednesday, January 16, 2019
Updated: Monday, January 14, 2019
Superstar sellers, unreliable incomes, infighting amongst staff, confusing metrics… the list of problems in the world of preneed sales can be exhausting. The world of preneed is full of myths, misnomers, and fake news. These things can foster unrealistic expectations, or worse, can create significant barriers for managers responsible for their preneed programs and for regular folks seeking a meaningful career in funeral sales.
To find the solution, let’s take a look at the following formulas:
AC / #AA = C%
#CG / C% = RA
AC / AAB = CC%
RA / CC% = RLG
No, these are not a new batch of curse words or hashtags, they are tools you can use to maximize your preneed potential. They may look intimidating, but they are easy-to-use formulas that allow you to use real data to drive real sales.
But let’s digress for a moment.
Most readers will have seen or heard of the movie Moneyball. The film dramatizes the real-world example of how, in 2002, the Oakland Athletics baseball team radically changed the traditional game of baseball by using statistics and mathematics (called sabermetrics) to scout and analyze players.
What they realized was that traditional methods of scouting relied heavily on biased or incomplete information. This led other teams to overpay players in the hopes of buying success. In contrast, the Athletics adopted sabermetrics to build formulas using quantitative analysis of different player abilities. By building the right formulas, they were able to put the right pieces together to build success. This new method translated to on-field success; the newly-built Athletics tied the longest winning streak in American League history, and clinched the 2002 American League West title.
How does this concept translate to preneed sales? To quote a line from the movie: “Your goal shouldn’t be to buy players (i.e., counselors), your goal should be to buy runs (i.e., appointments).”
Using statistics and mathematics, a successful preneed program can be developed to reliably predict success and take the mystery and magic out of the game of preneed.
Metrics Vs. Intuition
So where do we start? The most basic metrics of a successful preneed program can be distilled into a simple mathematical equation:
Actual Contracts divided by Actual Appointments = Close %
AC / AA = C%
This should be the launching point for the development of a simple formula to accurately predict the number of contracts a program can produce annually. All managers responsible for preneed programs should have a reliable way to accurately measure the closing percentage of each of their counsellors. Further, they should know their closing percentage for every type of lead. For example, the closing percentage for call-in and walk-in business should be over 80% whereas the closing percentage for a more challenging lead, like direct mail, will be significantly lower. When developing your program, this metric can be used to strategically apply human resources to the appropriate lead source.
Teamwork vs. Superstar
When developing a preneed team, many people are overlooked for a variety of perceived reasons: they’re too quiet, they aren’t motivated, funeral directors aren’t good at sales, etc. However, it is unrealistic to expect that one person can bring all of the necessary traits or skills to develop a successful preneed program. In the same way that the use of sabermetrics in Moneyball proved that a baseball team doesn’t need to have a superstar to win, the game of preneed doesn’t need to have a superstar seller to be successful.
Once you have figured out your closing percentage, you can safely estimate the number of appointments you need to book to reach your goals. This formula looks something like this:
Contract Goal divided by your Closing Percentage = Number of Required Appointments
#CG / C% = RA
This means that if you have an 80% closing percentage and your goal is to sell 200 contracts, you need to book 250 appointments to meet your goal.
Working backwards, you then need to know how many calls you need to make in order to book those 250 appointments. This can be tied to your call conversion percentage, which can be calculated by using the following formula:
Actual Calls divided by Actual Appointments Booked = Call Conversion Percentage
AC / AAB = CC%
If you make 100 calls that result in 15 appointments booked, your Call Conversion Percentage is 15%. If we tie this percentage to the previous example, where your number of required appointments was 250, this means that you’ll need to have 1,667 leads to call to meet your goal:
Required Appointments divided by Call Conversion Percentage = Required Lead Generation
RA / CCP = RLG
Each organization will generate leads differently, but the best way to build leads is to diversify your lead sources. Consider incorporating direct mail campaigns, social media, referral programs, group seminars and presentations into your marketing mix. You can even apply Moneyball-style formulas to calculate how many leads you’re generating and where they’re coming from.
Putting It All Together
Using these formulas, or designing your own, can reap huge benefits for your organization. Using a reliable and consistent approach will put an end to the “feast or famine” results that are often seen when working campaign to campaign. Year after year, your contracts and volume will stabilize and your success will become much more predictable.
For more information on how “hacking your process” can improve your preneed business and help the families you serve, check out my session “The Art (and Science!) of Creating a Successful Preneed Program” at this year’s CANA Preneed Summit!
Are you looking for more about creating a preneed strategy that makes a difference? The Art of Selling Cremation: A Preneed Summit is back for the second year to with a one-day intensive on today's pressing preneed topics. Join colleagues in Las Vegas on February 5th, 2019 – see the full schedule at www.cremationassociation.org/CANAheroes.
is the President of Guaranteed Funeral Deposits of Canada (GFD)
, bringing over 25 years of experience in the field to the largest organization for managing preneed funeral trust funds in Canada. Heather blends her unique background and experience together with a skilled team of professionals at GFD to provide members with a trusted resource to help ensure their preneed programs succeed.
tips and tools
Posted By Jennifer Head, CANA Education Director,
Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Updated: Tuesday, May 22, 2018
A New Workforce
As of 2017, the Millennial generation filled the majority of positions in the US workforce (35%), more than both the Baby Boomer (25%) and Gen X-ers (33%). It is predicted that by 2030, Millennials will hold 75% of the roles in the death care industry, a very large increase in a very short period of time.
As baby boomers retire, they take decades of experience and honed knowledge, skills, and abilities with them. Young professionals, even with all their energy and excitement, cannot immediately replace the decades of experience of your senior staff. The upside is that these incoming employees won’t carry years of pre-conceptions and assumptions about their community, which will make their onboarding and training that much easier. The downside is that it takes time and well-thought out training programs to get new recruits up to speed.
A New Tradition
The US cremation rate passed 50% for the first time in 2016. We can officially say it – cremation is the new tradition. As consumer preferences have changed, the knowledge and skills required from funeral directors to work with consumers has changed as well. As an employer, it means you require specific sets of skills in your employees and expectations for their experience and training. It requires innovation.
Our hard-working schools provide the education, but they can’t make a professional – only experience and guidance can do that. This component is why so many states and provinces require apprenticeships before licensure as well as continued education to maintain licensure. A mid-career professional considering their advancement can’t return to school easily, so they must rely on CE providers to address the gaps. In a previous blog post we talked about how to assess the quality of a learning experience, but how do you assess the importance of the topic presented? In this cremation-focused world, how can you know you’re getting the latest in industry education to meet the current needs of your community?
Back to Basics
What makes someone successful at their job? How do we evaluate staff to assess their skills? How do you know you have a solid base of knowledge to build on as you move forward in your career? CANA is working to address the fundamentals of the profession as we know it today now that cremation is the new tradition.
Competencies are the foundation of every profession – these are sets of knowledge, abilities and skills that a person needs to be successful in their job. Competencies are used in many ways within each profession:
- Talent development programs should be heavily based on competencies and structured to teach foundational skills and knowledge first and build employees up to their highest level of performance to prepare them for advancement.
- Continuing education programs should always be tied to specific competencies, not developed by someone who teaches what THEY think needs to be taught. If a program isn’t teaching someone a knowledge, skill or ability needed for success then that program is a waste of time and money.
- Competencies are used for writing job descriptions to identify traits and experience that are important when hiring a new person.
- Succession planning, which is a huge topic right now as a significant portion of the profession prepares to retire, should include competencies. When evaluating which employees may be well suited to move into other positions, comparing their current competencies to those needed in the new positions will identify any gaps, which may need to be filled through education courses before promoting that person. Employees should never be promoted first and trained later. They should always be provided education and support to prepare them for the new role so they can step in and find success right away.
- Many professions offer certifications to recognize achievement of individuals in certain areas. The best certifications are based on competencies. Individuals must identify their own skill gaps, take education courses, read papers or books, practice doing certain tasks and any number of activities to help fill that gap. At the end, they have to demonstrate achievement of those competencies through rigorous testing that validates not only knowledge, but implementation of skills.
- A few examples include the Human Resource Professional (HPR) designation from SHRM, the Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) designation from EIC and the Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP) designation from ATD.
The funeral profession is no stranger to competencies. For example, every seven years the Conference of International Funeral Service Examining Boards conducts a task analysis of the role of both funeral directors and embalmers in order to determine what content to test graduates on when they complete a funeral service or mortuary science program. Through this task analysis they ask practicing professionals about their daily jobs in order to determine what the common tasks are, and then they determine what you need to know in order to do those tasks.
After completing school, students generally complete an apprenticeship where they learn hands on skills to apply that knowledge learned in school. Once the apprenticeship is over, state and provincial agencies take over and monitor continued professional development through required continuing education. And that’s where CANA enters the lifelong learning continuum. As we look at competencies within our profession, CANA believes we could be doing more related to cremation.
We can’t set employees up for success if we aren’t teaching them the knowledge, skills and abilities that are specific to cremation, particularly the employees who graduated many years ago, and have seen the profession rapidly changing around them. This is what we refer to as a skills gap – when only a limited set of the population has the needed competencies to do the job. And we see a big skill gap when it comes to cremation.
What Can We Do?
Fear not, CANA friends. After all, we are All Things Cremation. We have been diligently working to identify those cremation competencies and will be developing education programs and other resources needed to support employees as they work to achieve them. We can’t wait to share them with you. Be sure to attend CANA’s 100th Annual Cremation Innovation Convention with your staff where I’ll preview these competencies and talk about how to use them to support your employees and improve your bottom line — and earn some professional and innovative continuing education while you're at it. And watch for future blog posts where I explain the process we go through to identify competencies.
Join CANA July 25–27, 2018 at the Fort Lauderdale Marriott Harbor Beach Resort & Spa where Jennifer will uncover the competencies that make a cremation professional as part of Session 4 • Cremation Fundamentals, topics related to foundational business practices.
Travel together at a discount! For over 100 years, CANA has drawn the best and brightest in the industry. Now, you can share the wealth of professional cremation education and network with innovators and save! Early birds get $100 off and any Additional Employee registration is $200 off that.
With a wide range of valuable networking and educational opportunities, the event will feature sessions that examine the last 100 years of CANA conventions and growth in cremation, evaluate where businesses are today, and focus on the next 100 years by providing strategic and practical information for long-term success. See our full program and learn more about how we'll mark more than 100 years of cremation success here: gocana.org/CANA18
A former high school science teacher, Jennifer Head began working for the American Foundry Society in 2005 after receiving her Master’s Degree in Education. She was responsible for the administration and operations of the AFS Institute’s programs and facilities, and initiated a complete redesign of Institute programming, including both classroom and online courses. A Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP), she brings to CANA a wealth of experience in best practices for workplace learning.
tips and tools
Posted By Administration,
Tuesday, January 2, 2018
Happy New Year from CANA!
As we lay 2017 to rest and get used to writing 2018 on our paperwork, we asked a few CANA members what resolutions they have for 2018 and each said the same thing: I don't believe in New Year's Resolutions.
Instead, they strive to improve the performance and service of their company throughout the year by supporting their staff's professional development, by protecting the safety and well-being of their operators and their image, and by caring for themselves and their colleagues the same way they care for our communities everyday. These goals aren't something we can do in one day, but something we can continue to strive for throughout the year.
So from our experts to you:
And there's a hand, my trusty friend!
And give us a hand of yours!
And we'll take a deep draught of good-will
For auld lang syne.
We look forward to seeing all that you accomplish in 2018 and continuing our support of our members and the industry throughout the year.
Heffner Funeral Chapel & Crematory, Inc.
I don’t do New Year’s resolutions. When I’m motivated over a topic, I make a commitment and set timelines for accountability to follow through, timelines for myself included. These timelines may or may not coincide with January 1st.
As much as I’m flattered to be asked to contribute to CANA’s Cremation Logs and make recommendations for staff training in the new year, I’m not even sure I know what “improving staff training” means. I also flinch at the word “training” – I think we train dogs and we educate people.
Heck, for some employers, any training would be perceived as an improvement. My guiding principle, from the book Good to Great, is that you get “right people on the bus and wrong people off the bus.” If the wrong people snuck on the bus, either by acquisition of a firm, marriage to a relative or simply a wrong hire, then no amount of training will change the person. Instead, you need to do some top-grading and weed out the low performers.
Great people in end-of-life care sincerely want to do all they can for a family in grief. Every year they want to enhance their skills to serve. They want to be the very best informed and most knowledgeable caregiver they can possibly be. If those are not obvious traits, than the wrong person is on the bus!
Top-grading is probably an excellent resolution. The right staff will rise to the top and the opportunities for improvement will be natural. The problem is, it may start with the owner – it’s up to management to decide what talents they need and what skills they’ll teach or have others teach for them by sending staff to appropriate seminars and continuing education.
In the end, the words don’t matter if there is no downside to refusing to be enlightened – make sure the right people are on the bus and get the others off. Not just January 1st, make a point of doing this continuously.
Larry Stuart, Jr.
Cremation Strategies & Consulting
Generally, I think New Year's resolutions are ridiculous. We try to solve all of our perceived problems at the stroke of midnight only to fail miserably, usually before Valentine's Day. The key to true success is to declare broad-based, realistic resolutions and work on them all year long. Baby steps, if you will. For instance, a cremationist could resolve to focus on improving three important facets of cremation operations: safety, the environment, and the public’s perception of a crematory.
So, for 2018, repeat after me: "I resolve to be an even better cremationist by working to improve Operational Safety, Environmental Impact, and Public Perception regarding cremation.
Working on these three goals in progressive steps will be much easier to accomplish than resolving to “never leave the crematory during the cremation,” because we know that there will be times that, sooner or later, this will happen. Then, you will feel defeated and risk scrapping the whole thing. Instead, implement the following procedures throughout the new year. Here are a few examples of things that will help to succeed with your New Year’s resolution.
- Improve Operational Safety: Don’t bypass or short-cut the cool-down step of the process. If your equipment is meant to cool-down between cremations (and most are) you should never bypass this to rush the process. Typically, operating procedures call for a cool down period between cremations to approximately 600ºF before the chambers can be safely swept out. Waiting until the unit is cool to perform the next cremation also helps prevent premature ignition as you load the next case — which can be extremely dangerous. Waiting can also help to prevent a “run away” cremation; the cremation is better controlled with less heat at the start, and the likelihood of overheating is decreased. And remember, regardless of the unit, operators must always wear personal protective equipment to safeguard against harm from the heat.
- Reduce Environmental Impact: No matter how new and advanced your equipment is, failure to operate it properly can and will produce hazardous emissions and harm our environment.
- Scrutinize. Examining the materials included with the remains assures operator safety and reduces the volume of pollutants released into the atmosphere. Often friends and loved ones will place objects in the casket as a token of remembrance or as a personal gesture. Items like stuffed animals, picture frames, bullets, plastics, etc., are not meant to be cremated and could damage the unit, cause unnecessary toxic pollution, or even compromise the safety of the operator.
NOTE: In some parts of North America, the operator is not legally allowed to open the casket prior to cremation due to regulatory laws. Confirm compliance with all relevant laws and take reasonable action to ensure the safety of yourself and your community.
Any new policy implemented in effort to improve operator safety and improve environmental impact will help to paint cremation in a better light with the public. News stories that feature cremation fires or YouTube videos that show dark billowing smoke being emitted from a cremator stack do more harm than just to the environment and the safety of the operator. They tarnish our credibility and creates a negative perception with the public.
Improve Public Perception: The easiest resolution is to assure that your facility is always clean and tidy. As cremation becomes even more popular, so will the public’s desire to visit crematories before deciding on which firm to use, which will increase your visitation and witnessed cremation services. Open and clean facilities with an engaged and knowledgeable staff are going to win every time. Clean your place daily. Wipe up any spills with a sanitary solution of 1:10 bleach and water as they happen. Sweep the floors and mop as appropriate. Dust off all surfaces on a regular basis. Treat your crematory like a funeral home is treated. It should be a showplace just as nice as any other room in your business.
- Resolve to get CANA Certified: Even if you are not an actual operator, the knowledge, information, and insight presented at a CANA Crematory Operations Certification class will not only improve the safety of your operation, our environment, and public perception, it will improve the service of funeral professionals toward their families.
As a fellow cremation professional and so-called expert, I will join you in the resolution to implement strategies and programs to help increase the safety of the crematory operator, lessen the environmental impact of cremation, and to continue to educate the public with facts, science, and emotional realities, all in the hopes of improving their perception of what goes on inside a crematory. Happy New Year!
Market Director for Manitoba / Northern Ontario, Service Corporation International
Ours is a difficult job. We meet people at the worst moments of their lives and guide them through this period of initial hurt until their mother, child, grandfather, loved one is laid to rest. And then we say goodbye. They continue on their grief’s journey, we take the next call. Our journey stops, or never stops as the phone keeps ringing, without any satisfying conclusion.
So in 2018, I want us all to make a New Year’s Resolution to take better care of ourselves.
I need to take my own advice here. We are too often a profession in which we put others’ needs before our own. This work selects those who have so much to give and who are determined to carry on through terrible situations. We continually respond in a professional and dignified way to national tragedies, horrific accidents, or acts of violence and serve our communities while grieving ourselves while our own family awaits our return.
We must take care of our mental and spiritual health and watch for warning signs in ourselves and our colleagues. We must know when it’s enough and when to reach out and ask for help. That may mean reaching out to a colleague for help with a difficult case, or for professional help to avoid or cope with a breakdown. Yes, was as death care providers can hurt too.
Your network inside the profession, your social groups outside, your hobbies and passions, your family and friends all serve important functions to ground you in life when our career surrounds us is death. This year, let’s resolve to celebrate these groups, to take stock of our physical, mental and spiritual health, and to reach out to others when we need it or we feel they do.
The CANA network is one of the most powerful benefits of attending a CANA event and membership with the association. CANA provides the space where cremation professionals can share important conversations with people who get you and your business. Consider connecting with CANA and other industry experts at the 2018 Cremation Symposium for topics that inspire innovative thinking.
Not a member? Join your business to access this article and all archives of The Cremationist plus advice, tools, techniques, and statistics to help you understand how to increase your cremation success -- only $470.
Ernie Heffner shares 40+ years of professional funeral service. He has a diverse background in the operation of end-of-life care related enterprises including funeral homes, cemeteries, a monument company, 10 funeral business relocations and 5 new replacement facility constructions. Ernie has received national recognition and has been a featured speaker on numerous occasions for a variety of state and national industry organizations, related industry organizations as well as his local public speaking engagements for community education.
Larry Stuart is a graduate of Kent State University and is a past member of the Board of Directors of the Cremation Association of North America (CANA) as Supplier Liaison. Through his experience Larry has seen first-hand the negative impact that poor crematory maintenance and improper operating procedures can bring about. Larry has spoken at numerous industry events and has conducted crematory operator training classes across North America with a mission to advance the safety of cremation facilities and their employees and to more positively impact our community and our environment.
Michael Sheedy has been a funeral director for over 20 years and currently serves as President of the Board of Directors for the Cremation Association of North America (CANA) and is a member of the Ottawa District Funeral Association. In his tenure with Pinecrest Remembrance Services, he has been part of the creation of Ontario’s first full service facility with onsite visitation and receptions.
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