FROM THE PUBLISHER
Hi, I'm Tim Totten, a 25-year industry veteran. I've worked at both corporate and family-owned firms before expanding my side business (making removal quilts out of the garage) into a full-time career.
Twenty years ago, marketing my family-run business to the industry was all new to me. I started with smaller state trade shows, then graduated in 2007 to booths at NFDA and ICCFA expos.
Then came attempts at print advertising, but it wasn't until I found the publication Funeral Business Advisor that I saw impressive returns because I was able to target the specific market of 17,000+ funeral directors and owners I needed!
This marketing brought our company, Final Embrace, to even more funeral business owners!
That worked great until FBA unexpectedly went out of business in the middle of 2021, leaving companies like mine without a medium to bring our business solutions to the biggest audience of directors and owners who are busy working each day to run a funeral business.
Seeing the effects of this, my team and I decided to explore shipping catalogs to almost 20,000 locations, only to find out just how difficult that really is.
But then I remembered the magazine I had advertised in every year since 2014 and the effect it had on our business. I wondered if it might be attractive to other companies and if the industry professionals who used to receive the magazine perhaps missed the valuable business content that was brought to them by so many great industry experts.
After months of research and intense trial and error, I have been able to replicate the feel and look of the previous publication so that we can not only fill the need left by FBA's departure, but also bring great content to funeral professionals who crave actionable business advice.
Funeral Business Solutions strives to bring you, the reader, succinct and clear articles about subjects that actually affect your business. From explanations of FTC rules to HR issues and from discussions of casket selection rooms to new cremation products, Funeral Business Solutions is designed with you, the funeral professional, in mind.
Thank you for joining me on this journey. I hope you find useful information in these pages and I hope you'll let me know what kinds of articles and features you'd like to see in the future.
Sincerely,TIMOTHY TOTTEN Publisher
P.S. - Mailing lists are sometimes flawed, which means you may have received your issue with your name spelled incorrectly, an old address, or the name of someone who is no longer on staff. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know what changes we need to make to ensure you continue getting this great publication.
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26 ELEMENT BY THE LIVING URN
Element by The Living Urn is committed to offering funeral homes best-of-class U.S. made biodegradable and traditional urns, keepsakes, and memorial options that are more meaningful and personal.
Kanga-Woo First Call Pouches manufacturers high quality, tailor made first call pouches, cot covers, and baby carriers. Kanga-Woo also provides pouches and carriers for the pet care industry.
INDUSTRY SPOTLIGHT 48 RANDY KOUFALIS
Since 1994, Randy Koufalis and his company, RK Productions, have created high-quality memorial products made from real stone, carefully and painstakingly painting each piece by hand with a propietary blend of old word glazes. Each one of a kind urn is made of real stone and entirely produced in British Columbia, Canada.
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“OUR TEAM IS LIKE FAMILY. NOW IT’S A BIGGER
I want to keep working, but I was ready to take things like Human Resources and IT off my plate. It was important to me that a successor would preserve our legacy of exceptional service. Equally important, I wanted our team to continue feeling appreciated, with plenty of opportunity for growth. When I met
with leadership at Foundation Partners Group, they were genuinely interested in what we were doing as one of the largest funeral providers in Wisconsin. I knew for our family, it was the right time to join Foundation Partners Group. Maybe it’s the right time for yours, too.
Jacqui Atkin is the Owner of Social Media Solutions for Funeral Homes and is certified in Social Media for Business and Digital Marketing. Contact her directly with any questions at (435) 705-1252 or email@example.com. Or visit www.smsforfuneralhomes.com.
Mark Harrison is the president of Certified Safety Training (CST), the exclusive safety and compliance provider to the NFDA. Mark has launched successful online safety and compliance services in the death care, veterinarian, and monument industries. Contact Mark and CST directly at help@ certifiedsafetytraining.org or 609.375.8462.
Raymond L. Bald, CPA, CFE is a funeral home tax accountant and consultant with Cummings, Lamont & McNamee, PLLC. He can be reached by phone at 603-7723460, or you may email him at rbald@ clmcpa.com
Ronald H. Cooper, CPA is a funeral home accountant and consultant with Ronald Cooper, CPA, PLLC. He can be reached by phone at 603-671-8007, or you may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joel Soelberg is the Managing Director of Duncan Stuart Todd Ltd, a design and mortuary equipment firm that specializes in OSHA compliant Care Center renovations and new construction since 1992. He can be reached by email at email@example.com or call him at 720-583-1886.
Joe Weigel is the owner of Weigel Strategic Marketing, a communications firm focused on the funeral profession that delivers expertise and results across three interrelated marketing disciplines: strategy, branding and communications. He can be reached at 317-608-8914 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
George Paul III is a volatile visionary using branding and design to help grieving families honor the legacy of their loved one. Cherished Creative delivers agency-level branding, marketing and design services to busy firm owners. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Alan Creedy is celebrating his 43rd year as a consultant to the Funeral Profession. You can learn more about him and the services he offers at his website: https:// funeralhomeconsulting.org/
FUNERAL BUSINESS SOLUTIONS MAGAZINE
Funeral Business Solutions Magazine is published bi-monthly (6 Issues a year) by Radcliffe Media, Inc. 1809 South Bay Street, Eustis, Florida 32726. Subscriptions are free to qualified U.S. subscribers. Single copies and back issues are $8.99 each (United States) and $12.99 each (International). United States Subscriptions are $64.00 annually. International Subscriptions are $95.00 annually.
Visit www.FBSMagazine.com for content that is updated frequently and to access articles on a range of funeral industry topics. Radcliffe Media provides its contributing writers latitude in expressing opinions, advice, and solutions. The views expressed are not necessarily those of Radcliffe Media and by no means reflect any guarantees that material facts are accurate or true. Radcliffe Media accepts no liability in respect of the content of any third party material appearing in this magazine. Copyright 2023. All rights reserved. Funeral Business Solutions Magazine content may not be photocopied or reproduced or redistributed without the consent of publisher. For questions regarding magazine or for subscriptions, email info@FBSMagazine.com.
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Passages international offers new scattering tube Designs
Biodegradable tubes are designed to be used for scattering and then recycled
Albuquerque, New Mexico - Passages International is updating their popular Scattering Tube line with seven new designs: Coral Reef, Lighthouse, Lotus, Mass Ascension, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Pride, and Wild Horses. All seven new designs are available in the standard Adult (200 cubic inch) and Mini (20 cubic inch) sizes. This brings the total number of Passages Scattering Tube designs available to 25, allowing families to select a design that represents the life they lived and a sentimentally significant location to be scattered.
"Data shows that over 40% of families intend to scatter their loved one’s remains, and funeral homes that offer a comprehensive selection of easy-to-use, affordable, and attractive scattering options will emerge as market leaders," said Darren Crouch, President of Passages International. “This variety will enable families to create meaningful and healing experiences to honor a loved one while also respecting the environment."
Each Scattering Tube includes a unique GEO-code, which lets families create an online memorial for their loved one and pin their final resting place on our Memorial Map. The memorial can be shared with friends and family, and the GeoTag code can be used to register and assist with returning to the exact location of the scattering.
Scattering Tubes are made from recycled paper and are biodegradable if buried, but are designed to be used for scattering and then recycled. The tubes feature a secure tab-locking system to ensure that the remains are contained properly until scattering.
Passages International introduced the first Scattering Tubes to the US market over 15 years ago, and continues to offer the largest selection of designs and the highest quality tubes available.
All new Scattering Tube designs, in both sizes, are available now and can be ordered directly from Passages International. For more information about Scattering Tubes or any of Passages International's other eco-friendly funeral products, visit www.passagesinternational.com.
Passages International, Inc., headquartered in Albuquerque, New Mexico, has been leading the green sector of the funeral industry since 1999, with the largest selection of innovative environmentally-friendly urns, scattering tubes, caskets, cremation containers and various memorial products. For more information on Passages products visit www. passagesinternational.com.
Mortuary lift coMPany exPanDing into coolers
Cedar Rapids, Iowa – Although the pandemic caught the world off-guard, the funeral industry felt it with extra force. Cooling, in particular, saw an unprecedented increase in volume. “We knew it was time to act when we saw the situation during the pandemic and the need for future preparedness,” states Mortuary Lift Company President Katie Hill, “We were getting requests, but needed to make sure our quality and durability standards were being met before we would introduce coolers into the marketplace.”
"Therefore, after much research and design consideration, MLC announces our expansion into coolers. We recognized the necessity to produce the best coolers to a market that has come to expect excellence in our body-lift products for more than seventy years. The coolers have met our very specific standards and we proudly offer them to you now."
Hill is excited to spread the word, “Our team is always searching for ways to make our client’s lives better. We have landed on a product that has a huge return on investment and we love the incredibly positive feedback our clients are already giving about the integrated cooling systems.”
MLC Coolers are designed with the unique ability to incorporate the Ultimate 1000 Lift. We can install our lift inside your new cooler through our custom designs for the lift installation. We are thrilled to offer this new product integration. We are changing together with you, our trusted clients, as new advancements enter our industry.
“We now offer portable cooler pods on wheels. They fit one body and are movable. The pods plug into a 110V outlet and several can be stacked on each other as your facility grows,” states Hill. The cooler pods are surprisingly inexpensive, with an entry point around $2500.00. This a quick, inexpensive and easy solution if your state requires a cooler in order to meet code. All of this fits into our company philosophy, “work smarter, not harder.”
The coolers will offer the same quality and customer service that the funeral industry has come to expect from Mortuary Lift Company. We offer both standard and custom coolers. Three QuickChill Coolers are sized for immediate delivery to keep up with our client’s demands.
Hill adds, “We take pride that our standard and Custom Coolers are made in the USA. This reaffirms our long-term commitment to supporting not only our industry, but our national economy. It also helps to know we can really stand behind the quality.”
Mortuary Lift Company has been providing high-quality, dependable body lifts to funeral home and mortuaries worldwide for 50 years. Please join us for our next adventure in cooling and refrigeration!
stoneMor inc. changes naMe to everstory Partners
Bensalem, Pennsylvania – StoneMor Inc., a leading owner and operator of 389 cemeteries, funeral homes, and cremation locations in the United States and Puerto Rico, has announced a corporate name change to Everstory Partners, effective immediately. Everstory’s network of cemeteries, funeral homes, and cremation locations will continue to operate under their local community names.
The change to Everstory is an exciting time for the company as we continue to grow and expand our services in the death care industry. Everstory is committed to modernizing death care through a unique blend of long-standing traditions of caring for the deceased and a fresh perspective that death is a natural and beautiful part of the human experience that should be planned and celebrated.
Lilly H. Donohue, CEO of Everstory Partners, said, “This rebranding effort is more than just a name change. It reflects our values and our vision for the future. Part of modernizing this business means working to destigmatize death care from both an employee and customer perspective. We intend to invest in our people and our product, utilizing best-in-class systems and processes
from other service-focused companies outside of the death care industry. Our team has worked hard to develop a brand that better represents our new mission and our commitment to excellence.”
Donohue added, “As we move forward with the Everstory name, it is with a renewed commitment to providing compassionate care and support for families during some of life’s most difficult moments and helping families find a positive way forward. We understand the importance of honoring loved ones and we are dedicated to providing meaningful and personalized services to each and every individual and family we serve.”
Everstory Partners, headquartered in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, is a leading owner and operator of cemeteries, funeral homes, and cremation locations in the United States and Puerto Rico. Since 1999, the company has grown to include 389 locations in 24 states and Puerto Rico.
selecteD inDePenDent funeral hoMes announces 105th annual Meeting in chicago in october 2023
Lincolnshire, Illinois – The world’s leading independent funeral service professionals will gather in Chicago, Ill. for Selected Independent Funeral Homes’ 105th Annual Meeting at the JW Marriott Chicago on October 10-13, 2023. True to this year’s theme of “Connecting Leaders,” participants will have ample opportunities to network with colleagues, experience engaging educational sessions and obtain valuable continuing education credit. During the meeting, the Association will induct its newest Board Representatives and Officers, while recognizing the contributions of its outgoing Officers.
Andrew Tarvin, most famous for his multimillion-view TEDx talk on the skill of humor, will present a keynote titled, “Leading on Your Feet.” The CEO, best-selling author and P&G Alumni Network “Visionary Under 40” member will equip participants with the skills necessary to unlock the talent of those around them, think on their feet and show confidence leading through change. And of course, he will do it with humor.
Star Bobatoon; an accomplished actress, attorney, author, dynamic trainer and award-winning speaker; will present “On Track and Out of Court: Understanding HR and the Law.” Going to court for compliance issues is no fun. Neither is sitting through a presentation on HR compliance — unless Star is the speaker. Her high-energy style, in-depth legal insight and real-world examples will give participants the confidence to keep their business on track.
Many other dynamic speakers will share valuable insights at the Annual Meeting. View details of all speakers and sessions online. Additional highlights will include the following:
• Up to 9.5 hours of continuing education credit (0.95 CE Units) by the Academy of Professional Funeral Service Practice and states requiring CE. (Approvals vary by state.)
• Recognition of Selected Membership Milestone anniversaries.
• Induction of Selected’s 2023-2024 Board Chair and President, 2023-2027 Board Directors and recognition of outgoing Officers.
• Recognition of the Selected Educational Trust’s Ambassador of the Year Awards honoring Funeral Service Professional James H. Busch, Owner and President of Busch Funeral and Crematory Services in Cleveland, Ohio; and Industry Partner Leader Dean Lambert, former Sr. VP of Marketing and Communications at Homesteaders Life Company.
• Opportunities to connect with Selected’s Preferred Partners both at their individual displays and during informational “Conversation Café” sessions.
• members-only sessions and activities for Selected members including luncheons for members of Selected’s Communities.
• Two days of exclusive Selected Study Groups events for Selected Study Groups participants.
“For more than 100 years, Selected has used our Annual Meeting as a catalyst for positive change and an incubator for innovation,” said Byron Calhoun, 2022-2023 Selected President. “Iron sharpens iron. I’m excited to forge the future of funeral service as we gather in Chicago this fall!”Spots are filling quickly! Register and make your hotel reservations today.
For more than 100 years, Selected Independent Funeral Homes has been the leading association of independently owned death care providers. The Association connects leaders in funeral service by delivering innovative and pertinent resources, solutions and ongoing support to its international network. These leaders transform care as they aspire to the highest quality standards and best practices.
feMa funeral reiMburseMent to enD sePteMber 30, 2025
Since FEMA began accepting applications for COVID-19 Funeral Assistance in April 2021, the agency has provided nearly $3 billion in assistance to more than 438,000 people, with an average award of $6,400.
As you may have heard, the COVID-19 public health emergency ended on May 11, 2023. FEMA has announced that it will continue to provide funeral assistance until September 30, 2025, to those who paid for the funeral of a loved one who died due to COVID-19.
Please continue to encourage families you have served who experience the death of a loved to COVID to apply for FEMA COVID-19 Funeral Assistance. Information about how to apply can be found on FEMA’s website.
Funeral Director Caleb Wilde's second book explores the profession even further.
While funeral director and author Caleb Wilde’s first book was a memoir about his life around death and the ways that he fulfills his role as the sixth-generation funeral director of his family firm in Pennsylvania, his newest book, All the Ways Our Dead Still Speak, goes even further to explore the traumatic stresses of the job and leads Wilde to ultimately face the biggest question: should I continue in this career?
Wilde, who first built a social media following through viral tweets and later an insightful blog about death and our relationship with it, has followed up his successful first memoir, Confessions of a Funeral Director, with a 200-page discussion about varied funeral rituals, direct cremation, neuroscience, the weight of racism and ancestry, Christian views of heaven and hell, and the effects of secondary trauma. More personal than his first, this book confronts these difficult topics with contemplative consideration and the patience of a funeral director who’s seen a lot during his short few decades but bears the history of five previous generations of funeral directors in his family.
It should be noted, before we delve deeper, that Wilde is tilling in a wide field that has seen precious little cultivation. With the notable exception of Thomas Lynch, few funeral directors have found a national stage to share their experiences and even fewer have laid bare the emotional realities of someone serving client families day to day. In his first two volumes, Wilde has chronicled the daily life and inner thoughts of a generation of caregivers. Having just turned 40, he may also be revealing to an older generation of funeral professionals what their younger counterparts are dealing with on a daily basis.
Wilde focuses much of the book on an exploration of how we interact with death and our dead. Through composite characters, Wilde tells common stories from his funeral home experience to elucidate what funeral professionals experience and how they interact with grieving families. He also uses these stories to share his own fears and hopes. Like in a short aside in a story about a couple who die within weeks of each other, where he describes the “recurring nightmare that I show up to work a funeral with no clothes on.” While mining it for some humor, Wilde spins the story into a discussion of the decorum woven into funeral services, from the color of dress shirts and the way you hold your hands to the accepted expressions and tone of voice when talking to the grieving public. “Being naked” in his dream equals “not being prepared” for the proper role and decorum required for the profession.
Wilde also sheds important light upon the skills required to be an effective funeral director, including listening, reading non-spoken cues, and oftentimes putting words to a grieving person’s feelings. Describing both his father
and his grandfather, whom he calls Pop-Pop, Caleb paints portraits of men who give up their Christmas Days to do removals during a snowstorm, who work into their eighties, and who strive to treat everyone “like he’s our family.”
While he shares several stories about grieving families and how their reactions help him to reconcile many of his own questions about death and life, Wilde does some of his best writing as he describes the weight of six generations of funeral service and his own obligations to that legacy.
In a chapter titled “A Small Part of a Bigger Story”, Wilde traces his own family roots in funeral service to events leading up to the American Civil War. Recounting the details of the Christiana Resistance, which saw undertaker Isaac Wilde provide services for the man who touched off the resistance by attempting to recapture runaway slaves in Ohio, Wilde connects his family’s own start in the funeral trade with the beginnings of the Civil War and the introduction of embalming and modern funeral practices in America.
From commiserating with a minister about the “scars on the stairway walls from caskets” at the local church to a shoutout to industry answering service ASD (Answering Service for Directors) and a rational explanation that no-funeral disposition “grates against our humanity,” Wilde brings a contemporary and relatable flavor to what is, in the end, a rumination on how we speak to and hear from our dead.
Perhaps most important for a history of funeral service today, Wilde rounds out the book with a discussion of the COVID pandemic and how it affected not only his 170+ year old family company but how it shaped his own future plans. Recounting the way the early directives for COVID prevention limited funeral sizes and reduced funeral directors to sterile disposers of potentially-infected remains, he shares that “the pandemic stripped away the parts of our job that made it meaningful.”
With the funeral home turned into a “dead person factory” due to the increased workload, the pandemic threatened to take away the deeply personal interactions that inspired Wilde
and his employees to remain in deathcare. As he looked to his family’s history for guidance, old records showed that during the 1918 Spanish Flu Epidemic, the firm had gone from averaging 40 calls a year to more than 100. Could his own 300-call firm handle even a 50% increase, let alone a 100+ percent rise in volume?
Wilde’s book is certainly infused with death, but at the same time, he find a renewed sense of life by considering what it means to be a funeral director and a discovers a way to reconcile a long family legacy of funeral professionals while finding his own path forward. FBS
The story of Chandler Funeral Home can be drawn with circles; a collection of full circles to be exact. Founder and owner Bryan Chandler was raised in Caldwell, Ohio and returned from Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science to open his hometown funeral home in 2004. The funeral home is a renovated and repurposed grocery store where his family shopped and where his grandmother worked in the meat department. In Chandler’s youth, his father cared for several township cemeteries and later went to work with his son when they added a monument business. From graduating from PIMS to today celebrating 15 years as an adjunct professor with the school, Chandler sees a new generation of funeral directors on the horizon, including his niece who has recently graduated from the Institute and is looking forward to her apprenticeship.
We sat down with this hardworking funeral home owner to discuss what it took to build the largest funeral provider in his county and what strategies he deploys to properly serve his hometown community in Southeastern Ohio.
Tell me about yourself and how you became involved in the funeral industry?
My name is Bryan E. Chandler, I was raised in Caldwell, Ohio my entire life and only left for a few years to attend the Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science and complete my apprenticeship in Zanesville, Ohio at the Bolin-Dierkes Funeral Home. I am married to Kimberly Chandler and we have three children Preston (16) Ella (14) and Pyper (5). We have two dogs Tucker and Max. I grew up in a lower middle class family so my father worked several jobs to support us and one was to care for a couple township cemeteries. Early before school we would run up to the cemetery to make sure the graves didn't have water in them and make sure they hadn't caved in. After school following the funeral we would fill the graves in by hand. So ever since a very young age I found myself in cemeteries. I attended high school and college at the same time and planned to attend college for engineering. Due to a snafu I was deleted from their system and told I couldn't start until the next term. In the meantime I had attended college with a friend that was attending CCMS. After some thought I decided to change career paths and since PIMS was closer I applied there. So I moved from Caldwell to Pittsburgh. That's the beginning of my Funeral Service Career.
How did you become a funeral home owner?
Following my apprenticeship I took a job for a small corporate funeral company based out of San Diego, CaliforniaThe Hamilton Group. I became the youngest location manager that the corporation had ever had. Following managing for a year or so and gaining some very important knowledge and experience, I decided it was time to try it on my own. There was a former IGA grocery store that had closed in my hometown that had sat empty for a year or so. Following an agreement with a contractor and securing bank financing, it was time to take the dive. Following many months of construction we were able to have an open house and open our doors February 14, 2004 Valentine's Day weekend. It took a while to build a business from scratch but we are headed in the right direction.
What makes your funeral home unique?
I'm not one to brag about myself so I would answer this by speaking about the physical building. We were blessed to convert a one level building that was free spanned and able
to place walls wherever we would like. There are no steps, ramps, or elevators. We have a large visitation room and even larger chapel. We have the only funeral home with a children's playroom in the area. We have a modern kitchen/refreshment room with many conveniences. We have a comfortable arrangement room with the only casket selection room in our town and a very large parking lot, which is something that is hard to come by in our village. We’ve made a big investment in technology, with large wall mounted video screens in every room to display memorial tribute videos or to use as a live feed from the chapel for seating overflow, so you are not staring at a wall. We have a fully colored digital screen outside to announce services to the public.
What does excellent customer service mean to you?
It has been such a blessing to be entrusted by my community to care for their families. I strive to meet every possible need my families have, especially the ones they can't verbalize. Having to call upon a funeral home is one of the most difficult tasks one must do. I try to make this process as seamless as possible so that no added stress is placed upon the families I serve. I want to blend into the background while always being there the instant they have a question or need I can rectify. From the very first phone call to the delivery of flowers and aftercare, I want families to know they are my top priority and will always have my attention anytime they need it.
What do you feel has been the biggest factor in your success?
I'm always afraid to call myself successful because I am always working to assist more families in a better way than I did yesterday, so I see success as something on the horizon to strive towards. I feel people just want to know you care and you will treat their lost family member as if they were your own. I grew up and we didn't have much in terms of materialistic things, but I was taught how important it was
to respect everyone no matter what their status in life was. I feel it's important to be able to relate to people. We all have something in common and sometimes it is that little thing that can connect us on a level that allows trust. I am very detail oriented and want everything just perfect for every family from the appearance of their loved one to that one special song the family requested be played prior to the funeral service.
Do you have any advice for other funeral homes?
I'm not one to give advice as if I'm one of those Funeral Directors that claim to have the secret to Funeral Service. My only advice would be to have compassion for everyone, including your employees. You never know what a family is
going through. Everyone's relationship is different. In my early days and I believe still to this day, I work hard. If I'm not working on a funeral related task, I am working for the monument company that we operate. I still love serving families in a suit and getting dirty setting a headstone for a family to visit for years to come.
How are you involved in your community?
I love the community I serve and it's my privilege to get to be involved in any way I can. I served on the local Board of Developmental Disabilities until I maxed out following 12 years of service. I had served as President and loved serving these very special people in our community. I am a member and have served as secretary for our local Masonic Lodge. I've served on advisory boards for the local school and colleges. I'm happy to assist with my children's extracurricular programs. I've served on the Ohio Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors as Secretary as well. I'm very active in the Noble County Chamber of Commerce, serving on the executive board, where I often emcee events such as the State of the County and Meet the Candidates.
What excites you for the future?
What excites me most for the future is in two words: "motorcycle riding." Yeah, yeah I know what you are asking but let me explain. There is a warehouse next to me and every day the sun shines, a gentleman that stores his motorcycle there can be found with his car parked and out for a ride. I hope to be able to one day stop in and ask if the staff needs my assistance in any way. If they say no I too hope to be out in the sunshine riding my motorcycle, golfing, or whatever people are doing in those days. Funeral service has changed so very much in the last year and honestly I'm excited to see what the future will bring in our great industry. I also get excited when someone calls the funeral home for another of my associates which makes me feel like just maybe I have helped to create a culture of people helping people and what else can you ask for in your career and life.
Anything else you would like to include or say to our readers?
Funeral service has offered great satisfaction as a career for me and put food on my family's table. I can't say the industry or career is perfect by any means. The thing about making a decision is that you will never know how the alternative choice would have turned out so why even give it any thought. If there
is anything I've learned is that this life is so very short and our time is limited. Enjoy your family, your friends and your career as they are truly all blessings.
I also like to refer to myself first as an embalmer; I think it is because for as many years as I've owned a business I have also served colleagues as a trade embalmer. We should be making great embalming a priority. For too long we have let the appearance of loved ones not be where I feel it should be. Let's do the small things to give a great lasting memory for families.
I have always been involved in the monument industry since I've been in funeral service. We have been blessed to start our
own headstone business, Chandler Monuments. Over several years, we have become the largest monument provider in the county and we also serve many of the surrounding areas. I believe nothing is as important as a permanent cemetery memorial. I enjoy assisting families in designing, ordering, and installing these monuments. It can be very difficult for some families as the last item they have to take care of following a death. I am always enamored to think of the years to come these monuments will stand up to the test of time in these cemeteries. There are few things you can accomplish today that will last for hundreds of years like setting a monument. Bryan can be reached at www.ChandlerFuneralHome.net.
Why We'll Still Need Funeral Directors 100 Years From NowBY CHASE DOWNS
Technology disrupts every industry, and we’ve all been witnesses to it — old GPS systems, replaced by Apple Maps and Google Maps. Production and fulfillment workers, replaced by robotic systems. Old cameras, replaced by iPhones. Blockbuster, replaced by streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. Taxis, replaced by Uber. The golden question stands — will funeral directors ever be replaced?
No, and we’ll explain to you why.
Families Need Human Support When Grieving Funeral directors are far more than just people who take care of the deceased. They play an important role in helping families process the loss of a loved one. As a result, funeral directors also play the role of helping people learn how to grieve in moments of loss. According to a study that was reported by Amerispeak, WebMD, and our friends over at Eterneva, around 57% of Americans are grieving the loss of someone close to them 3 years later.
The moral of the story? Grieving is not finite. It doesn’t ever really just end. Instead, we learn how to navigate grief over time.
There are a few important factors that technology will never be able to truly automate or pin down:
• Everyone handles grief differently
• Everyone needs different forms of support
• Every family dynamic is different
• Every culture offers different, niche traditions that vary from others
The only people who are able to manage these different dynamics are funeral directors. Funeral directors are the people that hold the hands of grieving family members to provide comfort. Funeral directors are the ones who choose to be physically present, offer support, and guide families through the process of loss when no one else wants to.
Emma Seminoff, one of the licensed funeral directors on staff with industry provider Gather, said it best with this concept:
“My favorite part about being a funeral director was the first calls. It’s the family’s first interaction with you and the intimacy of going into a stranger’s home in the middle of the night into people’s bedrooms is something they never forget.
"Families become very attached to the first person they encounter in this process because they have seen them at their most vulnerable [moments], in their home, and it’s the first person to tell them that they’ll take good care of their loved one.
"That moment never gets a redo, and it’s a core memory for so many. I think that’s another thing that technology can never do.”
Genuine Community Involvement Can’t Be Automated or
Bottom line, most funeral directors didn’t get into the profession for the money. These people are passionate about helping others through some of the worst moments in their lives.
Plus, according to the NFDA, nearly 90% of all funeral homes in the U.S. are family-owned. These funeral homes and funeral directors have built long-standing legacies and have been heavily involved with their communities for hundreds of years.
These locally owned and operated funeral homes take the time to help create obituaries that will serve as personal, intimate keepsakes that live forever in the memory of their loved ones.
While technology can aid the arrangement process, it cannot simply replicate the physical, emotional, and meaningful experiences that funeral directors provide to families.
Consumer Preferences Revolve Around Education, Not Digitalization
Yes, consumer preferences change every day. We can even see that in our industry with more people opting in for cremation nowadays.
We can also see that trickle into many other industries — people are engaged with technology more now than ever before.
But it goes a step further than that. What really provides more comfort to people is education:
• More education
• Better education
• Easier-to-understand education
In the deathcare industry, families are looking for a supporter, a guide, and an educator to help them navigate their journey of losing a loved one.
More times than not, families will appreciate and remember real interactions that they have with a funeral director — not the e-commerce platform that lets them self-checkout to complete their loved one’s cremation.
Education, education, education. That’s where the real value is.
People Desire The Best Experience Possible
People want the best, most intimate experience possible in anything they do. How do funeral directors help deliver that? Trust, reputation, and honest connection.
Trust and reputation for funeral directors and funeral services are built through genuine connections and relationships.
Families want to trust that:
• Their loved one is in good hands to be cared for
• Their loved one matters to the community
• Their grief is valid and understood
• They will receive dedicated help throughout the entire process of losing their loved one
In a lot of ways, an automated, 100% digitalized solution can’t meet these experiential needs for families. But funeral directors can. Funeral directors serve an invaluable role in helping provide peace of mind to families in one of the most difficult experiences in their life.
No matter how fast the pace of technology marches on, one thing will never change: when you lose a loved one, you need another human to help you navigate the difficult days ahead. FBS
Chase Downs joined Gather in 2022 as a funeral service and death care advocate. He's excited to help share Gather's incredible story. He's been featured in several funeral service publications on a variety of subjects including software, marketing, technology, and funeral service. Reach him via email at chase.downs@ gather.app, or learn more about Gather by visiting https://gather.app.
Who is Element and what product and/or service do they provide?
Based in Colorado, Element by The Living Urn® is committed to offering funeral homes best-of-class U.S. made biodegradable and traditional urns, keepsakes, and memorial options that are more meaningful and personal. Its market leading product offering includes the patented Living Urn®, the leading bio urn and planting system designed to grow a tree with cremated remains, multiple indoor planting urns, a line of eco-friendly scattering and burial urns, fingerprint jewelry, cremation jewelry, glass art keepsakes, and more! With its premium product line and state-of-the-art virtual urn store for funeral homes with real-time personalization proofing, families can honor a loved one with an urn and memorial experience that helps tell their loved one’s story.
How did Element by the Living Urn get involved in the industry?
The Living Urn® was the initial product – it was inspired by the founders’ childhood classmate who lost his father and a tree was planted in his memory. Thirty years later the tree is still growing and thriving! The founders’ loved the idea of planting a living tree in memory and wanted to take the concept a step further and integrate cremated remains into a unique biodegradable planting system – something that they developed, patented and named The Living Urn®. Since the launch of The Living Urn® in 2015, the company has continued to expand each year and create new and unique urns and memorial experiences.
Element by the Living Urn (855) 777-URNS (8767) www.ElementCatalog.com info@ElementUrns.com
What makes Element unique?
The company’s products are truly unique with patents covering their inventions. Their world class urn and keepsake lines are offered to funeral homes with the highest quality and service at a reasonable price. In addition, many of their urns and keepsakes are produced and personalized at their production facility in Colorado - giving funeral homes a quick turnaround on orders and any personalization required.
What are the benefits to funeral homes using Element?
Element by The Living Urn® provides funeral homes with a one-stop shop for their urn and keepsake needs (everything from traditional urns to proprietary biodegradable urns and keepsakes!). Additional benefits includes highly competitive pricing, same day shipping, and a state-of-the-art virtual urn store with real-time personalization proofing.
How does Element provide a solution for Funeral Homes?
The company offers unique high-quality products at the best price. Having production in Colorado gives them control over the quality and end result. They also have a top-notch Denver-based customer service team available and ready to help funeral directors anytime. In addition, they offer a custom urn store to their funeral home customers at no charge!
How would a funeral home contact Element for more information on your products?
To learn more, Element by The Living Urn® can be reached at (855) 777-URNS (8767), or info@ElementUrns.com. And, to check out their catalog visit: www.ElementCatalog.com
One of the revelations of the Funeral Service Foundation’s research “Breaking the Consumer Code” was the common perception among consumers that conventional funeral facilities are, in their words, perceived as “lonely lifeless tombs.” Here is an actual image the respondents selected to express their opinion:
The Venue Dictates the ExperienceBY ALAN CREEDY
The research goes on to report that consumers find conventional facilities confining and too gloomy. Those of us who have read this research realized
that funeral homes are typically built inside out. The public areas often have no windows or the windows are heavily draped. The colors are, at best, neutral but often dark. The atmosphere tends toward the gloomy and, in my experience, either stark or too crowded.
I don’t even have to point you to specific websites to make my point. Randomly pick funeral home websites (maybe even your own) that display photos of the interior and imagine yourself to be a consumer. What does a photo like the one below convey to you? Better yet, how does it make you feel?
Contrast that with the photo below and you might begin to understand what they are saying.
respects. Its décor, lighting, and layout is such that one is encouraged to stay and visit.
He has taken what he has and turned it into something that is so remarkable that it actually makes some of his competitors facilities look sinister. That visit taught me that a good decorator can transform humble or even negative facilities to something special.
The 21st Century facility incorporates the outdoors with lots of outside lighting. If you have the ability, providing access to an outdoor party patio with a fountain, fireplace, and barbecue pit could be ideal. I have been to a number of facilities that have back or side yards that would be perfect for features like a gazebo and/or a garden. How would conducting a funeral in something like this impact the experience?
In her book, “The Art of Gathering,” a book about gatherings in general, not specifically funeral service, Priya Parker makes the galvanizing observation that the venue of a gathering dictates the experience. She points out that the impact of a gathering is dramatically impacted by the venue in which it is experienced. Think about the experience of attending a high school football game in a small rural community vs. the Super Bowl. Priya believes we need to control the venue in order to control the impact.
But what are we to do? Few if any of us can afford to tear down our buildings and build from scratch. More to the point, at least in my experience, most of the architects who specialize in funeral homes are still devoted to the architecture of the past, which emphasizes functionality over impact.
Well, it seems there are two things we can do:
1. If, in fact, we are building new, we should study this research. We should buy airplane tickets and visit the few 21st Century facilities that have opened. (The one above is in Toronto, Canada.) I know of others in Texas and Colorado. If you want an excuse to write off a trip to Europe, the best one is in Scandinavia.
2. We should engage professionally licensed interior designers to upgrade our facilities with an emphasis on upbeat colors, happy surprises, and lots of lighting. I recently visited a facility outside Pittsburgh that is a perfect illustration of what to do with a conventional building. This location is humble and it is in a humble part of town. The owner can’t move.
What he has done, instead, is decorate in ways that overcome that “lonely lifeless tomb” feel and elevate it to a warm, upbeat, and friendly atmosphere. It is not a place where people just want to come to pay
All of this is both affordable and doable for most funeral homes. But, most important, it’s what customers want.
Keep this in mind: "The Venue Dictates the Experience."FBS
Alan Creedy is celebrating his 43rd year as a consultant to the Funeral Profession. You can learn more about him and the services he offers at his website: https://funeralhomeconsulting.org/
Who is Kanga-Woo and what product and/or service do you provide?
Kanga-Woo First Call Pouches is a company who manufacturers high quality, tailor made first call pouches, cot covers, and baby carriers. Kanga-Woo also provides pouches and carriers for the pet care industry.
How did Kanga-Woo get involved in the funeral industry? Owner, Al Schiavone has been a licensed Funeral Director for the past 33 years. Al has made numerous first call removals of all kinds using the standard products that have not changed or improved for years. This lead Al to re-design and patent a more efficient, accessible product for the funeral professionals and first call removal techs.
What makes your initial product, the first call pouch, unique? What sets Kanga-Woo First call Pouches apart from others is our "revolutionary" design.
The Kanga-Woo first call pouch has many features including a built in, full length mattress sleeve. This design prevents the mattress pad from sliding out of place when making a first call removal. The pouch is 6 inches deeper than the standard pouch and has 2 inner and outer pockets along with 2 built in pillow sleeves. These features, in combination with the heavy duty zipper allows the pouch to be placed on the cot in either direction.
What innovations did you add to your cot covers?
The unique design on the Kanga-Woo cot cover is a magnetic "flip up" end. This flip up end prevents the cover from getting caught in the wheels while placing the cot in the vehicle. A built in pillow sleeve allows for the convenience of carrying a pillow or other supplies needed.
What is your newest product?
Last, but not least, we are very excited to introduce our newest product, the Kanga-Woo First Call baby removal carrier. Our baby carrier is not only very professional looking, but is so easy to use. The carrier is 100% collapsible for easy storage when not in use. As with all our products, we use only high quality upholstery fabric which is 100% polyester and machine washable. All our products are offered in several different fabric patterns to choose from.
What are the benefits to using products from Kanga-Woo?
Did we mention.... Kanga-Woo products are proudly hand made and designed in The United States. All KangaWoo products are designed to make the removal process easier and more efficient. The first class design will provide compassion and professionalism in your funeral home.
How would a funeral home contact you?
You can reach Kanga-Woo by visiting our website at www.kanga-woo.com, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 1-800-645-8966.
INNER & OUTER POCKETS
The impact of text messaging on society and communication has revolutionized everyday life, offering speed and convenience in transmitting information. Text messaging has streamlined processes and transformed interactions, including how businesses engage with customers.
Funeral professionals have also seen the benefits of integrating text messaging into their business strategies. Despite initial concerns about professionalism and the preferences of older generations, text messaging has become an essential tool for funeral homes, catering to the needs and expectations of families. Studies show that text messaging is widely used, even among Americans over 50, with a 98% open rate and higher response rates compared to emails.
ASD, the leading funeral home answering service provider, has observed closely how text messaging has become an essential tool for funeral homes. Recognizing the demand for technologies that meet this growing need, ASD has developed specific textmessaging tools tailored for funeral professionals. These solutions not only save time but also provide greater flexibility for on-call funeral directors.
Here are 10 Text Messaging Hacks You Need to Know
the need for directors to respond during their time off, keeps a record of conversations, improves office organization, and offers staff oversight. Additionally, it prevents families from contacting a former employee who is no longer associated with the funeral home.
2. Send and Receive Text Messages Online Using the Funeral Home Number
While relaying information to families via text while onthe-go is convenient for directors, funeral home office staff must often use text messaging to converse with families as well. This is why ASD’s MobileFH® Texting is also available through a secure online portal. Office staff can log in and use the funeral home number to coordinate appointments, respond to inquiries, and send aftercare messages. Accessing text messages on a computer also keeps everyone synchronized and supports administrative tasks like insurance paperwork and obituary submissions. This efficient access to messages saves time and offers unparalleled convenience for funeral home staff.
3. Text Families Important Resources Immediately Following Their First Call
Use Your Funeral Home’s Number as the Outgoing Caller ID When Sending and Receiving Text Messages
In the past, funeral professionals hesitated to use text messaging due to privacy concerns, the risk of misdirected information, and difficulty in accessing crucial data. However, ASD’s MobileFH® Texting solves these issues comprehensively. This feature enables funeral homes to send and receive texts using their main business number, ensuring secure communication for sensitive information. It also maintains funeral directors’ privacy by concealing their personal cell phone numbers while conducting business on the go.
The ASD Mobile app stores all messages, photos, and documents sent to the funeral home number, providing easy access for owners and managers to review. The benefits are abundant: it safeguards directors’ privacy, allows retrieval of attachments and photos, minimizes
The initial phone call to a funeral home can be overwhelming for a grieving family member. Offering immediate guidance through text messaging helps establish a connection and demonstrates care. ASD’s NEXT STEP Text™ enables funeral homes to send important resources to families via text after their first call. The text can be initiated by an ASD Call Specialist after handling a first call for the funeral home or by a funeral home employee using the ASD Mobile app. All replies to the NEXT STEP Text™ messages are conveniently logged within the ASD Mobile app. Funeral professionals can choose to link to a specific resource page on the funeral home’s website or a checklist prewritten by ASD that includes their firm’s name and website. This versatile solution enhances the overall experience for families and offers new opportunities for deathcare professionals.
4. Share Obituary Information with Callers via Text
One of the most common reasons a person contacts a mortuary is to obtain funeral service information.
More than ever, people appreciate having information conveniently at their fingertips. This led ASD to develop an Obit Texting feature to ensure callers who request service information can receive a helpful text with all of the details. The text message will be a link to the obituary leading the person directly to the funeral home’s website, creating opportunities for the mortuary to reach more people with their web content than they could previously. Visitors can explore other web pages and learn more about the funeral home. This can, in turn, increase the firm’s pre-need leads or secure new sales for flowers and condolence gifts.
5. Add a “Text Us” Option to Your Website
Enhance your funeral home website with a ‘Text Us’ button, enabling mobile users to send text messages. ASD Mobile will notify the on-call director, who can reply from the app using the funeral home number as the outgoing Caller ID. Introduced earlier this year, ASD’s cutting-edge Web Texting tool will strengthen funeral home communication channels and enhance customer service. This new solution is made possible through ASD’s integrations with the leading funeral home website companies and is currently being utilized by mutual clients of ASD and Tukios. The company expects to introduce this powerful functionality to more funeral homes in the upcoming months.
6. Respond to ASD Messages via Text or Push Notification
Whether on the road, with a family or in the middle of a memorial service, there are certain times when it is not only inconvenient, but impossible, for a funeral director to be interrupted with a phone call. This is why ASD’s systems are designed to allow clients to respond to messages from a mobile device without the need for a telephone call. Clients can set up a customizable delay for urgent messages that gives them a convenient window of time to respond before ASD follows up with a phone call.
7. Receive Follow Up Reminders on Outstanding Text Messages
ASD now offers a valuable feature to ensure timely notification for on-call funeral directors. When the funeral home’s number receives a text message that hasn’t been replied to, ASD’s system can immediately alert the on-call director. This proactive notification system guarantees no important messages are overlooked or left unanswered.
8. Text GPS Address and Floral Recommendations to Callers
Mobile technology has greatly reduced calls from lost visitors to funeral homes thanks to the advent of GPS navigation. More often these days, people call to confirm GPS addresses, so ASD sends text messages with address links for easy route viewing on navigation maps. Similarly, funeral homes often field calls related to florist recommendations. ASD can now offer to send
a text message to callers who request this information with the funeral home’s recommended flower shop(s). Like Obit Texting, there is no effort required on behalf of the funeral home to take advantage of these solutions. Text messages are sent by ASD using the funeral home number as the Outgoing Caller ID, ensuring any replies are sent to the on-call director. These convenient texting features are offered to all ASD clients for no charge.
9. Send Your GPL To Shopper Callers via Text
ASD is actively developing a new technology for the ever-changing funeral consumer/shopper who expects an immediate price quote over the phone, completely customized to their needs. Most families appreciate both personal service and having information at their fingertips. Having the ability to text them the funeral home’s General Price List while they are still on the phone with on-call director is a game-changing solution that will revolutionize how funeral homes handle these sensitive calls.
10. Use Text Messaging for Alerts in Funeral Home Building
One of the most interesting ways funeral homes have used ASD’s MobileFH® Texting is to create signs around their funeral home building encouraging visitors to text them regarding things need to be addressed. For example, if a box of tissues, dispenser of soap, or roll of toilet paper needs to be replenished, mourners can discreetly and conveniently make the funeral home staff aware of it. The staff can then respond promptly to maintain a well-stocked and comforting environment for visitors. BONUS HACK: You can add a QR code to signs that will automatically create a text message, allowing the person scanning the code to immediately alert the funeral home staff with just a quick tap on their phone.
To learn more about these text messaging tools and other communication solutions for funeral homes contact ASD
Social Media and Your Funeral HomeBY JACQUI ATKIN
Social media marketing is a necessity for funeral homes. Why? Because creating relationships is at the very heart of the funeral profession, and an excellent social media strategy will accomplish that endeavor. Your community should have the opportunity to get to know you and your staff before they require your services. Then, when an at-need situation arises, they’ll think of your funeral home first and know exactly whom to call.
Years ago, I went kicking and screaming into setting up my first social media account. At the time, I just wasn’t interested. I figured if I wanted someone to know what I was doing, I’d tell them in person, send them a text, or (gasp!) call them on the phone. My husband and his business partner are licensed funeral directors and the owners of several funeral homes, and I assist them with their marketing efforts. After enrolling in courses for social media for business and digital marketing, I realized we were missing out on a fast, relatively inexpensive, and incredibly effective way to reach families in our service area. Jumping in and committing to social media was truly the best marketing decision I ever made. The positive feedback was immediate and encouraging. Every funeral home, no matter how small, should definitely be including social media in their marketing strategy.
Facebook and Instagram are excellent platforms that allow funeral homes to reach a large percentage of people in their service area. According to smartinsights.com, 4.8 billion people around the world now use social media, and the average daily time spent using social media per person per day is a whopping two hours and twenty-four minutes. Your community is no exception.
Quality social media posts engage users and help to create top-of-mind awareness of your funeral home within your service area. Sproutsocial.com reports that 78% of consumers are willing to buy from a company after having a positive experience with them on social media. This statistic definitely applies to funeral homes. And these days, it may
also be argued that people tend to look for a business on social media even before visiting their website.
Additionally, social media allows you to create relationships with the families you serve and connect with your community. It allows you to participate in conversations that would not otherwise occur. When a family member leaves a comment on a post or sends a question directly to your funeral home, an opportunity arises for you or a member of your staff to respond and to personally connect with the individual. These types of interactions leave a lasting impression of trust and goodwill.
Need more convincing? Posting obituaries on Facebook directly from your website allows families to quickly and easily share their loved one’s obituary with family and friends, which in turn drives more people to your website. More website traffic is a definite win for your funeral home! Increased visits to your website will eventually lead to more people coming through your front door, whether for pre-need or at-need.
Maintaining a consistent presence on social media is very important. Consistent posting helps demonstrate your funeral home’s reliability and dependability and cultivates a solid relationship between your funeral home and your community members. Social media is also an excellent tool for advertising the advantages of pre-planning, thus increasing the volume of your pre-need leads without spending a fortune.
It’s important to remember that your social media posts should be relevant, engaging, and industry-specific. Engaging posts will showcase your funeral home and grow your reach - establishing you as the leading expert within your community and creating familiarity with your name. But remember, more is often not better. Incessant and inferior “filler” content will drive your audience away. I’ve seen some pretty strange funeral home posts in my day, including a quote about finding a way to be less afraid of dead bodies.
Yikes! Probably not what your audience wants to come across while scrolling through Facebook. To create the best posting strategy, be sure to include a variety of insightful, well thought-out content.
Here are my top five tips:
• To ensure that your posts are consistent, consider hiring a social media professional that understands the funeral profession. Funeral directors are some of the busiest people on the planet. You may have good intentions to do it yourself, but we all know that’s easier said than done.
• Keep informative posts short - remember, people are “scanning” more than “reading” your content.
• Ensure that all posts are relevant to the funeral industry. No one is coming to your page looking for cleaning tips or gardening advice.
• Hire a professional videographer to film a series of funeral home shorts that can be shared to your social media pages. Videos get excellent engagement, but you want to make sure they look professional and are recorded by an expert.
• Last but not least, make it personal. Don’t forget to share employee spotlights and showcase your staff participating in activities in real life. It’s great for people to see the neighborhood funeral director out of a suit!
Whether you’re a funeral home owner already on board the social media train or one that requires a lot of convincing, the statistics don’t lie. Social media is here to stay and plays a prevalent role in the lives of billions of people each and every day, including those in your service area. As author Lori Ruff states, “Social media is here. It’s not going away; not a passing fad. Be where your customers are: in social media.”
Don’t wait for your competitors to beat you to the punchbegin developing your social media presence today. And even if they have, it’s never too late to get started.
Remember, when it comes to social media, funeral home owners have two choices - keep up, or get left behind. FBS
Jacqui Atkin is the Owner of Social Media Solutions for Funeral Homes and is certified in Social Media for Business and Digital Marketing. Jacqui is the proud wife of a licensed funeral director and funeral home owner, and she has lived in many a mortuary! She enjoys creating quality content for funeral homes and understands the unique challenges associated with marketing and the demands of funeral home ownership. Contact her directly with any questions at (435) 705-1252 or email@example.com. Visit her website at https://www.smsforfuneralhomes.com.
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Do you have questions?
What’s the proper tax treatment of our trust accounts? How are cash advances treated for tax reporting purposes?
I’m considering expanding into another state. How does that affect my taxes? Should I own my funeral home as a corporation, LLC, or sole proprietorship?
What’s the best way to sell my funeral home?
I’m thinking of taking on a partner. What’s the best way to do that?
I’m purchasing a funeral home property. Who should own it; me or my funeral home? What can I do to reduce my tax liability?
I’d like to pass down my business to my children. What’s the most tax effective way of doing that? Do I have to be concerned about the estate tax? Let’s talk; we’re here to help.
Aftercare - The Nail in the Coffin of Funeral Brand ExperienceBY GEORGE PAUL, III
Now that we’ve gotten my corniness in the title aside let’s get serious for a second. There’s change in the air and the industry as a whole is very slow to change. It’s been my experience that with some firm owners something has to be on it’s last piece of duct tape before they go and improve on what’s needed. Yet, when it comes to brand experience that’s an expensive cost you don’t want to take on.
We know relationships are crucial in this business. Plus you firm owners are community based so you have to show your face and do things that support the community. However, when it comes to you doing your craft you need to pay close attention to where things are going. In the past when it came to getting service calls having a relationship was enough. Many of you simply got business via wordof-mouth. Now, though, we’re living in the information age. Our communities are larger because there’s a whole digital presence we have to be a part of. How does that play a role in your business?
Well, it’s changed buying behaviors. People don’t just buy out of function or necessity, but identity and status. What they buy says a lot of about them as a person and how they want to be perceived. It’s no different with death care, perhaps even more so.
Choice and Identity
When a family chooses a funeral home to care for their loved one, they’re saying to everyone who attends, “this funeral home is part of who we are and how we want our loved one to be remembered.” That’s why having an updated facility is important since it plays into the overall experience. That’s also why you’re seeing more personalization in memorial services. This is where the local community becomes larger since survivors can look online and search for potential firms well before you get a phone call. They’re researching which firm best identifies
with their identity and this is an opportunity for you to shine. By positioning yourself as an expert in a particular kind of memorial service you can stand out and be the primary choice by families looking for that kind of service. You need to keep in mind though that because families are more savvy they’re also expecting more in terms of the experience they have doing business with your firm.
It is just that, an experience. The firm that understands and caters to that is the one that will get the most service calls. In that line, when it comes to the funeral brand experience you have three stages. Before a family comes to you, like when they’re researching firms. Then you have the during stage which is when they’ve agreed to have you handle their loved one’s final arrangements leading up to the service. Finally, you have the after stage which is after the service is done and people are beginning to pick up the pieces of their lives and move on. This aftercare stage is where you can really seal the deal for future business with that family and future referrals. Now I’ll be clear and say, families are both expecting something at this stage and not expecting something.
The Aftercare Advantage
When it comes to aftercare families aren’t expecting it in the sense that they understand that your expertise is in the final arrangements so they won’t hold it against you if they don’t see anything from you after the service is done and the bill is paid. However, they are expecting something in this aftercare stage because they still need help and they know you’re the expert when it comes to death and healing. That’s what they need, help with healing and dealing with grief afterward.
This is where you as firm owners can really put the nail in the coffin and virtually guarantee that should another death occur either in their family or with someone they
Moment of Reflection is a unique service that links a video to a QR code on the display that is easily visible and can be scanned at the grave. This service changes forever the way we remember and celebrate our loved ones.
know, you will be the one they call. This is because you’ve shown that you’re here to support them every step of the way even after all the arrangements have concluded.
Naturally, they are aftercare services in this industry where they will send a card on specific dates. That’s nice, but it’s a start. Go deeper.
The Aftercare Experience
What are the challenges families have after the service has passed? What feelings will they be dealing with that you can help them identify and address? What last steps do they need to take to wrap up their loved one’s affairs? Do they need to sell homes and belongings? Are there probate issues? Do they realize that they’re going to be feeling and acting a certain way when the anniversary of their loved one comes up? Do they have unresolved grief and not know it? Well, you know these are the issues that will come up and as the expert you can address them. The question is will you?
Of course, many of these things are not your area of expertise. You’re not a lawyer nor are you a grief counselor. Yet, you can be a hub of resources for families when these things come up. You can provide content and information to help families deal with the challenges that arise after the service has passed. You can keep your doors open for
support and even if it’s just a listening ear when feelings of grief come back over the family. That’s real aftercare.
When a family sees that you’ve been there every step of the way in caring for their loved one you’ve delivered an entire funeral brand experience that will set you head and shoulders above the rest. That’s the type of experience people pay more for which leads to increased profit margins, service calls and business security. Discuss creating an aftercare program with your team and implement it so that you can be the leader in providing comfort and healing to families in your community. Until next time I wish you the best branding your legacy. FBS
George Paul III is a volatile visionary using branding and design to help grieving families honor the legacy of their loved one. It's his vision to help funeral homes reach 7-figures in revenue become profitable, sustainable & generational. He’s the founder of Cherished Keepsakes and Cherished Creative. For over 10 years Cherished Keepsakes has provided personalized funeral keepsakes to families and firms across the country. Cherished Creative delivers agency-level branding, marketing and design services to busy firm owners. He can be reached at gpaul@ cherishedkeepsakes.com. URLs: www.cherishedcreative. agency and www.cherishedkeepsakes.com
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How to Comply with OSHA's Hazard Communication Standard
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Hazard Communication Standard (HCS), also known as the "Right to Know" standard, is a set of guidelines established by OSHA. It aims to ensure that employers and employees in funeral homes and the deathcare industry are informed about the hazardous chemicals present in the workplace and how to work safely with them.
Non-compliance with the Hazard Communication Standard can expose your funeral home to fines of up to $15,625 per violation.
The purpose of the Hazard Communication Standard, with its Globally Harmonized System (GHS) enhancement, is to clearly communicate to employees the dangers of chemicals in the workplace in a consistent manner, throughout the world. These enhancements align OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard with the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals.
The HCS is aimed at reducing and preventing chemicalrelated injuries and illnesses in the prep room, care center, and other parts of the workplace.
Here are the key requirements of the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard:
1. Hazard Classification: Employers must determine the hazards of all chemicals present in the workplace. This involves evaluating the chemicals to identify potential physical and health hazards, such as flammability, toxicity, and carcinogenicity.
2. Safety Data Sheets (SDS): Manufacturers and importers of hazardous chemicals are required to provide Safety Data Sheets (SDS) for each hazardous chemical they produce or import. Employers must maintain an SDS for each chemical they use, and make them readily accessible to employees.
3. Container Labeling: All containers of hazardous chemicals in the workplace must be labeled with specific information, including the product identifier, signal word, hazard statement(s), precautionary statement(s), and pictograms.
RECURRING COLUMN & CHECKLIST PROVIDED BY:BY MARK HARRISON
4. Employee Training: Employers must provide training to employees on the hazards of the chemicals they work with, the proper methods for handling and storing chemicals, and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE).
5. Written Hazard Communication Program: Employers must develop and maintain a written Hazard Communication Program that outlines the procedures, policies, and responsibilities related to the handling of hazardous chemicals in the workplace.
6. Employee Access to Information: Employees have the right to access information about the hazardous chemicals they work with, including the SDS and container labels. This information must be provided to employees upon request.
The Hazard Communication Standard is designed to ensure that both employers and employees of funeral homes have the necessary information and training to work safely with hazardous chemicals, reducing the risk of chemical-related incidents and promoting a safer work environment.
To comply with OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (29 CFR 1910.1200), including the Globally Harmonized System (GHS), be sure to have everything listed in this article fully customized to your facility and your employee base. FBS
Certified Safety Training (CST) is the leader in funeral home, crematory, and cemetery OSHA compliance. Backed by more than 30 years of industry experience and Certified Safety Professionals, CST matches industry expertise with customizable, award-winning programming to make sure that customers have the highest-quality safety programs, plans, training, and advice.
To bring your entire workplace – facility and personnel – into compliance with OSHA, contact Certified Safety Training: help@certifiedsafetytraining • 609.375.8462 • ww.certifiedsafetytraining.org
INDUSTRY SPOTLIGHT: Randy Koufalis of RK Productions
How did you get started with your company?
As an artist, I founded RK Productions in 1994 as a manufacturer of hand made natural stone products. My background in the Vancouver film industry as a sculptor, props specialist and set decorator as well as his history of making award winning clay animated films, is what the company evolved from. Items such as mirrors, bowls and wall plaques were both designed and produced by the company and sold all over North America. Everything RK Productions makes is manufactured in Canada using real stone.
How did the company become involved in this industry?
In 2007, I decided to add cremation urns to its offerings. I wanted to provide families with a high quality, well designed urn that did not look like a traditional urn. In fact, so I set out to do the exact opposite. I wanted to create designs that would stand out from the crowd and allow a family to display them in their home as pieces of art, rather than urns. Over the next several years these Funeral Products began to become a more significant part of RK Productions designs and eventually have taken over the entire direction of the company. We now design and produce well over 50 urns, keepsakes and candle holder urns for Funeral Homes worldwide. They can be found proudly on display in peoples homes and cemetery niches and funeral homes.
What is your favorite thing about what you do?
There is really two things: one is the ability to design new products from the ground up. Starting with simple sketches and 3D models and turning these into products that can be manufactured one piece at a time. This is a very exciting process that can last for several months and even years.
The second thing is our incredible staff. We have put together a very creative team of talented artisans, that take incredible pride in what we produce. Each one of our urns and keepsakes is hand made and hand painted one at a time.They care deeply about the products we make and they are very connected to how these items can impact other families lives. This is a very rewarding thing for an owner to experience.
What do you wish you knew when you first started?
Understanding which marketing paths and in particular which conventions are worth participating in. I’m still learning every day, and have always believed people around me have lots to offer, but you have to be willing to listen. And ask the right questions.
What is the most challenging aspect of your career?
Most people would probably say finding good people. But that’s something we have been very good at. The real challenges are encouraging funerals directors to try something different and to trust us when we explain how families truly appreciate our designs.
How do you set personal goals for yourself?
In the shower! This may sound absurd, but some of my best ideas, solutions to problems and goals to achieve, happen when I’m in the shower. My goals tend to manifest themselves from smaller ideas that can seem insignificant at the time, but become increasingly apparent in months to follow. I’ve always been driven by creating things or building things with my hands. In many cases the hands on approach to all things in my life, including goals, is how I start the process of achieving them. I also tend to surround myself in a quiet and natural environment such as a forest or a river. The clarity that can happen there has been very rewarding.
Why have you stayed in this industry for so many years?
This is a very small industry. One which I thought may not be large enough for us to sustain our designs into. But I have learned that due to how small it is, and because our designs are so unique, we have been able to stand out among other products in a more significant way.
What has been the most important factor in your success?
Creating meaningful designs that families will choose because they connect with the art and the design, that memorializes their loved ones. And focusing much of our efforts on the best quality and best customer service we can provide. This industry has changed dramatically in the past few years.
How has that affected RK Productions and your career?
In Canada the cremation rate is one of highest in North America and we were very comfortable introducing new products into these markets. In the US market, cremation has dramatically increased as a percentage of overall deaths from well below 50% to well over 50% in the past 15+ years. The most successful funeral homes in Canada have been doing what the US funeral homes are now experiencing for many years already, as the cremation rate in Canada is above 80% across the country. The key to success in a changing industry is to embrace the change and more specifically in the funeral industry, to make sure all families know (not just burial families)what kinds of options there are for them to choose from. There is a sense of “oh, it’s just a cremation family” here is our basic cremation package. What I hear many successful funeral directors tell me, is they offer all of the same things to a cremation family as they do a burial family. And what I hear families tell me is they had no idea they could do all these things. We tend to forget a family may be in the funeral home for the first time in their life and they have no idea what to expect. It’s very important for the future of any funeral home, to make sure they give every family, not just the burial family, every opportunity that is available to memorialize there loved one. The results may be very surprising…
What are you most proud of so far in your career?
I am very proud of being able to say we manufacture all our products in North America. Way too much manufacturing has
left the country and there is a significant price we are all paying for this. Keeping our manufacturing here, allows us the ability to keep our quality at the highest level possible and control our inventory. In fact, during Covid while many suppliers were running out of products, we were producing more of our urns and keepsakes than we ever had! Because we could…
The other thing I am particularly proud of, is setting an example to my children, how anything is achievable if you are willing to work hard and believe in yourself and what you are trying to achieve. I want them to be able to see this, and we share a considerable amount with them how this works. One of my favourite things I repeat oftenis “I don’t want to hear why we can’t do this, I want to hear how we can!”
Looking forward to the future, what are you most excited about? What are you most concerned about?
It is exciting to be in an industry that is changing and from my perspective growing. This creates opportunities if your willing to see them. In my opinion, personalized memorialization is going to continue to become one of the most demanded things
families will be wanting. But, I’m probably most concerned we, as an industry, are not providing families with enough information about how we can do this. We need to provide clearer guidance. Families do not know what, they don’t know.
Do you have any advice for other business owners in this industry that might be struggling?
As I’ve said, this is a very small industry. Not every idea is going to make it into this market, you need to recognize when that is. Many companies think they will make heaps of money selling or providing services to the funeral industry. But I’m surprised how many don’t realize there is only approximately 2 million deaths each year in the United States. This is in relative terms a very small number. In the years when RK Productions sold products into gift shops, gallery’s and home decor stores we could sell to over 300 million Americans. 2 million is a substantially smaller number. Recognize when your product or service is not going to work and listen, listen, listen. FBS
You can learn more at www.RKUrns.com
The 2023 National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) International Convention & Expo takes place September 10-13 (one month earlier than usual) in Las Vegas, Nevada. Attendees will learn, grow, connect and return home refreshed, ready to serve grieving families and build thriving businesses.
Keynote Speakers Will Lead the Way
What do a Harvard Medical School visiting scholar, a rock drummer, and an AI expert all have in common? They’re all keynote speakers at this year’s convention. The keynote speakers will serve as guideposts, illuminating critical issues impacting the profession.
Monday, September 11
Momentum: Accelerate Your Performance Without the Burnout presented by Suneel Gupta, author and Harvard Medical School visiting scholar.
In the face of an exhaustion epidemic, it’s time to rethink how we view high performance. Grit and hustle have their place but are also scientifically associated with burnout. Suneel Gupta helps organizations increase performance, innovation, and creativity by showing why high-potential individuals and teams fizzle out. This presentation is rooted in Gupta’s study of the habits of extraordinary leaders who reached breakthrough levels of productivity, resilience, fulfillment and momentum.
Tuesday, September 12
Hacking the Rockstar Attitude: How to Ignite Rockstar Performance During Uncertain Times presented by Mark Schulman, world-class drummer, speaker and author.
Mark Schulman’s high-energy, dynamic presentation can best be described as a rock show disguised as a keynote. In his engaging, interactive and entertaining performance, Schulman focuses on three core principles: attitude, behavior and consequences. People can’t always control what happens to them, but they can control their attitude, which drives their behavior and determines their consequences. Attendees will walk away with a blueprint for how to incorporate rock ‘n’ roll philosophy, techniques and swagger in order to overcome obstacles, drive performance and energize their work and personal life.
Wednesday, September 13
Embracing AI Technology: Practical Tools and Strategies for Funeral Directors presented by Dennis Yu, CEO, BlitzMetrics.
Curious about the AI (artificial intelligence) technologies that are revolutionizing the business landscape? Dennis Yu will delve into the fascinating and often confusing world of AI. NFDA has randomly selected a mix of members to implement simple changes to enhance their marketing. Yu will reveal the results live and share action guides so attendees can immediately start using AI to optimize their website, edit videos, create ad campaigns and more. Yu will also fill attendees in on the common pitfalls that come with using AI such as hallucinations, false information, accidental plagiarism and SEO penalties.
Extraordinary Education Sessions Tackle Vital Issues
Engaging education sessions will cover technical skills, business management, the value of ceremony, cremation, marketing, and community outreach. To help funeral service professionals build upon their foundation of skills, NFDA has planned more than 30 engaging education sessions with 45 different speakers.
The Funeral Service Industry on Display
The NFDA Convention features the world’s largest funeral service trade show, offering the newest products, services, and innovations from around the world. Many exhibitors plan to introduce new products and services during the convention.
Connecting With Colleagues
Special events, planned exclusively for NFDA Convention attendees, will help attendees network with one another while showcasing the energy and excitement of Las Vegas. The Funeral Service Foundation’s Golf Classic takes place at Topgolf, a short ride from the Las Vegas Convention Center. All skill levels are encouraged to participate.
Attendees will have plenty of opportunities onsite to reconnect with old friends, plus make new ones, at the NFDA Convention Welcome Party, the First-time Attendee Reception (starting just before the Welcome Party), the Funeral Directors Under 40 party, PWC ReConnect, and the Funeral Face-off.
All-Star Recognition Ceremony
Join the NFDA Board of Directors as the association celebrates the remarkable accomplishments of funeral homes and funeral service professionals during the past year during the All-Star Recognition Ceremony on Monday, September 11.
Service of Remembrance – 9/11 Never Forget
This year, NFDA’s Service of Remembrance will take place as part of the opening general session on Monday, September 11. As the nation observes the 22nd anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, attendees will remember the victims as well as the families and survivors whose lives were forever changed. As is tradition, during the Service of Remembrance, NFDA will pay tribute to members of the funeral service family who died during the past year.
Salute to Service Pavilion
The Salute to Service pavilion has become a popular destination in the Expo Hall. In this special area, attendees can learn about funeral and burial benefits for veterans from representatives of the Department of Veterans Affairs, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps Mortuary Affairs, the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations and Army Military Funeral Honors.
Making an exclusive appearance in the Expo Hall during the NFDA Convention is the Global War on Terror Memorial Flag. This moving work of art travels throughout the United States, creating awareness of the sacrifices made by our nation’s
heroes during the Global War on Terror. This 28-foot wide by six-foot tall American flag symbolizes the shape of the flag when draped on a fallen service member’s casket. It was created with 7,000 dog tags of all those who have fallen during the War on Terror and features 50 gold stars honoring all Gold Star families nationwide. Displayed in front of the flag is a battlefield cross sculpted in mahogany by veteran artist Alicia Dietz.
NFDA Booth Showcase
Attendees won’t want to miss special the NFDA booths in the Expo Hall where they can learn about saving time and money with NFDA Endorsed Providers; resources for connecting with consumers through Remembering A Life; how to hire quality employees or find a job using NFDA’s Funeral Career Center; and staying informed with NFDA Publications. New this year, attendees can listen to Gabe Schauf as he records episodes of NFDA’s podcast, A Brush with Death in the Expo Hall.
Connect with colleagues and association staff in NFDA Central. Here attendees can join NFDA or renew their membership; discover resources to expand their horizons in the NFDA Store; pick up a souvenir NFDA Convention t-shirt; be inspired by the 2023 NFDA Pursuit of Excellence honorees (and sign up for the 2024 program year); and learn about the academic and professional-development scholarships and free resources available from the Funeral Service Foundation.
The latest information, including information on how to register and make hotel reservations, is available at www.nfda.org/Convention or by calling 800-228-6332.
Must See Companies at the 2023 NFDA
INTERNATIONAL CONVENTION & EXPO
GOING TO THE NFDA INTERNATIONAL CONVENTION & EXPO?
Keep an eye on the following companies. This section highlights companies and their products and services that will be exhibited at the NFDA International Convention & Expo September 10-13, 2023 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Company information has been supplied by the manufacturers serving the funeral industry.
Homecoming Booth #1971
As an industry pioneer with 40 years of experience serving clients, Homecoming uses state-of-the-art materials to create the most durable, space-saving columbarium niche on the market. Our Columbarium and Memorial Wall Systems offer affordability and spaceefficiency without sacrificing lasting beauty and elegance.
Our unmatched Continuing Service provides additional cost savings and guaranteed quality over the life of your memorial. We help meet the growing need for affordable, accessible, and dignified final placement while maintaining profitability for our clients. With Homecoming, you maximize land use, revenue, and ease of ongoing care.
800-866-8343 | www.homecominginc.com | firstname.lastname@example.org
Kanga-Woo First Call Pouches Booth #1362
Your first call pouch & mortuary cot cover solution, Kanga-Woo First Call Pouches is dedicated to manufacturing a new high quality, revolutionary tailor designed First Call Pouch. We also manufacture a newly designed innovative Mortuary Cot Cover.
Kanga-Woo First Call Pouches is located in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, and all of our products are proudly made in the USA. We invite you to look through our website to learn more about our product line.
800-645-8966 | www.kanga-woo.com | email@example.com
Tukios Booth #2023
Everything about Tukios is easy except saying the name. The most common question we hear is “what’s a Tukios?” Tukios is the plural form of a word from the Swahili language that means “event.” We pronounce it “too-key-ohs.” We wanted our name to be just as unique as our company.
Tukios was launched in 2009 to make funeral directors’ lives easier by saving them time and money on tribute videos. We have since merged with FuneralRecording.com and in the most recent years have started providing websites and aftercare programs.
Our passion is making great products that are indispensable to funeral directors everywhere. We love to hear from our customers and are constantly adding new features they request.
801-682-4391 | www.tukios.com | firstname.lastname@example.org
Ring Ring Marketing Booth #1103
Ring Ring Marketing specializes in helping funeral homes and cemeteries grow and protect their market share by leveraging cutting-edge digital marketing strategies. Hundreds of deathcare firms depend on RRM to help them generate more calls, increase revenue, and dominate their local market.
There's zero risk to working with RRM, because it never locks clients into long-term contracts, and it even offers a 60-day money-back guarantee, no questions asked. Scan the adjacent QR Code or visit ringringmarketing.com to learn more about what RRM can do for you.
888-383-2848 | www.ringringmarketing.com | email@example.com
Element by The Living Urn
Based in Colorado, Element by The Living Urn is committed to offering funeral homes bestof-class U.S. made biodegradable and traditional urns, keepsakes, and memorial options that are more meaningful and personal.
Our market leading product offering includes the patented Living Urn®, the leading bio urn and planting system designed to grow a tree with cremated remains, multiple indoor planting urns, a line of eco-friendly scattering and burial urns, fingerprint jewelry, cremation jewelry, glass keepsakes, and more!
855-777-8767 | www.elementcatalog.com | firstname.lastname@example.org
Chosen Payments is the most prominent Merchant Services Provider in the death care industry. We are the endorsed credit card processor for many state associations. We are a sponsor of NFDA 2023 and support the industry.
Join thousands of death care providers across America who enjoy FREE credit card processing. Isn’t it time to increase your profits and stop giving away your profit when accepting credit cards? We also provide check guarantee services.
To eliminate the cost of accepting credit cards, contact Jim Luff (jim.luff@risewithaurora. com) or call 833-287-6722.
833-287-6722 | www.risewithaurora.com | email@example.com
Hilton Funeral Supply
YOUR COMPLETE FUNERAL SUPPLY SOURCE!
Hilton Funeral Supply is excited to announce our presence at the highly anticipated 2023 NFDA International Convention & Expo. Our commitment to forging strong relationships with funeral professionals solidifies our position as a trusted provider of premium funeral supplies.
Our mission is to simplify the way funeral professionals shop for funeral supplies while reaffirming our commitment to excellence through our partnerships with leading industry brands.
Hilton Funeral Supply is ready to listen and ready to respond.
800-433-8878 | www.HiltonFuneralSupply.com
Mortuary Lift Company
In this day of competitive business, efficiency is of the utmost importance. At Mortuary Lift we have been helping funeral homes become more efficient for more than 50 years. We have the experience to help you streamline your lift needs and improve your productivity, thereby giving your business an opportunity to be more profitable.
We have continually enhanced and adapted its features to improve what was already a superior product. Custom engineered specifically for the funeral, morgue and hospital industry, this heavy duty lift is the only All-in-One Lifting™ system you will ever need for your business.
866-353-2165 | www.mortuarylift.com | firstname.lastname@example.org
A Simple Thank You Booth
Digital registry is growing in popularity with funeral homes and the families it helps. A Simple Thank You has been a leader in this technology and we have added many new features due to requests from funeral directors.
This technology is a huge boost in your preneed program capturing all the information needed to reach out to families looking for preneed options. Ask us about our new integrated video memorial player.
800-483-0671 | www.asimplethankyou.com |
Remodeling your Prep Room or Care-Center? Do you need to add capacity to your care center? Building a new care-center?
Duncan Stuart Todd (DST) designs and equips Preparation Rooms, Dressing & Cosmetic Rooms, Ritual Prep Rooms, Crematory and Viewing Rooms, Aquamation Rooms, ID Rooms, Cooler and Storage areas, and Employee locker and bathrooms. If it's a back-ofhouse mortuary workspace that needs to be built, or remodeled, DST is the expert in design & equipment. DST works with you, your architect, and contractors, to ensure you get the best layout, combined with the latest OSHA & code compliant equipment. Ask about our OSHA compliant PrepAir HVAC systems!
720-583-1886 | www.duncanstuarttodd.com | email@example.com
Starmark manufactures products such as premium wood and metal ceremonial rental caskets, corrugated fiberboard inserts, Artisan alternative cremation containers, and urns (Starmark is the largest maker of cremation urns in North America).
The team at Starmark thinks only about cremation and products for the changing industry landscape. Starmark is 100% focused on providing Sensible Solutions (R) for cremation that improve funeral home revenue from direct to full services.
Pictured at left: Starmark's innovative Chaise Bed Viewer.
The leading manufacturer of removal and alternative viewing products, Final Embrace creates a full line of products designed to make your first interaction with a client family as comforting as possible.
Their innovative IdentiView System - New for 2023 - makes even the simplest direct cremation identification viewing a more comforting experience.
From Precious Cargo Transporters and Comfort Pouches, to Reversible Patriot Cot Covers and VersoTables, Final Embrace has solutions for all your removal and viewing needs.
Tax Implications of Selling Your Funeral HomeBY RAYMOND L. BALD, CPA, CFE & RONALD H. COOPER, CPA
So you’ve worked your tail off for 20, 30 or maybe even 40 years and it’s now time to pass on your funeral home. Back in the day, funeral homes were largely family-owned businesses with each successive generation assuming ownership from the previous one. However, that’s become less common. It’s more likely you’ll be selling your practice to an independent third party and the post-sale proceeds will represent a significant portion of your retirement nest egg. You’ll settle on a price and pay off the bank at the closing. But it doesn’t end there. You’ll eventually need to pay Uncle Sam his share and three factors will significantly affect how much that is.
The first important factor is your type of business as it will determine what you are selling and how you are selling it. Sole proprietorships and partnerships will sell the assets of the company (e.g. vehicles, equipment, real estate, goodwill, etc.) A corporation will either sell its assets or the owner(s) of the corporation will sell their stock (whoever owns the stock owns the company). However, stock sales are very rare due to the negative legal and tax ramifications for the buyer.
Corporations can either be taxed as C-corporations or S-corporations. S-corporations (and partnerships) pay no taxes. Rather, their income “flows through” to the personal returns of the owners and they pay the taxes on their share of the flow-through income. Unlike S-corporations, C-corporations pay their own taxes which may sound good. However, C-corporations are plagued with a “double taxation” issue which can be especially brutal when they are sold. Consequently, few small businesses operate this way today. It's not uncommon to find older funeral homes still operating as C-corporations since this was a common form of ownership many years ago. Although this poses some tax challenges, there are some strategies available to lessen the potential double tax burden. Likewise, planning is key in these situations.
The next important factor is the allocation of the purchase price to the various assets being sold. The tax code categorizes various types of income (e.g. ordinary income; short and long term capital gains, etc.) and the various assets being sold will generate these various categories of income. For example, the gain on equipment being sold will typically generate ordinary income while the gain on goodwill will generate a long-term capital gain.
Why is this important? Because the tax code applies different tax rates to these various categories of income. For example, a long-term capital gain is normally taxed at a lower rate than ordinary income. Therefore, allocating more of the purchase price to those assets which generate a long-term capital gain will result in a lower overall tax.
The allocation of the purchase price will also have tax consequences to the buyer which may compete with the seller’s preferred allocation. Furthermore, the tax returns of both the buyer and the seller will include a form reporting the allocation of the purchase price which should agree with each other. Therefore, it's very important for the parties to agree upon the allocation of the purchase price prior to the closing. The closing documents should include the allocation of the purchase price and the information each party will need to report purchase/sale in their respective tax returns.
The last important factor is the method of payment. Ultimately it is most often best for the seller to receive full payment at closing. This puts cold hard cash into the seller’s hands and eliminates any risk of non-payment. The reality, however, is some seller-financing may be necessary to make the deal work. The tax code treats this type of arrangement as an installment sale. Under this arrangement, the seller will normally recognize income only as payments are received on the note. This spreads
out the recognition of the gain over time and could result in a lower effective tax rate on the gain since the entire gain is not recognized in a single year. The offset is the seller assumes the financing risk and will be in a second position to the bank if the buyer were to default.
There are a couple potential tax traps associated with installment sales. The first is connected to the purchase price allocation and income categories. Only the capital gain portion of a sale can be deferred and recognized as received through an installment sale. Any gain categorized as ordinary income will be taxable immediately even if it is paid through an installment sale. That means you would have to pay taxes on income you haven’t received yet (i.e. “phantom income”.) Therefore, when seller financing, it’s important to receive enough cash up front to cover the taxes that will be due immediately.
The second potential tax trap with installment sales is in connection with S-corporations. As mentioned earlier, buyers rarely purchase the stock of a corporation. Rather, the S-corporation will sell its assets in return for cash and a note, and these become the only remaining assets in the company. Now that the business is sold, the S-corporation is often then liquidated by distributing the cash and note to the owner. As long as the S-corporation holds the note,
it will only recognize income as it receives payments on the note. Alternatively, if the note is distributed out to the owner, the full gain remaining on the note is recognized immediately resulting in phantom income. This can be a tax disaster depending on the size of the note, so never liquidate your S-corporation without consulting your CPA. The value of your funeral home may be the largest component of your retirement assets, so minimizing the tax liability on its sale is critical to preserve what you’ve worked so hard to accumulate. Each business is unique so be wise and partner with your tax advisor to plan a selling strategy that will work best for you. FBS
This article is meant to provide general information and should not be construed as legal or tax advice or opinion and is not a substitute advice of counsel, CPAs or other professionals.
Raymond L. Bald, CPA, CFE is a funeral home tax accountant and consultant with Cummings, Lamont & McNamee, PLLC. He can be reached by phone at 603772-3460, or you may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ronald H. Cooper, CPA is a funeral home accountant and consultant with Ronald Cooper, CPA, PLLC. He can be reached by phone at 603-671-8007, or you may email him at email@example.com.
Arguments for Building Your Funeral Home's Brand Using Online ReviewsBY JOE WEIGEL
In today’s online world, families rely on search results, social media, and peer reviews to research and gather feedback on businesses they are considering visiting or products they’re considering purchasing. And while it can be easy to turn a blind eye to the reviews your business receives, simply ignoring those review sites can damage your bottom line.
While this probably comes as no surprise, more than 90% of consumers read online reviews before making a purchase. As they seek out peer reviews on brands or companies that they’re considering doing business with, they’re looking for specific things. Consumers look for negative reviews to discover authentic feedback from real customers. In addition to negative reviews, they want to see how a business handled that situation and responded to a negative experience.
The funeral profession is not immune from these reviews and how they impact the firm’s online reputation. Managing your reputation has always been important and will become even more crucial in the coming years. Now is the time to become better equipped to handle the good and the bad of online reviews.
Still not convinced or not sure where to start? Here are ten reasons online reviews are important and how they can impact your funeral home’s business.
1. Increase Calls – One of the biggest reasons why online reviews are important is that ultimately positive reviews increase calls by giving families the objective information they need to decide to contact your funeral home – whether for pre-need or an at-need situation. People are always much more likely to use a company that has already been recommended by others.
2. Understand and Better Serve Your Families – Online reviews can tell you whether you are doing a good job or conversely what you are doing wrong and need to address to improve your service to families. This allows you to better serve your families by quickly and efficiently resolving any issues they have, thereby creating a positive experience for the family that will only help your business in the future.
3. Improve Rankings – Online reviews do more than just create better relationships between your firm and your families, they work towards improving your website's ranking on search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo! and more. The more that is written about your funeral home online, the more important a search engine considers you to be!
4. Enhance Higher Keyword Content – Online reviews help your funeral home’s website to have a steady influx of SEO keywords that can help your firm have a more prominent online presence for families. This is because many of the keywords included in online reviews help to bring up your website in search results for families looking for a funeral home to contact.
5. Allow Families to Have a Voice and Create Loyalty
Consumers who take the time to leave an online review for a business are far more likely to feel a certain loyalty to that business. Through the act of leaving an online review and establishing a relationship with the firm, it allows your families to feel like they have a voice and can provide feedback in a positive and meaningful way.
6. Create Engagement – Many times online review pages can become active social communities where consumers leave reviews and keep coming back to see if others have made comments on their reviews or to simply see what other consumers have to say about the business in general. For funeral homes, this can create a social community of engagement that allows families to form an attachment to both the firm and the other families as well.
7. Allow Families to Do Your Marketing for You – A handful of positive online business reviews is worth a great deal and can offer your funeral home benefits that a simple marketing campaign can’t. They are like micro marketing campaigns that keep working long after the online review has been posted, giving a constant positive image to potential families and creating a continual brand awareness that benefits the firm for the short term and the long term.
8. Provide Content for Future Marketing EffortsInstead of telling families your firm is great, have families that you have served speak for you, which is more effective in building trust. You can take advantage of positive online reviews and use them in a variety of ways to increase trust and boost conversions. For example, they can be posted on your website, featured in a print ad, or shared on social media – once you have received their permission.
9. Generate More Reviews – When a business, product, or service has already received reviews online, it encourages others to leave their feedback. Just the appearance of several reviews appears to be enough to give folks the confidence to add their views on that business. It is a new form of online ‘crowd behavior’ that psychologists are still working on figuring out!
10. Help Attract Employees - Thus far, I have concentrated on reviews as they relate to families. But what about your staff; how do your online reviews impact them? Having a professional, talented, and loyal staff is crucial to any business’s success, but especially a company in funeral service. Individuals looking for a job will most likely research a company and its reputation on websites like Glassdoor before applying. Your own funeral home’s reputation not only influences families’ decisions but also your future or current employees’ actions.
Businesses must always prioritize acquiring the best talent possible. After all, research has shown that a bad hire can cost at least 30% of the employee’s first-year earnings, a costly mistake. And keeping good talent in this tight job market is crucial. If your reputation is stopping the best talent from applying to your business (and driving your best employees away), you might not even realize how your funeral home is suffering.
Most funeral homes think about online reviews and an online reputation strategy only when they find that their business has drastically dropped. They start to investigate the matter only when they find a drop in their calls. Regaining the momentum may not be easy when your business has reached such a stage. Implementing an online reputation management strategy in advance is the best thing to avoid such a negative situation. A good strategy will help build trust and credibility for your funeral home. As you are well aware, having the trust of your families is very important to the success of your funeral home.
Knowing how your families and employees are talking about you is the first big step. Looking for ways to improve your reputation is the next one. By ensuring your business has a reputation management strategy, you’re not only making sure your families love you but also your current and future employees. And loyal employees are worth much more than their weight in gold.
An online reputation management strategy can help mitigate the damage done to your brand by negative publicity to a certain extent. The more effective your online reputation strategy is the better for the growth of your funeral home. That is why you should be implementing an effective online reputation management strategy for your business without further delay. It can help to increase calls and take your funeral home to the next level. An effective online reputation management plan is ideal to maintain the good name of your firm in the long run.
Now more than ever, it is vital to be aware of how your firm is perceived in the community. By watching how people talk and doing what you can to make things right, you can enjoy a better reputation online. Careful reputation management does not just help protect you from negative reviews. It can also improve your funeral home’s profile and help you continue to thrive.
As Ben Franklin once said, "It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.” Remember his words the next time you question the value of online reviews and an online reputation management strategy. FBS
Joe Weigel is the owner of Weigel Strategic Marketing, a communications firm focused exclusively on the funeral profession that delivers expertise across three marketing disciplines: public relations, branding, and communications. Visit his website at weigelstrategicmarketing.webs.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Honoring the Past, by Designing for the Future
7 Trends You Should Embrace During Your Next RenovationBY JOEL SOELBERG
As funeral industry professionals, we see (in no particular order), the trends of:
• Staffing challenges
• Diversified Clienteles with diversified services/ritual needs
• Cremation and Aquamation
• Consolidation of funeral home ownership locally, regionally, and nationally
• Centralized prep and Cremation
• Trade Service proliferation
We talk about these trends at state association meetings, and at our dinner tables. Some impacts are already felt in our day-to-day work. The full impacts of these trends are yet to be determined.
In the face of so many crises, changes, and trends impacting the funeral industry in the last few years, many FDs at the decision-making level are finding themselves tentative, and unclear about how to proceed.
There are many questions. What is to be done? Now or later? Will this go away? How will this hurt or help us, and the families we serve?
We might find it easier to just carry on, “business-as-usual” rather than address these uncomfortable questions.
Henry Ford was credited with the saying; “If you always do what you always did, you'll always get what you always got". Another popular Henry Ford quote states; “Any color the customer wants, as long as it’s black.”
These quotes may be consoling if we are still hoping the way it’s always been done, and the one-size-fits-all approach will continue to work for us.
Unfortunately, consolation is not what any of us need right now. Imagine you could put Mr. Ford on your firm’s board of directors and could fully elaborate to him the current trends. Would Mr. Ford stand by his quotes as applicable to the current situation, and to the future state of your funeral home and services?
Another great icon of US history (and my personal favorite) Abraham Lincoln, offered the poetic conclusion to his 1862 Annual Address to Congress:
“The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country. Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history. We of this Congress and this administration, will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance, or insignificance, can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation.”
I believe there is something both consoling and empowering in accepting that times are changing. In further harmony with Lincoln’s admonitions, we can strive to “…think anew, and act anew.” Our businesses are certainly not so grand a cause as that of the American Nation. Perhaps though, we can still use Lincoln’s invitation in a way that will help us save our businesses and the legacy upon which they are built.
On the “think anew” level we can ask these 3 orienting questions in the face of each trend.
1. Is this trend an opportunity to profit, diversify, and/ or differentiate services in a way that will help my firm stand out?
2. What technology allows me to best embrace & profit from the trend?
3. Is there a way to efficiently outsource this, and perhaps, should I be an outsource partner to other firms who aren’t as well positioned to capitalize on the trend?
Once you have analyzed the trends as an opportunity and defined the necessary investments and ROIs, you are empowered to “act anew” with confidence and a high likelihood of success.
The following example highlights the confidence and ROI that can come from asking the 3 orienting questions and embracing the trends as an opportunity.
As a care-center designer and equipment supplier, Duncan Stuart Todd LTD (DST) was approached by a forward-thinking client wishing to remodel their care-center with a key remodel goal to reduce their staffing difficulties.
Faced with stiff competition in a somewhat geographically isolated city center, they and their competitors fought over a finite pool of licensed FDs and embalmers. The DST client decided they could differentiate from their competitors by investing in their back-ofhouse facilities and the daily experiences of their employees. Rather than fight to attract and keep employees on salary alone, they concluded that a bright, well-equipped care-center would help them be more efficient and stand out as a workplace versus the competition. After analyzing the opportunity, the client figured that if they could attract and keep the best local talent, AND offer the best technology, that the overall productivity would also increase, giving them an operational cost edge against the competitors.
The project was a great success and by the end of the renovation, the technological improvements included added lifts, cooler systems, and more efficient prep equipment, coupled with an improved care center layout. The resulting care-center reduced the number of staff necessary to handle the current and future caseloads and improved the day-today experience of the staff. This firm anticipates sustained ROI in the areas of reduced operational costs, less staff burn-out, increased recruiting success, and reduced risk of employee injury.
DST was able to ensure the spaces were OSHA compliant, and that the workstations were planned to allow for oversized tables and that all lifts were rated for obese decedents, thus protecting the employees, ensuring ease during transfers, and casketing. The firm can now confidently accept these cases and add appropriate charges in their GPL for obese handling. This is one of the direct ROIs they can achieve by embracing the trend towards obesity.
As the client has multiple funeral homes in the city area it is expected they will find that the new care-center throughput, and added efficiency could allow them to consolidate the prep from a couple of their smaller funeral homes to the recently renovated central facility. In doing so, they may further relieve the need to find and keep staff in the prep room at each outlying facility, allowing them to further save on operational costs, and focus their recruiting efforts towards staffing the central prep facility.
Or, as their efficiency builds, this firm may find themselves with enough extra capacity to begin offering outsourced prep services to their current competitors. Or they may be able to create a new revenue stream by dedicating some of the new capacity they achieve to serving the area’s historically underserved ethnic and religious communities that require special ritual preparation services.
Whatever this client chooses, it is apparent that embracing trends can have a compounded ROI. Let us approach trends with optimism, curiosity, and courage to act. FBS
Joel Soelberg is the Managing Director of Duncan Stuart Todd Ltd, a design and mortuary equipment firm that specializes in OSHA compliant Care Center renovations and new construction since 1992. He can be reached by email at email@example.com or call 720-583-1886.