Funeral Business Solutions Magazine November/December 2023 Issue

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Your Guide for Funeral Industry Business Strategies | November/December 2023

Leading the Grief Care Revolution An Interview with the Founders page 32

Donʼt let your cremation revenue go up in flames!

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. But there are so many funeral home owners and managers who cannot get away from their establishments to travel to trade shows and conventions across the country, which is why I launched this magazine earlier this year. 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. In this, our fourth issue, we're highlighting products and services that help you to honor the life and service of a military veteran. Our cover story reveals how the grief of two family military deaths and the subsequent work with grieving Gold Star families inspired Gabriel and Ben to lauch Everly, a unique software app that provides not only grief support but legacy planning opportunities. Later in the issue, we've got an 8-page product guide which features some of the most innovative products available in the industry today to honor the military service and dedication of the deceased. From caskets and register books to 24-carat dipped roses and removal covers, this guide showcases a wide range of items that you may have never seen before. Like always, the pages are also brimming with important articles by experts in the field. I know you'll find the Bald & Cooper piece on employee fraud to be compelling, if not a little disconcerting. Their tips for protecting against this unfortunate possibility are invaluable. And don't miss the piece by Carol Heffernan from Tribute Technology that proposes five sympathy gifts that families are raving about. The focus on veterans in this issue is especially important to me because more than a dozen members of my close family have served or are currently serving. I am forever grateful that they have chosen to don the uniform of our armed forces and defend the freedoms we hold dear. 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 and let us know what changes we need to make to ensure you continue getting this great publication. | November/December Issue 2023


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Watch the latest testimonial from funeral director & owner Mark Smith from McAlister-Smith Funeral & Cremations: | 800-896-0598

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Leading the Grief Care Revolution




Banister-Cooper Funeral Home Hiawassee, Georgia



5 Sympathy Gifts Families Are Raving About BY CAROL HEFFERNAN

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SPECIALITY VEHICLE SPOTLIGHT The Grand O'Vale by Rosewood Classic Coach | November/December Issue 2023




Nurturing the Next Generation: Strategies to Attract and Retain Talent in the Funeral Industry







Supporting Maui's Grieving Community in the Wake of the Maui Fires BY GABRIEL RAO



Employee Fraud: An Unfortunate Reality




Honoring Service: Guide to Products and Services for Veterans BY FBS STAFF



How Funeral Home Owners Can Sleep Better with Artificial Intelligence BY ALAN CREEDY


BUYING BASICS: Finding a Business For Sale BY MATT MANSKE


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Social Media Solutions for Funeral Homes specializes in personalized posts for Facebook and Instagram, providing consistent and custom social media for funeral homes. SMS for Funeral Homes was founded by Jacqui Atkin, a funeral director’s wife. Her husband, Russ, has been a licensed funeral director for 25 years.




Crowne Vault/Cressy Memorial is a 17 year old, Mishawaka, Indiana based, women-owned manufacturer of cremation urn vaults and temporary grave markers. Since 2006, Crowne Vault has provided light weight, modern and strong burial vaults for cremation interments.


INDUSTRY SPOTLIGHT LACIE BRUECKNER 54 AUTHORS & KATHERINE PENDERGAST When children's author Katherine Pendergast visited funeral director Lacie Brueckner at the funeral home to show her a new children's book she'd written, the conversation turned to the lack of resources about death and grief for children. Today, the pair has collaborated on a number of children's books about death and the process of funerals, including a new book that deals with the death of a beloved pet.


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INDUSTRY HEADLINES See what's happening with vendors, distributors, and manufacturers.


Manufacturers and suppliers that make it possible to bring you FUNERAL BUSINESS SOLUTIONS Magazine. | November/December Issue 2023



“OUR TEAM IS LIKE FAMILY. NOW IT’S A BIGGER FAMILY.” 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

Foundation Partners Group 4901 Vineland Road, Suite 300 Orlando, FL 32811

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.

Get in Touch 1-800-399-4635

CONTRIBUTORS Alan Creedy is a former Certified Public Accountant. He celebrates more than 40 years helping funeral professionals accomplish their personal goals in managing, developing and eventually selling their business. He can be reached at or by phone at 919.280.1217.

Ann Heinz, JD, CDEI, GSI is an experienced writer and editor of professional education courses. As product manager of WebCE's funeral continuing education product line, she is dedicated to providing quality content. to connect with Ann, email her at or call her at 972-616-1079.

Gabriel Rao, Co-founder & CEO of Everly, brings a unique combination of personal experience and professional expertise in grief support to his role. Having companioned thousands of Gold Star families through their journeys of loss, he leads with a commitment to transforming grief into shared healing. You can reach him at Gabriel@

Ronald H. Cooper, CPA is a funeral home accountant and consultant with Ronald Cooper, CPA, PLLC. He can be reached by phone at 603-6718007, or you may email him at ron@

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@ 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 603-772-3460, or you may email him at

Matt Manske is the Managing Member of the company BSF, LLC (website: He can be contacted at 913.343.2357, or by email at


A PUBLICATION OF RADCLIFFE MEDIA 1809 South Bay Street Eustis, Florida 32726

Timothy Totten, Publisher 352.242.8111 Robin Richter, Content Editor 813.500.2819

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 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 ARTICLE REPRINTS For high quality reprints of articles, email us at

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$10,000 in scholarships will be awarded to mortuary students INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA – The International Order of the Golden Rule (OGR) Foundation’s board of directors is excited to open the application window for the 2023 Awards of Excellence scholarship program on November 1, 2023.

we are committed to investing in their education because we understand that a well-prepared, compassionate professional can make a world of difference when it's needed the most," said Hunter.

A total of $10,000 will be awarded to mortuary science students who distinguish themselves in academic performance, community involvement and their commitment to serving grieving families with compassion, fairness and dignity.

This year’s top scholarship recipient will receive $3,500, plus travel and accommodations to attend OGR’s 2024 Annual Conference being held May 7-9 in Savannah, Georgia.

"At the Order of the Golden Rule Foundation, we believe that in every compassionate service, there is a path to honor, respect, and dignity. Supporting mortuary students through scholarships isn't just about financial assistance; it's about nurturing individuals who will, in turn, offer solace and care to grieving families during their most difficult moments,” said Kim Hunter, Chairman of the OGR Foundation. “We recognize the profound impact these students will have in upholding the principles of compassion and empathy, and

The application is available online at Applications will be accepted through December 31, 2023. Scholarships are funded by individual and corporate donations made to the OGR Foundation. The Foundation is the charitable arm of the Order of the Golden Rule and a registered nonprofit under IRS Tax Code 501(c)(3). Its mission is to fund, perform and support activities on behalf of OGR that advance the standards of funeral service or contribute to the compassionate care of individuals in need. Learn more and make your tax-deductible donation at OGR. org/Foundation. Since 1928, the International Order of the Golden Rule has been the leading professional association dedicated to promoting high ethical standards and outstanding service in the funeral and memorialization profession. OGR members represent the elite in the industry, consistently providing compassionate and personalized care to families in their time of need. For more information, visit

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Join the Krewe of Presenters for the 2024 NFDA International Convention & Expo in New Orleans “As always, NFDA education and meetings staff knocked it out of the park … you make this presenter feel valued and cared about.” Another noted, “It was very easy to present at this conference… the check-in process was flawless and I knew where to go, what time to arrive and had people on hand to help me get set up and ready to present.” Complete details, including information about submitting a proposal and what the Convention Education Task Force looks for when reviewing proposals, can be found on the NFDA website, All proposals must be submitted online by 5 p.m. CT on December 31, 2023. All proposers will be notified whether they have been selected as a speaker via email by March 15, 2024. BROOKFIELD, WISCONSIN – The National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) asks funeral service professionals interested in presenting an education session during its 2024 International Convention & Expo to submit proposals by December 31. The 2024 NFDA Convention will take place October 20-23 in New Orleans, Louisiana. “NFDA’s convention is known for offering education sessions that help funeral service professionals build thriving businesses,” said Sara Moss MS, CT, LFD, NFDA associate director of education. “In addition to topics that are perennial favorites, like embalming, we are looking for proposals that will help expand the horizons of our attendees and prepare them to meet the future needs of consumers. We encourage new voices who may have never presented at our convention to submit an education session proposal.” Proposals can be for one- or two-hour education sessions and should fall into at least one of eight topical areas: business operations, compliance and legal, consumer care, disposition, embalming and restorative art, innovation and technology, and marketing and professional development. Session proposals should be thought-provoking and offer innovative and practical ideas that have tangible takeaways for attendees. Past convention speakers have enjoyed their experiences presenting education sessions. One past presenter said

NFDA is the world’s leading and largest funeral service association, serving more than 20,000 individual members who represent nearly 11,000 funeral homes in the United States and 49 countries around the world. NFDA is the trusted leader, beacon for ethics and the strongest advocate for the profession. NFDA is the association of choice because it offers funeral professionals comprehensive educational resources, tools to manage successful businesses, guidance to become pillars in their communities and the expertise to foster future generations of funeral professionals. NFDA is headquartered in Brookfield, Wis., and has an office in Washington, D.C. For more information, visit | November/December Issue 2023



Introducing Generations™ by Batesville: Sustainable Caskets for Environmentally-Conscious Consumers

Batesville, Indiana – Batesville announced the introduction of Generations™ by Batesville, a new line of sustainable caskets designed to address the increasing demand for more environmentally-friendly products. The initial launch includes three products, the Promise™, Sincerity™ and Haven™, providing multiple designs and price points for optimal merchandising. Every Generations product is conscientiously crafted using fast-growing, abundant hardwoods sourced in the U.S., contemporary water-based wash finishes with low VOCs, all natural cotton interiors, and minimal metal elements. Products will be available throughout the U.S. and Canada. The Generations line is rooted in Batesville’s mission of helping families honor the lives of those they love®, including those who are actively looking for ways to lead more sustainable lives, a segment of the population that is growing rapidly. In a recent survey published by, 78% of consumers agreed that environmental sustainability is important and more than 60% have taken either moderate or significant steps to modify their lifestyles to be more sustainable. “As a champion of innovation, we are excited to bring Generations sustainable products into the mainstream for funeral directors and families,” said Jenn Parvin, SVP and Chief Marketing Officer for Batesville. “Choosing a casket for a loved one can be an onerous task and providing products that respect an individual’s environmental goals and beliefs can provide peace of mind during a stressful time and help lay the path for a better future.” The Generations line uses environmentally-friendly materials and processes that are respectful of our resources and do not deplete or limit their availability for future generations. The company collaborated with experts to select the right materials and refine its manufacturing processes, investing in new equipment and tailoring processes as needed. From harvesting fast-growing hardwoods that are native to the U.S., to processing more of each tree to minimize waste and using contemporary water-based stains, every decision is intentional with an eye toward sustainability. The result is a more natural appearance with wooden knots and natural characteristics that appeal to families who appreciate elegant simplicity.

The Generations line includes: • The Promise – Features a sleek domed top and intricate design details highlighted by a mocha wash finish, with Batesville’s proprietary Family Choices® photo and medallion panels to provide enhanced personalization. • The Sincerity – A curved plank-top design and driftwood grey wash are enhanced by intricate edges and handles with interior personalization options. • The Haven – A classic flat-top design with a linen ivory wash finish and interior personalization features to accommodate photos and other personal memorabilia. Generations caskets leverage Batesville’s proprietary dual disposition design, making them an ideal choice for burial or cremation families, and offering increased profit potential for funeral homes. Although designed with an eco-conscious mindset, their modern aesthetics and valueadded features are popular with a much larger audience. There is a tendency to equate sustainability with “green” simply because of the environmental connection, but in funeral service, “green” typically refers to the preparation of the body and the manner and location of burial, and currently represents around two percent of deaths. Sustainability is a much broader concept that encompasses the environment, social responsibility and governance, or ESG. Sustainability has higher standards that include the processes and materials used in manufacturing, the impact on the people who produce and consume the products and the long-term impact on our natural resources and ecosystem. For example, the water-based stains used for Generations products are not only better for the environment because they emit fewer toxins, they also don’t require special respiratory equipment for application and can be cleaned up without harsh chemicals. The 100% natural cotton used to craft interiors is considered a sustainably grown, produced and distributed textile. And the water used in the fabric finishing process is 100% filtered and recycled for reuse in each dying process.

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INDUSTRY HEADLINES • 65% of survey respondents believe sustainability is important when making a purchase. • 42% are interested in purchasing a sustainable casket for a friend or loved one. • More than 50% stated they are willing to pay more for a sustainable casket. Available exclusively from Batesville, Generations caskets purchased through licensed funeral directors qualify for a complimentary memorial tree planting through the company’s Living Memorial® program. In partnership with its customers, Batesville has donated more than 14.5 million tree seedlings to national forests and woodlands, making it one of the largest, most longstanding reforestation initiatives in North America. Sustainable product sales outpace traditional offerings. As more consumers consider the environmental impact of products when making purchase decisions, the demand for sustainable products is accelerating, resulting in sales growth at almost three times the rate of traditional products, according to “We conducted our own research to better understand consumer attitudes about sustainable funeral products, and found that families not only desire sustainable caskets, they’re also willing to pay more for products that help to minimize their environmental impact,” said Parvin.

For more information on the new Generations line, visit Batesville ( is a recognized leader in the death care industry in North America, offering a comprehensive portfolio of burial and cremation products, memorialization options and innovative technology solutions. For more than 125 years, Batesville has supported licensed funeral professionals in helping families honor the lives of those they love.® A history of manufacturing excellence, product innovation, superior customer service, and reliable delivery helped Batesville become – and remain – a market leader.

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Connecticut Funeral Directors Association Annual Convention December 7, 2023 Bristol Event Center, Bristol, CT New Hampshire Funeral Directors Association Annual Meeting January 13, 2024 Church Landing, Meredith, NH Ohio Funeral Directors Association Annual Education Conference January 28 - February 3, 2024 de Campo Resort & Villas, Dominican Republic South Carolina Funeral Directors Association Mid-Winter Conference & Expo February 5-7, 2024 Metropolitan Convention Center, Columbia, SC International Cemetery, Cremation, and Funeral Association Convention & Expo April 10-13, 2024 Tampa Convention Center, Tampa, FL Nebraska Funeral Directors Association Annual Convention April 22-24, 2024 Embassy Suites, Lincoln, NE Ohio Funeral Directors Association Annual Convention & Exhibition April 23-25, 2024 Hilton Columbus at Easton, Columbus, OH

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Keynote speaker Tiffanie Kellog

Referral Marketing and Networking Expert


12:30–2:00 pm Lunch with Trivia

3:00–6:30 pm

2:00–3:00 pm


DEAD Talks Topic: Marketing

3:30–5:00 pm

3:00–4:00 pm

Welcome & Coaching Session

DEAD Talks Topic: AI

5:00–6:30 pm

4:00–5:00 pm

Welcome Reception

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 17 7:00 am–5:00 pm

5:00–6:00 pm Reception



7:15–8:15 am Welcome Coffee & Breakfast Social

8:00–8:15 am Educational Foundation Presentation

8:15–8:30 am

7:30 am–12:30 pm Registration

7:30–8:45 am Morning Coffee & Breakfast Social

8:30–10:30 am

Welcome with DJ Grimm

DEAD Talks Topic: Sales How-To

8:30–11:00 am KEYNOTE – Winning with Referrals: A Guaranteed Bet for Business Tiffanie Kellog

11:00 am–12:30 pm

DEAD Talks Topic: Retention

10:30–11:30 am DEAD Talks Topic: Sales Strategy

11:30 am–12:00 noon Wrap Up & Closing

Community Events Leader Lab | November/December Issue 2023


funeral home success story

Banister-Cooper Funeral Home in Hiawassee, Georgia

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ell me about yourself and how you became involved in T the funeral industry? My name is Tamela Cooper, owner and operator of BanisterCooper Funeral Home in Hiawassee, Georgia. I am also licensed in North Carolina. I am married to Marvin and we have five children between us, ages 29 to 17. I started in the industry about 14 years ago after losing my mother and the deep need to chase a lifelong dream. I was probably 10 years old when I have my first memory of a funeral and desire to figure out how and what "those guys" did whatever it was they did behind the scenes. I never lost that desire but life certainly took me down other avenues before giving me the opportunity to get my foot in the backdoor of a funeral home! I am the only funeral director/ embalmer in my family and as of now none of our children have expressed an interest to follow in my footsteps. Please share the history of your funeral home. I came to work for what was "Banister's" in 2012 and purchased in 2017 after my then boss Robby lost his wife and the desire to own a funeral home. We are nestled in a valley in the North Georgia Mountains, right on the North Carolina line. Our funeral home was started by Young Harris in 1934 and was named Abernathy's. Mr. Abernathy sold out to Bill Banister who moved to the City of Hiawassee in the 1965, still in Towns County Georgia. His son Myers owned the funeral home after his fathers passing and until Robby purchased in 2001. What makes your funeral home unique? We are in a small town that is a heavy retirement community. As a female owner and manager, the relationships we have with our families have been the highest priority and that is what has allowed me to double the call volume in the 6 years I have owned the funeral home. Until the last month, we have been mostly female run and operated but leveled that score when we hired our newest apprentice. This funeral home is not about me or the people who work in it, it is the community's funeral home, it's where they

start the healing process, feel safe and loved here. We are a full service funeral home from your traditional services to cremations and from headstones to thumbprint jewelry. We serve about 90% of the county with the guys down the street doing the other 10. What does excellent customer service mean to you? When I see a family through all the tears to them laughing at old memories. When you stand just outside of the visitation and hear them laughing through the tears at pictures of fun trips, that's what it is about, that's the good stuff. I truly believe we go above what most do. I am a bit overstaffed to ensure we are always ready to serve and not be overworked and exhausted. We do many things such as filing life insurance at no charge because that is very difficult paperwork for grieving families to take on. What do you feel has been the biggest factor in your success? The work ethic my parents set for me very young. My parents loved people quietly, in the shadows. The good things I | November/December Issue 2023


saw them do without any recognition - I want that. I don't know if I will ever make the difference like they did but I certainly hope so. That lets me push through the hard days and nights in this industry. Never letting someone tell me I can not accomplish something. That sets me on fire even more.

Do you have any advice for other funeral homes? Do all the good you can, in all the ways you can, for all the days you can. Treat your staff the very best you can and they will bless you as well. Push forward when it feels like everyone is against you because someone needs you. Get out before you give out. How are you involved in your community? I am the county Coroner. I give speeches 12-15 times a year on planning free of charge. I do grief counseling in a very unique way: we throw soft dog toys at walls, play with silly putty, laugh a whole bunch and cry a little. I am part of the Appalachian Aging Community and attend or run those meetings almost monthly. What excites you for the future? We are planning to expand our building. We have literally run out of space! As we have increased call volume it has made us increase our staff. Right now we share and/or rotate desks in the office. Our overflow area is also no longer large enough for larger visitations. We are on the main highway and the gorgeous lake and we plan to bank on that lake by making the back side of our funeral home mostly large windows and a deck for our families to use in the summer for meals. Anything else you would like to include or say to our readers? Hold on to the traditions of those who taught us the ropes and pass them down to the next generation. This industry is a slippery slope to all direct cremation if you do not educate your families of the importance of funerals and visitations. Remember why we do what we do and remember there is always someone watching us who may want to follow in our footsteps. Make it worth it for them! FBS You can learn more at

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Is sending flowers after a death becoming a thing of the past? In the era of all things digital, with consumer expectations higher than ever, families want more creative options to express their condolences – and they’re willing to spend to make it personal. Gifts that are meaningful, memorable, and customized to fit the exact needs of their grieving loved one are in high demand. And there’s plenty of research to show that personalized gifts are becoming the major type of gift people now choose to give one another. In fact, nearly every type of traditional gift has taken a backseat to gifts perceived as intentional and heartfelt. If you’re looking for a practical way to set your business apart from the competition, offering families condolence gift options through your website will do the trick. Consider these unique gift ideas families will enjoy giving – and receiving. 1. Fingerprint jewelry

Consumers are willing to spend more on personalized gifts – especially jewelry – so it’s no surprise that fingerprint jewelry and keepsake sales are soaring. From charms and pendants to dog tags, bookmarks, keychains, and more, these keepsakes are as unique as the loved one they represent and give those who are grieving a special sense of connection and closeness. Reputable fingerprint jewelry companies like Legacy Touch focus on providing a streamlined eCommerce experience with features like a real-time product builder to experiment with different options and the ability to see exactly what the keepsakes will look like.

2. Customized photo books

Photo books are a cherished part of every family, highlighting memories of births, weddings, and the small everyday moments that make up our lives. A photo book featuring memories to close the last chapter of life is a gift a grieving family will never forget. There’s new software available that transforms all of the information from the online obituary into a photo book. With service details, messages of support, photos shared on the obituary page and more, products like Tribute Book are a precious keepsake to page through again and again.

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3. Care packages and fruit bouquets

Food is a major part of grieving traditions around the world, and now families can choose from countless options with beautiful care packages and fruit bouquets from companies like A Spoonful of Comfort and Edible®. There are even packages and baskets created specifically for those who are grieving, featuring self-care products, dove-shaped fruit, and comforting messages. In the busy days after a death, these gifts are a healthy alternative any family would appreciate.

4. Memorial trees

More and more consumers are looking for a gift that is lasting and pays tribute in an environmentally friendly way. Planting a memorial tree is a beautiful option with far-reaching benefits and a connection to a larger cause: protecting and maintaining the beauty of our world. There are many memorial tree programs that families appreciate. If you plan to add a memorial tree offering to your selection of sympathy options, look for a program that partners with a reputable planting partner, such as the Arbor Day Foundation, so your families can rest assured their gift is helping revive forests in need while honoring their loved ones in a permanent way.

5. Photo keepsakes

Photos honor memories made with loved ones, and families are clamoring for keepsakes featuring a beloved photo showcased in a creative way. From personalized memorial wind chimes and candles to photo ornaments, garden flags, and memory boxes, the options are endless – and easier than ever to order online. You can even have a loved one’s details added to a blanket as a warm and comforting reminder of someone who has died.

It’s all about personalization. When visiting your funeral home’s website, families look for personalization options. One question they ask is, “What gifting options are available?” Offering gifts described above shows families that you’re on the cutting edge and focused on giving them what they want in real life and online. And really, what better way to differentiate your funeral home while bringing in higher revenue? If you’re interested in learning more about keepsakes, including hot topics like the legality of fingerprint jewelry, how to amp up your eCommerce sales, and other tips for running your business in 2023 and beyond, check out Tribute Technology’s webinars here: Each webinar is free and features experts who have unparalleled experience in the funeral profession and technology. Listen in for more practical knowledge on how to reaching families in your community and giving them options sure to make them happier than ever. | November/December Issue 2023


Nurturing The Next Generation: Strategies to Attract and Retain Talent in the Funeral Industry BY ANN HEINZ


mployee recruitment and retention have been significant challenges for the funeral industry in recent years. The funeral industry’s talent drought will hopefully subside as a new wave of young professionals enters the industry thanks to several recent efforts to attract new talent. It could not arrive at a better time. The National Funeral Directors Association surveyed its approximately 20,000 members in 2022 and found 34% plan to retire in less than five years. Of those, 73% do not have a succession plan in place. Luckily, recent developments offer many opportunities for funeral directors to compete for and develop talent, foster community outreach, and grow their business. Build Connections with Educational Institutions At the forefront of this nationwide spike in joining the ranks of the funeral industry are college and university degree programs in funeral service and mortuary science. Enrollment in these programs has increased by 25% since 2020, according to the American Board of Funeral Service Education. These programs are four years long, marking 2024 as the beginning of this next generation of young professionals. Knowing how to effectively attract this new talent is critical in a competitive industry where recent graduates have seen a 90% job placement rate.

Universities are investing more in these programs, too. Just this year, Southern Illinois University became the first school in the country to offer an on-site crematory to its undergraduates. Schools do not always have all the facilities they need on campus, however. Often students must complete volunteer or observation hours at outside venues like local funeral homes or crematories as part of their degree requirements. Becoming part of this network by offering your facility for student use is an effective way to connect to the next generation of talent. Offering internships, scholarships, or contests, is another way to encourage involvement while connecting with top talent. Plus, this approach builds quick rapport with the institution—and the possibility of more partnerships in the future. An association with an institution of higher education is a significant endorsement for your business. There are several other ways to partner with academics or educational institutions, but they all boil down to being of service. Offer to be a guest speaker for a class on a relevant topic a professor is discussing, for example. Students are very receptive to a professional sharing their hands-on experiences. Professors appreciate it because guest speakers illustrate that the course

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CONTINUED has direct industry implications. To connect with a professor, degree program websites often list their faculty’s biographies, past research, courses taught, and works in progress. Find one that aligns with your own expertise and reach out. Capitalize on Industry Requirements to Attract Talent Changes in education programs are not the only approach the industry is taking to attracting new talent. Innovative entrance requirements are also being explored. For example, the Kansas state funeral board recently halved its requirements for aspiring embalmers. What was once a two-year program is now one year, split into six months of mortuary science school and a six-month handson apprenticeship. The new law also allows the six-month apprenticeship to be completed before attending school, acting as a trial run to see if the career is a good fit. Before, students had to complete a year of coursework before they were eligible for an apprenticeship. By reworking the requirements, Kansas hopes to entice more who might be curious to try the profession for themselves now that there is less of an initial commitment. Easing requirements like this is an effective path many other industries have followed with consistent success.

The biggest hurdle this Kansas law attempts to address is ensuring prospects are prepared for what the work requires. Paying attention to changes like these in your area and aligning marketing and recruiting efforts accordingly can be a great way to connect with aspiring professionals. In this way, you and your business can also serve as a resource and entry point for those curious about the industry. Hosting a seminar or presentation for the community can help you connect with and recruit aspiring professionals while boosting your own reputation within the community. Sharing your expertise and experiences with local publications, radio stations, or television programs is another avenue to showcase what a career in the industry is like. Staying on top of new developments in your area offers several opportunities for community outreach that can help you compete for top talent. Embrace Change and Adapt to the Preferences of a New Generation Attracting new talent also means being receptive to change. A new generation brings with it new preferences, approaches, and perspectives. One recent trend is relaxing the dress code in the

Exceptional service from a CPA Firm that knows the funeral industry. 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.


Raymond L. Bald, CPA/CFE Principal Phone: 603-430-6200 Fax: 603-430-6209 Email: Certified Public Accountants 118 Portsmouth Avenue Suite D206 Stratham, New Hampshire 03885

28 | November/December Issue 2023

workplace, which is most common when recruiting younger graduates who may feel intimidated or uncomfortable with a formal dress code. While these changes may be small, they reflect a willingness to adapt to a new generation, which can make your business more appealing as a workplace. A more attractive workplace can drastically improve recruiting. Minor changes like this can result in larger cultural shifts within the company and an increased willingness to experiment with new business methods. Allowing your employees to shape their workplace creates a receptive community where their voice matters. The more say an employee has, the more likely they will stay with the company and remain engaged and passionate since they, too, are part of shaping the business. Retain Top Talent with Employee Engagement and Growth Strategies As your new hires grow their career—and perhaps become part of a succession plan—retaining top talent becomes the next frontier to ensuring success. Offering stipends to pay for continuing education lets employees know that you support and are invested in their careers. Offering

longtime employees some compensation for assisting students or new hires can encourage them to be mentors and ease any worries they may have about being replaced. Expanding benefits packages to focus on reducing stress and providing resources to manage mental health is also critical to employee retention. There is no easy solution to the challenges the industry faces in filling open positions and keeping talent within the industry. Already in some states there are more openings for funeral directors than there are licensed funeral directors. With the right approach, however, your business can position itself for sustained success. FBS Ann Heinz, JD, CDEI, GSI is an experienced writer and editor of professional education courses. As product manager of WebCE's funeral continuing education product line, she is dedicated to providing quality content relevant to the [daily job functions/working lives] of funeral professionals nationwide. To learn more about WebCE, visit www. or, to connect with Ann, email her at or call her at 972-616-1079.



Funeral Stationery | Service Essentials | Prep Room | Promotional Products | Urns | November/December Issue 2023



How to Comply with OSHA's Formaldehyde Standard s a funeral director, you play a crucial role in providing A compassionate and respectful end-of-life services. However, your profession comes with certain unique

challenges, including exposure to chemicals commonly used in the embalming process. One such chemical of concern is formaldehyde, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has established regulations to ensure your safety and well-being. What is Formaldehyde? Formaldehyde is a chemical compound widely used in mortuary and funeral home settings as an embalming fluid. It helps preserve the deceased for viewing and funeral services. It also acts as a potent sanitizer, helping rid the body of harmful pathogens. While it serves a vital purpose, formaldehyde exposure can pose health risks to funeral directors and embalmers.

BY MARK HARRISON Introducing The Certified Safety Training (CST) Video on the OSHA Formaldehyde Standard To provide you with a comprehensive understanding of the OSHA Formaldehyde Standard and how it specifically applies to funeral homes and funeral directors, we've prepared a video. This video will delve deeper into the details of the standard, offering insights and practical tips to ensure compliance and promote a safe working environment. We encourage you to watch the video to gain valuable insights into how to protect yourself and your colleagues while carrying out the essential work of providing respectful and dignified funeral services. To comply with OSHA’s Formaldehyde Standard (29 CFR 1910.1048), be sure to have everything outlined in this video fully customized to your facility and your employee base.

The OSHA Formaldehyde Standard OSHA, the U.S. regulatory body responsible for workplace safety, has established the Formaldehyde Standard (29 CFR 1910.1048) to protect workers from potential health hazards associated with formaldehyde exposure. This standard is essential for funeral directors, embalmers, and others who work with this chemical. What Does the Standard Encompass? The OSHA Formaldehyde Standard outlines permissible exposure limits (PELs), which funeral directors must adhere to. The PEL for formaldehyde is 0.75 parts per million (ppm) as an 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA). This means that over an 8-hour workday, the average exposure to formaldehyde should not exceed this limit. The standard also covers aspects such as exposure monitoring, engineering controls, personal protective equipment, work practices, training, medical surveillance, and recordkeeping. These measures are in place to ensure your safety and reduce the risks associated with formaldehyde exposure.

Watch the OSHA Bites Video Ready to implement your custom OSHA Compliance Program with formaldehyde safety and electronic safety data sheets? Contact CST for custom compliance and continuing education in one place. Learn more at: https://certifiedsafetytraining. org/pages/funeralservicecomplianceandeducation

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 •

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Social Media Solutions for Funeral Homes 435-705-1252

Q: Who is Social Media Solutions for Funeral Homes and what product and/or service do they provide? Social Media Solutions for Funeral Homes specializes in personalized posts for Facebook and Instagram, providing consistent and custom social media for funeral homes. They offer relevant, engaging, and industry-specific content. SMS works to highlight the funeral home’s staff and events, including birthdays, company sponsorships, employee spotlights, employee hobbies outside of the funeral home, etc. People love to see their neighborhood funeral director out of a suit and participating in regular activities!

service-area guarantee. Their goal is to make their clients the champions of social media in their service area and won’t simultaneously work for direct competitors. They offer amazing customer service and provide access to Jacqui's cell phone number. They enjoy working one-on-one with all their clients.

The Funeral Pro Package offered by SMS utilizes Facebook and Instagram to create top-of-mind awareness for one funeral home within each service area. Their package includes an average of three or four posts per week on both Facebook and Instagram.

No one is busier than a funeral home owner. SMS allows funeral homes to maintain a consistent presence on social media and create a connection with their community. This generates top-of-mind awareness with families and demonstrates the funeral home’s expertise in their profession. SMS allows owners, managers, and employees to concentrate on running their funeral homes - not their social media accounts.

Q: How did Social Media Solutions for Funeral Homes get involved in the funeral industry? SMS for Funeral Homes was founded by Jacqui Atkin, a funeral director’s wife. Her husband, Russ, has been a licensed funeral director for 25 years. Jacqui and Russ have been writing informative funeral home articles and related content together since Russ became a funeral home owner in 2009. They have an extensive library of content ready to share with other funeral homes outside of their service area, thus providing original content written by funeral home owners for funeral home owners. Q: What makes Social Media Solutions for Funeral Homes unique? SMS for Funeral Homes is not a corporate marketing company. Jacqui and Russ are immersed in the funeral profession, and even brought their first baby home from the hospital to a mortuary! They know, love, and live the business, allowing them to create exceptional and informative content. SMS offers a unique

Q: What are the benefits to funeral homes using Social Media Solutions for Funeral Homes?

Q: How does Social Media Solutions for Funeral Homes provide a solution for funeral homes? As its name implies, Social Media Solutions for Funeral Homes offers just that - a solution that allows funeral homes to easily maintain a viable presence on social media. SMS understands that funeral home marketing can be tricky and that marketing efforts must be handled with care and sensitivity. Their social media posts are interesting, compelling, and effective at generating leads for pre-need. Q: How would a funeral home contact Social Media Solutions for Funeral Homes for more information on your products? Contact Jacqui Atkin at (435) 705-1252, email her at, or visit her website at https://

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Leading the Grief Care Revolution An Interview with the Founders of Everly In a world where technology often isolates us more than it connects us, Everly is a breath of fresh air. This innovative digital platform is transforming the way many approach estate planning and grief care, turning it from a solitary journey into a family-oriented experience. Recently, Funeral Business Solutions sat down with the cofounders of Everly, Gabriel Rao, CEO and Ben Harris, COO, to delve deeper into what makes Everly a game-changer in giving compassion and support during one of life's most challenging experiences. FBS: Let's start at the beginning. What inspired the creation of Everly? GABRIEL: Everly’s start is deeply personal for me. My brother, Sgt. Elijah John-Miles Rao, was killed in Afghanistan on December 5th, 2009, and my wife’s first husband, SSgt. Jack Martin III, was killed in the Philippines on September 29th, 2009 – both in active military service to our country. Those folded flags in my possession are a constant reminder of sacrifice and loss. I learned firsthand that the journey through grief is not just emotionally taxing but also complex and confusing. After nearly a decade of providing support to thousands of Gold Star Family members like our own, I reconnected with

Lance Corporal Michael Warren Harris

Ben Harris, a fellow military surviving sibling, to explore what a company could look like that focuses on approaching this complex problem. That's when the idea for Everly was born—to provide a comprehensive, compassionate solution for those navigating the long journey of grief and end-oflife planning that could play an important role in making it a little easier. At our core, we are grievers standing up to help other grievers. BEN: My work with Everly honors my three family members who’ve died over the past 22 years – my father, Phil Harris, who died of a heart attack on November 10th, 2001, my brother Christopher, who died of an overdose on November 17th, 2005, and my baby brother, Michael, who died by suicide on February 6th, 2012, following his deployment within Afghanistan with the United States Marine Corps. Michael – or LCPL Michael Harris, as the world knew him – and his military service afforded our family access to a level of grief care we’d never experienced with our other losses. As I got more involved in peer-based grief care over the last decade, I wanted to turn our family’s experience into increased access for anyone who needs support. And together, Gabriel and I want to build what we needed most on our own grief journeys – the words, messages, and memories of our lost loved ones.

The Genesis: A Mission Born from Personal Loss

In a quiet room filled with the palpable weight of absence, two folded flags are displayed on the table. They symbolize the lives and sacrifices of Sergeant Elijah John-Miles Rao and Lance Corporal Michael Warren Harris, two fallen U.S. service members who served their country with valor.

Sergeant Elijah John-Miles Rao

Elijah and Michael are the brothers of Everly’s founders, and for each of the two founders, as with so many others, these flags are not just symbols of lives of service; they’re poignant reminders of the complex journey of grief and legacy that follow the sacrifices and loss of that life of service.

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C O V E R STO R Y FBS: You’re talking about Everly’s digital time capsule service, right? Can you elaborate on that? GABRIEL: Absolutely. Everly goes beyond traditional estate planning, which focuses on assets and legalities, by taking a more holistic approach. We allow users to create digital time capsules that house not just wills and financial information, but also life stories, cherished artifacts, and personal messages. It's about leaving a legacy, not just an inheritance. We're elevating estate planning to a holistic experience that considers an individual’s true inheritance to their family and community – their words, wisdom, love, and life lessons. BEN: One of my most treasured possessions is a voicemail from my brother Michael because it’s one of the few recordings I have of his voice. Everly is the only application that allows for saving treasures like this in one place and that also provides our users the peace of mind that their loved ones will be comforted and cared for following their passing. FBS: It seems like the heart of Everly's mission lies in this distinction – the acknowledgment that our lives are not solely defined by our financial wealth, but by the stories we’ve lived, the wisdom we’ve gained, and the messages we impart. BEN: Exactly. ‘Intentionality’ is a term we use a lot at Everly – not only in our own internal culture but also in our hope for what Everly will encourage among our users and partners – an intentional focus on what matters most in life. Another focus we have at Everly is an emphasis on Big Talk – the opposite of small talk. We want to reflect the fullest essence of those we serve, and that’s greater and more meaningful than just their financial worth – it’s their Big Talks on life. GABRIEL: By incorporating these digital services, our partners can expand their service offerings and attract a broader clientele. Families seeking innovative and personalized experiences are drawn to funeral homes that embrace these changes. This not only benefits funeral homes but also ensures that they can continue to provide compassionate care to their grieving families. FBS: That’s right…the Everly platform also serves as a resource for grief care. I know you’ve previously expressed the importance of this part of your business to you both. How does that work? BEN: Grief is complicated and lonely and can make you feel like you’re going crazy at times. We know there's no onesize-fits-all approach because everyone’s different. We try to honor that in Everly's grief video library, which delivers a wealth of resources to help people understand, cope with, and even transform their grief. Everly is there for life’s most challenging moments, giving curated support and sharing in the ups and downs of your journey.

And because of Everly’s mission and culture, we’re fortunate to have assembled an incredible team of grief experts, practitioners, and thought leaders who support and enhance our work. Their videos serve at the ready for your community’s support. GABRIEL: One thing that sets Everly’s approach apart is our emphasis on transformation. Our video library goes beyond traditional grief content by encouraging individuals to harness their grief as a source of growth and resilience. We recognize that grief is not an obstacle to overcome, but that it can be a powerful catalyst for development and healing. FBS: One thing that sets Everly apart from other companies that have approached the funeral home industry is your commitment to supporting, rather than disrupting, it. By offering tools that modernize and personalize a funeral home’s grief care and pre-planning program, you support grieving families while opening new avenues of profitability. Tell us more. BEN: That’s been built into Everly from the beginning. We see ourselves as allies with a funeral home’s team. I was raised in my own family business, a furniture store, where I worked for a few decades, so I appreciate the often-generations-old legacies of service to your local community. My dad wanted each of his sons to be men of integrity and to work harder than anyone else. These are the family values I learned from working beside my father in the family business, and they’re part of what I’d like to pass down about him. GABRIEL: By being the company associated with sharing a loved one's most powerful words when they need it the most, our partners can cement their value within a family and their greater community. FBS: What's the ultimate vision for Everly? GABRIEL: Everly is more than just a digital platform; we aim to transform grief from a solitary journey to a shared experience. Through Everly, sorrow becomes strength, silence becomes narrative, and individual grieving becomes communal support. Our vision is to make Everly a household name, a go-to resource for anyone dealing with the complexities of end-of-life planning and grief. We hope to revolutionize the way we all approach life's final chapter. BEN: At the end of the day, we hope to do this by being a compassionate companion for one of life's most challenging experiences and by helping ensure that no one has to go it alone. FBS Learn more about Everly and how they can grow your funeral business at To schedule a personal product demo, contact them today at, and one of their representatives will follow up with you. | November/December Issue 2023


Supporting Maui's Grieving Community in the Wake of the Maui Fires BY GABRIEL RAO As the CEO of Everly, and a resident of the incredible island of Maui, I have witnessed the recent tragedy of the Maui Fires with a heavy heart. My own connection to grief, stemming from personal military loss, drives Everly's mission to redefine the complex journey of mourning. While my home was spared from the devastation, I feel a profound responsibility to stand with fellow Maui residents during these challenging times.

In the aftermath of the Maui Fires, our community faces not only the physical loss of homes and belongings but also the emotional toll that comes with grief in the midst of an unimaginable tragedy. A Beacon of Hope in Difficult Times The Maui Fires have left many families grappling with the daunting task of planning funerals for their loved ones. This holiday season many of these families impacted by the death

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CONTINUED of a loved one, on top of the loss of nearly every physical belonging they possessed, are now in the earliest stages of having funerals and gatherings to honor their loved ones. This burden is made even heavier when financial constraints make it difficult to cover the associated costs. New Opportunities to Make a Difference In the wake of this disaster, we've identified a new wave of families who are now preparing to have funerals but do not have the means to pay for them. This is where we all have an opportunity to make a real and meaningful difference in the lives of Maui’s residents. Two Ways That Can You Help

In Conclusion In times of tragedy, the strength of a community is measured by its ability to come together and support one another. I am proud to be part of a community that cares deeply for its members. Let us continue to stand together, offering compassion and assistance to those affected by the Maui Fires, and let us work together to ensure that no family has to face the burden of grief alone. At Everly, our mission transcends traditional business metrics, and we are committed to making a genuine impact within the lives of the bereaved. Together, we can embody the spirit of aloha and provide solace and support to our fellow Maui residents during these challenging times.

1 - Financial Assistance Consider making a donation to organizations that provide financial assistance for funeral expenses. Your contribution can ease the burden on grieving families during this difficult time.

To donate to local efforts, consider joining the community of Grace Baptist Church in their efforts.

2 - Spread the Word Share information about support services available for the grieving in our community. By spreading awareness, you can connect those in need with valuable resources.

To date Grace Bible Church has delivered $300,000 to 600 families directly impacted by the Lahaina fire.


Run your funeral home more efficiently Save Money, Time & Headaches! 1-800-868-9950 38 | November/December Issue 2023 | November/December Issue 2023



Crowne Vault 866-763-0485

Who is Crowne Vault and what product and/or service do they provide? Crowne Vault/Cressy Memorial is a 17 year old, Mishawaka, Indiana based, women-owned manufacturer of cremation urn vaults and temporary grave markers. Since 2006, Crowne Vault has provided light weight, modern and strong burial vaults for cremation interments. Mary Lou Cressy and Sarah Tepe lead the company and can usually be found at trade shows handing out the company’s popular shiny gold bags! How did Crowne Vault get involved in the funeral industry? In 2005 Ray and Mary Lou Cressy were introduced to the memorial industry by Howard Miller, the iconic, prestigious 100 yr old clock maker who also designs beautiful cremation urns. As a manufacturers’ representative company founded in 1986, Ray and Mary Lou welcomed the diversification from their core focus in the marine and RV industries. The memorial industry is stable, necessary and service oriented. The caliber and friendliness of the funeral professionals as well as their interest in honoring the deceased and comforting families aligned with the Cressy’s vision for expansion. With the rise of cremation traditions, there was an opportunity to provide high value but affordable products to funeral homes and the cemeteries. What makes Crowne Urn Vaults unique? Crowne Vaults are made of high impact ABS plastic. Unlike traditional concrete urn vaults which are porous, heavy and require multiple staff for lowering, these are lasting, lightweight and can be buried by one person. Of course as

a women majority company, Crowne Vault celebrates that interring is easy for both genders. In addition Crowne Vault can be decorated with something as simple as a Sharpie marker. Funeral Homes can enhance and add warmth to the wake or graveside service by allowing families to sign and write goodbyes during at the memorial. Other families may like to add memorabilia such as letters, awards, photos and other small tokens to the extra space around the urn. Our “commodity-priced" vault comforts families in knowing that their urn will be protected and dry for generations to come. What are the benefits to funeral homes using Crowne Vault? As more cemeteries require urn vaults as a standard level of care, Crowne Vault provides an affordable option for families struggling with burial expenses. Many other urn vaults run upwards of $500 and Crowne Vault is much, MUCH less expensive and allows the the family to afford permanent disposition at a cemetery. Funeral Homes can support their cemetery comrades by offering and educating families on the importance of urn vaults and encouraging families to take their cremains to a cemetery for permanent memorialization. How would a funeral home contact Crowne Vault for more information on your products? Funeral Homes can order Crowne Vault through any one of their many distributors across the US. For information on a distributor in your area, call Mary Lou or Sarah at 866-763-0485 or visit

November/December Issue Issue 2023 2023 40 | November/December | November/December Issue 2023


Employee Fraud:

An Unfortunate Reality BY RAYMOND L. BALD, CPA, CFE & RONALD H. COOPER, CPA In December 2021, Terry J. Harmon, a former executive of a Southern California-based funeral home, was sentenced to 27 months’ imprisonment for embezzling more than $2 million from his funeral home employer over a period of three years. The target was a large funeral home practice with over 16 locations in three California counties, but it can happen to any funeral home, no matter the size. In fact, smaller funeral homes are at higher risk of employee fraud and embezzlement due to their limited resources. Nonetheless, there are some basic steps you can take to protect yourself and reduce employee fraud risk. But first, let’s review some fraud basics. Fraud and abuse occur in most organizations. The methods by which fraud can occur are almost endless, but there are three basic elements which exist in every fraud that is committed: incentive/pressure,

rationalization, and opportunity. These three elements comprise the “Fraud Triangle,” a concept which was developed by sociologist Donald Cressey. Incentive or pressure is the motive to commit fraud (e.g. gambling or drug addictions; high medical bills; etc.) Rationalization is how the perpetrator rationalizes the fraud they are committing (e.g. “It’s just a loan; I’ll pay it back later” or “I work extra hours that are unpaid, so I deserve this”). Opportunity exists when the perpetrator believes fraud can be committed without getting caught. As a business owner, the only part of the Fraud Triangle over which you have any influence is opportunity and minimizing the opportunity for fraud to occur is the key to preventing it from happening in the first place. You do that by having a good internal control system.

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CONTINUED An internal control system has three main objectives: 1) it’s meant to minimize the occurrence of errors, fraud, and waste 2) it assures that your financial and accounting information is accurate 3) it serves to maintain compliance with your company’s policies. As you can see, an internal control system is meant to do more than simply reduce the risk of fraud occurring. It also serves to keep your practice running smoothly and to provide you with the accurate information you need to make sound business decisions. As such, every practice should develop and implement a strong internal control system. With that said, here are some specific internal control policies and procedures which will reduce fraud risk.

Follow Your Own Rules. Setting the tone at the top sends an important message to staff. Although you may be the practice owner, you should follow the same policies and procedures as your staff. Remember, internal controls are designed for the good of the practice, not just certain individuals. Let staff see you walk the walk as well as talk the talk. Establish a No Tolerance Fraud Policy. It’s important to clearly communicate to staff that fraud will not be tolerated and any staff guilty of committing fraud will be terminated and prosecuted. The purpose of such a policy is to deter staff from committing fraud. Failing to follow through on it will demonstrate to staff that committing fraud will have little to no consequences. Monitor the Effectiveness of Your Internal Controls. Finding fraud after it happens is difficult because fraudsters purposely hide their acts to avoid being caught. Preventing fraud is much easier than finding it after the fact.

Segregation of Duties. To minimize fraud, it’s important that no single person is in charge of certain tasks. The functions of authorizing, recording, and holding custody over assets should be separated among different individuals. In my experience, a lack of segregation of duties is most often the cause of failing to detect fraud occurring in funeral homes. It’s not uncommon for a funeral home to have a single longtime employee overseeing all its financial transactions such as paying bills, depositing checks, reconciling bank accounts, and maintaining the accounting records. Although convenient, this provides enormous opportunities to embezzle funds. Staff limitations may prevent you from properly segregating duties, but there are some simple steps you can take to strengthen controls in this area. Your accountant can help you if you think this is an area of weakness in your practice.

Showing staff that you’re monitoring internal controls to ensure they are being followed and working will greatly affect their perception of the opportunity to successfully commit fraud. Simply put, let your employees see you’re watching and they won’t believe they can commit fraud.

Required Vacation Days. Require that employees who perform key functions take vacations of at least a week or more at a time. In order to perpetuate a fraud, the fraudster must continually hide it. Frauds have often been discovered by employees who take over the duties of fraudsters while they are on vacation.

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 for advice of counsel, CPAs, or other professionals.

Cross-train Staff and Rotate Duties. Similar to the concept of requiring that vacation days be taken, consider cross-training employees to perform multiple functions, then have them switch and rotate duties. Employees should not know when their duties will be rotated too far in advance as this will allow a fraudster time to cover up their tracks.

Most of all, be prepared. Fraud will happen in any size organization. Experience has shown that even a company’s most trusted employee can commit fraud given enough pressure, rationalization, and opportunity. Developing and implementing sound internal control policies and procedures will greatly reduce the risk of fraud from occurring and improve your funeral home’s operating performance. FBS

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 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

44 | November/December Issue 2023


HONORING SERVICE Funeral Business Solutions Magazine's Guide to Industry Products and Services Designed to Honor Military Service of the Decedent. 46 | November/December Issue 2023


For more than 115 years, Batesville has crafted products that make funerals truly meaningful – helping families honor the lives of those they love®. Batesville’s N01 18-gauge casket collection offers a dignified way to honor a life of service. Sophisticated paint colors are complemented by striking hardware and piped velvet interiors that match the uniforms of the U.S. Armed Forces. The N01 Midnight with the Marines emblem (shown) and other militaryinspired caskets are available from Batesville across the country. | November/December Issue 2023


PR ODU CT GU ID E On Freedom's Wing features original artwork by Rick Kelley, which he painted in response to September 11, 2001.





Freedoms WING

Messenger offers a full line of stationery products within the series. This includes their Standard stationery, enhanced Make it Personal friendly stationery and Signature stationery products, as well as several keepsake items. Signature is their 24-hour, turn-key, personalized stationery solutions requiring no inventory for the funeral home, because everything is printed by Messenger and shipped directly to your door. • Acknowledgements • Service folders • Prayer cards • Bookmarks

• display sheets • Memory cards • Aannouncements • Obituary keepsakes

• Remembrance cards • Collage posters • Tribute video • Candles

• Photo Books • Slates • Temporary Markers • Laser Engraved Urn

Learn more about Messenger's entire line of stationery at

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For 57 years, Love is a Rose has preserved real roses in 24kt gold in a 65 step process. A special rosewood memorial case with an engraved 2” gold heart on the acrylic top says ”In loving memory of your dedicated service”. Visit or call Sid or Kathy at 630-393-1111 to order at wholesale special packages for “Funeral Business Solutions”.

After the death of a military active duty member or a veteran, the family is faced with the next step. Full-Circle Aftercare helps apply for benefits, make notifications, close accounts, and stop mailed prescriptions. $199 flat fee per family or discounted to $159 for partnered funeral homes. Please contact Full-Circle Aftercare at 801-513-2970 or visit them online at for details. | November/December Issue 2023



These beautifully crafted custom memorial prayer cards pay tribute to the brave men and women who selflessly served our great nation armed services and ship quickly. For more info, please visit their website at or email them today at

These American Made, Genuine Pewter Keepsakes from Kap-Lind Enterprises hold onc cubic inch of remains and are used in a variety of creative ways. They are engravable on the back (some funeral homes engrave their logo on the back for bulk orders) and wholesale for $24.95. For more info, visit or call 314-682-6031.

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Final Embrace proudly offers a full line of removal and funeral service items designed to honor the service of a military veteran from the moment they are brought into a funeral home's care. From removal cot covers that reverse to the stars and stripes to versatile church truck drapes and VersoTables with interchangeable military seals, Final Embrace is dedicated to providing the tools a funeral home needs to honor veterans at all steps of the process. For more information, please visit or call 800-896-0598. | November/December Issue 2023



Hilton Funeral Supply helps funeral providers elevate their service as families pay tribute to our heroes with patriotic-themed funeral stationery and keepsakes. From American flag-adorned register books to patriotic urns and keepsake candles, Hilton Funeral Supply is there to help you honor and remember those who served with dignity. For more information, visit their full-service website at

Training is a hallmark of military service and vital for funeral professionals to ensure that they can provide the best and most complete military honors. WebCE provides online training courses and continuing education for funeral professionals specifically designed to teach everything you will need to know to organize, plan, and conduct a military funeral. For more information about this and other training, visit their website at

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"A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself." Funeral Home Gifts provides a FREE Tribute Blanket to our funeral home partners for the families whose loved one has been killed in the line of duty, or End of Watch police or fire. Contact Customer Service at or call 800-233-0439. | November/December Issue 2023



Authors Lacie Brueckner & Katherine Pendergast How did you two meet? Did the book idea come from your friendship, or did you meet because of the book? Katherine: Lacie is a funeral director, and I am a children’s author. I also work in the funeral industry on the pre-need side of things. One day, when visiting Lacie at the funeral home where she worked, I showed her a new book I had recently published. We started talking about the lack of resources for families with children who are attending a funeral. Lacie mentioned she would love to write a book helping children and families through the funeral process. That was when we started talking about collaborating on a book related to funerals. Why did you decide to write a book about children's grief? Lacie: We wanted to help families with children during the funeral process, as there weren't a lot of resources available for children. We wanted to create a helpful tool for parents to open the conversation about a loved one who has died. We wanted to prepare children for what they might see after experiencing a loss, such as a visitation, funeral, and graveside service. We wanted to include how a child might participate in the funeral process and ways they could honor and remember their loved ones long after the funeral. We also wanted the option for children to personalize the book, so we included space where they could write, draw, or place a photo of their loved one. What have been your own experiences with/in the funeral industry? Lacie: I have served families as a funeral director since 2005 and take a particular interest in meeting children’s needs during the funeral process. I believe children need and want to feel included, too. Parents often ask me if their children should attend the funeral. I encourage parents to get a feel for their individual needs by first talking with their children about death. Some children are more curious, have more questions, and want to participate in the funeral process. Other children might not be as interested. I always say, if your child wants to participate, go ahead and let them. On the flip side, if your child shows resistance and doesn't want to participate much, don't force them to do so. As parents, we often want to protect our kids by not talking about sad or difficult subjects like death, but children can often understand more than we give them credit for. Each child is different, but I have found that keeping it simple is best. A child typically asks more questions if the simple answer isn’t enough. Katherine: I have worked in the funeral industry since 2018 on the pre-need side of the business. My experience with death has been more on a personal level. My mom died when I was twenty-two years old, and my grandparents have all died as well.

My grandma died when I was around the same age as the young girl in our books. Some of the inspiration for our books comes from my own experiences with death as a child and a young adult. What special consideration or preparation did you take to write the book(s)? Lacie: We started researching what was already on the market and where significant gaps existed. We created a list of things we wanted to include in the books, along with what we would hope to teach families and children. We also worked with a clinical psychologist to ensure the books were presented in a way most helpful for children in the short and long term. As a funeral director, I greatly desired beautiful illustrations that were soft but realistic. I wanted to show a loved one in an open casket. We worked hard to find a fantastic illustrator who could present a beautiful portrayal of Grandma in a casket. Writing a version with a casketed funeral along with a version for a cremation service seems like a new angle. Why make both? Lacie: Visually, what children see at a casketed funeral versus a cremation service is very different, and those two circumstances require very different conversations with a child. A question such as “Why does Grandma look different” varies significantly from “Where did Grandma go?” Because children are so visual, we wanted the illustrations to be a considerable part of the story and tone of the books. How have families and children reacted to your books? Katherine: Families have been so thankful to have a tool that helps open the conversation about death and see the possible activities related to the funeral. The most surprising occurrence so far is how many adults have reached out, saying how much the book helped them, too. Some adults who were attending a funeral for the first time found the book to be helpful in that regard. Others found that reading the book inspired them to honor and remember their loved one in simple ways. How have funeral homes reacted to the books? Katherine: Many have been thankful to have a great tool to hand to a family when they ask, “Do you have anything that might be helpful for children?” or “Should my child attend the funeral?” How do you suggest funeral homes and crematories use the books in the community? Lacie: The most common way funeral homes have been using the books is in arrangements, by simply asking, “Are there any children in the family?” If so, they give a book to the family. It’s a low-cost item that can go a long way.

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Others have the books at the funeral home for families to take as needed. Some give them out at pre-need seminars or networking opportunities with churches, hospices, and others in the community. How did the pet grief book evolve? Lacie: After we created the In Loving Memory books, we had so many requests to create a pet version. We created a thoughtful picture book to help families say goodbye to an aging pet. In the story, a young girl named Charlotte says goodbye to her dog, Bella, in the most loving way she can think of and cherishes the last few days with her beloved pet. After Bella passes away, Charlotte and her family celebrate Bella’s life and do activities to honor and remember their sweet Bella. In the end, the family decides to love again by adopting a new dog. We believe our hearts have room to love many animals in our lifetime. Have you heard any personal stories of how the books have affected a child who is grieving? Lacie: We have received wonderful feedback from families. One sent me the following message: “I appreciate having this book after my grandmother passed away. Having to approach death and the funeral process with my two young children was just as heavy as the emotions I was feeling. This simple language helped me find the right words and the beautiful illustrations aided in conversations on what my young children were going to see, experience, and have questions about. My children still enjoy looking through the book now and we talk about that day and share memories.” Melanie

Have you heard any personal stories of how the books have helped funeral directors? Katherine: It’s always nice when funeral directors share how the book has been helping them and their families. A few sent the following messages: “This book is invaluable to have available to families asking about how to talk to their children about death. By having this book available, you truly become a source of information to that family. It increases your value to the family and definitely gives an increased professional credibility.” “This year we experienced a death of a 7-year-old in our community. By having these books available, we not only helped classmates by giving them something to learn about grief and death, but we also gave parents an important tool and bridge that allowed them to have conversations with their own children about this tough subject! Kat and Lacie have really changed lives with their work in this book.” Mike, Funeral Director What is next for you? Any future funeral-related books? We have had many requests to continue writing funeral-related books, so we hope to continue with additional books. How do funeral homes go about getting the book to distribute? We have wholesale opportunities available at www.katssocks. com; please contact Katherine at with any questions. You can also use discount code: FBSMagazine to receive a special discount for readers of this article. FBS | November/December Issue 2023


How Funeral Home Owners Can Sleep Better With Artifical Intelligence BY ALAN CREEDY


uneral home owners, by and large, tend to be like most people: Numberphobic. Every funeral director knows how many families they serve. Very few know their average sale. Or how it is trending. Less know anything about their key metrics. Some are proud that they have no idea how their company is performing. As if being disinterested in money was a noble virtue instead of poor stewardship. After some 40 years in the profession, I get it. But, as a financial analyst, it’s confusing. Owning a business without knowing how you are doing financially is kind of like being a funeral director who knows nothing about embalming. (Yes, there are funeral directors who don’t embalm but I bet they all have a fundamental understanding of it.) Funeral Directors Are Not Accountants Early in my career I was taught that a business should be viewed as a living entity. It needs nurturing, sustenance and attention. Its “blood” is money. Without it, it quickly dies. To be viable, the ebbs and flows of money should be managed. That’s called stewardship. I think owners know this. But they are constrained by a feeling of inadequacy when it comes to financial issues. What I have found is that the presentation of financial information in tabular format is the roadblock. And funeral directors are not alone in this frustration. Judging by the number of books targeted at non – financial executives, one must assume that this frustration is not unique to small business owners. Trying to turn them into accountants is most often futile. They get even more frustrated and they do nothing. But, intuitively, they know that our margins have declined so significantly that it is no longer possible to survive a full career operating “out of your hip pocket.” What to do? I first began to find success by ultra-simplifying what they needed to know into 5 Key Indicators. This created some wonderful “ah-hah” moments. But it was not enough. Even though they were now able to understand what was happening, it was not yet obvious what they needed to do. We soon realized that, as a high fixed cost business, it was not just critical to understand the key factors, it is necessary to understand how they are trending over time.

There are 2 key drivers, 2 key levers and one key result. These are: • o o • o o • o

Drivers Call volume Average sale Levers Cost of Goods Sold Labor cost Result: EBITDA(R)

By simplifying the focus and minimizing the data my clients began to warm up to the idea of learning to manage their business. BUT, they were still resistant and confused by the tabular format of data. Side note: An analyst would be more comfortable with more “granular” data. For instance, call volume can be broken down into many subcategories and average sale can be broken down into average sale by category. But, for most people and especially the numberphobic, granularity breeds confusion and confusion results in inaction. Business Intelligence Before Artificial Intelligence Now that my clients were focused on the 5 priorities, I began to see progress. But I was still challenged by the reluctance to prioritize monitoring those metrics on a regular basis. I realized that tabular data was never going to cut it. Enter Business Intelligence. Business Intelligence turns tabular data into visuals that non – financial people can understand and relate to. In its early stages, having been created by data scientists, Business Intelligence tends toward too much data. As a result, the impact is often about the same as the tabular form. For most people too much data overwhelms them, confuses them and the same inaction occurs. The process of manually creating the visuals and then updating them periodically is extraordinarily time consuming and tedious in the extreme. It is pretty obvious, that non – technical, non – financial people were never going to invest the time to make that happen. Enter Artificial Intelligence. There were several challenges (some unique to funeral service) to overcome in order to offer Business Intelligence

56 | November/December Issue 2023


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CONTINUED to multiple firms of all sizes that could be updated with little or no effort at an affordable price. • Even though there is a generally accepted chart of accounts for the profession, most private funeral homes use local accountants who don’t know that. So, there is no consistency. This means that every client’s financial report has to be recast every month into the standardized chart so comparisons can be made against industry targets. • While many private funeral homes use Quickbooks, there is other accounting software and all must be accommodated. • There are a variety of electronic case management systems which collect data regarding calls which must also be accommodated. • Funeral homes are notorious for sloppy bookkeeping. This means that items are posted to accounts inconsistently, the timing of revenue and expense is often off by a month or more, accounts are rarely, if ever, reconciled. This, too, must be accommodated. • Finally, the Cardinal rule: Never, ever, ever upset the bookkeeper. I could satisfy each of these constraints manually but not automatically until software was developed that could be trained to do repetitive tasks once and then repeat them with each addition of new data. In just the last few years software has been introduced that allows you to train a computer to do just that. So, now, after an initial set up, the computer automatically process new data and updates the visuals.

The Dashboard Below is a sample dashboard. This particular firm serves more than 85% cremation so the metrics are very different than a more conventional funeral home. Again, the purpose is for an owner to understand where they are and what to do at a glance. If it takes more than 5 minutes to understand, it is too complicated. These dashboards cannot be generic but must be customized for each firm. Note that I have translated the variances into impact numbers and their effect on the value of the firm.

With the click of a button the user can drill down and see how things are trending. Note that call volume is slowly increasing but average sale is slowly decreasing.

This eliminated the need that clients all use the same accounting and case management software. In fact, recent innovations allow us to automate the entire process so that clients need do nothing at all. Not even think about it. And THAT, ladies and gentleman, is very exciting to me. The Deliverable My mission was to create a Dashboard that my clients could understand at a glance and then, choose to go back to sleep, look into something a little deeper or call someone like me or their accountant. A user should be able to look at the visual and know what to do immediately. Because everyone is familiar with it, I chose to make it look like a car dashboard. I also use the warning light of a stop light. Green means: go back to sleep, Yellow means: you might want to look into it, Red means you need to call someone. Once the dashboard was created it became obvious that two more criteria needed to be incorporated: Because of the ebb and flow of call volume, the information needed to represent a rolling 12 months. So, the system presents information as if it is year-end every new month. Also, it is important to track trends. To do this, the dashboard has a drill down feature that allows users to look at trends and individual performance at the rooftop and licensee level. On a whim, I decided to include information on what the financial impact of doing nothing might be. This information originally was just for me. It has turned out to be the primary focus of my clients and the motivator for taking action.

In addition, users can drill down to look at performance by location, staff member (see below), type of service and more.

Conclusion Business Intelligence powered by a form of Artificial Intelligence has allowed me to fulfill a career dream. It provides instant information in relevant terms that clients immediately understand. But, more important, they know what to do or they know who to call. This is, perhaps, the most exciting thing I have accomplished in my career. FBS

Alan Creedy is a former Certified Public Accountant. He celebrates more than 40 years helping funeral professionals accomplish their personal goals in managing, developing and eventually selling their business. He is the author of “Finish Well, an Exit Guide for Funeral Home Owners.” He can be reached at or by phone at 919.280.1217.

58 | November/December Issue 2023

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The Grand O'Vale

by Rosewood Classic Coach Rosewood Classic Coach unveiled their latest funeral coach design – The Grand O’Vale. This beautifullydesigned classic coach uniquely incorporates and combines design elements from the horse drawn funeral coach era, with the “Golden Age” of 1930’s automotive styling. Like all Rosewood Classic Coaches, its chassis is based upon late model Chevrolet truck with all modern electronic fuel injected engines and overdrive transmissions.

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The timeless exterior of every Rosewood Classic Coach is underpinned by equally enduring engineering, beginning with a ladder-type box section steel chassis built in-house around heavy-duty General Motors truck components and a 430 HP, fully GMwarranted Chevrolet LS3 fuel-injected V-8. This powerplant is teamed with a commercial capacity 4L65E automatic transmission Standard rear air ride suspension gives the funeral director customizable ride height and comfort. The body’s corrosion-resistant composite panels are bonded to a race car-style safety cage with aircraft-grade adhesive, while trim components are high quality stainless steel. Whether the customer chooses a Grand Vista funeral coach fitting arch-shaped floor-toceiling glass or a Grand O’Vale, cleverly named for its seven-footlong “Grand Oval” viewing windows, the tall, square profiles of both cars allow their 46-inch-wide loading doors to open 180 degrees for easy access to the casket table and the church truck storage area above the rear bumper. The classic coachwork proportioning also creates space in the lower starboard flank for a four-foot-square, 1,000-pound capacity slideout storage drawer, and minimizes transmission tunnel intrusion in the driver’s compartment The driver’s compartment also features optional 6-waypower seating, a precision CNC-cut mahogany finished dashboard and an Art Deco “banjo” spoke tilt steering wheel. Rosewood has made previous optional equipment standard on current models, including: rear backup camera, body color matched wheels, large glass back door, dual flag masts, wig-wag lights and hardwood casket area with accents. FBS For more information, please visit | November/December Issue 2023


BUYING BASICS: Finding a Business For Sale BY MATT MANSKE


n the funeral industry, sellers typically do not want their competitors to know they are considering a sale. So even though there may be a lot of funeral homes for sale at any given time, it may be very difficult to find out which ones are actually available. Buying a business can be very time consuming and stressful. Just finding a quality business for sale can be a daunting task. Once you find a business for sale, the real work of evaluating that business begins. Finding a business for sale and evaluating that business is a process. Like most processes, each step is important to achieving ownership. The goal of this Buying Basics series is to introduce buyers to key elements in the buying process. In the funeral industry, sellers typically do not want their competitors to know they are considering a sale. So even

though there may be a lot of funeral homes for sale at any given time, it may be very difficult to find out which ones are actually available. Personal networking is probably the best way a buyer can find out who might be considering a sale. Your personal network should begin with people close to you whom you can trust. This network will probably include a select group of your peers, existing funeral home owners and industry sales representatives located in the geographical area you would like to buy in. Another way to locate businesses for sale is to watch trade publications and industry websites for classified ads. But you should be aware that employing this method can be very time consuming as you will likely need to sort through many opportunities that are not viable or that do not meet your needs.

62 | November/December Issue 2023

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CONTINUED Paramount in your search for a business for sale is to be on the look out for several common seller situations. The first seller situation is when the business is for sale, but not at a price you can afford to pay. The common statement that everything is for sale at the right price applies to situations like this when the seller isn’t really eager to sell but is merely “fishing” around for a buyer willing to pay an exorbitant price. Remember, regardless of how good the opportunity is, it may not be the best long term financial decision for you if your grandchildren will still be making mortgage payments. Every industry evolves over time and committing yourself and your family to an unreasonably large mortgage over a long period of time may drastically decrease your chances of long term success – especially if any unforeseen changes occur in the market or industry. The second common seller situation is when a business is for sale, but the business is not viable long term. Most businesses are for sale for a reason. Finding out why a business is for sale will be one of the most important questions you will need answered. The best reason a business may be for sale is that the current owner would like to retire and transition the business to a well qualified buyer – one that will uphold the owner’s good reputation in the community. A less desirable reason a business may be for sale is that the market has changed and business volume simply isn’t what is used to be.

revenue and volume. The main point here is to evaluate the non-financial aspects of the opportunity very closely. The non-financial aspects are sometimes even more important to the long term success of the business than the financial ones. In summary, developing a personal network is a great way to find out which owners may be considering a sale. Confidentiality is important and the best business transactions are the ones nobody finds out about until months after they have been completed. Be on the lookout for several common seller situations and don’t be afraid to ask why the seller is considering a sale. Make sure the business, customers and community are a good fit for you and your family. This fit will be the key to effectively transferring the current owner’s close customer relationships. FBS Matt Manske is the Managing Member of BSF, LLC (website: He can be contacted at 913.343.2357, or by email at

The market population may have decreased or competitors in the market may have eaten away market share to a point that it will be impossible to bring the business back to the performance level it once enjoyed. The important thing here is to find out why the business is for sale and determine if that reason is a positive or negative to the transaction. A third common seller situation is when a business is for sale, but the business just doesn’t fit your needs. Even assuming the business is for sale for a positive reason and the business has been doing consistent sales revenue, this business still might not be a fit for you. The funeral business is very personal and most owners enjoy a close relationship with their community and customers. These relationships are critical to the long term success of any funeral home. Transitioning these relationships to a new owner doesn’t always go off without a hitch. When there are competitors in the market, new owners often see a downswing in business revenue or volume of up to ten percent or more during their first year. If these customer relationships are not transitioned effectively, the new owner may see even greater downswings in

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66 | November/December Issue 2023

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