Funeral Business Solutions Magazine September / October 2023 Issue

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The New Face of Mortuary Design and Equipment

Our conversation with Joel Soelberg, new owner of Duncan Stuart Todd page 32

Your Guide for Funeral Industry Business Strategies | September/October 2023
This is the problem. This is the solution. Offer affordability without losing profitability. 800.866.8343 | HOMECOMING Columbaria • Memorial Wall Systems • Continuing Services Our forward thinking, cost-effective products maximize usable space and profitability without sacrificing beauty or elegance. Additionally, we offer comprehensive Continuing Service to support ease of ongoing care and the perpetual beauty of our Memorial Products. Attending the NFDA 2023 Convention? Visit us in booth #1971


Hi, I'm Tim Totten, a 25-year industry veteran. I've worked at both corporate and family-owned firms before expanding my side business (making removal quilts out of the garage) into a full-time career.

Twenty years ago, marketing my family-run business to the industry was all new to me. I started with smaller state trade shows, then graduated in 2007 to booths at NFDA and ICCFA expos.

Then came attempts at print advertising, but it wasn't until I found the publication Funeral Business Advisor that I saw impressive returns because I was able to target the specific market of 17,000+ funeral directors and owners I needed!

This marketing brought our company, Final Embrace, to even more funeral business owners!

That worked great until FBA unexpectedly went out of business in the middle of 2021, leaving companies like mine without a medium to bring our business solutions to the biggest audience of directors and owners who are busy working each day to run a funeral business.

Seeing the effects of this, my team and I decided to explore shipping catalogs to almost 20,000 locations, only to find out just how difficult that really is.

But then I remembered the magazine I had advertised in every year since 2014 and the effect it had on our business. I wondered if it might be attractive to other companies and if the industry professionals who used to receive the magazine perhaps missed the valuable business content that was brought to them by so many great industry experts.

After months of research and intense trial and error, I have been able to replicate the feel and look of the previous publication so that we can not only fill the need left by FBA's departure, but also bring great content to funeral professionals who crave actionable business advice.

Funeral Business Solutions strives to bring you, the reader, succinct and clear articles about subjects that actually affect your business. From explanations of FTC rules to HR issues and from discussions of casket selection rooms to new cremation products, Funeral Business Solutions is designed with you, the funeral professional, in mind.

Thank you for joining me on this journey. I hope you find useful information in these pages and I hope you'll let me know what kinds of articles and features you'd like to see in the future.


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.

3 | September/October Issue 2023

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6 | September/October Issue 2023 BOOK OVERVIEW "Last Rites: The Evolution of the American Funeral" by Todd Harra FUNERAL HOME SUCCESS STORY Gordon Mortuary Blacksburg & Gaffney, South Carolina 18 FEATURE INTERVIEW 22 Funeral Director and Author Caleb Wilde BY TIMOTHY TOTTEN SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER VOLUME III, 2023 16 22 16 32 FEATURES The New Face of Mortuary Design and Equipment 18
7 | September/October Issue 2023 The Imperative of Cyber Insurance for Funeral Homes BY CHRIS J. BOOTS 36 28 54 CONTENTS Is Traditional Media Dead? BY JOE WEIGEL 26 Lights, Camera, Action: How to Respond When the Media Calls BY ANDREW CLARK 40 Product Review: Mo's Bundt Cakes BY FBS STAFF 48 Must See Products: A Recap from the NFDA International Convention & Expo 50 Urn Merchandising Tips to Grow Your Business BY JASON RYAN ENGLER 58 Retirement Plans - What's Best for You? BY BY RAYMOND L. BALD, CPA, CFE & RONALD H. COOPER, CPA 54 48 O.S.H.A. Bites & Checklist REGULAR COLUMN & CHECKLIST BY MARK HARRISON OF COMPLIANCE SAFETY TRAINING 44 36 40 44 58 62 Grandma Loves Her iPhone BY BRUCE LIKLY 62 50


Hilton is a trusted provider of premium funeral supplies. Their mission is to simplify the way funeral professionals shop for funeral supplies while reaffirming their commitment to excellence through partnerships with leading industry brands.


Conceived as a way to identify immediate family members during a service, the MemoriaLeaf pin has become a symbol of those grieving and is sparking conversations beyond the funeral about grief, lost loved ones, and shared experiences.



Introduced to the funeral industry in 1999, Chris J. Boots has enjoyed serving funeral professionals for nearly 25 years. First, with his company, CJ Boots Caskets, which he has since sold, and now as a Commercial Lines Coverage Specialist with Funeral Professionals Insurance.


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


Manufacturers and suppliers that make it possible to bring you FUNERAL BUSINESS SOLUTIONS Magazine.

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I want to keep working, but I was ready to take things like Human Resources and IT off my plate. It was important to me that a successor would preserve our legacy of exceptional service. Equally important, I wanted our team to continue feeling appreciated, with plenty of opportunity for growth. When I met

with leadership at Foundation Partners Group, they were genuinely interested in what we were doing as one of the largest funeral providers in Wisconsin. I knew for our family, it was the right time to join Foundation Partners Group. Maybe it’s the right time for yours, too.

KRAUSE FUNERAL HOMES AND CREMATION SERVICES Foundation Partners Group 4901 Vineland Road, Suite 300 Orlando, FL 32811 Get in Touch 1-800-399-4635


Gail Rubin, Certified Thanatologist and The Doyenne of Death®, is an award-winning speaker, author, podcaster, YouTuber, and coordinator of the Before I Die New Mexico Festival. She is also a Certified Funeral Celebrant. Her three books on planning ahead for end-of-life issues are available through her website,

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.

Andrew Clark is Chief Customer Officer for Foundation Partners Group where he leads all field operations, operational strategy, sales and customer experience activities across the company’s 260+ locations. He is vice chairman of the Florida Board of Funeral, Cemetery and Consumer Services. He can be reached 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

Jason Ryan Engler is Director of Products & Merchandising for Element by the Living Urn. He also serves as the historian for the Cremation Association of North America and as the cremation historian for the National Museum of Funeral History. He resides in Austin, Texas, with his miniature dachshund, Otto.

Joe Weigel is the owner of Weigel Strategic Marketing, a communications firm focused on the funeral profession that delivers expertise and results across three interrelated marketing disciplines: strategy, branding and communications. He can be reached at 317-608-8914 or

Bruce Likly is President and co-founder of TribuCast™, a patent-pending remote funeral attendance system with clients established across the US and overseas. Likly’s experience includes developing and implementing technology and communications solutions that help businesses build a competitive edge.

Raymond L. Bald, CPA, CFE is a funeral home tax accountant and consultant with Cummings, Lamont & McNamee, PLLC. He can be reached by phone at 603-7723460, or you may email him at rbald@


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.

Robin Richter, Content Editor 813.500.2819

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


For high quality reprints of articles, email us at

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South Bay Street Eustis,
Florida 32726 Timothy Totten, Publisher 352.242.8111

Donʼt let your cremation revenue go up in flames!


Final EmbracE adds PEt strEtchEr WraP to linE oF rEmoval Products

Eustis, Florida – Responding to demand from funeral directors moving into the pet loss business, Final Embrace, the leading manufacturer of quilted removal and alternative viewing systems has created a pet stretcher wrap to bring their innovations to the sector.

Designed to wrap most standard pet stretchers, the Pet Stretcher Wrap by Final Embrace attaches to the removal stretcher and provides a more secure cover that fully supports the remains of even the largest canine. Typical pet transport stretchers are designed with living dogs and other animals in mind, meaning they have open fabrics and a few simple belts that fail to fully secure a large animal when the stretcher is lifted at an angle.

“Our team really looked at this problem with new eyes,” says Final Embrace Managing Partner Timothy Totten. “We recognized that existing stretcher covers in the pet world were really designed by veterinarians, not removal service personnel.”

To facilitate a way to cover the remains fully, and to ensure that one-person removals would be possible, the design team created a 3-way wrap that first secures the remains with a wide covering flap made from their ingenious

FluidBlocker fabric. This flap envelops the remains and secures to the handles of the stretcher, securing the remains for easy transport when the stretcher is tilted up onto its wheels.

“After that, it was as easy as making two more large flaps from our beautiful fabrics,” said Totten.

The entire system fits onto most standard stretchers (24” x 48”) and can accommodate any animal the stretcher can support. The extra large measurements of the cover as well as the generouslysized hook and look fasteners and sturdy buckles means the stretcher wrap stays secure on the stretcher.

For more information or to see all of the available fabrics, visit their website at

Final Embrace is the leading manufacturer of specialty removal products and alternative viewing strategies, often created from beautiful quilts and durable tapestry fabrics.

Founded in 2001 by Timothy Totten, the family-owned Final Embrace has pioneered excellence in removal and alternative viewing products for human funerals, and is now expanding into the pet loss and removal market.

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Order your FREE copy TODAY book-promo/

FunEral sErvicE Foundation launchEs crisis rEsPonsE

Fund For maui WildFirEs and othEr crisEs, Funding

For FunEral sErvicE EmErgEncy assistancE and griEF suPPort

Brookfield, Wisconsin - The Funeral Service Foundation announced today that their Board of Trustees has approved a grant of $40,000 earmarked for the Foundation’s Crisis Response Fund. Additionally, the Foundation has received commitments of $25,000 from the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA); $25,000 from; and $10,000 from The Messenger Co. These total funds of $100,000 will be used to match contributions to the fund made from now until the end of the year.

Funding Priorities

The Crisis Response Fund will make grants to provide support for immediate needs within funeral service, including grants to organizations providing grief support services and resources to families directly impacted by disasters and other crises, such as the wildfires in Maui and Hurricane Idalia in Florida and the Carolinas.

“The Foundation’s Board of Trustees, our donors and partners want to assure that assistance is available to those who are doing the difficult work of helping a devastated community,” said Foundation Chair Lisa Baue. “After tragedy strikes communities, the work of the funeral service professionals is truly awe-inspiring. The hope is that these funds can support their hard work.”

How to Support the Crisis Response Fund

The Funeral Service Foundation is accepting donations in support of the Foundation’s Crisis Response Fund, which offers urgently needed funding in the wake of regional, national or international crises. In the wake of the Maui Wildfires, the deadliest wildfire in modern U.S. history, and Hurricane Idalia, impacting Florida and the Carolinas, the need could not be greater.

Now through the end of the year, with support from the National Funeral Directors Association, and The Messenger Co., contributions to the fund will be matched up to $100,000.

“The Foundation’s support of communities in crisis is a critical part of our mission,” said Baue. “We are grateful that our Board and partners at NFDA, and The Messenger Co. recognize the important work that funeral service professionals do in the wake of disasters and are providing matching gifts for the Foundation’s Crisis Response Fund.”

Gifts to the Funeral Service Foundation’s Crisis Response Fund can be made online at donatenow. Those interested in supporting the fund may also send checks, made payable to the Funeral Service Foundation Crisis Response Fund, 13625 Bishop’s Drive, Brookfield, WI 53005, or call 1-877-402-5900 to make a gift by phone.

About the Crisis Response Fund

Created from funeral professionals’ requests to support relief efforts following the devastating tsunami in 2004, the Crisis Response Fund offers urgently needed funding in the wake of regional, national, or international crises. The Foundation funded the Hurricane Katrina Memorial in 2010, offered support following other natural disasters and emergent situations, and most recently, awarded more than $500,000 in COVID-19 relief grants and $50,000 in support of the Children’s Bereavement Center of South Texas in the wake of the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

To learn more about the efforts and the overall mission of the Funeral Services Foundation, visit them online today at

Since 1945, the Funeral Service Foundation has served as the philanthropic voice of the funeral profession and has identified as the charitable arm of the National Funeral Directors Association since 1997. Donors and volunteer leaders profession-wide support the Foundation in its mission of investing in people and programs to strengthen funeral service and lift up grieving communities.

14 | September/October Issue 2023 INDUSTRY HEADLINES

bluEWatEr voyagEr buoy Wins 2023 nFda innovation aWard

Brookfield, Wisconsin – In September 2023, the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) presented the 2023 NFDA Innovation Award to Bluewater Voyage Buoy during its International Convention & Expo. Coming in second place was the Tug-Along by Mortuary Lift Company; and Matan’s Life Map took third place. Established in 2009, the NFDA Innovation Award recognizes and promotes creativity, innovation and excellence among funeral service suppliers and vendors.

The Bluewater Voyage Buoy offers a completely new method for of scattering cremated remains at sea. Once the cremated remains ashes are packed inside the buoy, a Bluewater Voyage vessel will deploy it into the gulfstream for a year-long adventure. Sensors in the buoy connect with an online portal through which family and friends can track their loved one’s cremated remains across every swell and wave. Once the buoy is deployed, one of three things will happen: at any given point during the trip the family can scuttle (sink) the buoy to become a permanent grave marker in the ocean; if the buoy gets within less than 100 ft of water, it will be scuttled to prevent it from washing up on shore; or, at the 365.5 day mark, the buoy will be scuttled to become a permanent grave marker on the ocean floor.

dashboard so loved ones can track the journey of the buoy. Learn more at

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The Bluewater Voyager Buoy includes an online portal
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"Last Rites: The Evolution of the American Funeral" by Todd Harra is a captivating exploration of the transformation of funeral practices in America, offering readers a deep insight into a subject often shrouded in mystery and taboo. Drawing from numerous sources, including the extensive expertise of the late Todd Van Beck, Harra masterfully navigates the intricate history of how the American funeral has evolved over time.

Harra's writing is engaging and accessible, making it an ideal read for both those with a genuine curiosity about the topic and professionals seeking to expand their knowledge. The author's meticulous research and engaging storytelling allows readers to truly grasp the significance of the changes that have occurred in funeral customs.

One of the standout aspects of "Last Rites" is its holistic approach. Harra doesn't merely dwell on historical facts; he delves into the societal, cultural, and psychological factors that have shaped funeral traditions. There are detailed stories of riots over body snatching for medical research, lists of funeral gifts and foods from the earliest days of the republic, and a glimpse into the evolution of embalming and how President Lincoln’s assassination and extended train journey to Illinois helped promote the new approach to preservation.

The book's chapters are well-structured, each focusing on a specific era or aspect of the evolution. Harra adeptly paints a picture of rituals of the past. In later chapters, he explains how those rituals have given way to more personalized and celebratory memorial service approaches. Readers will appreciate the exploration of various cultural influences that have contributed to the rich tapestry of modern funeral practices.

In a time when discussions around death positivity, eco-friendly options, and personalization of funerals are on the rise, "Last Rites" serves as a timely and relevant resource. Todd Harra's book combines historical insight with contemporary relevance, shedding light on the evolution of the American funeral in a way that both educates and engages.

In conclusion, "Last Rites: The Evolution of the American Funeral" is a thought-provoking and enlightening read. It’s a wellresearched and insightful book that bridges the gap between history and modern sensibilities. Whether you're an individual curious about the evolution of funeral practices or a professional in the field, this book offers a well-rounded understanding of how cultural, societal, and personal factors have shaped the way Americans bid farewell to their loved ones.

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Want to Know More? Listen

discussion of

Todd Harra discussed “Last Rites” on The Doyenne of Death® podcast, hosted by Gail Rubin. Some of the topics explored in detail include:

• The difference between coffins and caskets,

• How an ancient Roman funeral rite honoring ancestors morphed into today’s tradition of photo montages at memorial services,

• The importance of food, drink, and gifts at funerals,

• Interesting stories of embalming,

• The evolution of military mortuary services and dog tags,

• How the person in the Tomb of the Unknown soldier was selected in World War I, and

• The surprising origin of pall bearers.

You can find The Doyenne of Death® podcast wherever you access podcasts.


Gail Rubin, Certified Thanatologist and The Doyenne of Death®, is an award-winning speaker, author, podcaster, YouTuber, and coordinator of the Before I Die New Mexico Festival ( She is also a Certified Funeral Celebrant. Her four books on planning ahead for end-oflife issues – A Good Goodbye, Kicking the Bucket List, Hail and Farewell, and The Before I Die Festival in a Box™ – are available through Amazon and her website,

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to a
"Last Rites: The Evolution of the American Funeral" with the author on "The Doyenne of Death" podcast.
home success story 18 | September/October Issue 2023
Left to Right: Licensed Funeral Directors Adam Gordon, Scott Gordon, and Kendall Kirby

Tell me about yourself and how you became involved in the funeral industry?

I grew up in the industry. I can remember being at ShufordHatcher Funeral Home as a child and watching television, waiting on my dad to finish a visitation. My first job was working with dad at Shuford-Hatcher the week after I graduated high school in June 2000.

While I was away at college studying mathematics, my father was able to go back to work at Gordon Mortuary, which was corporate owned at the time. I would work at the funeral home with him when I was on break from school.

Eventually, he bought the place, so when I graduated - even though I had a degree in another field - it made sense that I’d join him.

Please share the history of your funeral home. William Martin "Bill" Gordon opened Gordon Mortuary in May of 1948 at 305 West Cherokee Street. In 1996, under the ownership of The Alderwoods Corporation, the former Duke Energy building was purchased and renovated, in order to become the current location of Gordon Mortuary.

In November 2007, Bill's nephew (my dad), Scott Gordon, purchased Gordon Mortuary in Blacksburg, South Carolina from Port Elsewhere II, Inc.

I became a third generation Gordon funeral director/ embalmer when I became licensed in August of 2006. I became manager of Gordon Mortuary in 2007.

We expanded into Gaffney, South Carolina in May of 2017 when we bought Shuford-Hatcher Funeral home. Open since 1925, the funeral home had been corporately owned for 20 years and we converted it into Gordon Mortuary of Gaffney.

What makes your funeral home unique?

We are unique in our area because our staff is multi-ethnic. We are able to serve different cultures and have their service look like their particular culture expects services to look. We’ve cross-trained our staff to be able to perform services of the various cultures in our community.

We are also opening a human crematory and a pet crematory in the coming months. When construction is complete, we will be the only pet crematory in the county.

What does excellent customer service mean to you?

Beyond offering services that clients want, I believe that excellent customer service means letting the service be about the family. Our staff has worked hard to learn that families don’t call us because of the funeral we want to create, but because we recognize who they are and how to create a service that fits them.

We also work hard to understand that we are humans first. And humans makes mistakes. Excellent customer service means we own those mistakes and take the right steps to correct them and learn from them.

Your dad passed away recently. What did you learn from him?

He’s the reason I got into the industry. I got to work beside my dad for my entire career of nearly 23 years. My dad was smart enough to know his strengths and weakness. He knew that when it came to book smart, it wouldn’t be long before I was more qualified than him to run the business. My way of thinking made me successful in the daily business decisions. But he also knew when it came to the community and relating to people, he was one of the best. When he took over Gordon Mortuary, they only did 22 services that year. Within the first five years he went from 20 calls to 70 calls in a very small town. But now we’re doing over 200, a lot of it down to his people skills.

He had a way about him that everyone he talked to felt special. Everyone was his friend. I learned from him to be the same person everywhere you go. When you’re making an arrangement with a family, when you’re at church, when you’re having dinner with friends another night of the week. Then people always know who they’re going to get and you don’t have to remember who to be in different situations. He was an old country boy, and that’s who he was. He helped so many people. When he bought the funeral home, he made the promise to God that any family that called us first would be served. He held to that until the day he died. We never missed a meal, even if it was ramen noodles, but he took care of his families and he took care of us.

How involved are you in the community?

My wife and I are foster parents and involved in the foster parent association. My staff have church involvements and a few are volunteer firefighters, several members of the Rotary Club, and we have a Freemason. We also provide events like ice cream socials and magic shows at the local nursing home. We don’t use these as marketing events, but we want to be involved in the community.

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What do you feel has been the biggest factor in your success?

We’ve never stopped learning. I know that everyone on my team has something to offer, and so we listen. Sometimes their ideas are used and sometimes they’re not. But they know they can approach with a new idea or something they’ve noticed or something they’ve seen. And we can take that and make changes or adjust quickly to changing public ideas. It’s the reason I bought out a print shop. Today, we produce all our own memorial programs in house and we can even do memorial t-shirts in house. We’re also able to do our own custom head panels for caskets.

I also bought an AP Lazer a few years ago and we use it to customize items for our funerals. In fact the open architecture of the laser means we can tackle big projects. A young woman in our community had a bench made from an old pecan tree from her parent’s home and the design of our laser meant we were able to engrave a personal note in her deceased father’s handwriting into the bench so it could be used as part of her wedding.

What would you tell someone just starting a funeral home or who has just bought one?

I’ve never lived in a large city, but in smalltown USA people are going to call the ones that they know and trust. My dad helped build his business and we continue building it by doing something as small as regularly eating breakfast at the small diner down from the funeral home. We make friends with people in the community by doing that. When you make it about the families, you won’t have to talk down about your competition or tell people that you’re better, you can show people that you’re better without saying it.

You’re probably going to start slow, but as it builds, you’ll become the funeral home people call because you’re good about it. It’s a marathon not a sprint. In the meantime, watch your expenses. You don’t need a $150,000 brand new hearse to impress families.

What excites you for the future?

I love when you get a bunch of smart people in a room together, what they can come up with. Who would have thought five years ago that you could send off ashes and get them turned into rocks. Even ten years ago, would ashes have become glass? Who would have expected cremation with water? I’m excited to see what the big guys, with their big research budgets can come up with, and what the smaller entrepreneurs will champion. I really like that where we are in South Carolina, we’re seeing a resurgence in the importance of having a service. For a while we were more of a throwaway society, but I’ve seen that changing. We’re doing fewer direct cremation and direct burials, and whether they use us for it or not, we’re seeing an increase in families having services. I truly believe that the funeral service has a very important place in society. We’ve already done more casketed cremation services this year than any time in our past.

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Do you have any advice for other funeral homes?

Every funeral home, at the end of the day, can bury someone or cremate someone. Whether you’re the best or the worst funeral home. We’re all doing the exact same thing: disposition. So you have to find what will set you apart from the rest of them. What are the little things you can do that make your funeral home stand out? It can be something as small as “we always clean our cars before the service” or “we vacuum the floors before every visitation.” Quite often, the little details will set you apart.

Anything else you would like to say to our readers? How many funeral homes do you know where the crematory is not in the garage? Our crematory is its own building and we will eventually be able to have services in the same building. Cremation is not something to run from and families want to use funeral homes that embrace cremation. I’m not running from cremation, I’m giving it a big old hug and making it my best friend because that is what families want and it's what’s going to feed my family in the future. FBS

You can reach Adam at

21 | September/October Issue 2023 SignupbyNovember30thtoreceiveyourfirstmonthfree!

Funeral Director & Author Caleb Wilde

From Publisher Timothy Totten:

In our last issue, we covered the book “All the Ways Our Dead Still Speak” by author and funeral director Caleb Wilde. In that volume, Wilde discusses the very real and often overlooked issues of PTSD, compassion fatigue, and burnout among funeral directors.

I wanted to learn more about the issues he’s experienced first-hand and hear more about the initiative he’s planning to address this growing problem among funeral directors.

Check out excerpts from our conversation below.

You speak eloquently about burnout in your recent book. What prompted the inclusion of that topic?

It’s something that I recognized in myself first. There’s an obvious unmet need in the industry. Most of the materials that deal with these issues are not written from the perspective of the funeral director. Peer support is often washed away by our own competitive nature. We compare call numbers before we ask each other how we’re doing.

I have kids and I wanted to make sure I didn’t spiral into something deep and dark. I dealt with intense depression, compassion fatigue, and burnout. For many funeral directors that isn’t necessarily depression, it’s drinking. Or a social life that’s been so suffocated by their job that they find they’ve lost themselves entirely in what they do. There are many avenues that the overwhelming nature of this business can destroy the workers and I wanted to make sure that wasn’t me.

I know you’ve already talked about the topic at state conventions. Has it been helpful? Once somebody starts talking about it, even in a superficial manner, other people start saying “hey, that’s exactly what I’m going through, and I need help.” I’ve had a lot of people reaching out. I’m coaching someone right now who heard me speak at one of the state conferences.

I know you’ve heard from a lot of funeral directors. Why has your book resonated?

What exists usually isn’t written from the perspective of a funeral director. This has touched others because it came from my own experience as a funeral director. I had to find out how to fix it before it spiraled further into depression, alcohol, or something else.

Were you prepared for these issues before you got into the business?

No. I saw my dad struggle with burnout. I saw him struggle finding ways to have a personal life. 20-30 years ago, there wasn’t verbiage for these things. The WWII generation that raised current funeral leaders believed if they buried these things they’d stay dead. And because nobody talked about it, there was never an effort to make things better when it could have been. It wasn’t manly to express weakness. It wasn’t considered professional.

The industry struggles with bridging the personal and the professional. I’ve heard so many funeral professionals being scolded by a lead director that they shouldn’t cry at a funeral. This paradigm of being unemotional and out of touch works against us. If we say “I’m struggling. Burying this suicide, or dealing with this overdose, or this car accident, or the death of this young person is affecting me,” somehow we’ve seen that as unprofessional because ‘a true professional can plow through those things and continue to do their job’ and that’s not true. Anything that’s buried when it comes to our emotional life doesn’t go away. It general gets larger and more destructive.

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What’s the biggest thing we must figure out when it comes to this issue?

I start off my presentations underscoring generational differences between the industrial age and the post-industrial age. It’s kind of academic. In the industrial economy - which is what those in their 60’s and 70’s experienced - privacy and the lack of transparency were valued as marks of character. In the post-industrial economy, where we’ve focused more on people than products, that’s completely flipped. The value we see is when someone is able to be transparent and express the personal things between us. Transparency and honesty are more valued.

Does this explain the tension between generations?

Yes, this immense clash between millennials and boomers is an outcome of it. In the industry we have many boomers who lead, and the Millennials are trying to figure out how they fit in. The tension is because Millennials share far more with their peers while Boomers would prefer to stay quiet. The ideas of “professionalism” are opposites for these generations.

Millennials are attempting to approach this profession more personally and that goes against what Boomers were told was the very definition of what a professional is. Someone who can be objective, disassociated.

Which perspective is right?

You see, neither perspective is wrong. To move forward, we have to understand each other. All of us have faced unspoken difficulty. Ignoring it is not the solution. How we open ourselves up is the decision for each person, but the question is how, not if. It’s something we must all do or it will drastically affect our personal lives.

It seems like something that might trigger feelings of shame. It’s important that we remove shame from the conversation. There is no shame addressing the burnout in the industry.

Do you think the pandemic added to this problem?

COVID-19 was absolutely chaos for the funeral industry and so many within. We are still carrying that around unaddressed. Funeral professionals dealt with as much death as anyone else but we weren’t seen as being on the front lines the way other first responders were.

How do we get funeral service to be treated more like other high stress jobs?

We deal with such heavy things and see so much death and grief that it’s almost impossible for us to see our own and justify using our energy to help ourselves. It’s like the cook who never feeds themself or the construction worker whose house is in terrible shape.

Support groups exist for emergency room workers, military personnel, police, and firefighters. As far as I know, funeral professionals do not yet have similar support systems. Only one study has been done on the amount of stress and burnout that funeral directors receive. We are so good at looking like we’re okay in our suits and ties, but we aren’t. PTSD, depression, and burnout are real things for us. And there should be no shame in addressing those things. Proof is in the number of people leaving the industry.

You also mentioned post-industrialism. Yes, post industrialism has changed what people value. Having healthy funeral directors who understand how to approach burnout and anxiety (most funeral directors deal with anxiety – if we’re not making removals at night, we are worrying whether that vault got ordered or we took mom’s ring off before burial). To move forward, the focus must shift from “are we meeting the bottom line?” to “are we able to foster healthy workers in our industry?”

In the future, I think one of the most valuable investments will be in the mental health of the staff at the funeral home. We aren’t going to be as successful as we think we are unless we do this.

Can we argue that this is also about retention?

It comes back to the generational gap, but the focus has been so long on presentation and product. It’s a one-sided idea to only invest salary into staff. Retention also means investing in their emotional health. Fostering a staff that the community trusts means lowering turnover.

We are generally 20-40 years behind every other industry because our demographic is also generally behind the rest of the population. We absolutely love serving people, but it becomes harder to continue making the sacrifice. Death work kills us from a very young age.

So where does a funeral home owner or manager start?

It starts with scheduling. Let’s find ways to make sure our staff are getting enough time to themselves and with their own families. As we progress, find ways to support staff from a mental health perspective. Finding materials and time to invest in support groups, one-on-one coaching, and resources that name the things we’re dealing with.

Naming it is taming it. If we can find words for what we’re dealing with, that’s the first step toward healing. Multiple solutions will probably be necessary. Anything that goes in the direction of solution is good.

What are you doing to help address this in the industry?

I’m starting a company called Life Coaching for Deathcare. I want it to be a holistic approach to supporting deathcare workers, which involves peer support groups, one on one coaching, and eventually conferences.

I’ve got a plan laid out for the next year or two to get it off the ground. I feel confident that I’m addressing a need that is overwhelming across the entire industry and that once I start talking about this more, that it’s going to address the need and create healthier funeral directors. The goal is to create a healthy balance between the professional and personal life.

What do you want to come out of this mission?

Funeral directors deserve to be happy. We deserve to find the life so many of us have lost in death. It will go a long way to letting us do what we love without hating ourselves in the process.

We’re the doctor that’s never addressed her own ailments because she’s too busy helping everyone else who is sick.

It’s not binary. We can do both. FBS

23 | September/October Issue 2023 FEATURE INTERVIEW

Who is Hilton Funeral Supply and what service do they provide?

Based in Auburn Hills, Michigan, Hilton Funeral Supply has built a reputation as a trusted provider of the highest quality funeral supplies. A reliable partner, Hilton ensures that funeral professionals across the United States have access to the essential products and services necessary for delivering compassionate and caring support to grieving families. Hilton Funeral Supply offers a diverse selection of products including funeral stationery, service essentials, prep room equipment, promotional products, and urns and keepsakes.

How did Hilton Funeral Supply get involved in the industry?

Established in 1990, Hilton Funeral Supply has since grown into a trusted and reputable name within the funeral profession. The company's founder, Tom Patten, grew up in the monument business where he developed an innate understanding of the specific needs and requirements of funeral professionals. Over the years, Hilton Funeral Supply has expanded and made lasting relationships with funeral directors throughout the United States, selling everything from printed funeral stationery to blank paper stock, promotional products to keepsake candles, and prep room essentials.

What makes Hilton Funeral Supply unique?

Hilton Funeral Supply, while remaining proudly independently owned, has consistently reimagined, redesigned, and refreshed its product selection in funeral categories such as stationery, service, prep room, promotional products, and keepsakes—all exclusively hand-picked for America’s funeral professionals. With licensed funeral director Jason Weir on




or download their free mobile app!

staff, Hilton Funeral Supply has firsthand insight into adapting to the needs of today's families and funeral professionals. The entire staff at Hilton Funeral Supply takes great pride in their vision of providing innovative solutions, reliable customer service, and exceeding expectations.

What are the benefits to funeral homes using Hilton?

Funeral homes can enjoy numerous advantages when partnering with Hilton Funeral Supply. One of the key benefits is access to Hilton's state-of-the-art e-commerce website and free mobile app—both ensuring easy access to their meticulously crafted product selection. In addition to this, Hilton Funeral Supply has designed services such as Shared Memories, a creative printing solution that simplifies the creation of personalized stationery. Furthermore, they have established partnerships with trusted names such as The Regal Line, Terrybear Urns & Memorials, and Final Embrace in order to provide only the highest quality product solutions.

How does Hilton provide a solution for Funeral Homes?

By choosing Hilton Funeral Supply as their supplier and partner, funeral professionals can leverage industry expertise, access a diverse range of products, receive topnotch customer service, and benefit from creative design solutions. These advantages collectively empower funeral professionals to better meet the needs of the families they serve and enhance their reputation. Hilton Funeral Supply steps up to the challenge of the ever-changing needs of funeral professionals by consistently putting the customer first and regularly updating its products and services.

24 | September/October Issue 2023
September/October Issue 2023

Is Traditional Media Dead?

Social media is all the rage, so should it replace traditional media in your marketing plan?

Is getting coverage in newspapers or on the television or radio still important today for funeral homes? Especially when the Internet and social media enable you to reach and engage with your families at the click of a button.

Nowadays, it seems everywhere you turn you see or hear about the Internet and social media. From companies blogging their latest news to consumers “liking” a local business to get discounts, it seems that the World Wide Web and social media have become the darlings of the marketing landscape, including funeral service.

As the Internet and social media continue to impact the commercial environment, funeral home owners must be asking themselves, “Surely the Internet and social media are all we need nowadays to market our company. We can stop running those TV and radio commercials a nd

placing newspaper ads. Let’s just discontinue our radio commercials and print ads - just like we did with our advertising in the Yellow Pages.” Well, I beg to differ.

While families are integrating the Internet and social media more and more into their lives, they haven’t abandoned traditional media sources and media habits. Regardless of the continued growth of the internet and social media, families continue to get their information from multiple sources, turning their attention to different media types at different times and for varied reasons. While I encourage my clients to include social media in their advertising and public relations efforts, I do not advise anyone to drop traditional media. It’s just too important.

It may seem that traditional media is losing its usefulness and its effectiveness. Some newspapers and magazines have folded up. More and more people are turning to social networks to get the news. And popular bloggers are reaching an increasing number of people. All this is true.

26 | September/October Issue 2023
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However, funeral homes still need traditional media for marketing to families. Here are seven reasons why:

1. Traditional media outlets are instantly recognizable. Chances are, families can recognize your town’s newspaper or radio station rather than the most popular blog in your community. Thanks to its rich history, ads that appear in print and broadcast tend to be taken much more seriously. Traditional media have been around longer than social media and the Internet, and many have built identifiable and credible brands.

2. Traditional media give you instant prestige. Because traditional media are recognizable and often seen as credible, getting exposure through them gives you and your funeral home instant status and credibility. On the other hand, being interviewed on a blog or web TV may not have the same effect on your families.

3. Traditional media is more credible. Most families understand the Internet is rife with fake advertising at best, and grossly misleading marketing campaigns at worst. Because of the dubious reputation of online ads, print advertisements remain the most trusted source of marketing information. Sure it may cost more, but your message is more believable.

4. Traditional media still reaches large audiences. As long as a traditional media outlet is still publishing or airing, chances are, it continues to reach a big enough audience to keep it viable. Research shows that families continue to spend more time with TV than with any other media. This is why many online stories take off only after traditional media talk about them.

5. Traditional media generates social media. If you land an interview on the local radio station or a news story about your firm runs in the local paper, you’re likely to catch the attention of social media as well. Furthermore, having your story appear in traditional media gives you something to post on your website or Facebook page. It’s what I like to call the “media multiplicity” effect and allows your message to continue to resonate with your families.

6. Traditional media has a huge social media presence.

Traditional media outlets often also have their own Internet presence, such as websites, blogs, and social networking profiles. Many times, a newspaper may not be interested in running your story, but will post your news release to their website – and the same goes for TV stations. Those traditional media outlets with websites usually get more traffic than even the most popular blogs or Facebook pages.

7. Traditional media engages its audience. Consumers rarely give digital content their full attention, rather choosing to multitask while viewing digital content. Print content, on the other hand, allows people to really focus and engage. And, when it comes to getting your message across, you can’t beat full engagement.

So if you are ready to ditch traditional media for social media — don’t! You still need traditional media to reach an audience and establish your credibility.

The most important thing is to target the media outlets that YOUR families are embracing, whether it’s a digital medium or a traditional one. Chances are, you’ll do best to have a mix of both. FBS

Joe Weigel is the owner of Weigel Strategic Marketing, a communications firm delivering expertise and results across three interrelated marketing disciplines: strategy, branding, and communications. For more information, he can be reached at 317-608-8914 or

28 | September/October Issue 2023


A simple way to make your infant removals more personal and professional. While using our removal carrier, you will feel dignified, confident, and caring going into any hospital or home.


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What is MemoriaLeaf?

MemoriaLeaf, a lapel pin, is the emblem of remembrance. Styled as a leaf that remembers the one who fell from the family tree, it adds a heart to reflect the sentiment, you hold my heart, or my heart remembers.

Who created it?

The creator of the pin is Ruthann Disotell, a funeral director/embalmer for 46 years grew up in two funeral homes in New Jersey. She has a history in funeral home design, developing care programs and managing start-ups. One firm served the Jewish community. She said, “It was easy to identify the grieving family when you walked into the room; they were wearing Kriah ribbons. Then, I thought… If you aren’t Jewish, what do you get? Nothing. There was no universal emblem for those whose heart has been touched by loss. The black arm bands and heavy veils have gone to the wayside.”

How did she decide on the leaf motif?

Ruthann struggled to identify an emblem which would be non-denominational, nonethnic, and something that would be comfortable for everyone to wear. History had proven that men are not likely to enjoy wearing an angel, rose, or butterfly. Then, when a leaf was discovered on the sidewalk, she thought, ‘Everyone relates to the family tree!’ The leaf was transformed into a pin. It is accompanied by a poem card, “Some leaves wither and drift away; others rip off in a storm. This leaf rests upon my heart, to keep your memory warm.”

How has the pin been received by the community?

The reaction of families has been visceral. To be able to carry their loved one with them is so special. If you ask the family for permission to pin their loved one, it ‘connects the dots’ for callers. And the meaning of this pin is also easily woven into Celebrant services, annual memorials, and grief support groups.

When the family wears the pin in their daily walk, it attracts attention and stirs conversation. This gives the wearer the opportunity to talk about someone they love, to share a story and remember happy times, to return to their joy. No one should have to sit in their soup forever. They still have joy inside them. They just need to be reminded of the ringside seat they had on a wonderful life.

How is MemoriaLeaf different than other keepsakes?

While there are other products that cause remembrance, they are largely kept at home. The benefit of MemoriaLeaf is that it walks around town starting conversation. A natural question is, ‘Where did you get that?’ Now we’re talking about the funeral home… and smiling! Advertising was not the purpose of this product, but you can’t deny the wonderful side effect.

MemoriaLeaf 908-475-1711
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MemoriaLeaf creator, Ruthann Disotell. 908 475 1711 *packaged for sale *family identifier *precious keepsake *conversation starter

Meet the New Face of Mortuary Design and Equipment

Our conversation with Joel Soelberg, the new owner of Duncan Stuart Todd

Let’s gets to know you… What drives you personally?

My family relationships, and my relationship with God are super important to me. Progress in each area of my life is always a goal so I try to keep a balanced life. I do have to admit I’m often thinking about business and ways to improve it. For fun, I love to be active outdoors, travel, and coach.

What kind of coaching?

I’m an Assistant Cross Country Coach at my local High School. I also volunteer at my church and often help with the Youth Group activities. I feel that’s another form of youth coaching.

What’s an interesting but unknown fact about yourself?

I’m getting a little rusty, but I speak Portuguese and Spanish.

You are an Army veteran right?

I served 8 years in an Army National Guard, Cavalry Scout unit, that was later reclassed into an Infantry heavy weapons unit. Think humvees, 50cals. and big scopes, and you get the idea. I consider myself blessed to not have had to deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan when so many of my fellow soldiers had to. But since I got out before retirement and didn’t deploy I feel l don’t quite deserve the typical definition of veteran.

What’s a lesson that has shaped your career?

I’ve come to appreciate the truth in the saying “it’s not what you know but WHO you know that counts”. Certainly skills and experience are important, but relationships and personal connections are the key to personal and business growth because of the opportunities these relationships afford.

What would you say is your “Profession”?

Helping people. As a businessman with a manufacturing sales and operations background I help people solve their equipment needs. Applied specifically to deathcare, I help equip the workspaces needed to ensure dignified farewells.

You are fairly new to the deathcare industry and to Duncan Stuart Todd right?

New is a relative term, right? I have been in the industry and operating Duncan Stuart Todd, Ltd. since February of 2021.

How did you come to be the Managing Director at DST?

I bought DST! I am relatively new to the deathcare industry and the new owner of DST but not new to business operations and business ownership.

Most recently I was a partial owner and CEO of an aerospace jet engine tooling company that did work for GE, Pratt Whitney, Rolls Royce, and other jet engine companies. It was great until COVID impacted air travel and caused an overnight sales drop of over 60%.

We faced the facts quickly and decided to make a lot of big changes (and cuts) BEFORE we got into dire financial straits. One of the decisions was for my two partners to buy me out since I had the flexibility to look at other career options.

My partners wanted to stay in the business so I sold my portion and found myself jobless but optimistic going into the holidays of 2020. I immediately began looking to buy another manufacturing or service-related business and responded to a business broker’s listing of a “Medical Device Company for sale”.

That was my first glimpse at Duncan Stuart Todd Ltd. I eagerly pursued the opportunity after learning more about the industry, and DST’s position as both a Design AND Equipment firm. For me it was a best of both worlds scenario: Service AND Manufacturing within a meaningful human services niche.

It also tied in my Bachelors in Biomedical Science degree and past work experiences in healthcare clinical environments. I found my education and experiences correlate well with the clinical side of Deathcare and the workspaces we deal with.

Why was DST for sale?

I started working in DST prior to the acquisition under the tutelage of the sellers, Duncan and Marjori Todd, who had been involved since the founding in 1991. Duncan and Marjori didn’t have any children interested in taking the reins, and they hadn’t found an internal candidate who could take the business to the next level. So they wisely went to a business broker named Roger Smolik - probably the best business broker I’ve ever worked with - to sell the business on the open market. That’s when I found the listing.

To their credit, the sellers received multiple offers and interviewed and vetted multiple buyer candidates. Even though I wasn’t the highest offer, they felt like I was the right fit for the business due to my diverse background and my passion for business. (I’m sure meeting my wife helped too, as they could tell we are a great team). The broker, Duncan and Marjori were super helpful throughout the process and ensured the ownership transition went smoothly.

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How has the last 2.5 years at DST's helm been?

I’ve had a blast! I have an amazing team and I find the industry so meaningful and refreshing. I feel genuinely helpful and feel that I/we/DST add a valuable service to our customers and the families they serve.

“Refreshing” is an interesting term. what do you mean? My dealings with other professionals in other industries (including healthcare) proved to be less sincere than what I find is the norm in deathcare.

As an example, in the past I might call up a customer and we each would say “Hi, how are you?” or some other greeting that was quickly glossed over in order to get to the tasks at hand. These greetings became meaningless. I find when I get asked these questions by a funeral/mortuary professional, they actually care about me and want to know what I have to say.

That sense of sincerity and empathy for each person is refreshing to me. Their example has helped me to slow down so I can really see, hear, and acknowledge the people that I interact with each day. I’ve told all my family, friends and past colleagues how neat and unique the people within the deathcare industry are.

Of course, attending to all the project details, exceptions and being this flexible means more admin and educational time between DST and the client.

So we added staff to better manage the projects. We also added to our product options with new vendor relationships. This positioned us to be a lot more agile, offer more, and be more flexible than in the past.

At the end of day, we want to give our customers what they want, while still ensuring we meet all the code and OSHA requirements along the way. We want the customer to rave about the rooms, the equipment AND the DST experience.

Besides being more flexible, and improving your supply chain and product options, has anything else changed? We have diversified and improved our services. One example is our amped up care-center operational analysis and consulting services. DST can look at a facility’s current state and plan the future state of the facility based upon forecasted growth rates or based upon the care center centralization goals of the facility management.

We have become very skilled at helping our customers build the business case, and to do the necessary pre-planning to justify or define an appropriate renovation or new build plan.

Take the case of someone trying to decide if they should build, versus buy an existing building and renovate it. DST can give them care-center square footage targets to shoot for, and help quote the equipment for the spaces. Then the customer knows upfront if they can afford the project or what kind of real estate or facility they should even look for. This consultation service is a huge value add to the many decision makers who know (or are told) they need to make some operational and facility changes, but don’t know how and where to start.

Does consultation include site visits?

How is DST different now that you are involved?

We have a more resilient supply chain, a more flexible and customizable service and product offering. We regularly export across the globe now. I also think we do a better job at trying to understand and respond to our customers preferences now versus a few years ago.

DST has always been a quality and technology leader, but unfortunately had a reputation of being inflexible to customer’s personal preferences and requests. DST has always offered customizable solutions, and great products, but within what DST thought was best. Like giving a customer color choices on medical flooring, but not giving them the choice about whether they wanted or needed medical flooring.

Now we can flex to a customer who decides another flooring solution is preferred. We ensure they understand their options, then get behind their decision. So in this example, most customers agree with a DST recommendation for medical flooring in the care-center, but some projects opt to buy everything else from DST, but do the flooring themselves.

A site visit by DST is not typically required for a successful project. With all of today’s technologies we can be successful communicating and assessing a situation remotely. That said, since I took over and in response to customer requests, DST began to offer site visits. We tour a site and evaluate OSHA compliance, equipment condition and availability. We also perform flow studies and take photos and measurements as part of the visit.

We then digest our visit findings and help the customers quantify and analyze their current and future state operational and equipment needs. After that it is pretty easy for DST to provide budgetary numbers and feedback to help customers decide if a project is the right answer for them from a scope, timing, and resource standpoint. We can then flow right into a full design and equipment project with them.

DST used to be a lot more reactive in this area, expecting a client to already know what they wanted and to know their budgets before engaging DST for design. We consider this an evolution to meet our customer’s needs.

What are some of the ways you are evolving beyond your amped up consulting services?

Cremation as a trend is a great example. Some people ask if we are worried about cremation taking over the industry. We don’t worry because DST has leaned in over the last few

33 | September/October Issue 2023 COVER STORY

years to now offer full crematory design and equipment alongside our other care-center workspace design and equipment services.

We have a solid history of being OSHA and Code compliance experts and of being the “Preparation Room Specialists”. Now with our crematory design and equipment options, we really identify better with the wholistic title of the “Carecenter specialist.”I’m a systems focused guy, and DST now looks at the entire workspace of the care-center as an operational OSHA compliant work “System”: a sum of all its distinct parts.

Outside of cremation, what would you say is the greatest trend the industry is facing?

Consolidation. There is a lot of investment happening right now, with large and small corporate entities buying up local and regional Funeral homes, cemeteries and mortuaries, especially those that are conveniently grouped regionally under one ownership. This consolidation results in a lot of historically smaller family owned operations being folded into the operational footprint of a larger “consolidator” corporation. There’s a lot to gain from this trend if FDs, Owners and funeral industry suppliers acknowledge and embrace the trend. We see it as a good thing overall.

Explain more… because we hear people mention consolidators with a bit of contempt or worry. What is to be gained?

Individually speaking, FDs, embalmers and funeral home staff have a shot at increased career progression, training, and education within a larger corporation. I’ve seen many care-center staff (as well as the selling owners) promoted up the ladder after their firms were acquired.

At the firm level, consolidators bring new efficiencies, investments and predictability. Not everyone is cut out to be a good funeral home or mortuary owner due to all the sales, marketing, legal, administrative and cash-flow balancing it takes, so a sale to a consolidator can be a chance to focus more on the services and families.

I’ve also seen great owners with great businesses sell as part of a retirement exit. No one can blame them for wanting to sell to a buyer that will be predictable and ensure their legacy and services will be carried forward.

This means more predictability at the local level and more time for staff to focus on the families and let corporate take care of most all the administrative, logistical and facilities related decisions and headaches.

You mention “corporate”, and to many in the industry they associate that with, less caring, strict environments that are just interested in making a buck. That’s not the case? While that could be the experience for some who have gone through being acquired by a consolidator, that hasn’t been my experience. But I must qualify this perspective. I work on the facilities and supply side of the industry, so I’ve seen a lot more investment and managerial consistency from the corporate entities versus what a family ownership can often do by themselves.

The facility investments we consult on for consolidators such as Park Lawn Corp, or EveryStory usually fit into a larger geographic/market plan which ensures continued success and increased capabilities of the local firm that has been acquired. Of course, the biggest concern of the skeptics is if the corporate acquirer will support the staff and allow them to continue to care for their families they way they always have, without diminishing the service levels.

In my interactions with care-center staff and FDs who work for a consolidator, they seem happy and empowered in their roles and enjoy the added education, training, support, and career progression available to them post-acquisition. Most of the people I hear complain about consolidators have never been acquired by , or never worked for, a consolidator. Albeit not in the deathcare space, I personally have worked in both small family owned businesses and for large corporations over my career. In each there were pros and cons.

Ok, one more touch back to the evolved way DST is meeting customer needs… there have been some recent headlines about DST designing and equipping ritual prep rooms. Is that new?

It’s not new, but we are leaning in with this Ritual services market. They deserve purpose built solutions from a vendor who understands and appreciates what they do.

DST has a long history of working with religious and ethnic groups to outfit Ritual Body preparation rooms. An example is providing dignified prep rooms to our Jewish clients. These Tahara rooms can be equipped with bucket-fill stations, overhead body wash reels and immersion tubs (for Mikvah). The DST evolution here is focusing our efforts on trying to really understand the unique rituals and then innovate new equipment to meet those needs, versus just adapting our standard DST equipment to the ritual use-case.

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Any other equipment innovations you want to highlight?

We have recently done some custom stainless equipment in collaboration with PIMS as part of their stainless mortuary lab renovation. They had a distinct vision and goal set, that our standard equipment couldn’t meet. So we built customized solutions and collaborated to get the clients what they wanted. It’s always fun to be a part of these innovative projects. Keep an eye out for news of their lab unveiling.

I’m also very excited about DST getting closer to offering mobile prep facilities, in the form of trailers and shipping containers. While still making its way through R&D, we think it’ll add a unique solution for uniques scenarios.

Our customers often have to temporarily offsite embalming and dressing services during a care-center renovation or addition, DST is working to offer mobile prep container/ trailers for rent that will bridge the construction gaps and allow them to continue taking care of families on site. We also expect these mobile prep units to be an asset to disasteraffected funeral homes and to help military and governmental units handle contingency and mass-casualty events. We are designing them for quick deployment and to meet the field conditions across the globe.

Who better to design and equip these than DST? We have such a long history of providing OSHA compliant HVAC, and specialized prep equipment. So this is a natural step toward DST helping our customers solve their bridge-gap and emergency prep and dressing needs in a safe and dignified way.

I’m surprised you haven’t tried to sell me on the perks of your equipment over competitors.

I get that. I consider my DST team and myself as expert equipment educators more than salespersons. Our site has plenty of equipment feature info and we can get architects and contractors cut sheets and specific info upon request.

That’s a good note actually. We regularly work for architects and support their efforts with our designs, equipment, and OSHA expertise. Some customers think they have to choose between DST and their architect’s services. The reality is we can amp up an architect’s effectiveness and improve project outcomes by being consultants to the architects.

I would also tell you that much of DST's equipments (including our PrepAir HVAC systems) has been in continuous service for 20+ years! And some for over 32 years and counting!

We rarely have quality issues and when we do, we try to respond quickly and ensure all information and solutions are quickly communicated and made available to the client as soon as possible. We don’t feel like we are pitted against any specific competitor due to our scope of work.

Any recommendations for someone considering a carecenter project?

First one is be curious and open to new technology and solutions that you may not know about yet. Lifts comes to mind here. Think about the trend towards OVERSIZED decedents. Maybe you don’t have one yet, but consider tracked lifts for your safety, and your staff’s sake.

Tracked lifts and oversized tables and equipment help improve staff productivity, enjoyment, and again, safety.

My second recommendation would be to get a decent contractor (not too big and not too small) who will show up and stay on the job. Project Delays cost you valuable time, stress and loss of revenue, so commit your contractor of choice to show up and get the job done.

DST will answer any technical questions they may have, and provide plans and equipment info under our “Premier Source program”. So they don’t need to be experienced in funeral home or mortuary construction. So long as they have commercial construction experience, DST can make them funeral home or mortuary savvy.

This Premier Source program is where DST designs, plans and orchestrates the supply (equipment and materials) of the entire care-center. DST makes or sources and then ships your items, and then we remain available to support your contractors and inspectors through the project all the way to completion.

And what's your last recommendation?

Don’t go it alone! Call DST as soon as you can to discuss a contemplated project.

Too "sales-ey" of a response? The call or zoom with DST is free and will give you an idea of your options and potentially save you tens of thousands in professional and contractor costs.

We consider our greatest competitor the DIYer. Some people think they can save money by doing it themselves. I get that. Plus it feels like an added sense of control.

Time and again over the last few years I have met tired and frustrated DIYers who wish they’d known about DST prior to doing their project. Or, if they had known and considered DST prior, they wish they had embraced the DST support from the start.

I’m not saying a DIY project cannot yield a great OSHA and code compliant result. I simply know how many “hats” each of our customers wears everyday as it is. I hope they know they don’t have to add more unnecessary hats.

DST can help take a customer from idea stage all the way through to room ribbon-cutting - most often, in a way that still meets their budget and outcome goals. Why not have the best experts on your team and in your corner throughout an entire project? FBS

35 | September/October Issue 2023 COVER STORY

The Imperative of Cyber Insurance for Funeral Homes


of us who attended the 2023 NFDA Convention in Las Vegas became all too familiar with the effects of 2 major cyber attacks during our time there. Many business owners are waking up to the idea that a cyber attack could actually affect their business. And rightly so! The rate at which cyber attacks against small businesses grew last year is a staggering 424%. Cyber breaches grew more than 5 times last year when compared to the previous year. According to the US National Cyber Security Alliance, 60% of small businesses that suffer a cyber-attack go out of business within 6 months.

“This couldn’t happen to me!” Human error and system failure account for 52% of data security breaches. It’s as simple as this… An employee goes to lunch and returns to the funeral home. When they get out of their car they look down and see that someone dropped a small USB drive in the parking lot. Out of curiosity, they plug the USB drive into their computer and within seconds the entire server is infected. This not only affects the server but can also affect 3rd parties such as vendors and customer as well. Funeral homes, traditionally known for their solemn role in providing dignified burials, have also embraced technological advancements to enhance their services. However, this reliance on digital systems and sensitive data storage also exposes funeral homes to the risk of cyber attacks.

Funeral homes, like other businesses, have increasingly become targets for cyber criminals due to the valuable information they possess. These threats include:

a) Data Breaches: Funeral homes store extensive personal information, such as social security numbers, health records, and financial details of deceased individuals and their families. A data breach can lead to identity theft, financial fraud, and irreparable damage to the reputation of their firm.

b) Ransomware Attacks: Small businesses are especially at risk from these types of attack. Reports have shown 71% of ransomware attacks target small businesses, with an average ransom demand of $116,000. Attackers know that smaller

businesses are much more likely to pay a ransom, as their data is often not backed-up and they need to be up and running as soon as possible. Ransomware is malicious software that encrypts data, demanding a ransom for its release. This can paralyze funeral home operations, causing distress to grieving families and disrupting funeral arrangements. c) Phishing and Social Engineering: The biggest, most damaging and most widespread threat facing small businesses is phishing attacks. Phishing accounts for 90% of all breaches that businesses face, they’ve grown 65% over the last year, and they account for over $12 billion in business losses. Phishing attacks occur when an attacker pretends to be a trusted contact, and entices a user to click a malicious link, download a malicious file, or give them access to sensitive information, account details or credentials. This is exactly how hackers breached the MGM Grand servers. The hacker found an employee on LinkedIn and posed as an MGM employee. Within 10 minutes the hackers were in the backdoor of the servers. These attacks can result in financial loss, reputational damage, and further exploitation of bereaved individuals.

In the wake of a cyber attack, it is imperative to inform the relevant parties, both internally and externally. Internally, this includes notifying key stakeholders such as senior management, IT personnel, and legal advisors. By involving these individuals, an organized response plan can be developed and executed. Externally, if customer data or sensitive information has been compromised, promptly informing affected individuals and authorities is essential to maintain transparency and comply with your state’s legal obligations.

Protecting Funeral Homes and their Stakeholder…

Cyber security insurance serves as a crucial safeguard for funeral homes against potential threats, offering the following benefits: a) Financial Protection: Funeral homes often lack the financial resources to recover from significant cyber attacks. Cyber security insurance provides coverage for financial losses resulting from data breaches, ransomware

36 | September/October Issue 2023

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attacks, or legal expenses associated with potential lawsuits. b) Reputation Management: The reputation of a funeral home is built on trust and sensitivity towards grieving families. A cyber attack that compromises sensitive data can severely damage this trust. Cyber security insurance offers professional assistance in managing the aftermath of an attack, including public relations support and crisis management, mitigating reputational harm. c) Regulatory Compliance: Funeral homes are subject to various regulations governing the protection of personal information, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Cyber security insurance ensures compliance with these regulations, reducing the risk of penalties and legal consequences.

Investing in Prevention and Recovery: In addition to cyber security insurance, funeral homes should implement robust preventative measures and recovery plans. These include: a) Employee Training: Educating funeral home staff about cyber threats, phishing attempts, and best practices in handling sensitive data reduces the risk of human error leading to security breaches. b) Network Security: Funeral homes should invest in secure networks, firewalls, and encryption protocols to protect sensitive data from unauthorized access, minimizing the likelihood of successful cyber attacks. c) Incident Response Plans: Developing comprehensive incident response plans enables funeral homes to respond effectively to cyber-attacks, minimizing

potential damage. These plans should include steps for containment, investigation, recovery, and communication with affected parties.

Funeral homes handle sensitive information and provide essential services to grieving families, making them attractive targets for cybercriminals. Cyber security insurance is a vital investment for funeral homes, providing financial protection, reputation management, regulatory compliance and defense costs from lawsuits from clients and customers. Implementing preventative measures and incident response plans will further enhance security and enable funeral homes to protect their operations, reputation, and the personal information of those they serve. By prioritizing cyber security, funeral homes can continue to fulfill their solemn duty with integrity and compassion in the digital age. FBS

Chris J. Boots holds the distinction of Commercial Lines Coverage Specialist and heads up the Funeral Professionals Insurance program for AMJ Insurance an insurance brokerage covering the United States. Chris is also a past president of the Casket & Funeral Supply Association of America and Founder of CJ Boots Casket Company. He has written several articles for the funeral profession and has spoken at state and national trade shows across North America. He may be reached at 317-735-4077 or email

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.

38 | September/October Issue 2023
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Lights, Camera, Action: How to Respond When the Media Calls

As funeral service professionals, we are wellversed in dealing with families during some of the darkest days of their lives. We also pride ourselves on our public speaking abilities and are proud to be community leaders. However, these interpersonal and public speaking skills can sometimes go out the window when the media calls.

Whether the media interest stems from a positive event, such as a community fundraiser, or a less desirable issue, a reporter with a microphone can intimidate even

the most seasoned funeral professional. The good news is that by following a few simple rules, every call from a member of the media can be an opportunity to inform, educate and reassure our communities that we are ready, willing and able to meet every family’s unique needs.

Our Foundation Partners media relations team offers the following best practices and tips that should be useful the next time the media calls.


40 | September/October Issue 2023





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Be Prepared

Emergencies and public relations crises aren’t planned, but you can prepare for them. Unless you’ve agreed to a scheduled interview, you usually don’t have much warning before a reporter contacts you.

• Because media queries can come to your organization through many different channels - in person, by phone, email or via website contact forms - make sure to establish guidelines regarding who gets notified and who has final approval over participation in interviews. And make sure everyone in your organization – from the receptionist to funeral attendants and directors – is familiar with the process.

• Identify your primary company spokesperson – this should be a funeral director or another critical team member who has roots in the community and is comfortable in the spotlight.

• Prepare a high-level list of key messages and create talking points to guide your spokesperson to present your story in the best possible light.

• Before each interview, select 3-5 key points to emphasize based on the query.

• Keep in mind that each opportunity to speak to the media is a chance to support and reinforce your brand.

• Know what’s proprietary, and don’t hesitate to say so if asked to share such information.

When the media calls

• Resist the urge to answer questions on the spot.

• Ask the reporter for his/her name, media affiliation, email address, cell phone number, and deadline, and tell them you’ll get back to them ASAP. This will give you time to prepare and ensure you’re in the right location to talk.

• Update your talking points regularly as the situation changes.

• Understand your media and their audience –they are interested in accurate details of breaking stories and emerging news, relevance to the local community, and anything that’s different, first, or dramatic.

• “No comment” should never be your initial response. If you decide not to respond, take down the reporter’s contact information and reply with a “responsive nonresponse,” such as “I’m sorry, but I don’t have time for an interview now” or “Due to privacy issues, I cannot share that information.”

During the interview

• Always be responsive; but know that you don’t always have to answer the question as asked.

• Never answer a question if you do not know the answer, or when a question is troublesome or inappropriate. The best response in those cases is to say “we’ll get back to you.“

• When a multipart question is asked, answer the one you feel is most important first.

• Every question is an opportunity to score points with the audience and bridge to key messages.

• Be brief, be positive and get the headline upfront.

• Tell stories that paint a picture in the minds of your audience.

• Always be prepared to reinforce your most important points or add new messages when a reporter ends the interview with “Is there anything you’d like to add?”

Tips for telephone interviews

• Stand up – this allows you to better project your voice and positive energy.

• Have written talking points in front of you for reference.

Tips for in-person interviews

• Personal presence is important and will be remembered more than the content of a conversation.

• Maintain eye contact and remain friendly, even when rattled.

• Sit forward, with arms on knees – it will make you more engaging and credible.

Tips for online video interviews

• Be aware of your background, camera angle, lighting, and presence on the screen.

• Silence cell phones.

After the interview

• Thank the reporter for his/her time and interest.

• Ask if he/she would like photos and email them as a follow-up.

• Ask the reporter when he/she expects the story to be posted, printed, or broadcast.

• Watch for the news clip and thank the reporter again if the article is accurate.

• Request a correction or clarification only if you were misquoted or if your remarks were taken out of context in an inaccurate or negative way. FBS

Andrew Clark is Chief Customer Officer for Foundation Partners Group where he leads all field operations, operational strategy, sales and customer experience activities across the company’s more than 260 locations. He is a Licensed Funeral Director and Embalmer and vice chairman of the Florida Board of Funeral, Cemetery and Consumer Services. Prior to joining Foundation Partners, he was director of operations for Hiers-Baxley Funeral Services in Ocala, Florida. Andrew can be reached at

42 | September/October Issue 2023

Moment of Reflection is a unique service that links a video to a QR code on the display that is easily visible and can be scanned at the grave. This service changes forever the way we remember and celebrate our loved ones.


How to Comply with OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens Standard

OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens Standard (29 CFR 1910.1030) was amended in 2000 to adhere to the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act, is a regulation that prescribes safeguards to protect workers against health hazards related to bloodborne pathogens. It has provisions for exposure control plans, engineering and work practice controls, hepatitis B vaccinations, hazard communication and training, and recordkeeping. The standard imposes requirements on employers of workers who may be exposed to blood or other potentially infectious materials such as certain tissues and body fluids.

Non-compliance with the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard can expose your funeral home to fines of up to $15,625 per violation.

Because exposure to blood and the frequency of needle sticks are so common in the funeral service industry, OSHA is particularly interested in keeping workers safe from bloodborne pathogens and other potentially infectious materials (OPIM).

The CDC states that, “OSHA defines blood to mean human blood, human blood components, and products made from human blood.”

The CDC also states that, “Other potentially infectious materials (OPIM) means:

1. The following human body fluids: semen, vaginal secretions, cerebrospinal fluid, synovial fluid, pleural fluid, pericardial fluid, peritoneal fluid, amniotic fluid, saliva in dental procedures, any body fluid that is visibly contaminated with blood, and all body fluids in situations where it is difficult or impossible to differentiate between body fluids;

2. Any unfixed tissue or organ (other than intact skin) from a human (living or dead); and (3) HIV-containing cell or tissue cultures, organ cultures, and HIV- or HBV-containing culture medium or other solutions; and blood, organs, or other tissues from experimental animals infected with HIV or HBV.


Here are the key requirements of the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens Standard:

1. Written Compliance Plan: As an employer, you must make sure your written plans meet all the OSHA-required elements specified in the regulations.

2. Sharps Safety Practices: A policy designed on how to handle sharps safety.

3. Assessment of Sharps Disposal Containers: A policy designed on how to assess a sharps container to determine potential hazards, risk, or defects.

4. Assessment of Sharps Safety Features: A policy designed to inform employees on how to use safe sharps.

5. Declination Statement (for Hepatitis B vaccine): A statement outlining your company’s Hepatitis B vaccine policy and the right to an employer-sponsored vaccination.

6. Exposure Survey: A survey documenting any potential exposure and corrective action.

7. Training Topics: The topics required by OSHA to train employees in the Bloodborne Pathogen Standard.

8. Employee Training Documentation: Clear documentation outlining proof of training, trainer qualifications, and length of training.

9. Certification of Annual Program Review: An approved annual review of the entire Bloodborne Pathogen Exposure Control Program by the Safety Supervisor or trainer.

10. Annual Program Review: The actual annual review demonstrate that all OSHA requirements have been met.

The OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens Standard is designed to ensure that both employers and employees of funeral homes have the necessary information and training to work safely when exposed to blood and other potentially infectious materials to promote a safer work environment.

To comply with OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens Standard (29 CFR 1910.1030), be sure to have everything listed in this article fully customized to your facility and your employee base. FBS

Certified Safety Training (CST) is the leader in funeral home, crematory, and cemetery OSHA compliance. Backed by more than 30 years of industry experience and Certified Safety Professionals, CST matches industry expertise with customizable, award-winning programming to make sure that customers have the highest-quality safety programs, plans, training, and advice.

To bring your entire workplace – facility and personnel – into compliance with OSHA, contact Certified Safety Training: help@certifiedsafetytraining • 609.375.8462 •

44 | September/October Issue 2023
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Chris J. Boots of Funeral Professionals Insurance

Can you start out by sharing a brief history of your company?

Since 1999 when I was first introduced to the funeral profession, I always enjoyed working with Funeral Directors. Funeral service truly is a one-of-a-kind profession. I really enjoy the art of business models; they honestly fascinate me. I read business books like a Grisham novel. My gift is thinking differently and creatively. After the sale of my previous company (CJ Boots Casket Company), I was eager to serve funeral directors and the profession as a whole. In 2021 I met the President of AMJ Insurance (Michael George) a brokerage that writes insurance in 48 states. It was at this point that Funeral Professionals Insurance came to life. As a business owner I had purchased business insurance for more than 25 years. After receiving the national distinction of CLCS (Commercial Lines Coverage Specialist) I knew that I could help funeral directors.

What is your favorite thing about what you do?

I love being an advocate for funeral directors. Most property and casualty insurance companies really don’t understand the funeral business. The best part of my job is helping my clients save money on insurance premiums. It really involves a lot of education. Educating the client as to what they need and don’t need when it comes to coverages. And educating the insurance carrier underwriters on what it exactly is that funeral homes do and how they conduct their business. There are 2 kinds of insurance agents/companies. One is “captive” which means the business is controlled by one insurance carrier. The “captive” carrier controls the price of the premium and everything to do with the policy. The other is a “broker” which has much more leverage with carriers. For instance, when I am working for my clients on new and renewal policies, I like to make the underwriters fight for my client’s business. They do this by reduced premiums and providing the best coverage options. Rates are determined by many different factors such as by state, risks, insurance score, revenues, dwelling age and condition, history and much more. However, a broker has more leverage to work the deal for the client than a captive agent because a broker represents many carriers.

What is something that you know now that you wish you knew when you first started?

I had no idea there are so many funeral homes who don’t have Professional Liability aka Errors & Omissions Insurance. Nearly every business has General Liability coverage which covers things like bodily injury, property damage, reputational harm and advertising errors. A slip and fall in your funeral home would be covered by general liability if you are at fault. Professional Liability is a completely different animal. Professional Liability helps protect your business if your client claims financial damages from the professional services that you provide. I worked with a funeral home who was sued by a family who didn’t like the cosmetology of their loved one. The funeral home ended up settling out of court for $25,000. Had the previous insurance company offered Professional Liability, the insurance carrier would have paid defense costs and whatever settlement was agreed upon.

What is the most challenging aspect of your career?

On occasion I talk with a prospective client who says to me “I’ve been with the same company for 20 plus years, I can’t change.” As soon as I hear that statement, I’m nearly certain they are paying too much money for insurance. I recently wrote a business policy for a new client in New York who had been with the same agent for 18 years. They were paying $249,000 annually for their insurance premiums. After reviewing their existing policies, I worked with the underwriters to offer higher limits on their coverages, added cyber and professional liability coverages. They now pay just $43,000 for much better insurance that suits their business more accurately. You may ask how does this happen? It’s quite simple really. Part of writing insurance is properly classifying the client with insurance carriers. The previous agent had classified the business under the wrong business class. Over time the premium just snowballed out of control.

How do you set personal goals for yourself?

I do set both professional and personal goals. I’m definitely guilty of allowing the personal goals to be a little lower on the totem poll but I’m getting better. When I started CJ Boots Casket Company I bought into the Sandler Sales & Professional Development program. This system was really a game changer for me. Every quarter I take half a day to write down my goals, then evaluate on the last quarters progress. Sandler calls them SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic & Time-Bound). I’ve learned that goals must be specific. Zig Ziglar always asked “Are you a meaningful specific or a wondering generality?” If they aren’t specific then they are vague and we know that “what happens in vagueness stays in vagueness.”

What keeps you in this industry?

I’ve been associated with this industry for 25 years. I must say I’ve met some amazing people in the funeral profession. I had a funeral director I used to sell caskets to in Fort Worth, Texas. His name was Mr. Guy Thompson. He has since passed away but Mr. Thompson was a true southern gentleman and incredible story teller. He had a passion for his profession that was infectiously contagious. It’s serving people like Mr. Thompson that draws me to this industry/profession. More than anything…I love helping people!

What has been the most important factor in your success?

When I read this question, my mind immediately went to one of my favorite authors, Napoleon Hill. Napoleon was a firm believer in a “Burning Desire and Definiteness of Purpose.” I strive daily to keep those two things top of mind in all that I do. I believe that success in business happens when you “think” differently. I know that may sound cliché but I have seen it in the success of others and I’d like to think any success I’ve achieved comes from “thinking” differently as well.

46 | September/October Issue 2023

This industry has changed dramatically in the past few years. How has that affected you?

When it comes to insurance, the number 1 threat to small business is cyber attacks and data breach for the 3rd year in a row. Cyber attacks on small businesses are up 424% over last year. Statistics show that if a business experiences a cyber attack and does not have Cyber Insurance, they will be out of business in 6 months. Definitely add a Cyber policy to your insurance portfolio as it could mean the difference between staying in business or closing the doors.

What are you most proud of so far in your career?

I have much to be thankful for in my career. One of those being elected by my peers to serve as president of the Casket & Funeral Supply Association of America. This was quite humbling. I’m grateful for the success of CJ Boots Casket Company, we received the Growth 100 Award for 3 consecutive years from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. This award recognizes the top 100 fastest growing companies in Indiana. We built caskets for the King of Tonga, a United States Senator and his wife, General William Westmorland who commanded American military operations in the Vietnam War. However, it was the everyday families that chose our caskets that we are most thankful for. I still have all the letters and cards that people took the time to write and send to me over the years. Today I’m blessed to still work in such an amazing industry and care for funeral directors like they care for their families!

Looking forward to the future, what are you most excited about?

I’m most excited about the opportunities that are ahead for our Funeral Professionals Insurance program. There really hasn’t been an advocate out there working diligently for funeral service when it comes to business insurance. When I first started in insurance, I met with a very large nationally known insurance carrier. Their company policy wouldn’t offer professional liability on both burial and cremation services, you had to choose one or the other which didn’t make much sense to me. After educating them on the current trends in funeral care they went back and adjusted their policy. Unfortunately,

this is just one example where this could have been devastating to a funeral home if there was a claim and they thought they were insured but they really were not. The forms that insurance policies are written on are extremely antiquated and written by lawyers who really don’t want you to understand what you are buying. It’s important that you lean on your agent to know exactly what coverages you have in force.

Do you have any advice for others who might be struggling?

Yes! Seek out a mentor and talk or meet with them regularly. I used to meet with a retired minister once a month for breakfast. We met the first Thursday of every month for 11 years. He really had no experience in the funeral industry but he was a man of God and he possessed the gift of “wisdom.” When we concluded our breakfast each month, he would always pray that God would give me wisdom not things. I always appreciated our time together and the influence he had on my life.

I’ll close with my favorite quote from Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. He was a brigadier general during the American Civil War. He was best known for his efforts at the Battle of Gettysburg. He once said, “Failure is the only possible option of a life that accepts the status quo!” This is further evidence that thinking differently leads to your success. FBS

Call Chris at 317-735-4077 or email

47 | September/October Issue 2023
Boots' first company made wood caskets, like the beautiful one he designed for his grandmother. Today, Boots serves the industry as a Commercial Lines Coverage Specialist with Funeral Professionals Insurance.

The staff at Funeral Business Solutions was served up a sweet surprise last month when we opened a box from Mo’s Bundt Cakes. First crafted in Mariolga Calderon’s Miami kitchen, the cakes pay homage to their creator’s Hispanic heritage with flavors like Guava, Dulce de Leche, and Coquito.

Opening the box, we were skeptical how well that cakes shipped in a truck would taste, but let us tell you now, we weren’t prepared for the explosion of flavor. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves, because this wasn’t just any cake sent for any occasion; the Mo’s Bundt Cakes we received were designed as bereavement gifts.

Wrapped in an attractive outer sleeve, the individual servingsized cakes were nestled in a box tastefully adorned with words of sympathy. Mo and her staff have crafted a number of messages for their cakes, but this particular design is meant to share condolences with someone who has lost a loved one. Inside, each cake is individually wrapped and sealed in a small box. Our sweet package of eight small cakes included four delicious flavors (Guava, Nutella, Cinnamon, and Dulce de Leche). Four of us tried the flavors – it's easy to cut a small cake into equal pieces with just two cuts – and could not come to a consensus on our favorite! They were all amazing!

These delicate morsels were so moist and far more delicious than a cake shipped by UPS deserves to be. But the real

secret must be in the fine ingredients and carefully-tested methods that Mo and her staff have developed in their expanded commercial kitchen in South Florida.

Mo’s Bundt Cakes sell direct to consumers, but they also have wholesale plans available and are also offered as an alternative to flowers on Edible Arrangements’ website. To find out more about Mo’s Bundt Cakes and to possibly add these delicious family bereavement gifts to your own offerings, or to begin sending them to your own clients, visit their website at

Oh, and while we can’t tell you how long these last because we devoured them in a single day, their website says 3 days at room temperature, 2 weeks refrigerated, and 1 year frozen.

Read about more items like this in the article "Sympathy Gifts Families Are Raving About" in our next issue!

48 | September/October Issue 2023
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Must See PRODUCTS FROM the 2023 NFDA



Hundreds of companies showcased their products and services at the 2023 NFDA Convention & Expo. On the following pages, check out some of the most innovative and interesting products we found as we strolled the convention center floor, seeking out new and exciting offerings.

Meet Everly—your compassionate partner in redefining funeral care for the digital age. Everly is committed to assisting families and funeral service providers in enhancing their pre-planning experiences and preparing for the realities of life after loss.

Central to the Everly platform is their Legacy Preservation Suite. It's a digital safe haven where families can safeguard precious memories, crucial documents, and heartfelt messages. To care for the recipients of these cherished treasures, Everly's Grief Support Platform offers a curated selection of resources, expertly designed to integrate next-gen grief care into each family's unique journey.

Everly is especially appealing for funeral home chains issuing 100 or more pre-need policies annually. By integrating Everly into your operations, you're setting a new benchmark in funeral care.

Malodor can be an issue when preparing and showing a casket prior to burial. Studies have shown that scent is the sense which most affects people’s memories and emotions…the last memory a family wants of their loved one is an unpleasant one.

Heaven Scent offers freshly scented casket sprays which are made of all-natural botanical ingredients and not synthetic perfumes or toxins. They are safe to use and won’t stain the casket or the deceased’s clothing, yet they are long-lasting and smell wonderful! The plant essences are also anti-bacterial which gives added protection against germs.

Heaven Scent is available in 6 scents: Lavender, Bouquet (smells just like baby powder), Fresh (like a eucalyptus spa), zesty Citrus, Warm Spice (perfect for autumn) and Herbal Mint (peppermint and rosemary are wonderful together!). Test out all 6 scents in our 60mL assorted Starter Pack or go straight for the larger 500mL bottles and spritz away malodor!

Available from Kelco Supply.

800-328-7720 | |

Nemu is committed to helping families avoid fighting over heirlooms, during both pre-need and at-need.

Nemu's platform helps families effortlessly catalog, quickly appraise, fairly divide, and conveniently sell heirlooms, helping families preserve legacies while saving time and money.

Nemu not only enhances your services, but it also enables your business to earn $30,000+ in commissions.

Join Nemu in transforming legacy preservation and bringing comfort to those you serve.

Exhibiting for a second year, Spencer brought their line of Italian-designed mortuary church trucks and trolleys, as well as new stretcher models to Las Vegas for the 2023 Expo. Their trucks are designed with innovative features, like:

- Robust and lightweight aluminum structure

- Large diameter wheel to make handling easier

- 2 brakes places on opposed wheels

- Quick and easy opening and closing

- Requires low storage space |
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Problem: when someone dies, they often leave behind a scavenger hunt, both online and on paper, even if they thought they were organized & had their legal ducks in a row. Their estate is difficult for the Next of Kin to manage because either they can’t find things, they don’t know where to start, or they don’t know what they need to gather or do. We just have so much online and all over the place these days. Instead of grieving, the NOK’s time is spent looking for things, making calls, and organizing piles of paper. Stress and even family conflicts arise.

The solution: The Nokbox

The leading manufacturer of removal and alternative viewing products, Final Embrace creates a full line of products designed to make your first interaction with a client family as comforting as possible.

Their innovative IdentiView SystemNew for 2023 - makes even the simplest direct cremation identification viewing a more comforting experience.

From Precious Cargo Transporters and Comfort Pouches, to Reversible Patriot Cot Covers and VersoTables, Final Embrace has solutions for all your removal and non-casketed viewing needs.

800-896-0598 | |

Retirement Plans - What is Best for You?

Based on our experience, many funeral directors look to their practices as the primary source for their retirement. Their thinking goes somewhat like this: I’ll work hard for 20, 30 or maybe even 40 years, then I’ll sell the business, give Uncle Sam his cut, and retire on what’s left. This may sound reasonable, but I don’t recommend it. Why? Because it breaks the number one rule of investing: don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Relying too heavily on the future value of your funeral home to substantially fund your retirement is tantamount to putting all your retirement eggs into one “funeral home” basket, and that’s risky. One way to mitigate that risk is to have a retirement plan which can be funded through your business.

Establishing a retirement plan has several benefits. For example,

• Retirement plan contributions are tax deductible and grow tax free until they are withdrawn later when you retire. Because your current tax bracket is likely to be higher than it will be when you retire, total taxes paid during your lifetime will be lower.

• A retirement plan is a great benefit to provide your employees.

• Investing your money in a retirement account allows you to diversify your overall retirement portfolio.

There are several types of retirement plans available. Which is the best for you? Here’s a brief summary of the three most common types of plans and their contribution limits for 2023:

401k Plans: These plans normally allow you to defer the most money ($22,500 or $30,000 if you’re over 49) thereby affording you the largest tax deduction possible. The employer can also match employee contributions as part of the plan or on a discretionary basis if the plan includes a profit-sharing component. Profit-sharing can be a great way to stash away additional cash into your plan in more profitable years, with the added benefit of having until the extended due date of your tax return to fund the profit-sharing contribution. However, 401k plans are complex and must meet certain requirements. As such, they can be costly to administer which could offset the benefits of having the plan. It’s best to discuss this option with your accountant before instituting a 401k plan.

Simplified Employee Pension Plans: These plans are referred to as SEP’s. As the name implies, they are easy to establish and administer. Contributions to these plans come solely from the employer; the employee does not make any contributions to the plan. Contributions for employees can be up to 25% of wages (20% for selfemployed individuals) and are capped at $66,000. The principal advantage of this plan is that it can be established and funded as late as the extended due date of the business’ tax return thereby giving you more time to fund the plan. This allows a business to use this type of plan to lower its taxes after the tax year has ended. However, the disadvantages of this plan is that all plan contributions come directly from the employer, and the plan has very low employee eligibility thresholds.

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Savings Incentive Match Plans for Employees: These plans are referred to as SIMPLEs and work similar to 401k plans without the administrative headaches. Under a SIMPLE , employees can elect to defer up to $15,500 of their salary into a retirement account ($19,000 if over 49). The employer must match the employee contributions dollar-for-dollar up to 3% of the employee’s earned income, or the employer can elect to match 2% of wages for all employees (which include those employees who choose not to participate in the plan.) In order to be effective for the current year, the plan must be established by October 1st.

Each of the plans described above have additional rules and regulations that must be complied with, and which type of plan is best for you depends on your particular situation. In my experience the SIMPLE has been the best fit for most funeral homes. It’s inexpensive to set up, administration of the plan is easy, and the employer cost is very reasonable.

SIMPLE s can be established with virtually any mutual fund company and because employee contributions come from their wages, all the large payroll companies (e.g. ADP,

Paychex, etc.) can process your payroll to account for the employee retirement withholdings. Many of these payroll companies can also assist you in establishing the SIMPLE .

Establishing a retirement plan for your funeral home is a smart move that provides many benefits both to you and your employees. If you don’t have a plan, consider speaking with your accountant to decide what would work best for you and then act quickly to establish the plan. Waiting until the end of the year will limit your options and possible tax savings. FBS

This article is meant to provide general information and should not be construed as legal or tax advice or opinion and is not a substitute advice of counsel, CPAs or other professionals.

Raymond L. Bald, CPA, CFE is a funeral home tax accountant and consultant with Cummings, Lamont & McNamee, PLLC. He can be reached by phone at 603772-3460, or you may email him at

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

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Urn Merchandising Tips to Grow Your Business

Cremation urns have been in use as long as cremation has been practiced, and the practice of cremation predates the written record. Countless cultures have placed importance on the cremation of the dead and the subsequent placement of the cremated remains in an urn as the only reverential way that cremated remains should be cared for. In this modern era of cremation urns being a commodity, it is easy to lose sight of their importance for families, and the importance for us as funeral professionals to offer them to convey the respect and importance of such a memorial.

Urns serve a very important role for families choosing cremation. What may be a simple work of metal or wood to a funeral professional has the potential to become a new identity for the deceased person. Archaeologists believe that urns in ancient times represented a new body for the purified cremated remains within, and during the history of cremation in America, memorialists felt very similarly – that the urn becomes the “memorial identity” of the person –forever becoming associated with the physical part of the personage of the deceased. In the present, families are selecting personalized products more than ever.

The rate of cremations to burials in the US has increased dramatically in the last 25 years. While it took almost 100 years for the cremation rate in America to reach 5%, it only took an additional 25 years to reach 25%, then only 16 more years to double to 50%. The percentage of families choosing cremation in 2022 reached almost 60%.

With the number of cremations increasing yearly, it is surprising that so many funeral professionals ignore their urn program and do not focus on the importance of these sacred vessels for both the families they serve, and for the importance of our profession and its standing as caretakers of the dead.

Merchandise Your Urn Selection

I would like to share some ideas today that will help merchandise your urn selection, convey the importance of these products, and perhaps give you some ideas to combat the increasing shift of urns being purchased online.

But why are families choosing cremation more than ever?

Your first inclination would likely be to say cost – but what you should have in your mind is value. More families are choosing cremation in the present because it gives them a much broader range of options. So many more options abound in the world today, that families feel more freedom to choose a more personalized experience.

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Tailoring your cremation products display to the families you serve will prove to be both helpful for families and for your firm’s relevance and bottom line.

The most successful urn programs include a wellresearched and curated physical selection of products. There is an old adage that says “if you don’t show it, you won’t sell it.” This is not exclusively true, however my experience has shown that families who are offered cremation urns typically choose an urn then and there. Handing a family a catalog and sending them on their way encourages shopping – and shopping frequently leads to an internet purchase.

When setting up or updating your selection area, be sure to display your products professionally. Whenever possible, utilize a room with windows or use creative lighting and light-colored display fixtures that are open and airy. Consumers choosing cremation are often interested in a retail experience, so don’t be afraid to use your creativity in setting up your selection space. Plenty of signage, and clear pricing are hallmarks of successful offerings.

Urn Pricing & Assortment

Regarding pricing and assortment, consider offering options in a good / better / best arrangement. When thinking about quantity for each category, keep in mind that the “better” price range is typically most selected, followed by the “good” price range and then “best” price range; so, your quantity in each category should reflect this typical buying pattern. Use this same concept when setting up your display: the middle section of your display being your most visible and most selected, with the higher shelves at a higher price, lower shelves at a lower price.

When guiding the family through the urn selection process, there are a few guidelines that I suggest.

• Never ask a family if they want to purchase an urn. Every family should be given the opportunity to select products that are appropriate for the disposition option they have chosen. Every family, whether they are choosing to bury, inurn, keep, or even scatter the cremated remains, should be taken to the urn selection area.

•Alleviate the confusion of plastic temporary urns by eliminating their use completely. Not only will eliminating these plastic containers be helpful for the environment, but it will also be helpful for your revenue. If your firm is adamant about providing the plastic box, give it a price and add it to your urn selection area. If the family’s selection is the very minimum, then at least it is their choice.

• Ask the most important question: “What do you intend to do with your loved one’s cremated remains?”. This shows a new level of empathy and allows you to show your expertise if they are open to options. This also clarifies to families that the cremation process is only a step in their grief and is a means to a meaningful memorial.

In my experience both as a front-line funeral director and behind the scenes advising cremation providers on their urn displays, I have gleaned some pitfalls that can easily be avoided with regards to your urn display.

A common misconception that cremation providers make is that pricing products should be based on their wholesale cost. Many urn suppliers now offer products in bulk or at the lowest possible cost to help cremation to be more profitable for funeral professionals, not so funeral professionals can mark down urns.

Instead, price the urns in your assortment based on their perceived value, conveying that value to the family during the selection process. Never underestimate your role as an advisor.

When curating the urns you have on display, avoid offering imperfect or damaged urns. Likewise, avoid urns that have personalization errors. You never know who might recognize the name of the person for which the urn was originally intended.

In general, avoid containers that look like urns, but were not constructed for the purpose. Remember, you are operating a funeral establishment, not a flea market.

In Conclusion

With the end of this article, I hope that you have a deeper appreciation and understanding of the importance of cremation merchandise and have gained some ideas that you can practice in your firm. Always remember the importance of cremation urns and how they are part of your role in offering complete service to families. FBS

Jason Ryan Engler is Director of Products & Merchandising for Element by the Living Urn, a company committed to offering funeral homes best-of-class biodegradable and traditional urns, keepsakes, and memorial options that are more meaningful and personal. He also serves as the historian for the Cremation Association of North America and as the cremation historian for the National Museum of Funeral History. He resides in Austin, Texas, with his miniature dachshund, Otto.

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Grandma Loves Her iPhone

Why Technology in Funeral Service is no Longer an Option

In an age where even our grandparents are adept at using smartphones, smart TVs, and smart home devices, it's no surprise that technology has permeated every facet of our lives, including the somber realm of funeral services. It might be a tad surprising to some, but grandma, with her iPhone in tow, is leading a quiet revolution.

How do we know? Because at TribuCast® we monitor every service we do for video and audio quality while also providing live telephone and email support to loved ones attending the service. In just the past year or so we’ve livestreamed 15,000 services and have helped more than 1.5 million loved ones.

This digital integration signifies that the incorporation of technology in funeral services is no longer an option but an expectation. Here’s why:

The Digital Footprint of a Life Lived

Today, our lives are encapsulated not just in physical albums or diaries but in social media profiles, digital photos, videos, and emails. Families want to showcase the digital lives of their loved ones, projecting cherished photos from iCloud or playing that touching video from a birthday celebration on YouTube. Without technological integration, these profound snapshots of life would remain unseen in funeral services.

The Reach of Virtual Services

With families spread across continents and many unable to travel due to various constraints, the livestreaming of funeral services has become a saving grace. It ensures that a loved one’s passing doesn’t go unnoticed or un-mourned simply because of geographical distances. With the right technology at their fingertips, families can now be present

virtually, sharing in the collective grief and remembrance while drawing strength from and providing support to one another.

Online Memorials and Tributes

Digital memorial platforms and tribute websites, like TribuCast®, are becoming increasingly popular. These platforms offer an everlasting space where families and friends can pay their respects, long after the physical service is over. They can view the service live or at a later date, share stories, photos and other memories, creating a dynamic memorial space that lives and breathes with memories and provides support to those working through their grief.

Seamless Planning and Coordination

With advanced funeral management software, funeral directors can now seamlessly plan, schedule, and coordinate services. These platforms can handle everything from guest lists to floral arrangements, making the entire process smoother for grieving families. The ability to make arrangements online, view product selections, or even pay for services digitally underscores the need for technological integration in the funeral industry.

Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) Experiences

Though in their infancy in funeral services, AR and VR technologies are slowly gaining ground. Imagine walking through a virtual garden filled with moments from the deceased's life or sitting in a serene space with a holographic representation of your loved one, recounting their favorite stories. These aren't sci-fi fantasies but realities on the horizon, making the case for technology even more compelling.

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CALL (888) 366-7335 | WEB | EMAIL Copyright © 2023 Starmark. All rights reserved. Specific portions of starmark products may be covered by one or more U.S. patents. Additional patents pending. To learn more visit FBSJULY2023 Ceremonial rental caskets are an affordable option for families seeking full memorial services with cremation and provide a sensible solution for environmentally conscious families attracted to the idea that the shell of a casket is reusable. 18 ga. METAL | CREPE OR VELVET INTERIOR Need help deciding what insert you need for your ceremonial rental casket? Call our customer service team at: (888) 366-7335 Available for all national brands Rental Inserts J-Channel easy to use perfect fit interiors View our NEW CRC video!

Digitally Enhanced Memorial Products

Gone are the days when memorial products were limited to physical photo albums or printed obituaries. Now, QR code-equipped gravestones can link to online memorials, or digital photo frames can play slideshows of memories at a service. Even memorial jewelry can now contain tiny USB drives, holding cherished photos or letters. This fusion of the tangible and digital realms ensures a multi-dimensional memorial experience.

Evolution of Traditions

Traditions evolve, and our means of remembrance are no exception. As our world becomes more digital, so do our expressions of grief and commemoration. Embracing technology in funeral services isn't about abandoning traditions but adapting them to make them stronger and resonate with our current societal norms and lifestyle.

Personalized and Interactive Experiences

Technology offers the gift of personalization. Whether it’s a curated playlist of the deceased’s favorite songs, an interactive digital guestbook, or a custom-made video tribute, technology enables funeral services to be as unique as the individual being remembered. This level of personalization brings comfort to families, knowing that the essence of their loved one’s life is genuinely captured, shared, and remembered.


As with all aspects of modern life, technology's integration into funeral services is inevitable. And while some might argue that screens and digital tools could detract from the solemnity of the occasion, many find solace in the enhanced connection and personalization these tools offer.

So, if grandma can order groceries, video call her grandkids, and manage her photo library on her iPhone, it's only fitting that her life celebration or any other individual's remembrance be in tune with the times. Embracing technology in funeral services isn't just about keeping up with trends; it's about crafting meaningful, personalized, and accessible experiences for those left behind.

After all, in today's interconnected world, love, memories, and the journey to begin managing your grief are just a click away. FBS

Bruce Likly is President and co-founder of TribuCast™, a patent-pending remote funeral attendance system with clients established across the US and overseas. Likly’s experience includes developing and implementing technology and communications solutions that help businesses build a competitive edge and address changing market conditions. His experience spans a wide range of industries including funeral services, healthcare, manufacturing, professional services and distribution.

64 | September/October Issue 2023
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66 | September/October Issue 2023 25 2 17 56 29 15 31 27 43 11 57 21 63 68 45 Advertiser Index THANK YOU FOR SUPPORTING OUR ADVERTISERS! Alan Creedy AP Lazer Applied Lighting Solutions Artisan Laser Guild ASD BSF Cherished Keepsakes Cummings, Lamont, McNamee PLLC Dementia Society Duncan Stuart Todd Final Embrace Foundation Partners Funeral Home Gifts Gather Health Care Catalyst Connections Hilton Funeral Supply Homecoming
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Productions Social Media Strategies for Funeral Homes Starmark Tukios Tribucast 13 65 37 49 64 67 17 38 61 Cover, 28, 31-34 4, 5, 41 9 39 55 61
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