Funeral Business Solutions Magazine January/February 2024 Issue

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Your Guide for Funeral Industry Business Strategies | January/February 2024

The Natural Choice® for 25 Years Radcliffe Media, Inc. 1801 South Bay Street, Eustis, Florida 32726

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FROM THE PUBLISHER Hi, I'm Tim Totten, a 25-year industry veteran. I've worked at both corporate and family-owned firms before expanding my side business (making removal quilts out of the garage) into a full-time career. Twenty years ago, marketing my family-run business to the industry was all new to me. I started with smaller state trade shows, then graduated in 2007 to booths at NFDA and ICCFA expos. But there are so many funeral home owners and managers who cannot get away from their establishments to travel to trade shows and conventions across the country, which is why I launched this magazine earlier this year. Funeral Business Solutions strives to bring you, the reader, succinct and clear articles about subjects that actually affect your business. From explanations of FTC rules to HR issues and from discussions of casket selection rooms to new cremation products, Funeral Business Solutions is designed with you, the funeral professional, in mind. Sincerely, TIMOTHY TOTTEN Publisher P.S. - Mailing lists are sometimes flawed, which means you may have received your issue with your name spelled incorrectly, an old address, or the name of someone who is no longer on staff. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me by email at and let us know what changes we need to make to ensure you continue getting this great publication.

DON'T MISS OUT ON FUTURE ISSUES! This summer, we will be publishing one or more issues as DIGITAL ONLY as we transition office space. To make sure we have you on our digital email list, please send us an email at or scan the QR code below to send an email from your mobile device. You can also visit our website to request a digital email subscription in addition to your free print subscription.

Scan this QR Code to Subscribe to the digital version of this magazine! | January/February Issue 2024


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The Natural Choice® for 25 Years



Eternal Peace Funeral Services Austin, Texas




Death Care Removal Tips BY GAIL RUBIN


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What the Consumer Doesn't Know CAN Hurt You BY TIMOTHY TOTTEN, PUBLISHER



Maximizing Profits: The Funeral Industry's Best Kept Secret BY GEORGE PAUL III


IRS Audit: Ugh!


Beyond Nepotism: Cultivating Merit and Expertise Through Training







Breathing Safety: OSHA Compliant Ventilation in the Prep Room BY JOEL SOELBERG




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AngelStar is a family-run gift company with origins dating back to 1991! The creation of our first product, The Worry Stone, humbly began to help a family member whose ongoing medical treatments were leaving her in a constant state of worry and hopelessness. To help, she was handed a little smooth stone and instructed that whenever worries appear, she should simply “give her worries to the Angels”!



KINKARACO® is a Heart focused innovative green product design company known for creating the first secular, constructed, green burial “shroud product” for the funeral industry and the public in 2004.


INDUSTRY SPOTLIGHT LACIE BRUECKNER 46 AUTHORS & KATHERINE PENDERGAST When children's author Katherine Pendergast visited funeral director Lacie Brueckner at the funeral home to show her a new children's book she'd written, the conversation turned to the lack of resources about death and grief for children. Today, the pair has collaborated on a number of children's books about death and the process of funerals, including a new book that deals with the death of a beloved pet.


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


Manufacturers and suppliers that make it possible to bring you FUNERAL BUSINESS SOLUTIONS Magazine. | January/February Issue 2024


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CONTRIBUTORS Joel Soelberg is the Managing Director of Duncan Stuart Todd Ltd, a design and mortuary equipment firm that specializes in OSHA compliant Care Center renovations and new construction since 1992. He can be reached by email at or call him at 720-583-1886.

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

Gail Rubin, Certified Thanatologist and The Doyenne of Death®, is a pioneering death educator. She is the author of four books on end-of-life issues, was one of the first people to hold a Death Café in the United States and she has coordinated six Before I Die New Mexico Festivals. Learn more at the website, www.

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

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.

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

George Paul III is a Funeral Experience and Growth Specialist. For over 10 years his company, Cherished Keepsakes, helps funeral homes stand out and grow. He can be reached at URLs:

Raymond L. Bald, CPA, CFE is a funeral home tax accountant and consultant with Cummings, Lamont & McNamee, PLLC. He can be reached by phone at 603-772-3460, or you may email him at


A PUBLICATION OF RADCLIFFE MEDIA 1801 South Bay Street Eustis, Florida 32726

Timothy Totten, Publisher 352.242.8111 Robin Richter, Content Editor 813.500.2819

Funeral Business Solutions Magazine is published bi-monthly (6 Issues a year) by Radcliffe Media, Inc. 1801 South Bay Street, Eustis, Florida 32726. Subscriptions are free to qualified U.S. subscribers. Single copies and back issues are $8.99 each (United States) and $12.99 each (International). United States Subscriptions are $64.00 annually. International Subscriptions are $95.00 annually. Visit for content that is updated frequently and to access articles on a range of funeral industry topics. Radcliffe Media provides its contributing writers latitude in expressing opinions, advice, and solutions. The views expressed are not necessarily those of Radcliffe Media and by no means reflect any guarantees that material facts are accurate or true. Radcliffe Media accepts no liability in respect of the content of any third party material appearing in this magazine. Copyright 2024. All rights reserved. Funeral Business Solutions Magazine content may not be photocopied or reproduced or redistributed without the consent of publisher. For questions regarding magazine or for subscriptions, email ARTICLE REPRINTS For high quality reprints of articles, email us at

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MemoriaLeaf Announces the Release of a New Remembrance Coin MemoriaLeaf announces the release of a new Remembrance Coin. "People kept asking about personalization for our product", said Ruthann Disotell, creator and CEO of the MemoriaLeaf remembrance pin. "Unfortunately, there was no way to effectively do that with a lapel pin." This 1.5" coin, in a handsome jewelry box, is engravable. It is not hard to imagine it slipped into a pocket or held in hand during quiet times. Additionally, it can be affixed to a flat surface on an urn, a memorial marker or inset on the face of a headstone. Additionally, it is complimentary for pet services as well. Remembrance coins come encased in a handsome jewelry box for a fitting presentation. These coins are a great companion product to the lapel pin.

MemoriaLeaf is the creation of Ruthann Disotell, who found a leaf on the sidewalk and thought it was the perfect way to identify the family tree during visitations and services. When the public enjoyed wearing the pin in their daily life, to keep their loved one close, she opted

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to add a heart to the leaf, to spur more conversation. "We don't speak of the dead, and here we have a grieving person who has them on their mind constantly, wishing someone would remember they existed!" she says. Some wear theirs for special family events, others as a constant companion. The pin, which comes on a sentimental poem card, is also available in Spanish. It is a compassionate gift from the funeral director to the immediate family, and additional sales offer a return that makes them not only cost effective, but profitable. MemoriaLeaf has also expanded in territory. Ruthann exclaims, "We are thrilled to have MemoriaLeaf pins, not only across the USA, but into Canada and Central America, as well. It is heartening to see this product cause conversations that return the grieving to their joy, as they share stories recalling the ringside seat they had in a very special life."

For more information on MemoriaLeaf products, call 908-475-1711 or email


ICCFA University Chancellor Jeff Kidwiler Announces College of Funeral Home Management will be Named After the Late Todd Van Beck, CFUE STERLING, VA (December 6, 2023) – International Cemetery, Cremation & Funeral Association) (ICCFA) University Chancellor Jeff Kidwiler announced that the College of Funeral Home Management will be renamed the Todd Van Beck College of Funeral Home Management, in honor of the late Todd Van Beck. Van Beck was a man who had a halfcentury love affair with both funeral and cemetery service. He willingly admitted that he was, "no expert!", but also quickly admitted that there was nothing about this work and life that he didn’t enjoy, and have intense interest in. Todd was known to have said, “I’ve never done a day's work in my life, it has all been fun and interesting.” After the 2022 ICCFA University ended, Van Beck announced his retirement as the Dean of the College of Funeral Home Management after 25 years. His enthusiasm for funeral service, entertaining stories, and captivating speaking style made him the perfect candidate to educate hundreds of deathcare professionals over the years. Todd unexpectedly passed away on Tuesday, May 23, 2023.

“It is fitting to memorialize T o d d ’ s contributions to the quality and thoughtfulness of the curriculum at the ICCFA University by renaming the college he loved so dearly in his honor, making him an enduring part of the ICCFA University experience for generations to come,” said ICCFA University Chancellor Jeff Kidwiler. “No one embodied a passion for funeral service and education the way that he did. I know that his spirit will continue through the future deans, professors, and students at this incredible program.” Mark your calendars for ICCFA University 2024, set for July 19-24, at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. Stay updated with more information at

Founded in 1887, the International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association is the only international trade association representing all segments of the cemetery, cremation, funeral, and memorialization profession. The association is comprised of more than 10,000 members in the cemetery, funeral home, and crematory industries, as well as supplier and related businesses worldwide. | January/February Issue 2024



2023 NFDA General Price List Study Shows Inflation Increasing Faster than the Cost of a Funeral Brookfield, Wis. – In spite of concerns about inflation in the United States – and skyrocketing costs for goods and services – according to the National Funeral Directors Association’s (NFDA) 2023 Member General Price List Study, funeral costs have not risen as fast as the rate of inflation. The overall rate of inflation over the past two years was 13.6%. According to NFDA’s study, the median cost of a funeral with casket and burial has increased only 5.8% over the past two years (from $7,848 to $8,300) and the median cost of a funeral with cremation, including alternative cremation casket and urn, has increased 8.1%% over the past two years (from $5,810 to $6,280). “Funeral homes offer a wide variety of options to meet the needs and wishes. The primary role of funeral directors remains helping families understand the many options available to help them honor the life of a loved one in meaningful way,” said NFDA Research Manager Deana Gillespie. “Every funeral home offers unique services and pricing. Families should look for a funeral home that has a strong reputation with licensed funeral directors who understand their emotional needs and will be sensitive to their budget.” National Median Cost of an Adult Funeral with Viewing and Burial Since the 1960s, NFDA has calculated the national median cost of a funeral with burial by totaling the cost of the following items: basic services fee, removal/transfer of remains to funeral home, embalming and other preparation of the body (e.g., casketing, cosmetology, dressing and grooming), a metal casket, use of facilities and staff for viewing and funeral ceremony, use of a hearse, use of a service car/van, and a basic memorial printed package (e.g., memorial cards, register book, etc.). The cost does not take into account interment in a cemetery, monument or grave marker costs, or cash-advance charges, such as for flowers or an obituary.

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National Median Cost of an Adult Funeral with Viewing and Cremation NFDA calculates the national median cost of a cost of a funeral with cremation by totaling the cost of the following items: basic services fee, removal/transfer of remains to funeral home, embalming and other preparation of the body, use of facilities and staff for viewing and a funeral ceremony, use of a service car/van, basic memorial printed package, cremation fee, alternative cremation container, and urn. The median cost does not include the price of interment in a cemetery, monument or grave marker costs or cash advance charges. Regional Costs (at right) Costs for goods and services vary by region. Many factors contribute to the final determination of how an individual funeral home prices its goods and services, including the firm’s business philosophy and the market in which it operates. Survey Methodology A survey was mailed to 5,219 NFDAmember funeral homeowners on July 7, 2023, to gather General Price List and other related data. Members also had the option of completing the survey online. A link to complete the survey was emailed to all main contacts with a valid email address, posted three times in the NFDA Bulletin (electronic newsletter), and a reminder to complete the survey was emailed to all main contacts as well. Of the potential respondents, 809 members anonymously completed the survey (474 mail and 335 online), which accurately reflects NFDA’s total membership (with 95% confidence) within a range of +/- 3.4%. Responses also accurately reflect NFDA’s membership by U.S. census district.

Order the 2023 GPL Survey Report Funeral professionals interested in purchasing a digital copy of the survey report should call NFDA at 800-2286332 or visit The full report is free to NFDA members and $175 for nonmembers.

NFDA is the world's leading and largest funeral service association, serving more than 20,000 individual members who represent nearly 11,000 funeral homes in the United States and 49 countries around the world. NFDA is the trusted leader, beacon for ethics and the strongest advocate for the profession. NFDA is the association of choice because it offers funeral professionals comprehensive educational resources, tools to manage successful businesses, guidance to become pillars in their communities and the expertise to foster future generations of funeral professionals. NFDA is headquartered in Brookfield, Wis., and has an office in Washington, D.C. For more information, visit | January/February Issue 2024



Ohio Funeral Directors Association Annual Education Conference January 28 - February 3, 2024 de Campo Resort & Villas, Dominican Republic

South Carolina Funeral Directors Association Mid-Winter Conference & Expo February 5-7, 2024 Metropolitan Convention Center, Columbia, SC

International Cemetery, Cremation, and Funeral Association Convention & Expo April 10-13, 2024 Tampa Convention Center, Tampa, FL

Nebraska Funeral Directors Association Annual Convention April 22-24, 2024 Embassy Suites, Lincoln, NE

Ohio Funeral Directors Association Annual Convention & Exhibition April 23-25, 2024 Hilton Columbus at Easton, Columbus, OH

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funeral home success story

Eternal Peace Funeral Services in Austin, Texas

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

and started crossing off items that I did not ask for or was aware of. After crossing off most of the items, it looked like a witness cremation for over $5,000. My friend turned to me and said - and I will never forget this - “This is the cheapest at need agreement I have ever written!”

I stumbled into the death industry as a result of COVID. I was in the bar business with multiple bar locations in central Texas. When the pandemic hit and we were forced to close bars and restaurants, I had to find another way to generate revenue to keep my properties. During this time, my father passed away and I had to plan my first funeral. My experience from the arrangement meeting was the reason I decided to convert my bar to a funeral home. I went with an SCI location because I HAD a friend that worked there, hoping they would help me through my darkest day. Instead, before I sat down and told them what I wanted, the family counselor (my friend) gave me an agreement for over $10,000 of services. I reviewed the agreement

Flabbergasted, I felt really guilty that I cheapened my dad’s funeral, but the reality was I did not need everything they told me I needed. I came home and cried to my mom. I asked her if I was being cheap. We did not need the services as we could be a “super spreader of COVID” and there were only a handful of immediate family members that would attend the witness cremation. After talking to mom and realizing that my guilt was induced by a funeral staff only caring about their profit with total disregard for the family, I vowed that I would never allow another family member to ever go through what I went through. | January/February Issue 2024



2. Please share the history of your funeral home. In 2021, I opened my own funeral home. In 2022, I purchased a commercial mortuary and crematory. Since 2021, I have serviced over 4,000 families between the two businesses. I plan to open my cemetery in the near future. I have provided services for every ethnic group, many religions, and built strong community ties with many ethnic groups to be their funeral home of choice. 3. What makes your funeral home unique? I have been on both sides of the arrangement tables. My goal is to provide the family the funeral services they want. When I talk with a family, I only start with the basics of what is needed to get their loved one into my care and the final disposition. The rest of the services we can always add. I never have to remove services on my arrangement agreement, only add on.

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I encourage families to buy their own merchandise unless they want me to buy for them for a premium. I believe the choices and prices should be on the family to decide. I will give them resources every step of the way. Since I was not born into this industry or began my career in this industry, I have a gambit of knowledge outside of the industry. I used my decades of experience in other sectors and applied it in my current businesses. I have a very active approach as I do not have the lineage to my funeral home. I have to find creative, innovative, and constant marketing strategies to get my funeral home name out there. I am constantly working to understand why the funeral industry does something that seems outdated to me and improve on it using my experiences. I am able to run my funeral businesses more efficiently, more automated, with less stress on my staff, more balance of work and life for everyone with my company.

4. What does excellent customer service mean to you? When the families and their friends come back to me or refer to my funeral home. I have families and friends pulling me to the side during the service to compliment my funeral home or tell me how relaxed and comfortable they feel. I work hard to let the families feel that the service is for them and they should feel comfortable and not stressed about the funeral services. 5. What do you feel has been the biggest factor in your success? I did not inherit the funeral home or business. I built it from the ground up so I know the hard work and dedication. I utilized my experiences from other industries and applied it to the funeral industry and that has catapulted my success.

working families, and funerals are not something they saved or budgeted for.

6. Do you have any advice for other funeral homes?

8. What excites you for the future?

Continue to learn and look outside of the funeral industry. Many funeral homes I have serviced at my commercial mortuary only know the funeral industry and they are not looking to other industries for innovative ideas to increase their death calls, or make changes to their funeral homes to adjust with the market. Too often, I see funeral homes close their doors because they ran their funeral home as it was run by their forefathers/founders. 7. How are you involved in your community? I work with many ethnic communities by being a resource to help them. I understand the community and I help with their religious beliefs. I provide the families with superior services, but not the high prices as they are

There is no limit to what the future holds for me. I am excited everyday that I am able to provide services for my community. 9. Anything else you would like to include or say to our readers? Look outside of your business, get uncomfortable so you can find ways to improve your business, but not by what has been done for decades and generations. This industry is constantly changing and if you are not changing with it, you will be obsolete. FBS Learn more about Adeline Binh Bui and Eternal Peace Funeral Services at | January/February Issue 2024



Death Care Removal Tips BY GAIL RUBIN

Over the past two years, I have been the hospice contact for an old boyfriend, my husband, and my father. I was there when the funeral home removal team came for their bodies. From these three experiences, I offer my insights on how the removal experience can be improved. My Friend’s Story Gary Mayhew was my boyfriend for a few years in the 1990s. While he didn’t want to get married, we remained good friends, even after I married David Bleicher in 2000. The three of us went out to dinner every other Tuesday, and Gary always picked up the check. Having been a smoker, Gary developed COPD. For the last five years of his life, he was tethered to an oxygen tank or concentrator. When Gary went on home hospice care in July 2021, I was his contact with the hospice. Ten years earlier, he preplanned and prepaid for a direct cremation. Independence was important to Gary. He wanted to stay in his home and see a small circle of his friends. He declined hospice’s offers of spiritual care. He didn’t want any assistance with bathing, but he did want help from someone who could prepare meals and clean up the house. The hospice helped arrange for a part-time aide who came in a few hours twice a week. During Gary’s three months on hospice, Dave and I brought dinner to Gary’s house every Tuesday night. We’d find him sitting in his usual chair in the living/dining room, where we would eat carry-out food and play the trivia game Stupid Deaths. Dave would wash the dishes that had built up in the sink. This particular Tuesday, I called Gary at 11:00 a.m. to discuss dinner options. Green chile cheeseburgers, a New Mexico favorite, would be that evening’s fare. I called back at 4:00 p.m. to ask what kind of cheese he wanted. No answer.

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When Dave and I arrived at 6:30, the door was not unlocked for us as usual. I used my key to get in. All the lights were out. Gary wasn’t sitting in his chair in the dining area. I followed the oxygen tubing into the bedroom. Gary wasn’t there. The tube snaked into the bathroom. There was Gary, curled up naked on the white tile floor, his white underwear around his knees. No pulse. Room temperature. The life sustaining oxygen cannula was several feet from his body. I covered him with a towel and a blanket, then called the hospice to report Gary’s death. The male nurse came about an hour later. He pulled on pink protective gloves, checked for a pulse, and made the pronouncement at 7:48 p.m. He called the funeral home where Gary had pre-planned. He did not offer to help move Gary’s body from the bathroom or suggest laying him out prior to removal. It was a long time before the removal team arrived at 10:00 p.m. A tall older man in a suit and a more casually dressed younger man wheeled the mortuary cot into the house. I showed them Gary’s body in the bathroom. They pulled on their black protective gloves. I shared my background as The Doyenne of Death® with them. That may not have been the best thing to do as a bereaved friend. It may have encouraged storytelling of other removals they had done. The older man, who worked at OMI for eight years, said, “One time, we had to remove a guy who looked like Santa Claus, naked, wedged next to the toilet.” You can’t unsee something like that. Rigor mortis had set in. They used the blanket to help move Gary’s curled-up body. The older man deftly moved Gary’s underwear up into place. I got a glimpse of the side of Gary’s face that had been resting on the floor – it was purple with pooled blood. His eyes were wide open.

They wrapped him in a sheet and positioned him as best they could on a body board. They strapped him onto the gurney and finished with a burgundy plush covering. “Someone with the funeral home will be in touch to finalize the arrangements,” said the younger man, as I signed the papers releasing Gary’s body into their care. They wheeled Gary out to their unmarked white van. It was nine weeks before he was cremated. Takeaway Tips: • Be aware that everything you do and say will be vividly remembered by witnesses. • Don’t talk about other removals you’ve done. A better approach might be to ask questions about the deceased. • Restoring modesty to the deceased prior to removal is a kindness that will make a positive impression.

My Husband’s Story David Bleicher and I were married for 22 years, four months and one day before he died at age 71 on April 28, 2023. On April 4, he had TURP surgery to address an enlarged prostate. This led to a host of medical complications: a heart attack, sepsis, kidney failure, coding, blood loss, sustained low blood pressure, and heart failure. On April 21, he was admitted to in-patient hospice care. During the week he was in the hospice, I was with him around the clock to advocate for him. I took a few hours in the afternoon to run home, take a shower and feed the cats while a family member or friend stayed with him. He waited until I left the room to make a phone call to die. | January/February Issue 2024


FE AT URE E D ITOR IA L Nurse Amber found me in the family room and said, “You’d better come back to the room, his breathing has changed.” He had already exhaled his last breath when I came in the room. She said, “Take as much time as you need.” I caressed his face and said to say hello to other loved ones who had died before. I slipped the wedding band off his finger, thinking the words, “until death do us part.” I called a few close relatives. Then I let Nurse Amber know I was ready for what comes next. She and an aide removed the catheter and IV drip medication ports. They wiped down his body one last time and arranged the sheet neatly over his chest. Nurse Amber took the last viable flowers left from a get-well bouquet and laid them on his chest. I placed a toy bat under his left arm. It was Dave’s personal symbol, a spiritual companion to accompany his body on his journey to the next world. Nurse Amber took care of contacting the funeral home. Dave and I had pre-arranged and pre-paid for our funerals the year before. The pick-up team consisted of a young man and young woman. They wore suits and performed their work calmly and respectfully. They came in quietly with the gurney. It was obvious to me that they had been trained in respectful removals. The young man asked, “Was he a veteran?” If he had been, they would have used a U.S. flag cot cover. “Is there any jewelry that needs to be removed?” I had already slipped the wedding band off and had it in my pocket. “Is it all right if we cover his face?” That struck me as odd, but I could see how it might upset some family members. I said it was fine. They wrapped the sheet around his body and used it to move him onto the gurney. They secured the body with straps and finished with a gray fleece cot cover. Nurse Amber accompanied me as we followed the gurney and removal team out of the hospice wing at the hospital. We parted ways as the team took Dave’s body down a hallway to the left, toward the removal vehicle at the back of the hospital. Nurse Amber walked with me to the right, through the Emergency Room, and out to the parking lot. At my car, she gave me a hug and said, “Drive carefully.” Takeaway Tips: • The removal is a family’s very important first impression of your funeral home’s services. Training can make a big difference from the start. • Ask questions about the deceased and the family’s wishes. • If you honor veterans with a flag cover, remember a veteran can be female.

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My Father’s Story While Dave was going through his medical complications in April, my 92-year-old father in Florida had heart trouble that put him in the hospital. He was discharged home with heart failure and a concentrator to provide supplemental oxygen. Two days after his 93rd birthday in August, he deteriorated quickly. On the phone with him while waiting for the EMTs to come take him to the hospital, Dad told me, “I want what Dave had.” He meant hospice. After a night in the hospital, Dad was discharged on Thursday to a lovely in-patient hospice facility in Boca Raton, Florida. By the time my older brother Mitch and I got there on Saturday, his consciousness was slipping away. But he recognized we were there and said, “It all went so fast. Love you to pieces.” I spent Sunday and Monday nights in the hospice with Dad, helping to address his restlessness in the night. He loved musicals and I sang show tunes to him, including Old Man River from Showboat and Dulcinea from Man of La Mancha. Dad slipped away early Tuesday morning while Mitch and I slept in the room with him. Two nurses burst in at about 4:20 a.m. and said, “Your daddy is gone.” How they knew that without monitoring equipment is still a mystery to me. They briskly removed the catheter, wiped him down, and arranged a sheet over his chest. My parents’ burial plots are in the Washington, D.C. area, where their parents (my grandparents) are buried. I worked with my parents to pre-pay for their funeral arrangements ten years earlier. I had already given the funeral home in the D.C. area a heads-up to be prepared. One man came to pick up my dad’s body by himself. He wore a lavender button-down shirt and black slacks. He neatly tied up the sheeting around the body and moved a body board underneath to make the transfer to the gurney. He used a burgundy fleece cot cover. He was a chatty pickup person. He talked about another transport he did of a military officer. My brother and I didn’t know why he was telling us about this, and it seemed inappropriate. We gathered up our personal items in the room and followed as he wheeled Dad’s body through the hallways to the rear entrance of the hospice. We watched him move the gurney into a black Chrysler Pacifica. The vehicle sported a window

decal identifying it as a medical transporter. After he drove off, we went to my brother’s home to take the next steps for the funeral. Takeaway Tips: • Contract removal services are common in the funeral business. Make sure their services meet with your funeral home’s standards for respectful removals. • Consider the difference of a hospice death with a pre-arranged funeral home pick-up to an unexpected death. Police, fire, EMTs, and the medical investigator flood the home, and the loved one is removed in a body bag. Almost all deaths are unexpected, even with hospice. Try to make all removals a calm and comforting experience for those left behind.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Gail Rubin, Certified Thanatologist and The Doyenne of Death®, is a pioneering death educator. She is the author of four books on end-of-life issues, was one of the first people to hold a Death Café in the United States and she has coordinated six Before I Die New Mexico Festivals. Learn more at the website, | January/February Issue 2024



What the Safety Supervisor Must do in Funeral Service



The OSHA General Duty Clause As a funeral home owner, you are responsible for both your employees and customers safety. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) states that “Each employer shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.” – Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970

The Hazards Safety Supervisors and Owners Must Assess OSHA requires all places of employment to assess potential hazards. A funeral home faces a number of potential hazards, including but not limited to. ● Biological Risks ● Ergonomic Hazards ● Chemical Hazards ● Psychological Impact ● Respiratory Protection

Which States Have State Plans? Beyond the OSHA General Duty Clause, 23 states and two territories have OSHA-approved safety and health plans which apply to private sector employers. These plans are required to be at least as effective as federal standards. States are given six months to develop plans comparable to new federal mandates.

What The Safety Supervisors and Owners Must Do After conducting hazards assessments, owners must ensure that their Safety Supervisors take the following actions: ● Provide approved safety training based on the hazards in the workplace and maintain proper recordkeeping ● Develop a written safety manual with plans reflecting the hazards, safety policies, engineering controls, and environmental controls, ● Provide and maintain proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and train employees on how to use it effectively ● Place proper signage around the workplace and ensure information is accurate. ● Conduct Safety Data Sheets (SDS) management along with proper labeling of chemicals.

Alaska Arizona California Connecticut Hawaii Indiana Iowa Kentucky Maryland Michigan Minnesota Nevada New Mexico New York North Carolina Oregon Puerto Rico South Carolina Tennessee Utah Vermont Virgin Islands Virginia Washington Wyoming

Depending on the state, funeral homes operating may not be required to maintain logs of occupational illnesses and injuries on federal OSHA reporting forms 300 and 301. Funeral homes are mandated to report within 48 hours to their local or regional OSHA office any employment accident which results in death of an employee or the hospitalization of five or more employees.

Watch the OSHA Bites Video

Introducing Our Video on the Funeral Home Safety Supervisor To provide you with a comprehensive understanding of your role as a Safety Supervisor and how it specifically applies to funeral homes and funeral directors, we've prepared a video. This video will delve deeper into the details of the clause, offering insights and practical tips to ensure compliance and promote a safe working environment. We encourage you to watch the video to gain valuable insights into how to protect yourself and your colleagues while carrying out the essential work of providing respectful and dignified funeral services.

Certified Safety Training (CST) is the leader in funeral home, crematory, and cemetery OSHA compliance. Backed by more than 30 years of industry experience and Certified Safety Professionals, CST matches industry expertise with customizable, award-winning programming to make sure that customers have the highest-quality safety programs, plans, training, and advice. To bring your entire workplace – facility and personnel – into compliance with OSHA, contact Certified Safety Training: help@certifiedsafetytraining • 609.375.8462 •

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Passages International:

25 Years of Leadership in Sustainable Farewells Over the years, Passages continued to grow and moved to a larger facility in Albuquerque, NM. As the generations that popularized recycling, hybrid cars, solar panels, and sustainable living were putting more attention towards funerals, the cremation rate continued to rise and green burial cemeteries began popping up around the country. The ideas of “life celebrations” and unique memorial services became more and more popular. Passages continued to innovate and created a wide variety of urns for these modern cremation families: biodegradable urns that could be buried in the ground and water scattering urns made of eco-friendly materials that could be sent out to sea and would biodegrade within hours. assages International was founded in 1999 in the back P room of a funeral home in Taos, New Mexico. At that time, the cremation rate was only 25% and sustainable

funeral options were virtually nonexistent. Today, demand for eco-friendly cremation and burial options is significant, and Passages has grown to offer the widest range of sustainable burial and cremation options on the market. Where most suppliers in the funeral space offer metal or wood caskets, permanent urns, and other traditional memorial products, Passages has always been dedicated to providing sustainably made solutions with minimal carbon footprint, and products that focus on the experience a family can create to remember a loved one. The need for eco-friendly funeral options came from a personal experience, when a family close to the founders experienced multiple tragic deaths and planned to scatter. The only option available to the funeral director was a cardboard box, which felt like a huge disservice to the family and contrary to the notion of being a care-giver. The need was clear: families that intend to scatter a loved one’s remains or did not intend to permanently keep the remains deserve a dignified, functional and eco-friendly container to serve this purpose. Back then few options were available. This was the beginning of Passages’ first products, the Earthurn line of biodegradable urns.

Passages also introduced the now wildly-popular Scatter Tubes to the US market. These recycled and recyclable paper tubes provide families with affordable and functional design choices that enable them to scatter in sentimentally significant locations. With over 40% of cremation families intending to scatter, Passages understood the need and has always had the largest selection of Scatter Tube designs and sizes. In 2023 they introduced Scatter Kits, enabling families to easily split remains and scatter in multiple locations or encourage multiple friends and families to participate.

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Passages also began offering Fair Trade certified caskets for green burial to answer the rising demand. Instead of cardboard or plain pine boxes, Passages opted for beautiful handmade wicker caskets to bring a unique natural look to green burial. Passages continued to innovate in this space by cutting down the shipping and storage footprint of caskets. They created caskets in different sizes that could be nested to reduce shipping costs, and soon created caskets that could ship and be stored flat-packed and be assembled on demand, allowing funeral homes to keep more on hand while using less space. The goal of this innovation has always remained the same: waste less and leave a smaller footprint, all while creating meaningful and healing memorial experiences.

Being a wholesale company, one of the largest challenges is convincing funeral businesses to make changes to a system that has worked for them for decades. Passages set out to educate funeral homes about why the cremation rates are rising, how modern families view cremation, and how to navigate these changes to remain profitable. As more and more families chose (and continue to choose) cremation, many of the traditional services offered by a funeral home begin to have less value for the family. A premier funeral home might have a newer fleet of cars and a more modern building than a budget funeral home, but these benefits do not mean much to the increasing number of families choosing direct cremation and scattering. Over time the family's focus has shifted from the deceased’s body lying in a casket, to remembering them as they lived. Thus embalming, premium caskets, open casket funerals and even the facility itself has become less relevant to the family. Passages realized that there was a huge gap between what funeral homes were offering and what families wanted. In particular, because of how cremation was handled by funeral professionals in the early years, families were educated that cremation should be minimal and cheap. With this in mind, Passages began partnering with funeral homes to help them build value and drive revenues by offering fair trade, clean burning cremation containers instead of basic cardboard containers. These new bamboo containers allow funeral homes to offer something that is dignified, has a positive impact in their community, and provides tangible value that families are prepared to pay for.

Passages also offers artisan urns like the Gourd Urn, that are eco-friendly pieces of handmade art, and innovative urns like the Biotree urn that let families “be a tree” after death. More recently, Passages created the Memorial Map, bringing more value to families who scatter by letting them mark the scattering location on an online map and create a personalized, unique memorial page to their loved one.

Passages has spent the last 25 years constantly looking for gaps in the funeral space and filling them. Over time, more funeral homes have been forced to reconsider their position in the market and what they can offer that their competition does not. Passages is proud to be able to help these funeral homes offer innovative options that show they are in tune with current consumer preferences, rather than focusing on the past and the status quo. Through an on-going commitment to quality and service, Passages continues to be the leader in the non-traditional funeral space. Furthermore, the entire team at Passages share a passion for green initiatives, innovation, and funeral service. While Passages is celebrating 25 years of service to the industry, they are looking forward to the next 25 years. The stage has been set and non-traditional funerals have secured their place. Today there are over 200 green burial cemeteries in the USA and many more cemeteries are converting sections to accommodate fully green or hybrid burials. Cremation has taken its hold as the most popular option for families, and scattering continues to be the favorite disposition choice for cremation families. Passages remains poised to serve funeral homes who are navigating the modern market, searching for ways to bring more value to their client families and remain profitable. As the world continues to change, the funeral space will continue to change as well, and Passages looks forward to creating more unique and sustainable options that will help families create meaningful, healing funeral experiences to honor their loved ones. FBS | January/February Issue 2024


What the Consumer Doesn't Know CAN Hurt You BY TIMOTHY TOTTEN


ou can learn every new embalming technique created, offer each new memorial product invented, and hire on the most qualified funeral attendants in town, but if you don’t educate your community about the value of your services, you’ll be at the mercy of your public’s misconceptions. Listed here are some of the things that John Q. Public might believe. Misconception #1: You’re not a professional. Society constantly reminds us that students face years of schooling before becoming doctors and lawyers. But most of the people in your community have no idea how much education, testing, and certification is required to be a funeral director. To combat this misconception, you can sponsor a scholarship for a local high school graudate planning to attend mortuary school. Or when your apprentice passes the state certification exam, you can send out a press release touting the accomplishment. You can offer to teach a “Death and Dying” course at a local community college or vocational center. You can even attend local high school career days to teach the next generation what a funeral director does. Misconception #2: Your building is just another business. Ask yourself a simple question: If the sign in front of my building was removed, would it still look like a funeral home? Customers have definite ideas of how each type of business should look. Successful ice cream parlors shouldn’t look like dental offices. In the same way, if your funeral home fits a visual idea that your local consumers hold of a funeral home, you won’t have to work as hard to publicize your presence. For funeral homes that don’t fit the typical design idea for your part of the country, service vehicles can go along way toward bolstering the image. A hearse or limousine under the portico will tell the public your building houses a funeral establishment. Misconception #3: Cremations is immediate and doesn’t allow for viewing. You might be losing business to a direct cremation provider if most of your general public thinks that cremation is overly restrictive. To counter this, you must educate your consumers. Offer yourself to local news media and radio stations for interviews. Get out to local assisted living facilities and retirement communities to talk about cremation

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options. Weave the options of cremation into the course you teach on “Death and Dying” at the local college. Misconception #4: Your prices are too high. Most consumers have no idea how much capital a business actually requires, and especially not the extra costs associated with opening a funeral home. A new mortuary cot can be thousands of dollars, outfitting an embalming room is costly, and specialty vehicles are two or three times the cost of a standard car or SUV. While you want to keep your affairs private, you can craft press releases and social media posts that highlight the way your expenditures are helping your community. A press release that explains how your new oversized cot helps you serve those with obesity issues can contain a mention of the cost. Renovations at the funeral home are a perfect opportunity to not only show you’ve reinvested in the community but also call out the local construction company that is carrying out the changes. Your participation in state and national organizations should be publicized. And every time you donate to your community or a charity, you should find subtle but effective ways to inform your community. You are required by law to inform the public of your pricing; make sure you let them see what you’re doing with the profits. Misconception #5: A funeral director isn’t necessary. This belief has been created in the minds of some consumers who don’t know all the work you really do. They see you setting up flowers and running a funeral service, but they don’t see the 2 a.m. removals or the tough embalming and restoration work you do. Many in the public believe they can run a memorial service – “How hard can it be?” they ask themselves – or that your job is simply disposition of the body. Furthermore, most consumers have no reason to know about the federal and state laws that regulate this industry. To fix this problem, education is, once again, necessary. You can create a pamphlet outlining the laws of your state and the requirements of local cemeteries and crematories. You could distribute these fliers at local events or to every person who enquires about pricing. You might consider offering yourself as a resource to local attorneys who handle estate planning. You might also start a “did you know?” series on your social media channels to share small tidbits about laws and requirements. | January/February Issue 2024


CONTINUED Misconception #6: A funeral home’s work ends at the graveside service.

open as discretion allows, you can help dispel any negative feeling about your profession and reassure those around you that you are passionate about your work and the noble aspirations behind it.

One of the best ways to cultivate community relationships and continue to serve families in the future is to extend your services past interment. Most consumers don’t know who will help them file for insurance benefits, talk to the Social Security Administration, or plan their future financial arrangements. While you must tread lightly when assisting anyone with personal affairs, you are often the most knowledgeable person to assist them. Who has dealt more with the difficult issues that arise after a death than a funeral director? By providing continuing service, you build a trust with their family and raise your chances of serving them again in the future.

Misconception #8: Funeral directors are only in it for the money. Many people in your community have no idea the type of charitable work you do in the community. The don’t see the destitute families you help or the charitable contributions you make and unless they’ve experienced the tragedy of a miscarriage, they don’t know about the low- or no-cost funerals you provide for unexpected fetal deaths. Without touting these things directly, you can set up your own foundation which can be the funnel through which you make donations like these. The start of the foundation and any donations you make to it can be touted on social media or in press releases and not only highlight the community work you are doing but show that you reinvest in the area, helping the less fortunate. You can also choose to give staff paid time off to volunteer at charities in your community, either sharing this information with the community or allowing your staff to share their experiences on their own social media as a way to show your giving side.

Misconception #7: Funeral directors are creepy. The only way to change this public perception is to portray the truth about your profession and your life. The business of caring for the dead is, at its heart, a private matter between the service personnel and the grieving family. But there are still opportunities to improve the image of funeral directors in your community. When someone asks what you do for a living, don’t be shy. If you are embarrassed, your family and friends will be too. If you can speak openly and compassionately about your profession, the public will be more comfortable asking you questions. You might be surprised how many people in your community have never set foot in your funeral home and don’t realize you are a funeral director. Those who do know your occupation may still have misconceptions or questions they’ve never felt comfortable to ask. By being as

In conclusion, your community has preconceptions and misconceptions about funeral service. You have a great opportunity to educate and tell your community why your services are important and how you can help them in their time of need. FBS

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Maximizing Profits: The Funeral Industry's Best Kept Secret BY GEORGE PAUL III


erhaps you noticed this past year a leveling effect with your funeral services. I certainly had. Many of the firms we work with had long gaps in their services. This wasn’t just isolated to specific areas of the country either. I had firms all over saying the same thing. Things are slow When I talked with them they said things were very slow, slower than normal. Is it though? I forgot where I read or heard it, perhaps a funeral podcast or industry article, but they were saying that things were beginning to return back to pre-pandemic levels. If that’s the case that means a lot of things for you firm owners. First it means the “power” is shifting back to families and that means you’re going to need to stand out even more. You do that through creating an easy, but unforgettable funeral experience. It also means that if the sands are settling then you’re going to need additional revenue. The money’s been hiding there all along in your funeral services.

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Keepsakes I don’t think firms realize the hidden power of keepsakes. Many look at it as a chore because it’s tedious. If you’re doing funeral programs in-house most of your staff don’t like it’s time-consuming. The back and forth with all the little changes. And let’s hope the family doesn’t call last minute with a name they left out in the obituary that MUST go in there. As a result, firms stick to generic designs they find online. Others use software from the big industry players like Funeral One, Tukios or templates. Then there’s a few firms that see the hidden revenue just waiting to be found and they choose to level up the quality of their printed memorial keepsakes. The Money That Keeps Printing Yes, keepsakes are a hidden revenue source and generates more revenue than you may not realize. The caveat is that they have to be high-quality from the design to the materials. Let’s talk about the revenue that keepsakes drive and save.








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Keepsake Sales It may not be a high-ticket item like caskets, but even a penny compounded over time grows into something bigger than you realized. Keepsake sales creates an additional revenue source that YOU DON’T EVEN HAVE TO PAY FOR. The families do. Anyone say free money?

Free Advertising One of the hardest tasks firms have is staying in the minds of families after the service has passed. Um, I got something for you—keepsakes. How so? Well, when grief hits them all of the sudden or they need a fond memory to calm them down they’re going to reach for the keepsakes produced for the service. They’ll look it over and get the solace they desired. When they do that they think appreciatively of the firm that helped provide that solace and will come back to you.

Service Call Growth I wrote an article a while back and said when one thing is good everything is good and vice versa. It’s like being at a restaurant. If the overall experience is good then you’ll come back. However, in that experience are a bunch of small things like good wait staff, clean restaurant, excellent food and so forth. These all add up into a great experience that you want to repeat. In the same way high quality keepsakes are one cog in the entire funeral experience that helps families say to themselves, “If another death happens in my family or a friend’s we’re going back to this funeral home.” That means thousands in additional revenue. They save you money too.

The bonus is that all those in attendance got one too and they’re thinking to themselves, “This funeral home knows how to honor life. I’m giving them my business.” That’s what one family said about one of our partner firms as they were ordering additional keepsakes after the service had passed. Again, they got free advertising that didn’t cost them a dime. In fact it saved a few. Spend Less of Your Advertising Budget True story a firm we work with first came to us because they wanted to leverage the power of high-quality keepsakes so they could stand out

Exceptional service from a CPA Firm that knows the funeral industry. Do you have questions? What’s the proper tax treatment of our trust accounts? How are cash advances treated for tax reporting purposes? I’m considering expanding into another state. How does that affect my taxes? Should I own my funeral home as a corporation, LLC, or sole proprietorship? What’s the best way to sell my funeral home? I’m thinking of taking on a partner. What’s the best way to do that? I’m purchasing a funeral home property. Who should own it; me or my funeral home? What can I do to reduce my tax liability? I’d like to pass down my business to my children. What’s the most tax effective way of doing that? Do I have to be concerned about the estate tax?

Let’s talk; we’re here to help.


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

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and deliver an experience no one in the community has seen. We did a personalized program for them and when I followed up with the Director after the service she said, “All everyone could talk about were the programs. They kept saying, ‘Did you see the programs?’” Leveraging the power of keepsakes will keep you from spending thousands of dollars on radio ads, billboards and other things. There’s nothing wrong with those forms of marketing, but it’s shotgun marketing. You’re doing something that hits a lot of eyes hoping that the right ones will take the next step down the sales funnel and pick you as their funeral home. Whereas keepsakes are a word-of-mouth driver that hits the exact type of families you want to serve because they’re already at the service. People run in tribes or circles because they share the same values. Thus, the family you successfully serve with high quality keepsakes has the same potential families already there experiencing the amazing service you’re providing. They’ll come back because they want that same

experience they witnessed. In fact, that’s what another firm told us. He said that families come in and say, “I want the exact same thing you did for Mr. Smith.” He said high-quality keepsakes were a factor in their referral business. One Change With Big Results By making one simple change and upgrading the quality of your keepsakes you unlock thousands of dollars in your firm that will help you stick around for the next generation and beyond. Until next time I wish you the best honoring the legacies in your care as you brand the legacy you’re creating. FBS George Paul III is a volatile visionary and Funeral Experience and Growth Specialist. For over 10 years his company, Cherished Keepsakes, helps funeral homes stand out and grow. Through personalized keepsakes and proven branding strategies, he transforms how families remember their loved ones, turning every service into a memorable experience that drives referrals and repeat service calls. He can be reached at URLs:



Funeral Stationery | Service Essentials | Prep Room | Promotional Products | Urns | January/February Issue 2024



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Q: Who is AngelStar and what product and/or service do they provide? AngelStar is a family-run gift company with origins dating back to 1991. The creation of our first product, The Worry Stone, humbly began to help a family member whose ongoing medical treatments were leaving her in a constant state of worry and hopelessness. To help, she was handed a little smooth stone and instructed that whenever worries appear, she should simply “give her worries to the Angels.” Our products are meant to provide inspiration, hope and strength, which make them well-suited for the funeral industry. Q: How do funeral homes use your products? Our funeral home customers use AngelStar products in a variety of different ways. Our best sellers, The Comfort Cross and Worry Stones, are small resin stones featuring intricate angels or crosses that fit comfortable in the palm of a hand or pocket, offering comfort and strength to those in need. Some funeral homes gift the stones to their customers as part of their overall service package, while other funeral homes offer the stones as bereavement products for their customers to purchase for themselves, their family or funeral guests. Our beautiful resin wishing boxes, due to their petite size, delicate designs and affordable price are often used by funeral homes as infant urns.

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Over the years, many people have shared their touching stories about the comfort they found in using our products in their time of need and we are grateful to continue being a part of these incredible stories. Q: What are the benefits to funeral homes using AngelStar products? AngelStar products are competitively priced. The majority of our products are priced below $5 wholesale, allowing you to offer these inspirational products at an affordable price to your customers. Q: What about turnaround time and design options? AngelStar products are reliably in stock. We are proud to consistently maintain in-stock levels of 99%+, allowing us to offer an exceptionally quick order turn-around. AngelStar products come in a variety of designs, making it easier for you to find the product that best resonates with your customers. Our famous stones are available in 60+ different designs! Q: How would a funeral home contact AngelStar for more information? You can reach us by phone (888-436-7962), email (customer@, or fax (800-738-6708). To check out our products visit our website at or scan the QR code on the next page for our complete wholesale catalog.

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Q: Who is KINKARACO® and what products and services do they provide? KINKARACO® is a Heartfocused innovative green product design company known for creating the first secular, constructed, green burial “shroud product” for the funeral industry and the public in 2004. Motivated by compassion for human suffering, obsessed by great design, devoted to inspiring Beauty in the face of Death by designing the most gorgeous, high quality American manufactured green funeral products on the market. From the Purelight™ shroud for Green burial with the lowering attached, to the Varanasi™ 100% silk cremation shrouds, Mort Couture™ line: Herbal lined, cultural textiles , embroidered silk shroud products, Green Funeral Wash™ for natural body preparation pre-shrouding or the popular Kinkara-Kart™ Processional - 19th C. repro caissons for green & traditional cemeteries. Dedicated to offering supportive customer care with a human voice and always available to answer questions regarding green products and services or just needing a compassionate ear after a devastating loss. KINKARACO has been connecting funeral professionals offering green funeral services to local families looking for them for the past 20 years. “Looks more like a wedding than a funeral!” says one customer testimonial. Q: How did KINKARACO get involved in the funeral industry? In 2003, founder Esmerelda Kent’s life changed forever after seeing the TV show SIX FEET UNDER about a funeral home in Los Angeles. Pioneering natural home childbirth in the 60’s, unprocessed organically home grown food in the 70’s, being on the heartbreaking frontlines of the AIDS plague throughout the 80’s and early 90’s in San Francisco, the Founder (a practicing Buddhist) developed the wish to be of meaningful service to families experiencing Death and left a carreer as a costume designer at ILM making meaningless high tech TV commercials, by getting hired to work in California’s first GREEN cemetery. Since most families given this new option chose simple shroud burial and the only shrouds available were religious in nature she designed exactly what was needed through her own experience of preparing green burials. Although having zero aspirations to ever start a company, KINKARACO® was founded in 2005 after the

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“green burial shroud product” prototype was purchased by the production of SIX FEET UNDER for the first televised “green burial”episode where she was hired on set as the “green burial expert”. In 2008, she was named one of the “Entrepreneurs Re-Inventing the Funeral Industry” in BusinessWeek magazine Smallbiz. Q: What makes KINKARACO unique? Everything! There is literally nothing else on the market or in the industry like KINKARACO or its products. Previously people who were not of Muslim, Jewish or B’ahai faith were not allowed to be buried in shrouds for strictly “ecological” reasons without a vault or embalming. KINKARACO did not think this was fair. KINKARACO worked really hard within the industry for years promoting shroud burial as an “ecological” funeral option- and now it is! Q: What are the benefits to funeral homes & cemeteries using KINKARACO products? They work perfectly and women love them! As opposed to some other green products providers who guess or copy products , who have never buried a body or attended a green burial, KINKARACO was born out of funeral service in a green funeral home with the 3rd green cemetery in the country. The Founder was very fortunate to invent some of the very first green funerals in the USA therefore designing from hands on experience. KINKARACO product functionality is developed specifically for the needs of the funeral professionals using them. Many funeral directors didn’t know what a shroud was or how to sell them. KINKARACO did all the R & D teaching how to use these products with complete confidence. Early on KINKARACO had deep Faith that green funerals would grow when offered not as a replacement to traditional burial but as an alternative option for those seeking natural burial. Many funeral directors took a chance on a small shroud company. Now customers walk into funeral homes asking for KINKARACO products by name.

IRS Audit: Ugh! BY RAYMOND L. BALD, CPA, CFE & RONALD H. COOPER, CPA Considering your profession, it’s that time of year to deal with life’s two certainties; death and taxes. Getting your taxes properly filed is serious business. The last thing you need is the IRS knocking on your door. Tax returns can be chosen for audit for a number of reasons. The IRS does not disclose exactly how returns are chosen, but we do know some contain red flags and are tagged for audit while others are chosen purely at random. IRS audits are stressful, time consuming and expensive, so the best strategy is to be prepared by taking some simple steps to audit proof yourself as much as possible. Proper Documentation IRS regulations require that you have proper documentation for all your business transactions.

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Some are fairly straightforward like invoices for inventory purchases and utility bills. However, some transactions are more tedious to properly document like business meals. IRS regulations require you have the actual receipt for the meal (not just the credit card statement showing the charge), and the receipt must include name and address of the location of the meal, the business purpose, participant names, and business purpose of the meeting. As you probably guessed, many business owners rarely maintain this level of detail. This IRS knows this, too. So, if you claim significant business meals expenses, expect the agent to ask for the backup. No backup; no deduction. One final note on proper documentation. Invoices need not be maintained in paper form. IRS allows scanned copies of invoices. Many accounting software

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CONTINUED packages are capable of attaching scanned copies of invoices to individual transactions within the software. This is a huge space and time saver and should be considered as part of your standard accounting process. Not only is it incredibly helpful for an IRS audit, but it’s likely more helpful for you in managing your business. Written Loan Agreements There may be times when a business and its owner will loan funds to one another. In such instances, it’s important to document the transaction as a loan with appropriate loan terms. In the case of a loan to the owner, failing to do so could result in an agent claiming the transaction is actually a dividend or worse, compensation which hasn’t been properly reported as payroll. If you have such loans, expect an IRS agent to request a copy of the loan agreement and be sure you’re accounting records accurately reflect the terms of the loan. Written Management Agreements Some funeral homes operate as multiple separate business entities, each filing its own return. In such cases, it’s common that payroll and other costs are paid by a single entity acting as a management company for all the other entities. If you have such a situation, it’s important you have a written management agreement between the companies. It may sound ridiculous especially if you own and control all of them, but an IRS agent will want to ensure management fees are not being arbitrarily charged as a means to avoid taxes. A written management agreement properly applied will help to avoid such a challenge. When applicable, a 1099 should also be issued to report the management fees paid. Rental Agreements Funeral home real estate is often owned by a separate real estate holding company and rented to a funeral home operating company. Similar to management agreements, and for the same reasons, it’s important to have a written rental agreement. Although you have a certain amount of latitude in setting the rent, it should be reasonable under the circumstances. Be sure your accounting records reflect the proper amount of rent in accordance with the agreement and you issue the proper Form 1099 to report the rent paid. S-Corporation Distributions Many funeral homes operate as S-corporations because of the tax benefits. One such benefit is the ability to make distributions from the S-corporation not subject to payroll taxes. Although this is a legitimate tax benefit, it can be abused, and the IRS knows it. Business owners will sometimes make

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regular distributions that mimic payroll or even worse, take no payroll and make distributions only. This is a huge red flag. Owner payroll should be reasonable based on the services provided by the owner. S-corporation distributions are meant to be similar to dividends and like dividends, it is better to pay them quarterly and document their approval in corporate minutes. The risk is that an IRS auditor will re-classify the distributions as payroll making you liable for all related payroll taxes, penalties and interest. Be Reasonable; Not Reckless Let’s face it, as a business owner there is a huge temptation to pass personal expenses through your business. Although one can claim there’s a business reason to do so (i.e. to decrease your tax bill), my personal experience is people who are reckless in this area view this more as a game or a challenge. The question is whether the recklessness is worth it. There are plenty of gray areas within the tax law that provide for a certain level of reasonable interpretation on what’s deductible and what’s not. However, there are also situations that are clearly black and white. The true economic benefit of recklessly claiming illegitimate business expenses is often small compared to the risk involved. If an agent uncovers a few clearly unallowable deductions, his next logical question will be, “Is this all?”, and your audit has now just been expanded to cover multiple years and become far more expensive. Be reasonable; not reckless. The overall chances of being audited by the IRS are low, but your return can contain certain red flags that greatly increase your risk. Regardless, the best way to prepare for an IRS audit is to do things right in the first place. Be organized, maintain good accounting records, and follow the rules. These habits are not only good for keeping the IRS agent at bay, but they’re also good for business. 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


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

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

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

the book has been helping them and their families. A few sent the following messages: “This book is invaluable to have available to families asking about how to talk to their children about death. By having this book available, you truly become a source of information to that family. It increases your value to the family and definitely gives an increased professional credibility.” “This year we experienced a death of a 7-year-old in our community. By having these books available, we not only helped classmates by giving them something to learn about grief and death, but we also gave parents an important tool and bridge that allowed them to have conversations with their own children about this tough subject! Kat and Lacie have really changed lives with their work in this book.” Mike, Funeral Director What is next for you? Any future funeral-related books? We have had many requests to continue writing funeral-related books, so we hope to continue with additional books. How do funeral homes go about getting the book to distribute? We have wholesale opportunities available at www.katssocks. com; please contact Katherine at with any questions. You can also use discount code: FBSMagazine to receive a special discount for readers of this article. FBS PUBLISHER'S NOTE: This article is a reprint from our last issue to correct a printing error. | January/February Issue 2024


Beyond Nepotism: Cultivating Merit and Expertise through Training BY ANN HEINZ


recently spoke to an orthopedic surgeon whose father taught him much about the craft—and who even replaced his father’s shoulder years later. His father passed along not only his own knowledge of the craft, but also served as a mentor and a teacher, teaching him, as he said, “way more than just medicine, he taught me what was really important.” By this he did not mean surgical procedures or methods, although his were among the best. He meant the importance of caring for his patients and how that is just as important for those in need. One thing we learn from this story is the importance of knowledge passed down from a mentor. Those who can mentor find great personal satisfaction in helping others, while those who find the right mentor never forget them, and in fact have a lasting influence on that person’s entire life. Given the recent struggles the funeral industry has had attracting new talent, funeral homes—87% of which are family-owned—may find it appealing to hire their family members. There are many advantages to hiring family members to become part of the family business, not least of which is an increased level of care. Passing

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down a wealth of knowledge and securing a succession plan are also vital to sustaining a business from one generation to the next. Hiring family members, however, does raise concerns funeral directors ought to be aware of—specifically, concerns about nepotism, or offering preferential treatment to family members over other employees. There are several approaches funeral directors can take to find the right balance when recruiting family members to join their business. Why is it important to do this? Employees who are not family members can get discouraged if they sense nepotism is at play, especially when it comes to promotions or increased attention, training, or mentorship. If family members are perceived as having a better opportunity to succeed than others, employees may become unhappy with what they view as an unfair work environment and may even consider other opportunities where they feel they have a fair chance at advancing their career. One way to address concerns about nepotism is by implementing a well-structured and comprehensive

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CONTINUED training program that offers all employees a clear path toward promotions. You can, for example, hold regular in-house training sessions for employees and promote specific funeral continuing education courses to expand their expertise on new topics. A course on modern funeral home management, for example, can update employees on the latest developments within the industry and prepare them for any client request. Offering courses on specialty circumstances could increase the level of care an organization offers to funerals involving suicide, military honors, or requests for water cremation. Proper training ensures an organization is prepared Training, however, is most effective when paired with a merit-based culture with regular performance reviews to ensure training efficacy, highlight gaps in knowledge, and celebrate every employee’s professional development. A merit-based culture that evaluates employees fairly should also include regular performance reviews. Often held quarterly or semi-annually, funeral directors can meet one-on-one with each employee to review performance, offer guidance, and reward those who perform well. The goal is to establish a clear set of criteria for all employees to make it evident that everyone is being held to the same standards. Mentorship programs are another effective way to ensure fairness across an organization, train new employees, and offer personal attention to everyone through regular one-

on-one meetings. They can be helmed by funeral directors, or new employees can be paired with an organization’s most experienced staff. These personal interactions help employees gain valuable skills and offer insight specific to that funeral home’s operations. Mentoring programs can also help employees get to know one another, ideally resulting in a more cohesive and supportive work environment. Not only can training and mentorship programs help ensure family members are well-trained—as well as the rest of your staff—but a merit-based culture can also offer clarity when the time comes to determine a succession plan. Many funeral directors hire family members for the express purpose of keeping the business within the family. Ensuring that family member is well-trained and prepared to lead your organization into the next generation is difficult without having benchmarks and regular reviews. Implementing such programs not only keeps everyone trained but can also ensure your business will pass into the most qualified hands when the timing is right. FBS Ann Heinz, JD, CDEI, GSI is an experienced writer and editor of professional education courses. As product manager of WebCE's funeral continuing education product line, she is dedicated to providing quality content. to connect with Ann, email her at ann.heinz@ or call her at 972-616-1079.


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Breathing Safety

OSHA Compliant Ventilation in the Prep Room BY JOEL SOELBERG Proper ventilation helps keep your workspace comfortable and your body safe from the harmful vapors and chemicals used to embalm. There have been multiple studies over the past two decades that link formaldehyde exposure to cancers such as myeloid leukemia, and nasopharyngeal cancer. The greatest risk of exposure happens within the respiratory system of embalmers who breath in the fumes and vapors of formaldehyde-based chemicals during the embalming process. That is why OSHA has developed air safety ventilation requirements that apply to the preparation rooms and spaces where embalming occurs. Proper ventilation is the key preventative action to reduce the amount of the carcinogenic fumes present in the air that is breathed by the embalmer. So how do we ensure “proper ventilation”? By focusing on three specific areas. 1. Airflow Ideally, the air supply coming into the room during exhaust mode flows from the ceiling (or high wall) downward and away from you as the embalmer, and into the foot-end wall exhaust grills. This airflow pattern ensures the heavier-than-air formaldehyde fumes get exhausted out of the room efficiently. This airflow pattern essentially puts the embalmer “upwind” of the fumes, reducing the chances of exposure. 2. Volume of air moving through the room OSHA air safety ventilation requirements are interpreted to require 12 to 15.5 air exchanges per hour when the system is in exhaust (ventilation) mode. This means that when you need ventilation (during the use of formaldehyde-based chemicals), you flip the switch of the embalming lab’s ventilation system to exhaust mode, and the air within the room should be fully exchanged up to 15.5 times within an hour period. In true exhaust mode, the air coming into the room should be 100% outside air, which is heated or

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cooled once (if system is equipped) before passing through the room. After passing through the room, the formaldehyde laden air is “exhausted” 100% via the ductwork to the outside atmosphere through walls or roof of the building. Note: The air from the room should be exhausted to an outside location that is away from human presence and walk-ways which employees or families may use. A properly ventilated room will have sufficient airflow (12.515.5) exchanges of indoor and outdoor air per hour to keep it’s inhabitants safe. As you can imagine heating or cooling outside air, may be a big order during temperature extremes of summer and winter. This can be costly especially when you factor in that the air will be fully exhausted outside to the atmosphere after only passing through the room once! In contrast, typical forced air furnaces recirculate air through the room, thus they only have to “top off” the heat or cooling based upon the minimal loss of heat or cooling that occurs in the room over time. The good news is that there are systems and technology that allow safety and operating costs to be balanced and sustainable. An example is the use of Heat Recovery Ventilators (HRVs) which use exchange cores that recover heat or cooling from the air that is exhausted outside as part of a ventilation system. These HRV based systems (such as what are sold by Duncan Stuart Todd LTD as part of their PrepAir HVAC system), are energy efficient while providing the (OSHA compliant) ventilation needed in the prep room or mortuary lab. DST plans the systems based upon 15.5 air exchanges per hour and the local power, and climate factors. By tying the HRV to heating and cooling components, plus the use of dampering and unified controls, the PrepAir system answers the full Heating, Ventilation, and Cooling (HVAC) requirements of a prep room. So don’t think your ventilation system has to be operated independently from your comfort heating and cooling system. If planned properly, an all-inclusive system will be OSHA compliant, and also ensure cost-efficient operation over time.

3. Understanding LEVs and Respirators and breathing safety. Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV) system sometimes referred to as “snorkels”, “straws” and “pull-down ventilators” are sold under the brand PrepArm LEV. The PrepArm LEV systems add to the comfort and efficiency of the embalmer by allowing the clear fume hood to be placed directly between the decedent and the embalmer reducing exposures. Odors, fumes and vapors, are sucked up through the fume hood, and expelled out the building similar to the way a bathroom exhaust fan works.

a respiratory protection program, which shall include the requirements outlined in paragraph (c) of this section. The program shall cover each employee required by this section to use a respirator.” Even if the ventilation system meets the OSHA safety standards, some embalmers prefer working with personal respirators. They enjoy the sense of control, and protection they feel when wearing respirators. The use of respirators with cartridges or canisters specifically approved for protection against formaldehyde can decrease the occurrence and amount of formaldehyde exposure. MYTH Busting on HVAC system filters… While on the subject of breathing safety, it’s a good time to debunk a myth and some misunderstanding that still surrounds filters, air quality and breathing safety. There are still embalmers and employers of embalmers that incorrectly assume that their firm’s forced air HVAC system filters will clean the air of formaldehyde. Incorrectly applying the logic of a respirator mask’s filters, or the use of HEPA filters in clinical settings, they falsely believe a furnace filter will remove formaldehyde fumes as the air passes through the filter of the furnace or air handler. Some assume their furnace has a HEPA filter (not likely) and that their filter is cleaning the air of formaldehyde. (It’s not.)

It is important to note these LEV systems don’t meet the OSHA air requirements, for two reasons. One, they do not have a way to replace the air in the room that they remove, and two, they do not have sufficient volume and power to fully exhaust the amount of air needed to meet the OSHA standards.

This notion is simply NOT true and probably comes from a false correlation between what HEPA filters actually do and what we assume they do. IF a HEPA filter is present, the best it can do is catch particulates such as dusts, lints, and the smaller nonvisible microbes such as bacteria fungi and viruses. HEPA filters are not made to catch the atomic size small molecules such as Formaldehyde.

If you compare the volume of air these LEV systems are capable of moving, CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute), versus a bathroom exhaust fan and versus a ventilation system like the PrepAir system, it’s easy to see they can do some of the air safety work, but won’t fully meet the OSHA air requirements.

The Formaldehyde molecule (H2CO) has only 4 atoms. By contrast, the microbes HEPA and other filters are designed to catch are comprised of trillions of atoms, even if the microbes are not visible to the naked eye. An example is a typical bacterium. It is said to contain 1 trillion atoms. Common sense would tell us the 4 atom Formaldehyde would have a much easier chance of penetrating a filter than would a 1 Trillion atom microbe such as bacteria. Just like we expect “air” comprised mostly of 2 atom oxygen and nitrogen molecules and the 3 atom carbon dioxide molecule to pass through the filter, we would expect the 4 atom formaldehyde molecule to easily pass through.

- Typical Bathroom Exhaust output 50-110 CFM (only sucks air from the room) - Typical PrepArm LEV outputs 120-180 CFM (only sucks air from the room) - PrepAir HVAC system outputs 700-2500 CFM (supplies air to the room and sucks air from the room (true ventilation)) These LEVs can be used in concert with an appropriate ventilation system, to augment the ventilation and comfort of the embalmer. Plus with an LED light and articulating joints, they offer the embalmer a lot of control and illumination, similar to what you’d expect from a dental office’s light arm that pulls down over a patient. Given the availability of proper ventilation systems and the augment to safety provided by the LEVs, personal Respirators are not required in the prep room based upon the typical airborne formaldehyde concentrations embalmers encounter. In the case where your firm’s ventilation system is non-existent or inadequate, OSHA then recommends as a back-up or second resort, the use of appropriate respirators. OSHA further explains in section 1910.134(a)(2) that if an adequate ventilation system is NOT available: “A respirator shall be provided to each employee when such equipment is necessary to protect the health of such employee. The employer shall provide respirators which are applicable and suitable for the purpose intended. The employer shall be responsible for the establishment and maintenance of

Conclusion You have a right to be safe at work. If you want to research more on this subject of breathing safety and air quality, you can look into the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines, specifically; OSHA's Respiratory Protection standard (29 CFR 1910.134) and Appendice E (See section; Formaldehyde (1910.1048)) of 29 CFR 1910.134. There are experts at firms such as Duncan Stuart Todd and Certified Safety Training who can help you understand the compliance requirements, and how to improve safety in the workplace. FBS

Joel Soelberg is the Managing Director of Duncan Stuart Todd Ltd, a design and mortuary equipment firm that specializes in OSHA compliant Care Center renovations and new construction since 1992. For written inquiry, Joel can be reached by email at or call him at 720-583-1886. | January/February Issue 2024


BUYING BASICS: How Much Can You Offer BY MATT MANSKE Once you find a business you would like to purchase, how much can you offer? Since there are exceptions to every rule, this article will attempt to provide the business buyer with some general guidelines on the most common situations encountered when buying a funeral home. In that context, this article makes several assumptions including the following: the buyer will obtain bank financing to make the purchase; the buyer has excellent credit, strong industry experience and the ability to make a modest down payment; any seller financing will be at similar rates and terms as the bank financing; the buyer will own and operate the business for profit as a standalone facility; the value of the individual assets of the business, including real estate, are not greater than the overall value of the business.

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An important point to remember when buying any business is that most good businesses sell in the price range of three to six times Seller’s Discretionary Earnings or total cash flow available to the owner. Seller’s Discretionary Earnings or SDE is calculated by adding together several components including: business profit or (loss), owner’s salary, discretionary expenses, non-recurring expenses and non-cash expenses (i.e.: interest, depreciation and amortization). Where your offer falls in this price range depends on the industry and the individual characteristics of the business. In industries where inventory and equipment are of significant value, those items are added to the purchase price, with the purchase price often being expressed in terms of sales revenue, plus inventory and equipment. In

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CONTINUED the funeral industry, most businesses sell in a price range between four to six times SDE. This price range typically includes all operating assets of the business. Since most buyers are in business to make money, it makes sense to determine how much cash will be available to pay debt service after the purchase. This is also the method used by banks to determine how much they can loan on a purchase. SDE or cash flow available to the owner is often expressed in terms like: adjusted cash flow, seller’s discretionary earnings and adjusted EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization). All of these terms are used to describe SDE. Please note that SDE is a higher number and is not the same as cash flow available to service debt. Cash flow available to service debt is always a lower number than SDE and it is calculated by subtracting a normal salary for the borrower from SDE. Most lenders require a borrower budget the minimum salary needed to take care of his or her personal liabilities and living expenses. They also require a small margin of safety over and above the actual debt service requirement which we will discuss shortly. The minimum salary required by the borrower will vary depending on their personal debt level. A good rule of thumb to budget and estimate a borrower’s personal salary requirement is to multiply their annual personal liabilities by two. For example, a borrower with annual personal liabilities of $15,000 will require a minimum personal salary of $30,000, which is then subtracted from SDE to arrive at cash flow available for debt service. Cash flow available for debt service or CDS is then used to determine how much the borrower can actually borrower for the purchase, which then allows the borrower to estimate how much they can offer the seller. In addition to subtracting a salary requirement, most banks will also build in a margin of safety when calculating the actual debt payments they are comfortable with. This margin of safety is referred to as debt coverage and is usually expressed in a ratio called the debt coverage ratio. Some banks require a minimum debt coverage ratio of at least 1.25 and some up to 1.50. For example, if a bank required a minimum debt coverage ratio of 1.25 and the CDS was $125,000, the bank would only be comfortable with annual debt payments up to $100,000. This total would then be used with the amortization term and interest rate to determine how much the borrower could actually borrow for the purchase. The following example will help illustrate both the minimum salary requirement and the debt coverage margin. Let us say over the past three years a business has achieved average SDE of $350,000. The borrower’s personal salary requirement is estimated to be at least $50,000, which is

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then subtracted from SDE to arrive at CDS of $300,000. Let us say the lender is conservative and requires debt coverage of at least 1.5 on loans of this size. Dividing CDS of $300,000 by the minimum debt coverage ratio of 1.5 leaves $200,000 for total annual debt payments. In this example, $200,000 in annual debt payments over 15 years at 8.00% would allow the buyer to borrower approximately $1.7 million to make the purchase. If the buyer planned to put down $300,000 in cash, the buyer could offer the seller approximately $2.0 million for the business. Whenever a buyer is getting financing for a purchase, some form of the process above is used to determine how much the buyer can borrower. Since banks like their loans to be paid back, the minimum personal salary requirement and debt coverage margin are both used to establish a realistic budget of how much annual debt service the business can actually afford. FBS Matt Manske is the Managing Member of BSF, LLC (website: He can be contacted at 913.343.2357, or by email at

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