What Does Success Look Like for Your Funeral Home in 2022?
Posted December 29, 2021
6 min read
This is a guest post from Cody Jones, fifth-generation owner of Callaway-Jones Funeral & Cremation Centers in Bryan, Texas, since 2004. His family established their first funeral home in Texas over 110 years ago and he has been able to fast-track his team-building skills based on his own observations and experiences. Regarded by other funeral professionals as a progressive thought leader, Cody embraces technology and incorporates it to streamline his team’s daily operations.
In benefiting from collaborations with others among the Selected Independent Funeral Homes®, Cody’s vision and creativity have helped grow Callaway-Jones 300% in the last 10 years. What was established locally in 1953 as his grandparents’ funeral parlor and remote cemetery in Bryan, has been reinvented as an exquisite new Funeral Center and Updated Cemetery in Bryan, an Advanced Planning Center in College Station, and a second Funeral Home in another county. Cody has been an invited speaker for multiple NFDA events and featured presenter at the Texas Funeral Director’s Emerging Leaders Conference. His philosophy on growing your funeral home – part two - follows. You can find part one here.
You’re Only As Strong As Your Weakest Link
Every day your doors are open, you are being assessed by current, past, and potential clients. When they engage you and entrust your funeral home, they want to feel and think they have made the best choice possible.
Whether or not you have one operation base or more, it is how the person who answers your phone, who drives to bring a loved one into your care and how they look when they arrive, or one of whom is asked for a special task or two in behalf of their loved one performs that defines your success (or failure) that day. Meeting client needs comes first to your public image; meeting financial needs comes first to keeping your growth moving in a positive direction. If you end up spending 50% of your day fixing problems, you’re probably not ready to grow yet.
Third-party consultants are invaluable in assessing both the financial success of expanding in a particular geographic area as well as looking at your staff as a model to replicate for your next operation. In some cases, your current staff may need to serve two or more locations, depending on business demand. Are they ready to handle the increased demand for services within their current level of workload and capacity to learn new things?
How Much Time Do You Focus on Employee Development and Goals?
We fortunately live in the age of Zoom and online classes that allow our employees to attain some training and build skills without having to leave families at night. As you review the assets and talents of each of your employees, in conjunction with a manager, perhaps, you know whether you want this person with you for another year, three years, or five or more years, or not.
A key to maintaining a happy staff is to find ways to meet their need and desires to grow and improve, whether it is taking on new projects you initiate or ones they think up and ask you if they can perform. Everyone needs a chance to shine and be recognized where they work.
Unfortunately, it seems that only when we attend a concert or live entertainment performance do the artists receive standing ovations. No one has ever in my memory given a funeral home staff “a standing ‘O’” commensurate with how they went above and beyond expectations.
Frequently people can feel overshadowed by one larger-than-life personality and just not say anything and become disgruntled because they don’t seem valued. No matter how large or small your operation is, it’s key to take time and single out every player on your team and say thanks to them in front of the others that helps maintain team dynamics.
If you sense discord or choppy waters in daily operations, it’s a good time to introduce team-building exercises — inside and outside the workplace. I sponsor monthly team dinners to encourage camaraderie and laughter outside of business hours. These are very popular. We all lost some ground with being in touch with one another for a while during the pandemic, but I’m reinitiating these gathering times again just now to restore communication and build bridges.
What is Success?
It’s so easy to get caught up in thinking expanding is equivalent to success. We can all fall into that trap. However, in order to serve our families during the most difficult times in their lives, we must present a united front at all times within our funeral home and beyond into any other funeral home we might own. This means that substantial unseen work must happen behind the scenes, helping personalities mesh in a highly emotional business.
Expansion can be successful, when we take the lessons, advice, and suggestions of those who have succeeded before us, both in our own families as well as the top tier of funeral homes in our state and nationally. When we assess opinions of others and ask a third party, it’s key to trust, then verify. See if people agree whether team members are in sync with, or counterproductive to, your goals.
If people enter their offices everyday with the same speed with which they leave the building at the end of the day, that’s one sign. If your employees will voluntarily stay late to help you or another colleague be prepared for a service with a short turnaround time, that’s another sign. If a client comes in and says, “I’m so glad I chose your funeral home. I am at peace with my choices,” then that is your assurance you are successful.
If you’ve suffered a public setback, begin a strong public rebranding of your identity after setbacks, stressing your strengths, your appreciation for longstanding clients, and standing by you during difficult times.
Your community presence is key: What are you best known for in your town? Great! Now, what else can you be known for that people don’t already know about you? Find new ways to present some strengths that you might take for granted they know, but don’t.
The time to act is now; it’s December, and there is still time to assess where you’ve been in 2021 and what you want to keep about the way you conduct business and areas in which you’ve identified a need for improvement or even change. Be honest with yourself and aim for the best practices in each and every decision you make and success and growth will come naturally to you and your firm. Good luck!
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