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Suicide – A Funeral Director Speaks Out

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As a funeral director for over 30 years, I have been fortunate to help thousands of families through one of the darkest times in their lives. With September being National Suicide Prevention Month, I wanted to share a personal story with you on how suicide has touched the lives of my family.

It was a beautiful evening and I was sitting at the top of the Marriott Marquis in New York City at a cocktail party when my phone started to ring. It was my mother informing me my stepbrother had taken his life. In that moment, I knew I would have to put on a brave face since I was in a very public place. I equated it to the way President Bush must have felt when he was sitting in a classroom full of children when he was informed about 9/11. It was truly one of those heart-stopping moments. Read the rest of this entry »

Why Your Funeral Home Should Have an HR Strategy

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Dealing with human resource problems are frustrating and challenging for all involved… including myself!  At the Foresight Companies, I am frequently asked to provide advice on dealing with employee issues in funeral businesses.  At some point in our conversation, I ask the funeral service professional, “What’s your HR Strategy?”  Most frequently they answer “Strategy?  What strategy?” Read the rest of this entry »

Remembering the Work of Funeral Directors on 15th Anniversary of 9/11

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Close to fifteen years ago, millions of people watched the horror unfold on their television screens on the morning of September 11, 2001 when four airplanes were hijacked by 19 al-Qaeda terrorists and subsequently crashed in DC, New York, and Pennsylvania. We were overcome with shock and dismay for the victims, the people in those areas, the families and loved ones of those who would perish that day, and for our country.

The events of that tragic day serve as a reminder of the dangers of the world but also highlight the goodness of hundreds of ordinary citizens who, along with first responders, took heroic actions to save innocent lives. All of them deserve to be remembered and admired for their work.

Funeral directors played an important role during this difficult time. Read the rest of this entry »

10 Things I’ve Learned from Working with Funeral Directors

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Here’s a typical conversation that I have when I’m out with friends, meeting new people.

“What do you do?” asks someone who doesn’t really care but feels obligated to engage me in conversation.

“I work for a trade association that works with independently owned funeral homes. I’m a meeting planner.” I respond to cut to the chase.

“Oh! So you plan funerals? Do you embalm bodies?” returns the individual who now has a stronger interest in hearing what I have to say and obviously wasn’t listening.

“No. But I know quite a few people who do. Why? Do you need a discount on an urn?”

The asker typically turns pale and isn’t sure where to go from there.

So goes many a conversation at cocktail parties and other events when I have the opportunity to interact with anyone who doesn’t work in funeral service. It’s made me stop and think about what funeral directors face when they share their story with others.

Since I joined OGR’s staff four years ago, I’ve learned quite a bit about funeral service professionals and have found that they have a pretty challenging job. They work long, irregular hours around strange smells, extreme emotions, and lots of paperwork. They respond to phone calls in the middle of the night, often miss holidays with their families, and care for dead bodies. They maintain composure and professionalism in the midst of family conflict, inclement weather, and national tragedies. A lot of what they do is behind the scenes, unseen and unheard.  Read the rest of this entry »

5 Ways Millennials Will Blow Up Funeral Service

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8-16 Allen MillennialsI recently wrote about how baby boomers (ages 52-70 in 2016) are changing funeral service by demanding more personalization and value. According to a study of 3,500 baby boomers conducted by McKee Wallwork + Co., 48 percent of study participants said they were dissatisfied with funeral service as a whole and 63 percent reported being dissatisfied with their interaction with the funeral home. Where I went to school, those scores were failing grades!

Here’s an even scarier thought. Whereas baby boomers want to dress up the traditional funeral, millennials (ages 18-34 in 2016) want to blow it up and start over. To some it may seem too early to start worrying about what millennials want from funeral service. After all, the older members of this segment are in their mid-thirties.

Consider this: millennials are going to change everything. Goldman Sachs wrote, “One of the largest generations in history is about to move into its prime spending years. Millennials are poised to reshape the economy; their unique experiences will change the ways we buy and sell, forcing companies to examine how they do business for decades to come.” Uh oh. That includes funeral service!  Read the rest of this entry »

Monitoring the Health of Your Business: A Checklist

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FinancialYour funeral home involves caring for and serving others, but how much of your attention do you give to monitoring your business? Consider giving some of your attention and effort to focusing on the internal health of your funeral home so you can continue caring for families for years to come.

While you may be aware of the following issues at your funeral home at least intuitively, consider reviewing the below items as you consider the long-term health of your business.


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Advice for Funeral Directors Working with Donor Families

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Photo Credit: Laura Demby      Jeni Stepien with Arthur Thomas after he walked her down the aisle at her wedding last Friday.

Jeni Stepien’s father was murdered ten years ago, but his heart lives on in the body of donor recipient Arthur Thomas. When Ms. Stepien  got engaged in October, 2015, she struggled with deciding who would walk her down the aisle. The thought that a piece of her father could be present during her wedding ceremony led her to ask Arthur if he’d be willing to escort her.  Mr. Thomas agreed, and after he walked her down the aisle on Friday, Jeni shared “My dad is here with us, and this man is here because of us.”

Such a beautiful story has us wondering what role the funeral director played in the Stepien and Thomas story. How can funeral service professionals serve families like the Stepiens? Funeral directors are well-positioned to provide donor families with the support and information they need and make a powerful impact in each family’s life, but is there anything they can do specifically?  Read the rest of this entry »