10 Barriers To Succession Planning In the Funeral Business — Part 1 of 3

Speaker and family business expert John Davis made this comment as he addressed the St. Thomas Center For Family Enterprise:

“When I introduce the concept of making the B.O.S.S. successful all heads turn towards the father. I announce to the father he has just been demoted, and that the real boss around here is four constituencies that make up the acronym. The B stands for Business and what the Business needs to be successful. The O stands for the Other. The first S is ‘what do I want for my Self?’ The final S stands for the Stakeholders, which generally includes the family, employees, customers and vendors.”

Mr. Davis outlines 10 barriers to succession planning which I have modified to represent the more common among funeral homes and cemeteries.

#10 Unwillingness to express themselves and be vulnerable

A result of poor and ineffective communication, an unwillingness to be vulnerable and be open, even if it subjects one to criticism. is a key cause of misunderstandings and resentment. Often this ineffectiveness has been so frustrating that people give up and aren’t willing to be open any more. A major stumbling block.

“That is exactly what happens in a family business,” says Davis. “Family members have expectations of each other about what they want in an emotional sense. They are reluctant to express it and no one offers it, so they think they aren’t worthy.”

#9 Artificial Harmony

Avoidance of conflict often afflicts family businesses. This trait is especially strong in the funeral profession where the culture discourages conflict. Differences, conflict and disagreement are often interpreted as: “you don’t love me” or “you don’t care”. Disagreement is most often misinterpreted as personal. Rather than use the naturally available differences in perspective to make them stronger, They maintain either a facade of harmony or open resentment.

#8 Choosing sides

Too often communication is done indirectly. In other words through someone else. Because of the risk of losing control or reluctance to see another person’s side family members draw in other family members and staff to represent their feelings or opinions.


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