Why The Answer Is Not Just Increasing Volume

I am an accountant. As I have watched the financial metrics of funeral service continue in their long slow decline over the past 30 years my natural response was “make it up in volume.” 

But then I had the good fortune to get my hands dirty.  I actually managed a funeral home and worked along side practitioners.  There I discovered that UNDER THE CURRENT MODEL such a theory was easier said than done.

One of the significant challenges facing a 24 – 7 operating model is finding a schedule that enables staff to function on the job at optimum levels AND enjoy a LIFE.  One of the personal experiences I learned as a practitioner was that god created a 7th day of rest because we need it. Our capacities actually decline no matter how committed, zealous or eager we are after that 6th day. Science proves it but we experience it.  

I have worked in manufacturing.  There I learned that a given machine is “rated” for a certain number of units of output per hour.  BUT that rating is an optimal level.  Running any machine at optimal level hour after hour day after day leads to premature failure.  In other words running even the best designed and maintained machines at 80% of optimal rating produced more than running them at optimal continually.  So it is with people.  A person can only operate at a certain level for so long.  And then they start making mistakes or doing sloppy things.  Not because they are error prone or sloppy but because they are tired.

avalancheThe much-awaited Boomer Avalanche has yet to hit us with full force.  Under our current model of licensure and outmoded idiosyncratic paradigms we will quickly be covered up.  Why do we need a license to make funeral arrangements if mortuary schools don’t teach arranging?  Why does it require a license to take a procession to the cemetery or to oversee a visitation?

Unless we can figure out a much more efficient model using non licensees to augment the real places licensees are needed we will be overwhelmed in fairly short order.  Briefly we might see more cash flow but that won’t really help when we are forced to take the phone off the hook because we have outstripped our capacity.

Remember,  in most states as long as I don’t touch a body I can do anything a funeral home can do and even better.  Hospices in certain parts of the country are already coaching their families to say goodbye to mom at home, have the funeral home dispose of the body and then let Hospice help them with a DIY memorial service.  Of course there are those that believe that if they suck up to them they can appease them out of doing that in their area.  Maybe we ought to start a Neville Chamberlain Society.


  1. Exactly. Are you wditing about us? Scheduling quality time away from the funeral home is key. Balancing the needs of business and staff to provide a quality meaningful experience fpr the family being served is the bjg challenger. Training and commu.ication are two areas we feel are imperative in achieving that goal.. Who is Newville Chamberlain?

    • Joe, Neville Chamberlain was prime minister of England in the 30s. He signed a treaty with Hitler, giving Hitler land he wanted in exchange for Hitler’s promise not to invade, start war or want any more land. Hitler ignored the treaty and invaded Poland anyway. I am a great believer in avoiding staff burnout. I have seen what two weeks working straight does to one. With so many mortuary science grads leaving the profession after 5 years because of burnout, money, etc., we will have to train non licenses to be our “para professionals,” to make arrangements, etc. We already have removal services touching the body to do pickups anyway. There is still much we licenses have to do and so we won’t lose our position in the organization.

  2. Hey Sherman it looks like CREEDY is in the”Way Back Machine” Great historical reference Neville Chamberlain…….

    Note to Young Sarah. Sherman is a TV reference from Creedys misspent youth.

  3. Valentine Miele NJ Lic# 4853 says:

    This seems to be the problem with funeral service!!!!! Mortuary schools are saturated with second career people, and yet , the majority of firms aren’t hiring!!!!! The utilization of the so called retired Post man, cop or any other county officer that may generate volume are being used instead of students ,interns etc!!! You are correct in the fact we are not taught funeral directing in college , but that is the hands on we need as interns!!! Every firm has a different funeral protocol! In my opinion, a designation needs to be clearly made between funeral staff and funeral directors/interns! Remember, part timers are basically working under the mgrs license/ correct? Who is libel, if joe the ragman unlicensed door attendant/ hearse washer screws up? Are ,we as licensed professionals at fault? Are we as lic professionals only in charge of the decedent in the prep room?? I’m under the belief that i’m in charge (My Lic) from the time of the first call to the time of disposition! The problem is that our business is slowly turning into a Vietnamese nail salon!!! one lic in charge and ten unlicensed running around! If this is the future, why fill our mortuary programs?

  4. Howard Beckham says:

    Alan, I have tried talking with the ABFSE several times over the years. I have written letters made calls, and finely just gave up trying to have the ABFSE make major updates in what mortuary schools need to teach. They seem to be stuck with yesterday’s thinking. I am Ad junct teaching at a school right now and am trying to tell the students what they are really going to need to know once they graduate, but I still have to teach curriculum that was old when it was taught to me.
    I did spend two classes on arrangements and really wanted to spend more time on the subject.
    About having a life…good luck. I get days off when my kids are at school and my wife is working most of the time and when I get a weekend off I seem to always have a family I am working with schedule a service so I have to come in…or the office help get off so I have to come in to make memorial books, cards, dvd, etc for my services. We are a very busy firm already so your predictions that business will increase makes me think I will even have less time for “a life.”

  5. As a small firm, time off is difficult to schedule. We have doubled our business YTD over last year. Good problem to have, but with a 70% cremation rate, revenues are not quiet where we want them to be to bring on more full time staff, so we use PT staff on a regular basis. Thanks again Alan for putting the important things on the front burner.

  6. The problem is the industry thinks you need a lic to run a funeral or make arrangement and you should not have to. To embalm yes. There are many people out there that would be better at meeting families and serving them and they cannot do the job because they don’t want or can’t go to school to get the lic required. This hurts the families and the industry because of the egos of those in the industry and the govt involvement trying to restrict entry by requiring a lic.

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