Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 11.39.58 AMGonna keep this positive. So just a word for background. Any casual observer would see that the declining results funeral service is experiencing signal a much greater problem: A growing segment of the public isn’t sure why they need us or, worse, what they need us for.

Now to better news: Statistically, the odds are very strong that everyone will, someday, die. Most people who die have relatives, friends, loved – ones who will live on. In other words, few people die alone. Most of us, even the very ancient, are part of a community.

So, here are your New Year Resolutions:

  1. Make a goal of becoming relevant to your times. Relevance is not a choice. Many mainline churches are struggling with relevance and declining membersips while the MegaChurch movement explodes around them. Commit this year to finding relevance. Get the heck “out of the box”. Buy some plane tickets and see what others are doing.
  2. Become willing to change. I have a friend who believes EVERY body should be embalmed and viewed. I agree in principle. I was interested when a Caribbean funeral home embalmed a young man who was viewed riding his motorcycle. I thought it was neat but my friend was OUTRAGED. It was improper and undignified. Improper and undignified for whom? Can you say a-n-a-c-h-r-o-n-i-s-m?
  3. Change your attitude. Humans have an amazing ability to attract what they think about. Yes, a lot of things have changed in the last 20 years. And more WILL change. So? Instead of sulking, be excited about the new ways people will learn to commemorate those they love and comfort those left behind.
  4. Fix your skill gaps. If all you like to do is embalming you may have a problem when greater than 50% of your customers don’t require embalming. Funeral directors are typically very nice people. Being nice and being likable is not the same as being a professional expert respected and admired by your community as the “go to death guy”. I recently sent a client of mine with social skill challenges to a Dale Carnegie course. Talk about reinvention…
  5. Stand out. If you want to succeed people need to be talking about you. It is preferable the talk be positive but a little negative really doesn’t hurt. Develop a character and stop being undistinguished.  If you live in a smaller town you should never be able to enter a public place without people seeking you out. If you like to eat out, become a table hopper. Oh, and here’s a good idea. Whenever you see a cop, thank him or her for their service. Tell them their life matters and, if they will let you, buy their coffee or lunch. You don’t even have to tell them your name. Bread cast on the water will eventually return to you.
  6. Make a commitment to be focused and disciplined. It is just too easy to get caught up in the “whirlwind” of funeral service. This is one business where there will ALWAYS be a good excuse to defer the important for the urgent. It’s interesting how many of you can schedule a golf game even when you are busy but you cannot (or maybe will not) schedule 3 or 4 hours a week to focus on something important. If you need to, set up an office at home or go to the local library for some peace and quiet.
  7. Believe in yourself. For reasons I understand but need not be trotted out today, funeral directors struggle with self image. Again, we attract our thoughts and if you don’t believe you can and you will, then you probably won’t. Write this down and put it somewhere you can see it regularly: “I believe I deserve better.”

Go for it!