alpha dogAlpha Dogs are frequently those “Type A” personalities that exercise undue influence on others, especially organizations.  You find them in every group of people.  By their nature and sheer force of personality they tend to cause people to follow their lead whether they know where they are going or not.  This is particularly true of Funeral Service which is generally populated by nice people who hate making waves and are quite content to let the Alpha Dogs have their way.  Unfortunately, we live in a time where the results of this default behavior…or, really, lack of results… tends to speak for itself.

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Funeral Service Alphas come in all shapes and sizes but can be recognized by their universal bark.  But in order to hear it you have to sneak up on them.  They only bark when their guard is down.  Here is what it sounds like: “Those blankety-blank dumb– funeral directors.” Sometimes the bark is peppered with yips that sound like: “stupid” or “ignorant”.

Not long ago I was visiting with some staff members at one of the trade associations and they were lamenting that it was so hard to engage with the “average” funeral director who never came to meetings or conventions.  I had just made an offer to do a program and had been told to “dumb down” my language because the “average” funeral director wouldn’t understand it.  It is important for you to know, dear reader, that this attitude didn’t come from the staff.  In fact, as I witness that staff pouring out their hearts to truly help the profession day after day and year after year with no real results I grieve for them.  No, this was what they had been told by their leaders.


So, I decided I would test their theory.  And what to my wondering eyes did I find…“Beta Dogs.”  Not only were they not dumb but they were actually beginning to make small but real differences in their markets.  They too come in all sizes and colors.  The difference is that they have no distinguishing bark.  In fact, they seem to have no need to disparage anyone. They are quite content to mind their own business and, as I said a few weeks ago, “Make-The-Main-Thing-The-Main-Thing.” 

I have been working with quite a few of these folk and I have to say it is a lot of fun.  They are typically fairly humble, good learners and fairly passionate about their work.  They watch all the bombast in funeral service with a mix of amusement and concern.  They are very concerned about the future but long ago figured out the Alpha’s weren’t taking them anywhere.  So, they decided they were going to have to do their best on their own. They tend to discipline themselves to think as positively as they can in spite of challenging times and they have little, if any, interest in parading on the national stage.  They don’t tend to network a lot either so finding them can be a little bit of a challenge.  But now that I am intentionally looking I am finding more of them than I knew were out there.

Interesting as well, Alpha and Beta Dogs have different life agendas:

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It is not my intent to embarrass anyone here but to hold up a mirror for some and a flag for others.  Alpha dogs are not bad people.  They are simply strong people who have had undue influence over an industry that is populated largely by people who don’t like making noise.  Alpha dogs can be either practitioners or vendors.  Their leadership results speak for themselves.  They have had their turn and it is time for something fresh.  Besides, the Beta dogs are actually less intense and more fun and they are doing interesting stuff that looks like it is working.

As for me, my years are waning and I am tired of being around intense people with no results so I am planting my flag with the Beta Dogs.  (I know, I know I am an intense person too. but I have found new purpose in helping people who help people and that is enabling me to lighten up) Beta’s seem to like me and truly appreciate the ways in which I can make a difference in their lives.  And besides, it’s fun to swim in a blue ocean for a change.

After all seeing results is a lot better than hoping for them.


It would be easy to infer from this article that I am attacking Alpha Dogs: our industry leaders, vendors and associations.  To the contrary. I am challenging all of us to think about the paradigms we have about each other.  The fact that the results of the last 30 years speak for themselves and that countless funeral home owners have spent millions of dollars chasing after (what has turned out to be) rainbows is cause for all of us to stop and take stock.

We can be humbled by the market which it seems most willing to do; or we can humble ourselves and stop this ego driven mania and begin working interdependently.  We are, after all, in the same boat.

So, in a nutshell, all I am saying is that, on a personal level, when I recognize the telltale bark of an Alpha Dog I am going the other way.  It’s pretty simple really.