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HAMMERS, NAILS, PEWS AND HEARSES

My discussion of reinvention / transformation has sparked more comment (online and offline) than most any other topic. Clearly it is on every one’s mind. As we continue to explore this topic it is important…maybe critical…that we realize that we have an obligation to ourselves and to the public to be conscious of keeping a balance between the radical and the superficial.

Almost all the responses, comments and in depth discussions have revealed to me a classic blind spot.  A blind spot that inevitably appears in such a discussion.  In addressing this blind spot it is essential that balance be at the forefront of our thinking or we will automatically tip in one direction or the other.

If the only tool I have is a hammer…

…then every problem is a nail.  We have heavy investments in the past…financially, emotionally and culturally.  A total break will be hard and that is not what I am suggesting will be necessary in all cases.  But just because you have a facility, pews and a hearse does not necessarily mean that your future will need those things.  Maybe it will…maybe it won’t.  Or, maybe it will be in a different form.

In the past, transformation in our profession often occurred around the facility (call it facility-centric).  In this new era that may be true…in some cases.  But in others your facility and all its accouterments may prove to be a significant liability. From what I am seeing one of several scenarios may include “virtualizing” your facility or not having a facility at all.  Additionally, current trade area assumptions may no longer be valid.  The standard 3-5  mile city radius may no longer be valid as we see people willing to travel much longer distances to get what they want.

For Example: As I visit funeral homes today I always get a sinking feeling when I see “fixed” pews.  Notice, if you will, that many churches built in recent years have abandoned these and replaced them with comfortable movable chairs.  This turns the sanctuary into a multi-purpose room (we had basketball nets that rolled up in the ceiling in ours) that gives a more informal tone and also allows a high degree of flexibility.

Most families now forego the private family room.  Opting, instead, to sit with their guests.  I expect that future services may be set up in semi-circle or even circle format.  I recently attended a quaker funeral set up in their traditional square with attendees facing each other.  That would have been impossible with fixed pews.

I am not picking on pews.  I am saying that EVERY item in our toolkit needs to be examined.  Some of you will need to reinvest in that building even if you just redecorated because now you know things you didn’t know before.  Some of you will learn that you can use your current facility as a “base of operations” and create a “virtual” facility by developing relationships with churches and banquet facilities in other communities outside your normal service area.  Others will see opportunity in bi-furcating their business into separate service areas in order to expand outside the funeral business.  

Oh, and about hearses…

I read an article a couple of years ago that said most “Boomers” were expected to “age-in-place”.  Meaning they weren’t going to retire to Florida like their parents.  They were just going to stay where they were.  I have been in more funeral homes than normal this year. Is it me? Or are there a lot of hearses “aging-in-place?”  My guess is that they are getting used less and less so people are keeping them longer.

 

By |2018-01-25T20:29:28+00:00December 10th, 2012|Blog, General Topics, The Creedy Commentary, Uncategorized|5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. susan December 11, 2012 at 11:52 am - Reply

    I would like to see you focus on a very critical aspect that seems to be largely overlooked or not even considered by this industry; that is the changing attitudes and behaviours of a new generation that is rejecting the traditions their parents chose, and looking for a more meaningful end of life solution. Lets put the people back in the picture…after all, if we don’t understand their changing wants and needs of boomers and their children, we are ignoring the future customer at our peril!

  2. Paul Elvig December 11, 2012 at 12:04 pm - Reply

    Sure think your commens on pews is spot on … fixed pews look like casket nails to me … driven in place and ment to bury. You are right about churches today … those with folding chairs speak of much activity within the church. Pews … casket nails.

  3. Howard Beckham December 18, 2012 at 11:35 am - Reply

    If I had the money to “invest” and in a funeral related facility today…it would be anything but traditional. In deed, I would build it as a flexible multipurpose facility where any kind of event could be easily and tastefully held. All the “traditional” things like a prep room would either be offsite or tucked well away. I would invite civic clubs, weddings, parties, and any kind of event to use the facility. Arrangement areas would be comfortable “living room” settings with computer based show rooms with perhaps a few urn and cremation item displays in tucked away areas. Lighting and colors would be light and pleasant and I would develop strategic partnerships with wedding planners and caterers. But what do I know.

    • Alan Creedy
      Alan Creedy December 18, 2012 at 2:43 pm - Reply

      amen to all of the above except the last sentence

  4. Don Dimond January 11, 2013 at 5:54 pm - Reply

    Reminds me of a comment a friend of mine offered some years ago: “When the only tool in your toolbox is a hammer, every project tends to look like a nail.” Veterans of funeral service like the way things “were” done. I remember when I was purchasing funeral homes in the west and sellers would brag that their cremation rate was only 9% when the market was 25% or 35%. All I could think was that they were simply ignoring the difference in their market. You are absolutely correct. People will find, AND GET what they want. It’s a real shame if we don’t offer it. Somebody is. . .

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