These Are The 9 Most Innovative Funeral ProfessionalsJanuary 29th, 2015
Here at funeralOne, we are all about innovation. It is something we truly live, sleep and breathe by and we’re constantly looking change the profession for the better and make funeral planning a more valuable (and less complicated) experience for families. And we’re on a mission to bring that creative spirit to the entire funeral profession.
We’re not the only ones who have found success through innovation. Some pretty smart guys you may know of have also found success through being different, out-of-the-box thinkers. Albert Einstein said: “If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got.” And William Pollard said: “Those who initiate change will have a better opportunity to manage the change that is inevitable.”
The way I see it, if we want to keep today’s changing families happy, there’s nothing left to do BUT innovate. Luckily, many in the funeral profession feel the same way. Here are 8 of the most innovative funeral professionals around.
1. John T. McQueen
Let’s start with John T. McQueen, a second generation funeral director and owner of the Anderson McQueen funeral home in St Petersburg, Florida. He’s always been a bit of a pioneer. His funeral home opened a cremation tribute center in 1997 to give the families of those being cremated somewhere to worship and visit with friends. That was pretty unusual at a time when cremation was usually an off-site, industrialized process.
More recently, his funeral home has been offering flameless cremation, using alkaline hydrolysis, a more environmentally friendly cremation method. This has proved popular with those interested in more eco-friendly funerals.
2. Caitlin Doughty
Caitlin Doughty is not like any other funeral director. She has made a career out of the lighter side of death and aims to get people thinking about death and considering it as a natural part of the process of life. To do that, she has a YouTube channel, Ask a Mortician, that has more than 42,000 subscribers, with videos regularly getting five digit viewing figures.
But there’s more ﹘ Caitlin Doughty is also the founder of an online blog that features a seasoned group of funeral professionals that regularly write about common questions and issues surrounding death. It’s called The Order of the Good Death, which sounds like something out of a fantasy novel. The lack of sales speak, plain talk and good humor (as well as a willingness to help people take care of loved ones at home) makes her a bit of a revolutionary. You can learn more about this funeral profession innovator in her recent book: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.
3. Caleb Wilde
Caleb Wilde also wants to change people’s ideas about death and he uses his blog, Confessions of a Funeral Director, to do it. He is an excellent storyteller who has been featured on some of the country’s top news sites because of his compelling tales on the trials and tribulations of the funeral profession. (Some of his super-informative guest blogging has been featured here on the funeralOne blog, too.) He’s not afraid to tackle any topic, and one thing’s for sure: whether you laugh or cry at some of his tales, you won’t be indifferent.
4. Neil O’Connor
Many people outside of the profession think of funeral professionals as mournful old men in suits – but we all know this isn’t always true. Neil O’Connor, who heads up O’Connor Mortuary (the oldest family owned and operated mortuary in California) proves it. In addition to his hobbies, he runs a firm that’s a byword in customer service – and gets funeral home marketing right, too.
O’Connor prides itself on its commitment and dedication to families, its involvement in the community, its respect for diversity and its quick response to all families’ needs. You can see the results on the firm’s Facebook page which features quotes and images about grief, healing and other aspects of funeral services, as well as multiple testimonials to their excellent customer service.
5. Walker Posey
Walker Posey is another person who rejects the traditional image of a funeral director. He is young, charming and truly understands the role that technology plays in connecting with families today. You’ve probably seen his work on our blog, where his first post dispelled the fears stopping funeral homes from getting a website. Everyone understands that now – but Posey was one of the first to start the discussion.
More recently, he has discussed how funeral homes can add value for families and give them another way to celebrate a life lived with tribute videos. Walker is an active and passionate advocate for the profession and for helping funeral homes to stay relevant in tech-savvy families.
6. Michael Schoedinger
When we talk about innovation at funeralOne, we often mention Schoedinger Funeral Home, headed up by Michael Schoedinger. The funeral home is always doing something new that other funeral homes can learn from. Back in 2009, Schoedinger’s made the news for offering webcasts of funeral services for mourners who were unable to attend in person.
Soon after, they revamped their web presence with our help to change the way they interacted with families online. The average time on site shot up from 7 seconds to more than 4 minutes, pre-need leads increased by 2000% and the site got 10 times more traffic.
Schoedinger’s has also used Facebook effectively to give an inside view of their funeral home, as well as sharing videos and useful articles. This, paired with their website’s social memorial websites that integrate with Facebook, has led over 47% of their new site visitors to originate from the social media site.
And there’s one more recent innovation: the funeral home is offering DNA memorials to preserve their loved one’s DNA for families in the hope of helping them fight serious disease later.
7. Wells Greeley
We’ve often said funeral homes need to think beyond viewing rooms when considering facilities for families. Wells Greeley has put this into action by turning an adjacent building connected to the funeral home into an event and reception center. The center can be used for almost any type of event. Now with this upgrade, instead of only being a place of death, the funeral home becomes a place of celebration.
8. Sarah Wambold
Sarah Wambold (featured in our recent blog on funeral homes putting the fun back in funerals) is known as the anti-funeral director. She says it’s time to stop thinking like a funeral director and wants to change the way that funerals happen, starting with her own funeral home.
She’d love to have an art gallery in her funeral home and a space where families to listen to music, watch movies or anything other function that may be an important part of celebrating a life lived.
9. Amy Cunningham
Families who want a funeral service that’s out of the ordinary will want to connect with Amy Cunningham. She’s known for offering natural burials, home vigils, multi-faith services, alternative rituals – anything that makes celebrating a life lived more personalized and more meaningful. This interview with Amy on the Seven Ponds blog is worth reading, as is her Inspired Funeral blog.
What do all of these funeral professionals have in common? A refusal to settle for the status quo. That’s the essence of innovation, as James Bertrand said: “Once we rid ourselves of traditional thinking we can get on with creating the future.”
What funeral service innovations would you like to see in the next few years, or have you already started implementing into your funeral home?!