Joe Joachim Coined The “Willy Wonka” of Funeral Service

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I’m excited to announce that funeralOne made it on to the cover of American Funeral Director magazine!

Thank you to Lauren Moore for writing this article, and for believing in us! I’m truly humbled and am overwhelmed with the positive feedback we’ve from the article!

We’ve had a lot of requests to share this article online, and thanks to Lauren and AFD, I can share this with you! Check it out below:

The Willy Wonka of Funeral Service

When Joe Joachim was in fourth grade, he started his first business. After receiving a computer as a Christmas gift, the budding entrepreneur, who was intrigued by what he was able to do with technology, started creating birthday banners and greetings for people. “I was too young to go knock on doors, so I hired a whole group of eighth-graders to go knock on doors selling these birthday banners. The next thing you know, I ended up creating a business,” Joachim recalled. The business did not last long – his parents shut it down after customers started showing up on his doorstep.

“I think our biggest week we did $1,800 in sales, and my family said, ‘He’s too young to have a taste of money and be doing these kinds of things,’ so they shut me down. But that’s really where the whole thing started. I’ve always been a kid that’s been intrigued with doing things that can make a difference,” he said.

Fast-forward to the present, and you’ll see that Joachim’s go-getter spirit and desire to do something different and meaningful have not faded a bit. The 32-year-old president and founder of funeralOne, a leader in funeral care innovations that serves approximately 7,000 funeral professionals throughout the world, said he is motivated by making a difference in the world and creating something that can be sustainable for years and generations to come. Joachim first captured the attention of funeral service after working with dot-com companies and “helping them figure out how to take ideas and turn them into something that could actually be monetized on the Internet.”

joey web wizard

His work got plenty of attention, with publications such as USA Today and the Wall Street Journal publishing articles about him and calling him a “Web wizard.” “And then one day, out of nowhere, a funeral home called me up and said, ‘Hey, would you help us out in rethinking our business?’” Joachim said.

At first, Joachim was a little unsure. “I thought, death, dying, this is so much different than anything I’ve done before,” he said. But the more he thought about it, the more he realized that he was facing an opportunity to change the focus of funerals to the life that was lived, rather than the loss, by using technology. He spent time shadowing arrangers, analyzing their businesses, watching visitations and taking note of how consumers interacted with different things. Taking what he learned, he pioneered one of the first online guest books, and funeral directors throughout the country took note.“We had funeral homes out of nowhere calling us up and saying, ‘Would you make these products available for us as well?’”

Since funeralOne’s inception in 2001…

Joachim said the company has grown from a 10-by-10 space, “almost like starting out of the garage,” to a global company with more than 100 people in three locations, offering a multitude of services and solutions, including strategic funeral home website design, personal funeral service consulting, video tribute software, memorialization software, funeral webcasting and an ecommerce sympathy store run by the company.

“funeralOne is the perfect example of using technology, and using innovation and using the power of thinking differently and doing things differently to make a huge difference in people’s lives, especially when they’re touched at a time of loss,” Joachim said.

No one could deny that Joachim has a flair for doing things differently. The funeralOne headquarters in Detroit looks more like an amusement park or Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory than a technology firm’s headquarters. Photos from the company’s continuously updated Facebook page depict its employees working and playing amid brightly-painted walls, holding meetings over a coffee table constructed of Legos and participating in industry networking events (occasionally decked out in colorful costumes). And when he talks about his passion for providing innovative solutions, his already quick speaking ramps up to an enthusiastically breakneck speed.

Krishna Tatta, senior software developer, is hard at work at the funeralOne headquarters in Detroit.

Krishna Tatta, senior software developer, is hard at work at the funeralOne headquarters in Detroit.

“At the end of the day, to basically change what the world thought about funerals, I thought, was an extremely powerful thing,” he said. “The best way to say why I created the business is because people weren’t doing the things I thought consumers wanted. At the end of the day, most people in life don’t know what they need. You need to create what they need. Somebody didn’t wake up one day and say, ‘I need an iPod, or I need an iPad,’ or anything like that. But, there was a gap that was there, not through market research, but through intuition of creating products that can truly connect with people, and I created the business to do exactly that – because it didn’t exist.”

Rather than being focused on what a funeral director wants, Joachim said his company is more interested in what the consumer wants. And today’s funeral consumer is changing – Joachim realizes that. “It’s not that they don’t want to pay for things; it’s that they value different products, they value different things,” he said. Rather than focusing on a person’s death, Joachim said today’s consumer is more interested in celebrating the life that was lived, and memorializing the person who is gone in a meaningful and personalized way.

funeralOne’s future goals

“The biggest challenge I see, without question, it’s basically a lack of solutions that are targeted toward this new consumer,” he said. “We need to create products that this new consumer is looking for, that they don’t see exist. We need to educate them so they are aware these things do exist, and that they are aware of what the true meaning and value of a funeral service is.” Because today’s consumers are information-seekers, they’re going to want to know everything they can about a particular funeral home before they even set foot in the door.

That’s why Joachim is dedicated to providing consumers with educational information that demonstrates the value of a funeral service. “If families don’t understand the value of a funeral, then the problem is they’re always going to go for the lowest-price option, they’re not going to have services, they’re not going to have visitations,” he said. “If the biggest challenges are educating families nowadays, then why don’t we be the first-ever company that creates solutions that truly educate families on the true meaning and value of the services that this whole profession provides?”

One aspect of his company that Joachim is proud of is that it is completely bootstrapped. “We have no outside investors, we have no debt whatsoever,” he said. Because funeralOne has no one to answer to (with the exception of themselves and their customers) it can focus on taking a long-term approach rather than churning out sub-par products to keep investors happy.

Marketing team members Krystal, Rochelle and David brainstorm some new ideas for funeralOne.

Marketing team members Krystal, Rochelle and David brainstorm some new ideas for funeralOne.

“Through creating great products and basically, products that were very successful, we were able to fund our own growth through customers,” Joachim said. “And when you think of it that way, it always made us stay true to making products that made a difference. And then the by-product was always that the money comes with it.”

However, it seems that outside sources are pretty interested in what Joachim is doing: Not a week goes by that someone isn’t trying to acquire or invest in the company. And, Joachim laughed, “Not a week goes by that someone doesn’t start a rumor that we’re selling or cashing out.” But Joachim isn’t interested in cashing in his chips just yet.

“We’re just getting started,” he said. “Making that long-term commitment to changing things is what drives us.” Joachim and his team are on a mission to make an impact, and believe there is much more to be done within the funeral industry, and that cashing out now would be selling themselves short. “The future for what can happen in this profession is amazing, and we want to see that through,” he said.

Joe’s Business Tips

Joe Joachim working hands-on with his interactive design team.

Joe Joachim working hands-on with his interactive design team.

It starts with a vision

Specifically, a vision that is focused on solving a problem. “One of the most helpful things people can do, as far as creating a business, is think of an issue they have. Because there’s a good chance they’re not the only person that has that issue,” Joachim said.

Don’t make your product vanilla

As the old saying goes, you can’t please everybody all the time. “We understand that our products are not made to be everything to everybody,” Joachim said. He acknowledged that funeralOne has to say ‘no’ to a lot of requests, because by saying ‘yes’ to everything, they would not be innovative. “For the people that love us, they love us. And for the people that don’t like us, we’re just not a good fit,” Joachim said.

Surround yourself with good people

“You’re only as good, and you can only scale as much, as your core team around you,” Joachim said. “If you have a great culture, it’s amazing what that army of people will actually do for the company.”

Measure your data

“If you can’t measure it in life, you can’t fix it,” Joachim said. Describing funeralOne as being data-driven, Joachim and his team are focused on measuring how consumers are using their products and using that information to improve and hone their offerings.

Stay committed

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, and don’t give up when you do make mistakes. “The faster you fail, the faster you learn,” Joachim said. And even though you aren’t going to be perfect, as long as you’re transparent with your customers and share the good and the bad, “they’ll stick with you, and you’ll get through it.”


To learn more about Joe Joachim and funeralOne, click here or call (800) 798-2575.

Joe Joachim

funeralOne

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  1. Lynne Houston

    Love this post and the Title is perfect. Congrats on making the Cover of FD Magazine Joachim. You look GREAT!! Look forward to keeping in touch with your blog.
    -Lynne Houston http://www.lifeasamorticianswife.com

  2. Krystal

    Thanks for the wonderful comments Lynn! We appreciate it, Joey had a blast doing the shoot and story!

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