The Business or The Service: The Chicken or The Egg of the Funeral Profession

funeral profession

So which was it? Did the egg produce the first chicken or did the chicken lay the first egg? Does the service create the opportunity for a funeral business or does the funeral business create the opportunity to serve?

Stop and think for just a minute.

Without the ministry, community outreach and the service to people during one of their most vulnerable times, there would be no business. However, without license, a facility, a staff, business revenues and more, there would be no opportunity to serve.

I will bet that after you stop and think about it, you see both sides – and guess what, that’s okay! Aristotle, himself, believed that the chicken and the egg both existed in spirit and that not one came before the other. Seems pretty applicable to the funeral industry – you can’t have a business without the service component and you won’t be able to serve without running a business.

Business and service go hand in hand in the funeral industry. The following are five common practices that any funeral director needs to master in order to become a superior service provider and excellent business person:

1. Listen Intently

To both serve and be a good business person, you must be a good listener. Listen to the families you serve, but also listen to those attending visitations, your community, your fellow staff and others. By nature, those around you tend to talk about their own wishes for their funeral.

One of the best tips to having a good conversation is to walk into each conversation with the mindset that you have something to learn. Use these conversations as learning opportunities and as a window into the future. Start understanding what people really want at the end of their life, and begin migrating your services and merchandise options to what you hear. Naturally, you will be offering service and merchandise options more relevant to what your families really want thus better serving your families. In doing this, you are positioning your business for success against the unchanging funeral homes you may be competing against.

2. Follow Up with Compassion

Follow-up is a critical skill needed for both being a great service person and also business person. It shows that you not only care, but also have a vested interested in the family. From the service side, following up to make sure that a family has properly grieved and is on their way to healing from the death shows that compassion.

Following up from this perspective can (and frequently will) lead to conversations of the family’s overall funeral experience – what they liked, what they didn’t like, what they would want in the future and more. Ultimately, following up from a service perspective will translate to conversations that will make you more in tune with your families and will naturally better your business.

3. Build Your Character on Actions

Look at leaders around your community… the ones that people truly look up to: perhaps it’s the mayor, the figurehead at church or a successful business person. What makes people look up to these leaders? They likely have a strong moral character that sits on a foundation of success, ethics, and trust. By providing a family with genuine care, a person they feel they can trust and exceeding on expectations, your great character will transcend into a great business reputation.

4. Become a Resource

What happens when you don’t have certain expertise or when a family asks questions out of the realm of what you feel comfortable or educated enough to answer? Do you respond with an “I don’t know” or do you respond with, “Let me try and find the answer or find the person who can help get you that answer”? This makes all the difference in how you are perceived as a service provider, but also as a business person too.

A good business person takes on instincts of a service provider in this respect – they don’t shut down when a question lies outside of the four walls of their business. They are intrinsically concerned about helping that person get answers to their questions and needs. Take it one step further by broadcasting your knowledge on commonly asked questions or likely needs via a social media page or a blog on your website. This gives your community access to these helpful resources at any time!

5. Enjoy What You Do

What other career allows someone to be right brained (ie. planning a highly personalized service), left brained (ie. the science behind embalming), a business person (ie. a bottom line profit, cash flow, and more) and counsel those in need (ie. providing grief support) all in one day?! We all know the funeral industry has its quirks, but in the long run it is incredibly rewarding work and no two days are the same.

When you enjoy what you do, you will bleed enthusiasm and passion as you talk and you will be both a great service provider and an amazing business person.

So to get back to the chicken or the egg question… funeral service is both the chicken and the egg – a business and a service. We have to appreciate that funeral service is, and will always be, equally reliant on being a service provider as it is a business – they both equally make up the spirit of funeral service.

There is a payroll to meet this morning, but also a family to serve this afternoon. As a profession, we need to recognize this and refine the specific skills that transcend not only being a good service provider or only a good business person – but also applies to being both a superior service provider and an excellent business.

About The Author

833285_6addddd1ea184137a835df06d270a0c9Danielle Thacker currently serves as VP of Sales and Marketing for Thacker Caskets.  Along with her siblings she has grown up in the business, but began work full time in 2007 following the completion of her undergraduate degree from Villanova University.  Danielle leads a team of Thacker Sales Consultants across the East Coast and Midwest and primarily spends time traveling the road, meeting with hundreds of funeral homes on an annual basis.  She started The Funeral Gal in 2015 as a way to broadcast solutions to common problems that funeral homes face and also creative, progressive ways to do business.

You can follow her blog at; Facebook at; or on Twitter or Instagram at @thefuneralgal.


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  1. Jeff Harbeson


    All very good points, however without solid fundamentals of business practices (overhead analysis, staff training, price positioning, and so on) all the above is for naught. As an industry we are making strides to become better listeners and such, but failing tremendously at “the business of business.” I’m a big fan Funeral Gal, see you in New Orleans. #thefuneralcommander