Lessons Learned: Advice From The Trenches of Funeral Home Business Ventures and Misadventures

Starting and owning a funeral home is no walk in the park.

Just ask Dale Clock, the owner of Clock Life Story Funeral Home and Clock Timeless Pets. At ICCFA this year he shared with us his top lessons learned from running a funeral business as a 4th generation funeral director.

Check out Dale Clock’s greatest hits of advice for a future or current funeral home owner:

1. Learn your own lessons, don’t leave the learning to others

We love all the tips, tricks, and strategies from others. Hearing a bunch of feel-good motivational information can be, well, motivational. But it only gets you so far. The best advice comes from experience, which comes from trying – and sometimes failing. So go ahead and fail, learn, and keep going!

2. Understand financial agreements inside and out. 

One of the first aspects of getting started with a funeral home is finances… specifically loans. Getting yourself into a loan with terms you don’t understand is a recipe for trouble. Make sure to educate yourself about the way a loan is structured before you sign on the dotted line. One of the best things you can do for your business is to be extremely thoughtful about financing your projects.


3. Don’t make things harder than they need to be. 

When starting a venture – whether it’s a brand new business or adding a new service to your existing menu, it’s important to think long and hard about what you’ll offer. Don’t do too much. It will not only lead to you being overwhelmed, but it may confuse your client families if you add on too much too fast that your staff isn’t well trained and educated on. 

You can always add new elements later when you get a feel for what works and what doesn’t. It’s much harder to offload unused items you’ve already spent money on. 


4. Use your gut, not just your head.

The mind is a great tool. Advice from the latest trade magazine is great too. But only you know what’s best for your business and your community. While it’s definitely important to be aware of industry trends, you have to know what’s going to fly with your client families and community. Not every trend or piece of advice is going to land in your neck of the woods. 


5. Remember that an idea doesn’t have to be bad for it to fail. 

Some of the best ideas never make it off the ground. Others eventually do, but only after several tries and more than a few tweaks. Good ideas don’t always equal successful business ventures. This is for a variety of reasons. Maybe the timing isn’t right, or it’s not the right idea for that area. 

Perhaps there just weren’t enough resources to make it happen. Whatever the reason, failure is a perfectly normal part of creation. It is often through failure that we learn our most valuable lessons. (And, admittedly, our most expensive ones).

What have been your greatest lessons in owning or running your own funeral home? We’d love to hear from you! Tell us in the comments below.

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