Is it Time for Your Funeral Home to Evolve?


Unless you’re doing absolutely everything right (and really, who is?!), then think “solution evolution.” I first heard this phrase from Lajos Szabo, experienced Chief Strategy Officer, and President of Funeral Operations here at funeralOne. I feel it really suits what we’re looking for: ways to effectively change the way we do things, in order to put an end to those nagging feelings that everybody is making more money and serving more families than us, and generally having an easier time of it.

For funeral homes, large and small, feeling their way through what many are calling the worst recession since the 1930s, it’s easiest to stay focused on doing the same old things, in the same old ways.

Sad to say, what we’re going through now is different from other recessions in its scope and depth, and the worst thing you can do is more of the same. The truth is, staying true to your current business model may let you survive, but you’re not going to thrive, and you sure as heck won’t find ways to grow.

What’s the alternative? You’ve got to change your game. But how? Just four words.

Get Comfortable with Chaos

Because it’s not going away any time soon; there’s only going to be ‘more of the same’ because of on-going globalization and technological innovation.

It seems we just can’t count on enjoying any uninterrupted periods of tranquil prosperity any time soon. That may feel disheartening, but it’s honest. But fortunately, there are things you can do:

• Talk to your families about what they need today. This will help you find new competitive advantages.

• Get your employees talking about how your families’ mind-sets have changed today and what they’re looking for in a funeral service.

• Reexamine your business model for services, products, processes and promotions that are no longer effective.

• Constantly look for ways to add value to your funeral firm through your products or services.

• Stop marketing your product or service. You need to actually communicate with families now more than ever.

• Don’t get complacent. If your margins are still good, that’s wonderful. But you can bet rapid industry transformations rise to the surface in tough times. So be ready.

• Stay creative. Be willing to try new things and create new markets. We see a lot of traditional funeral homes creating secondary brands, supplying families with direct cremation or pet services. Creativity in action.

• Continually reassess your community’s values. Brainstorm with staff members about how your families’ values and needs have changed in the recent past. Most likely, their answers could generate new product and service ideas aimed at these emerging value-conscious consumers.

• Recognize that a good service or product always sells, in good times and bad. Just because times get tough, it doesn’t mean people aren’t willing to pay for quality services if they see the value in them.

• Look at things differently. If your call volume is down, and your feeling like your back is up against the wall, it forces you to try new things. Now’s the time to “shake things up,” make a few changes in your General Price List, and maybe even reexamine your entire business model for weaknesses in light of the current economy.


It comes down to realizing, on a very deep level, that the economy has changed, and will continue to be unpredictable. So, think “solution evolution,” and be extraordinarily willing to adapt. We all know what happened to the dinosaurs, and it wasn’t pretty, now was it?

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  1. Joan Billman

    Kim, you hit the nail on the perverbial head. We can’t begin to formulate answers to questions that will address issues that haven’t even surfaced yet! Social media, alkaline hydrolysis, rapidly changing family dynamics- all relatively new concerns yet just the beginning. We must proact, not react. This is not specific to the funeral industry, but certainly where our attentions need to be.

  2. cynthia howell

    I do agree that funeral service has changed and continuing to change. In as much as
    I don’t like chaos (I like things to run smoothly) it does create change. I have learned
    to adapt to some new things such as cremation services. I have always served a
    community that leaned more toward earth burial rather than cremations. The next
    generation (their children) think differently.They are opting for something simple and
    personal. For me, it has been a thinking outside the box experience. I never really
    thought about changing. I now see the old  saying is true….”If you want something
    you never had, then you have to so something you have never done “.

  3. DFS Memorials

    “We see a lot of traditional funeral homes creating secondary brands, supplying families with direct cremation or pet services. Creativity in action.”

    Our experience in working with funeral homes is that those that are accepting the fundamental shift in the dynamics of our economy and our culture, are creating secondary brands to meet the demand for ‘budget’ or ‘no-fuss’ services.  They still maintain their traditional brand, but many are creating an entirely separate entity that can meet the high volume/lower sales turn-over model of basic cremation services.
    For me it is the ‘adapt, adopt, adept’ theory of post-colonialism that so perfectly fits, that is being modeled by funeral businesses who are approaching the fundamental changes occurring in their industry.

    I can also think of the expression “If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always got.”

    Kim, you are absolutely right that “It comes down to realizing, on a very deep level, that the economy has changed, and will continue to be unpredictable”, those that adapt will be the ‘species’ that survive and prosper!

  4. Anonymous

     What a great way of thinking of it Cynthia!

  5. Kim Stacey

    We’ve seen the “secondary brand” phenomenon too – and applaud the effort to capture the attention of a different audience. And I love the “adapt, adopt, adept” phrase – in a profession that has been, in my opinion anyway, slow to adopt new trends and technologies – we almost have to repeat it like a meditative mantra! 

    Repeat after me, “Adapt, adopt, adept”! By George, I think she’s got it! 

  6. Kim Stacey

    Let me tell you, Cynthia, as I’m almost 58, the very idea of chaos is disturbing. (Come to think of it, I didn’t like it much as a kid, either – scary stuff!) But, I think we’re stuck with it, and we really have been for decades (we just don’t acknowledge it).

    Just this week I was watching “T.R.: An American Lion” (a History Channel production I got off of Netflix), and was struck by the economic and social chaos of the turn of the 20th century. It’s really nothing new to us. While some personalities, like Teddy Roosevelt’s, thrived – others just didn’t. Why? Because he embraced it whole heartedly! In fact, he did a lot to manufacture it, I think. Ah, but I digress…thanks for your great comments, Cynthia – keep ’em coming. I love the dialogue. 

  7. Kim Stacey

    “We must proact and not react” – six truer words were never written, Joan! Trouble is, none of us have a crystal ball. Too bad. 

    I’ve come face-to-face lately with families fraught with those “rapidly changing family dynamics” – each with a bit of dysfunctionality thrown in. It’s hard to talk in “ideals” when the reality just doesn’t match up. While I think I know what would meet their economic, emotional, and social needs; without that crystal ball, I’ve found myself scrambling to meet their expectations. What a challenging life it is. Thanks, Joan, for taking the time to leave a comment. 🙂