The Mother Teresa Guide to Running Your Funeral Home

Being in the funeral business, I have the tendency to remember exactly where I was when influential people pass away, down to every detail.

I remember 1997 really well. It was the year that Princess Diana died. I got myself out of bed at 4:00 am to watch her funeral, and cried at the loss of such a young, beautiful, and troubled woman. But just five days later, the world lost a brighter light.

I was sitting on the floor playing with my young sons when I heard the news. Did I get up in the middle of the night for her funeral? You bet I did. After all, this woman really changed the world, and it wasn’t with her pretty face, or publicly-aired personal life.

Who was she? Mother Teresa.

This woman helped the poor, sick, orphaned and dying for nearly 45 years. And, she was a great leader.

Her highly effective leadership helped to raise billions of dollars for charity, ministering more than 610 missions in 123 countries, with a workforce of 1 million (yes, million) people.

No one can argue with her success. So what can she teach us?

What Mother Teresa can teach you about running your funeral home:

1. Clearly identify your mission.
Know what your ultimate goal is and make it as simple as possible. That simplicity and clarity are beacons in guiding your organization. Your goal could be simply increasing the number of client families you serve in a year, or generating more revenue from each arrangement.

2. Embrace doubt.
Don’t be unwilling to question your on-going relationship with your mission. Self-examination is crucial to staying aligned with, or as Mother Teresa would say, “being a living reminder” of your funeral firm’s core mission.

3. Follow your call-to-action.
Mother Teresa clearly knew what her life’s calling was. Figure out what role – what “calling”– you need to play, and then play it well. Many funeral home owners tell me it’s a ministry, while others tell me their calling lies in teaching the community about end-of-life options. So, what’s yours?

4. Recognize the importance of “paying attention to the janitor.”
That was her way of saying you must make sure all members of your funeral home feel valued. Not just your licensed professionals, but administrative support staff, groundskeepers, housekeepers, and interns.

5. Find the “joy of discipline.”
Mother Teresa was adverse to procrastination and woke up every day at 4:40 a.m. for morning prayers. Become a disciplined leader, do what needs to be done, and lead by example. “‎Discipline is,” she said, “the bridge between goals and accomplishment.” Some of the most successful funeral home owners I know take care of whatever needs attention, whether it’s picking up discarded Kleenex after a service, or tending to incoming floral arrangements.

Are you inspired to bring a Mother Teresa principle into your funeral firm? If so, which one? Please share your comments below!

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  1. Kim Stacey

    The response to this post has been really interesting! While no one has yet to leave a comment here, people have been pretty vocal about the “real” Mother Teresa. “Mother Teresa was a complainer & manipulator. I think this woman had issues,” was one comment. And another, “She was mad. God did not talk to her everyday. I could go on but why, she was positioning herself…”

    I often wondered why Elton John played “The Bitch Is Back” at her funeral. According to The Onion, “the delighted mourners, clapping their hands and swaying from side-to-side in time with the song’s pounding, rollicking barrelhouse piano, joined John in singing the song’s refrain, “Bitch, bitch / The bitch is back,” dozens of times, bringing the performance to over 12 minutes. “This is the perfect tribute to Mother Teresa,” said Sister Nirmala, Mother Teresa’s successor as leader of the Missionaries of Charity Order. “The bitch is indeed back with God.”

    Obviously, she was a complex woman…but I’m sure we can find some life lessons to take away from her story. But, one has to ask, can anyone who said, “Peace begins with a smile..” be “all bad”?

  2. Kim Stacey

     Beautifully “said”! Thank you so much for adding your views to the mix. “Do something beautiful for God” – wonderful reminder, as is your final statement, “don’t forget the calling is to give each human being a dignified goodbye and welcome into God’s loving arms.”

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