Live from NJFDA: The 3 Things That Should Guide Your Funeral Business


This week, the funeralOne team had the opportunity to head down to Atlantic City for the New Jersey Funeral Directors Association’s annual conference. Not only was this a great chance for us to connect with with the wonderful funeral professionals that use funeralOne to grow their business, but we also got to learn a lot about what helps drive the funeral profession towards success through the educational sessions at the conference.

One session that we found particularly educational was “A Funeral Service Trifecta: Ethics, Morals and Values.” Hosted by an expert in the funeral profession – Ralph L. Klicker, PhD – this session offered a great insight into how and why we make decisions in the funeral profession, and the important factors should that guide some of these difficult decisions that we make every day.

If you weren’t able to attend this session for yourself in Atlantic City, you’re in luck. Today, we’re sharing some of Klicker’s best tips for setting up ethics, morals and values that will guide your funeral business towards success.

The Things That Guide Us

First, before you dive into the importance of values, morals and ethics in the funeral profession, it’s important to understand what each of these words represents, and how they differ from one another.

Values: The core beliefs that guide us in our life, or guide our everyday actions. (For example, integrity, fidelity, self-respect, patience, etc.)

Morals: Our personal evaluation of our values. What we personally think about each of them.

Ethics: A standard of conduct that we set for ourselves on how we are going to act.

While each state funeral association has a code of ethics they may ask your funeral home to follow, they aren’t necessarily the end all and be all for your funeral home. You may have a separate code of ethics that details how you should act professionally. In fact, some people even have a personal code of ethics that outlines how they live their everyday life.

According to Klicker, “There is no business, political or social ethics. All ethics are personal.” Everyone in the funeral service, every funeral corporation, every family owned funeral, and every single individual working in the profession is just that… an individual. The ethics of your funeral home should be the sum total of all of the people who are working there – their morals and their value system.

Why? Because, when it comes down to it, all ethics are personal. Whatever happens, it is you who makes the final decision. You are always the last line of defense when it comes to choosing to do the ethical thing. You can make the decision to be ethical, or not be ethical.

A Funeral Home’s Responsibility

If you want to run a successful funeral home that earns the respect of your staff and your families, you should have two rules…

1. Have a standard of conduct. Decide the way that you want to operate and do business.

2. Have the commitment to follow it.

However, you shouldn’t just create a standard of ethics to guide the way that you do business. You have two groups of people outside of your funeral home that you also have an ethical responsibility to. First and foremost, to the deceased. Because they are not able to be there and voice their wishes or represent themselves, it is our responsibility to align ethically and morally with the deceased… from the moment of body removal all the way until the burial. Secondly, you also have an ethical responsibility to the families you serve. You have to respect their wishes, be honest with them, ensure pre-need families that their money is safe, and much, much more.

How To Make Respectable, Ethical Decisions

All companies will talk about ethics (especially when business is booming). But no one wants to think about an ethics program when business is bad. Unfortunately, that’s the time when you need it most – when you are faced with difficult decisions in difficult times.

If you are stuck on whether or not you are making the best, most moral decisions at your funeral home, try asking yourself the following questions:

  • Can you discern right from wrong? Good from evil?
  • Do you have a commitment to do what is right, good and proper?
  • Can you do the right thing when under pressure?

When speaking about the pressure to remain ethical under pressure, Klicker recalled a great saying: “Anyone can sail a boat in calm weather, but it takes a true professional to sail through a storm.” It’s tough to act morally and ethically under pressure… we get it. Maybe you’re facing financial pressure, business is slow, or you’re having a hard time bringing money in. But the truth is, when the rubber hits the road, you need to follow the one simple, value-drive rule that will help you remain on the ethical path. The compass when you need direction.

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

In the end, you should do what is right, because you would want someone to do that to you if the situation was reversed. You would want someone to make the best decisions if it was your mother, your best friend or your child in that situation.

When you flip the tables and think about ethics as a motivation, rather than a commitment, you will be more encouraged to work them into your business plan. “Motivation comes from commitment, rather than compliance,” Klicker said. As funeral professionals, we have to comply with the FTC or OSHA. We do those things because we are mandated to do them. However, if you are committed  to following strong ethics and values, you are going to do the right thing whether or not you have to comply with some other rule. Commitment comes from inside of you, and from what kind of person you are.

What are some of the ethical and moral values that drive your company? Do you follow a code of ethics in your funeral home? Be sure to share with us in the comments below!

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  1. Peter M. Nimmerichter

    I have always used my Christian values and ethics, they have never let me down and line right up to what was explained in the article.