11 Ways to Navigate Your Funeral Home through Tough Times


Bear with me for a minute, will you? Dust off your imagination, and picture this: your merchant ship, the Compassionate, is caught in rough seas. Your crew members are working as hard as they can to regain control of the ship, but they’re tiring. Now, you find a pirate vessel is outflanking you, and everyone onboard fears for their very lives. What do you, as Captain, do?

You get where I’m going with this. The high seas and predatory pirates represent the tough times we’re facing today. Every funeral home owner or manager is faced with the same turbulent ocean currents, potentially destructive wind and waves; and let’s not forget those dastardly pirates, better known as “the competition” (you know who they are).

How can you steer your ship into safe harbor? Returning to the imaginary deck of the Compassionate, what personality traits and habits of thought or action, will you need to be a good – no, a great – ship’s captain? In my opinion, you’ll need:

1. The ability to make quick decisions under pressure.

2. Self-assurance.

3. The trust of (and in) your crew.

4. The willingness to teach others.

5. Excellent communication skills.

6. The ability to adapt to constantly changing conditions.

A great captain assumes the role of a leader, and takes actions to help the crew sail smoothly out of harm’s way despite conditions.

Here are 11 ways I think you can navigate your funeral home through tough times:


1. Listen. Tune in to what crew members are saying. Their ideas can help the ship move forward, in rough seas or calm waters.

2. Give credit. Everyone, landlubbers and jacktars alike, love leaders who acknowledge their ideas. A great ship captain rewards crew members as often as he can.

3. Be yourself. It’s rare and refreshing, and makes your crew want to help you succeed. In captain-speak, be the man, not the uniform.

4. Communicate. So much trouble can be prevented with clear communication. Without it, crew members are in the dark. And soon, they just won’t care about you, or the ship.

5. Don’t be indecisive. Make the most of the information you’ve got, do your best thinking, and set a course. Then stick to it.

6. Be service-oriented. Captains can get sort of self-involved, forgetting they are in a position of leadership. Don’t make that mistake. Stay focused on the well-being of others, client families and crew members alike.

7. Be accountable. Define desired results, and acknowledge when you’ve made the wrong decision. Honesty makes you real and approachable.

8. Cultivate empathy. Traditionally, a ship’s captain worked his way up to captaincy, and knew firsthand how hard the life of a jacktar could be. Stay in touch with that experience.

9. Hire the best funeral service professionals you can find for your crew. And today, that means having women on board. I know the crew of our imaginary 19th century merchant ship didn’t include women, but things are different today. Now women are respected, valuable members of any crew.

10. Share the big picture. If they don’t know the ship’s destination, it hard for the crew to set the ship’s course and make corrections when needed. That means you have to micromanage every little thing. And what captain wants to do that?

11. Keep your cool. I wonder if Captain Bligh was able to keep his head during the disastrous days when the crew of the Bounty attempted, and failed, to round Cape Horn. Talk about tough times! If your crew members are worried about whether you’re in a good mood today or not (like the crew of the Bounty), you can bet very little gets done.

In the end, it pays to remember if the highest aim of a captain were to preserve his ship, he would keep it in port forever. So confidently take the helm and bravely steer your ship out into the high seas.

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  1. Landon

    Bravo, Kim! These 11 ways are now printed and on a board in my office. Not that I, a third-generation owner, would ever need such guidance! (sarcasm)
    Leader is our profession should read and re-read these fantastic suggestions. They are certainly applicable in a plethora of situations – especially when a captain or team member is about ready to throw out an SOS signal.
    Keep it up!

  2. Kim Stacey

     Thanks, Landon, for your wonderful comments! I love the thought that my words are tacked on your office wall – I hope they help you out during those trying moments. I especially like point #11…keep your cool. And of course, there’s #3 “be yourself”…can the two co-exist? Hope so! So, one (naturally) “cool cat” to another…”keep it real”!