Meet the Team
Tom Johnson – Founder
Tom has pursued a highly successful career in multi-site funeral home and cemetery management, as well as acquisition and divestiture activity in the death care industry. After beginning his career in banking and then serving in several key positions with Batesville Casket Company, he became President and CEO of Pierce Brothers Mortuaries & Cemeteries in Los Angeles. There, he grew the company from 17 locations to a total of 64 funeral homes and 14 cemeteries, making it, at the time, the largest regional independent funeral and cemetery operation in the United States. When Pierce was sold to SCI, he left the company and founded Prime Succession, which grew from no operations to 146 funeral homes and 17 cemetery locations in only three years, becoming the largest national independent operation in the country. After Prime Succession, Mr. Johnson started Johnson Consulting Group, which has become the premier consulting company in the death care industry focusing on mergers & acquisitions, business valuations and appraisals, accounting services, management services and training, and businesses financing. Mr. Johnson’s expertise in funeral home and cemetery management, combined with his strong background in banking and finance, gives him a unique understanding of operational and financial matters relating to the death care profession.
Jake Johnson – President and CEO
Jake Johnson has rapidly advanced into senior leadership roles and gained respect throughout the funeral and cemetery industries. He is known as an innovator, change agent and thought leader. Jake’s success is based on his unique ability to identify simple solutions to complex business problems and communicate across all levels of the organization, instilling positive morale, empowerment and employee ownership to drive service excellence. His strong foundation in accounting, financial analysis and EBITDA forecasting is complemented by technology savvy and broad general management qualifications in business development and operations. As President & CEO at Johnson Consulting, Jake provided strategic direction, and marketing innovations that laid the groundwork for the company’s rapid growth, gaining recognition as the premiere total solutions provider within the funeral industry. In his former position as Executive Vice President and General Manager at Palm Mortuaries and Cemeteries, he provided key operations leadership to the Palm Cemetery Division. Jake began his career at Keystone Group Holdings (now Dignity Memorial Network) as Associate Director, Corporate Development, where his financial analysis and forecasting expertise was foundational to the firm’s growth. Jake’s educational credentials include a BSBA degree in Management with an emphasis in Accounting and Financial Analysis from Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. Rounding out his financial portfolio, he is a licensed Real Estate Agent and licensed Investment Advisor representative. Jake is also a member of the Funeral Service Foundation Board.
Bill graduated from Ball State University in 1976. He spent eleven years in various sales management positions with Batesville Casket Company and then spent several years as Vice President of Corporate development with Service Corporation International. This experience helped grow his expertise in all aspects of the death care industry, and ultimately teamed him with Tom Johnson as Vice President of Corporate Development at Pierce Brothers Mortuaries and Cemeteries and Prime Succession Inc. before going on to serve as Director of Corporate Development at Equity Corporation International. Bill has over 32 years of funeral service experience and has been instrumental in the successful acquisition and divestiture of hundreds of funeral homes and cemeteries.
Al graduating from Cypress College of Mortuary Science in January of 1982. A Summa Cum Laude graduate, he was also Valedictorian of his class. He began his career with Whitney & Murphy Funeral Home, a large volume funeral home in Phoenix, AZ. In 1984 Al was involved in a Forethought Life Insurance pilot program as a sales agent. In this role he developed sales materials, phone scripts, training materials and product development. After approximately one year in working on that project, Al was named Manager of Whitney & Murphy. After a successful tenure at the funeral home, Al was promoted to General Manager of Prime Succession Inc’s Phoenix, Arizona operations, which soon grew to include the company’s operations in Texas, Iowa, Nebraska and Arkansas. In 2000, Al was promoted to Regional Vice-President, with diverse and varied corporate responsibilities. Al’s experience leading businesses through rapid growth and transition as well as difficult financial times will allow him to relate to our client’s challenges, regardless of their nature. Even during the toughest financial periods, Al’s region maintained morale, quality of service and profitability. Al’s experience managing multiple locations and supervising location managers, along with his practical experience as a licensed funeral director make him a very productive operational consultant to both large and small volume single and multiple location firms.
Berny brings extensive experience to Johnson Consulting’s financial services. He graduated from the University of Utah with a Bachelors Degree in Accounting. Having served as chief financial officer for several large corporate companies, his areas of expertise are Corporate Finance, Accounting Systems – Implementation and Financial Statement Preparation, Tax Planning, Risk Management, Human Resource Responsibilities, and Governmental Regulation Compliance. Berny also has extensive death care industry experience having created the financial management systems for two large funeral home and cemetery companies, including Prime Succession where he was responsible for finance, accounting, budgeting, reporting, auditing, human resource and risk management functions. Under Mr. Gaarsoe’s direction, Johnson Consulting has created a web based bookkeeping system, employing proprietary death care industry software that will allow independent funeral homes to control cash flow, create accounting reports, and maintain budgets.
Bob Horn began his career in the funeral industry more than 44 years ago with a small family-owned mortuary. During the mid-1960s, he was involved in organizing International Funeral Service (IFS), and served as Vice President of the pioneer “multi-unit” funeral cemetery company that operated over 120 locations nationwide. Prior to co-founding Keystone Group Holdings, a multi-state funeral acquisition and operating firm, Bob was Chief Operating Officer and Partner of Prime Succession, Inc., following 10 years as Executive Vice President of Pierce Brothers. A strong proponent of the team concept, Bob believes his role is to provide the goals and the momentum that keep the company working together and moving forward. Bob provides the leadership, the strategic thinking, and the clear vision that fosters this environment of success and growth.
Has a record of proven success in business growth and development in the death care profession. As the owner of a successful multi-location funeral home business, his firms dominated market share and were renowned for their unparalleled customer service. In 1992, his business was the first acquisition by Tom Johnson and Prime Succession. Following progressive advancement within Prime Succession, Mr. Hilgendorf became Senior Vice President of Operations and Officer of the then fifth largest funeral home and cemetery company in the country, operating 150 funeral homes and cemeteries in 19 states. After Prime Succession, he joined The Alderwoods Group where, in his first eighteen months, he led his market to an 18% increase in operating margin and as Regional General Manager was responsible for the operating performance of 33 funeral home and cemetery locations in three states. From practicing funeral director to funeral home owner to corporate executive, Mr. Hilgendorf’s ability to deliver exceptional customer service and maximum business performance is a valuable asset to the clients of Johnson Consulting Group.
Rich has spent thirty extremely productive years in the funeral and cemetery industry where he held several senior level executive positions. He is well known and respected for his many accomplishments during those years. Twenty seven of those years were with Service Corporation International (SCI), the world’s largest owner and operator of funeral homes, cemeteries and crematories. There he held senior level executive positions in operations and is renowned for his accomplishments in the Pre-Need sales arena. As part of his responsibilities, Rich devised and led the construction of the traveling replica of the Vietnam Wall Memorial. He also headed up several other initiatives to honor and care for the Homeless Veterans. In addition to his many accomplishments while at SCI, he also served as President of the International Cemetery and Funeral Association (ICCFA), a 6,000 member trade association. Rich earned a BSBA degree from Washington University in St. Louis and is a CPA. He is considered an expert in all facets of funeral home and cemetery operations.
Todd grew up in his family’s funeral business, Brockie Donovan Funeral Home in Brandon, MB., and learned his work ethic, attention to detail and honesty and integrity in business from his father, Jack. However, Todd’s passion and talent for hockey led him to a goaltending career with the Notre Dame Hounds, Brandon Wheat Kings and Regina Pats, before being drafted by the New York Islanders. When Todd’s hockey career came to an end, he graduated with honours as a Funeral Service Professional. In 2004, Todd acquired Speers Funeral and Cremation Services in Regina, SK as a perfect fit for his belief in providing high-quality, locally-owned funeral service to a community. In 2006, Todd was elected to the highly-respected position of president of Selected Independent Funeral Homes. Todd is involved in several boards and committees such as the Wascana Country Club, the Canadian Club of Regina, Regina Eastview Rotary Club and the Funeral and Cremation Services Council of Saskatchewan. JCG is proud to have served a number of Canadian firms, and has made a commitment to elevate the standard of services in Canada by affiliating with Todd Lumbard, who will work exclusively with Canadian firms.
Ken Knauss is truly one of the innovative leaders in the funeral and cemetery profession as the past owner and chief operator of Palm Mortuaries and Cemeteries in Las Vegas Nevada. Palm basically dominated the Las Vegas market under his leadership, handling over 7,000 families a year, and was truly a pioneer and innovator when it came to PreNeed marketing. Mr. Knauss’s ability to stay ahead of the growth of Las Vegas through strategic construction of funeral homes and cemeteries also secured Palm’s position in the market and was certainly responsible for the continued growth of Palm. In late 2009 Mr. Knauss sold his company to Service Corporation International where he remains in an advisory position. He was also an owner for many years of Great Western Insurance company where he served on the board of directors. He also served on the board of Pioneer Bancorporation in Las Vegas until 1999. Ken Knauss brings all these abilities to Johnson Consulting Group where he can assist funeral directors and cemeterians in almost every aspect of their business, especially as it pertains to growth and development of both funeral homes and cemeteries.
After spending four years in the Unites States Marine Corps, Kelly Herdt graduated in 1993 from the Kansas City Kansas School of Mortuary Arts. He began his career as a trade embalmer serving the greater Kansas City area for four years. After learning the trade industry, he then when on to work for several funeral homes and later owning two funeral homes and a crematory in Western Kansas. As Kelly’s funeral experiences increased, he was given the opportunity to start a lending program for a large national insurance company. In this role, Kelly developed and managed the funeral lending program to become one of the largest direct funeral business lenders in the industry with more than 100 million dollars originated in funeral home and cemetery loans. Mr. Herdt’s strong background in funeral operations, banking and finance gives him a great understanding of how to help funeral business borrowers achieve success in the financing arena. Kelly Herdt is a Kansas State, licensed Funeral Director and Embalmer.
Brooks is recognized in the death care industry as an authority in acquisitions and divestitures with over 20 years of experience representing funeral home and cemetery owners in their succession planning. Mr. Cowles is a graduate of the Vanderbilt University School of Law and began his career as a practicing attorney. From 1987 through 1990 he was the Director of Corporate Development for Arlington Corporation, a funeral home and cemetery acquisition company, and then served as Eastern Regional Vice President of Thomas-Pierce & Company until 2002, when he formed his own firm. Brooks has worked with over 250 family-owned funeral homes and cemeteries, developing succession plans and representing them in the acquisition or sale of their businesses. Since joining Johnson Consulting Group, Brooks operates from our office in Atlanta, Georgia.
Dale Espich began his funeral service career as a field rep for Batesville (top 15%) in Washington/Baltimore and Michigan 1965-1977. He co-founded Professional Funeral Management and was President/CEO (1977 -1981). From 1981 to present he has consulted with over 500 funeral service companies of all sizes. A graduate of DePauw University with a double major in Economics and Psychology, he has presented countless workshops on communication and profitable pricing to funeral director groups throughout the USA. Dale has worked with funeral business’s ranging from 40 to 5,000 calls annually in virtually all areas of Management, including Financial Analysis, Cost Analysis, Business Evaluations, Profit and Pricing Planning, Accounts Receivable Control, Arranger Training and Motivation, and Casket Merchandising. His precise evaluations have been invaluable to funeral home owners during his successful negotiation of over $200 million for sales and transfers to public companies, employees, competitors and family members. He has also published countless articles on business valuations, management analysis, and casket merchandising. Dale has been happily associated with his friends at Johnson Consulting Group since 2004.
Charles has been a licensed Funeral Director and Embalmer in the State of Arizona for the last fifty six years. A graduate from Arizona State University in 1955 and from San Francisco College of Mortuary Science in 1956, Charles began his career as a partner with Whitney and Murphy Funeral Home in Phoenix, Arizona. After 21 years with Whitney and Murphy, Charles joined Service corporation International. As a General Manager for Service Corporation International, Charles was responsible for all aspects of the operations in Mortuary, Cemetery and Cemetery Sales Staff. Service as the regional Vice President with Service Corporation International, Charles was responsible for 38 cemeteries throughout California, Nevada and Arizona. Finally, as Director of Funeral Revenue for Service Corporation International, Charles Developed sales programs, casket sales, and oversaw revenue for North America. Currently, Charles is the consultant on a new Mortuary/Cemetery in Marana, Arizona. Charles has been happily married to his wife Beatrice for the last fifty five years during which time they have enjoyed their four children.
Frank’s education and work experience has focused on business and finance. Through his finance background in banking, Frank brings a background that serves our clients well, with a full-time focus on project management of valuation and marketing packages, as well as accounting and special projects.
Cyndi’s education and background is in Accounting and Finance. As the Senior Accountant, her solid accounting practices and business ethics provide the clients with the reporting accuracy and integrity that they require and have come to depend on. She has partnered with our clients to improve their accounting processes and to be an invaluable resource to them, as well as to Johnson Consulting Group.
Brenda’s background is in business administration and general ledger accounting having graduated from Kaplan University in Des Moines, Iowa with a Bachelor of Science in Management. Her ability to learn quickly and organize new projects makes her invaluable to Johnson Consulting. Her role includes accounting for Johnson Consulting’s ever-growing client list, office management, customer survey and contract analysis support, and special projects.
Katie’s experience comes from professional office administration and paralegal work. With our growing management services, her functions include customer survey and sales contract analysis support as well as special projects and office management.
Wes graduated with honors from Arizona State University with a Bachelor of Science in Finance and an international business certification. His analytical skills and ability to interact with our client base provides the financial insight necessary to help them manage and improve their business. His primary role within Johnson Consulting Group is as a financial analyst supporting both our mergers & acquisitions and management consulting divisions.
Nate graduated from Utah Valley University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting. His prior work experience involved preparing, analyzing, and evaluating internal and external financial statements. As an accountant with Johnson Consulting Group, Nate is responsible for providing accounting and bookkeeping services to our accounting client base.
Frank has gained a great deal of experience throughout his career in both the private and public sectors. This includes over ten years of experience as either a chief financial officer or controller. Frank also has experience working in the tax world as a Junior Accountant in a highly regarded CPA firm in Michigan. His experience primarily focuses on, but is not limited to, financial analysis, accuracy in reporting, ethics, budgeting and forecasting. As an accountant with Johnson Consulting Group, Frank is response for providing accounting and bookkeeping services to our accounting client base.
Jared received his Bachelor of Arts from Brigham Young University in Economics with emphasis in both Math and Business. His personality and ability to adapt to changing projects related to the continual growth at Johnson Consulting Group, makes him a valuable resource to our clients. As a financial analyst at Johnson Consulting Group, Jared provides analytical support for our valuations and mergers & acquisitions divisions.
Grant graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Finance from Arizona State University. Prior to Johnson Consulting Group, he worked in the banking and personal finance industries. Currently he is studying for the California Certified Public Accountants Examination. As an accountant with Johnson Consulting Group, Grant is responsible for providing accounting and bookkeeping services to our accounting client base.