Those who enter the funeral profession do so with a desire to assist those experiencing a loss. Much like nurses and police officers, they become pillars of their communities, helping families through tough times in their lives.

However, the work of death care––while rewarding––is far from easy. Success in funeral homes requires passion, but it also requires some unexpected skills. Here’s what many funeral directors wished they knew before entering this industry. 

1. The Hours

As with owning any business, directing a funeral home is not a 9-5 job. Most funeral services take place on the weekends, and many stretch late into the evenings. As the director, you’ll likely be needed in these times, even if only in a supporting role. 

Additionally, running the funeral business itself is a 24/7 commitment. While most directors try to stick to bankers’ hours as much as possible, death abides by no time constraints. While you can certainly hire people for on-call shifts, you’ll have to be ready to step in and help coordinate with families who need urgent funeral arrangements. 

2. The Importance of Adapting

Most funeral homes follow traditional practices such as memorial services, religious (often Christian) rituals, and small ceremonies at the burial grounds. However, it’s important to remember that no tradition is set in stone. Changing times are forcing many funeral directors to rethink the different services they offer and the technology they require. An adaptable funeral home should consider the following:

  • Shifts to cremation: According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the number of cremations will be more than double that of traditional burials by the year 2030. Because of this, funeral directors should consider your approach to cremation services, not only how you handle the cremation itself but also how you plan rituals around them. Cremations are far less profitable than burials, but you can stress to families the importance of still holding some sort of memorial in tandem with cremation. 
  • Exploring other revenue sources: While memorial services will always be the bread and butter of your revenue stream, it never hurts to explore other options. Consider special offerings like customized keepsakes, varied ceremonies, and preneed services that allow for diversified revenue streams.
  • Incorporate technology: Consider using technology to help run your business. For example, the Performance Tracker from Johnson Consulting Group allows you to monitor customer experience and stay abreast of trends in the funeral industry. It enables you to get insight into how families felt about their experience with your funeral home and identify any areas where your team may need to improve.  

3. The Emotional Impact 

When working in the funeral business, you’re often dealing with people experiencing some of the worst moments of their lives. Of course, everyone knows this before entering the death care industry, but not everyone is equipped to handle the emotional impact of constant interaction with those experiencing loss. Many people in the death care industry often report high levels of anxiety and stress, often known as caregiver burnout or fatigue. 

This is why it’s important to take care of yourself and your team in addition to your families. If you notice you or your teammates experiencing energy loss, trouble sleeping, irritability, or overall feelings of helplessness, then you’ll want to take action accordingly. Don’t be afraid to take time off, seek counseling, or even join a grief support group to help you mitigate the effects of this fatigue. 

4. Aftercare is Extremely Important

As a funeral director, it’s important to remember that, while you sell cremations and memorial services, you must offer your families more than these services. When a funeral service is complete, your job is not done. Aftercare services refer to any actions taken to assist families in recovering from the trauma of loss after a memorial or cremation. Not only will aftercare provide healing to families, but it will also establish a relationship with them.

The goal with aftercare is to walk a fine line between compassion and salesmanship. This can be accomplished with a simple email or letter. Naturally, you don’t want to email a family a week after their funeral with a 50% off coupon for their next arrangements. Instead, you can contact them to express your condolences and provide contact information for grief counseling or other related services. By letting a family know you are looking out for their best interests, you’ll cultivate trust in your working relationship.

It’s Okay to Ask For Help

Entering the death care profession can be a daunting task. Even those who have worked in it for years often feel as though they’ve plateaued or burnt out. You should never be afraid to reach out to other experts in our space––or even your teammates––to get new ideas and connect with the community. There is also professional help you can seek.

Johnson Consulting Group specializes in the funeral business. In addition to the brokerage and accounting services, they also offer consulting services. Through interviews, conversations, and background analyses, they’ll assess the way your business is working and help you develop a strategic plan for the future, one that includes both revenue goals and the overall wellbeing of your staff. 

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