Meet the Team
Jake Johnson – President and CEO | email
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 provides 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-emeritus of the Funeral Service Foundation Board.
Tom Johnson – Founder | email
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 business 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.
Jeff Casey – Chief Operating Officer | email
Jeff joined Johnson Consulting Group to assist in their management consulting efforts. Jeff brings over thirty years of funeral home and cemetery management experience to the Johnson Consulting team. Jeff is a graduate of Cypress College of Mortuary Science in Cypress, CA and began his career in 1980 with Pierce Brothers Mortuaries and Cemeteries in Los Angeles. After Pierce Brothers was acquired by SCI, Jeff continued with SCI to serve in various local and regional management positions including Regional Vice President in the Western Region. He continued his career with Prime Succession in California and Florida, where he was the General Manager of Fred Hunter Memorial Services in Hollywood, Florida. In addition to his duties with Fred Hunter, he served as a Regional Vice President, leading the Prime Succession Florida locations. Jeff’s local, multiple location and regional experience, along with a keen customer service focus, provide distinctive insight as an operational consultant.
Bob Ekins – Director of Business Development Mergers & Acquisitions | email
Bob joined Johnson Consulting after 20 years of experience with three of the industry’s leading companies. After graduating from Spring Hill College in Mobile Alabama with a Business Management degree, Bob began his funeral service career with Batesville Casket Company. His roles included sales territory responsibility, national accounts, cremation specialist and selection room design including merchandising. In 2002, Bob joined Forethought Financial Services as Director of Business Development. His responsibilities included assisting funeral home and cemetery owners with solutions for existing trust funds and new preneed insurance business. The role evolved into client relations with multiple marketing partners across the country. In 2011, Bob was named Vice President of Sales for Trust 100, the oldest and one of the largest marketing partners to assist client funeral homes with Advance Funeral Planning. These career experiences have made Bob the ideal asset for Johnson Consulting Group to be responsible for client relations and business development.
Lori Salberg – Director of Business Development Recurring Services| email
Lori joined Johnson Consulting Group in 2017, bringing experience in cemetery, funeral home, and pre-need sales management. Along with sales and operations management, Lori directed the development of two propriety cemetery and funeral home enterprise software systems. Lori began her career in 2001 as a Family Service Counselor for the Catholic Cemeteries in San Jose. She quickly moved into management and rose to Associate Director of three cemetery locations. In 2010, Lori furthered her career as General Manager of Holy Sepulchre Cemetery and Holy Angels Funeral and Cremation Center in Hayward, CA, where she also joined the Catholic Management Services leadership team. As Director of Administration and IT, Lori brought management expertise and software solutions to cemetery and funeral home clients. In 2015, Lori joined PlotBox as VP of Sales. Lori contributed to the development of a SaaS cemetery software program, and was principally responsible for introducing it to the US market. She is a frequent speaker at many state and regional industry events and an article contributor to many industry magazines. She is also a member of the ICCFA Sales and Marketing Committee, which plans and oversees the Annual World Wide Sales Conference each January. Lori balances her passion for helping clients prepare for the future with raising her three children, Catalina, JJ, and Lyla. She spends a lot of weekends at dance competitions and little league baseball tournaments.
Cyndi Simmons – Controller | email
Cyndi joined Johnson Consulting Group in 2010, bringing with her an extensive background in Accounting and Finance. In her previous roles Cyndi has made an impact in the Accounting profession by process improvements and client communication. Prior to coming to JCG, she was recruited to develop and implement an Accounts Receivable process for a national company, which resulted in the recovery of over 1.5m in outstanding receivables. As the Accounting Manager, her solid accounting practices, business ethics and leadership provide the clients and staff with the accuracy and integrity that they require and have come to depend on. As Johnson Consulting Group continues to grow, Cyndi is developing process improvements, both internally and externally, to maintain and ensure the highest level of standards for our clients.
Karen McCurdy – Director of Mergers & Acquisitions | email
Karen McCurdy is a graduate of Florida State University (1991), she received a Bachelor of Science in Real Estate. Upon graduation, Karen began a career in appraising both commercial and residential properties. She continues to maintain her real estate broker’s license and State Certified General Appraiser License. After appraising for 3 ½ years, Karen accepted a position with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection as an Appraiser Specialist. She reviewed statewide appraisals related to the acquisition, sale, lease and disposition of all real property. In addition, she performed desk and field reviews of proposed properties for state acquisition.
In May 1996, Karen began a career with Thomas-Pierce & Company as a Project Manager. In 1999, she was promoted to Sr. Financial Analyst. Some of her responsibilities include evaluating the operating and financial performance of client companies, assisting in negotiating the sales of client businesses and working through client transactions. Karen enjoys the challenge of working with the diversities of each business and assisting each client in meeting his or her individual needs.
Nelson Thulin – Director of Business Consulting Services| email
Nelson Thulin began his funeral service career at a family owned funeral home in Wisconsin and over the course of 30 years, his work experience has included independent ownership as well as corporate leadership roles. His management experience ranges from a single location serving approximately 100 families a year to multi-location markets serving over 2600 families.
As a mortuary science student, Nelson received the J.M Nolte Scholar Award and continues his education as a Certified Funeral Service Practitioner through the Academy of Professional Funeral Service Practice as well as collaborating with and learning from other funeral professionals.
Nelson emphasizes a keen focus on the importance of exceeding expectations of client families and providing a meaningful and memorable experience for their guests, resulting in a loyal advocacy of our profession as well as continued growth of individual businesses.
Phil Sinn – Director of Accounting and Finance | email
Phil graduated from Dickinson College with a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics and then continued his education by completing his MBA at LaSalle University with concentration in Finance and Accounting. Phil brings to Johnson Consulting over twenty years of experience working for large and small companies focusing on executing business initiatives and improving processes. For over a decade he held a leadership role at Ditech mortgage developing financial models and performing operational planning and analysis. Previously, he worked on an Arthur Andersen engagement with Hyperion, a large international software company, and managed the revenue accounting group. Phil has a strong technical background working with ERP systems to create forecasts, budgets and financial statements. He strives to exceed the expectations of both internal and external clients.
Kate Cowger – Director of Technology | email
Kate is an executive and leader with proven success in high growth technology industries. She has previously served as the Director of Product Management for solutions within the e-learning, healthcare, government, financial services, non-profit, and education markets. Kate has managed products with $20M+ in revenue by melding executive leadership, agile development, product management, and strategic planning.
A licensed attorney, Kate received her J.D. from the University of St. Thomas Law School in Minneapolis. She also earned an M.B.A. from W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. Kate joins Johnson Consulting Group in their work to grow and create technology products within the funeral home and cemetery industry.
As a cat lady turned plant lady, Kate loves to garden, antique, and practice yoga. Originally from Minnesota, Kate spends her free time in Central Phoenix with her husband and fur babies, enjoying time at the farmers market, cooking, and listening to records in their library.
Scott Gardner – Manager of Accounting Services | email
Scott graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business, and a Master’s Degree in Accounting. He has prior experience in the banking industry as a claims analyst. Scott also has extensive accounting experience in the private sector where he has worked as a bookkeeper and as a financial manager. His responsibilities included oversight of financial reporting, implementation of internal controls, and assisting management with strategic planning. Scott’s understanding of business and accounting assist him greatly in his accounting role at Johnson Consulting Group.
Chad Roberts – Performance Tracker Administrator | email
After Chad graduated from Arizona State University in 2006 with a Bachelor of Science Degree, he went on to earn his Master’s degree in Business Administration in 2009. He joins the Johnson Consulting Group team with an extensive and diverse background in client service development and management of procedural operations in the education industry. He has spent time in both the business of golf and the healthcare field, completing comprehensive financial analysis with an emphasis on cost saving initiatives while helping to achieve maximum efficiency and departmental productivity.
As the Performance Tracker Administrator with Johnson Consulting Group, Chad is responsible for the maintenance of our survey program and the client relationships for our Performance Tracker clientele.
When Chad is not working, he enjoys playing golf, going to the gym, in addition to barbecuing with friends and family.
Annette Sanchez – Business Operations Specialist – Technology | email
Annette comes to Johnson Consulting Group with over 10 years of experience as an Administrative Assistant with other firms including a law firm in New Mexico, property management companies and at Univision. She has experience in Accounts Receivable and Payable and Customer Support. Her role at Johnson Consulting Group as a bi-lingual Administrative Assistant is invaluable to her co-workers and management on many projects. Annette is currently furthering her education at San Juan Community College.
Han Ngo – Manager of Business Analytics | email
Han graduated from Pacific University with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics. Han previously worked at Ditech and Honeywell as a Senior Financial Analyst and brings her strong analytical experience and technical skills to Johnson Consulting. Her experience includes budgeting, forecasting, financial modeling and reporting. Han focuses on process improvement and is Six Sigma Green Belt certified.
Karen Morin – Manager of Financial Analytics | email
Karen is known as a high performing finance and accounting seasoned professional with more than 20 years of experience. Her skills and knowledge range in the domain including supervisory duties of teams as large as 20 people, including role as assistant controller. Recognized for high performing team management and significant process & operations improvement, Karen always demonstrates solid expertise in practical application and implementations of GAAP/GAAS, SOX, FASB, IRC/IRS tax codes and IFRS. Karen has enjoyed a spectrum of challenging roles in her career rising to the level of solely managing and producing budgets and financial forecasts in the quarter billion dollar range with consistency and accuracy. Karen’s professionalism is consistently demonstrated as she pursues excellence in all her work and is relentless in ensuring that her work reflects the highest commitment and standards expected in the field. Karen’s experience is supported by a Bachelors in Accounting from ASU and an MBA emphasis on Accounting from Grand Canyon University where she graduated with a Suma Cum Laude.
Al Asta – Sr. Business Consultant | email
Al graduated 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. 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.
Greg Hilgendorf – Sr. Business Consultant | email
Greg 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.
Lawrence W. Michael – Sr. Business Consultant | email
Larry has a passion for making a difference and serving others, which is what attracted him to the funeral and cemetery profession in 1989. After working for an independent funeral home in Ventura, California where he grew up, his career went on to include roles with the Loewen Group and then Service Corporation International (SCI). During his 23 year career with SCI, Larry excelled in every position and spent the first half of his career in regional operations and sales roles in the Los Angeles Market and the last 10 years his responsibilities included all operations and sales in the Chicago Market as Managing Director, which included 50 funeral homes and cemeteries with over 600 employees.
Licensed as a funeral director, embalmer, cemetery manager and crematory manager in several states, Larry has engaged in every role and responsibility within the funeral and cemetery profession. His studies included Cypress College where he was a Mortuary Science graduate in 1991, and was privileged to serve as class president. He went on to earn his Bachelor of Science in Business Management at California Lutheran University graduating cum laude in 2006.
In the various leadership roles that Larry has held over the years, he enjoys developing associates at all levels and identifying creative and new ways to improve business performance. Customer experiences and exceptional satisfaction are of paramount focus to Larry and he uses this as the basis for all business decisions.
Larry has volunteered and been very involved in a number of organizations over the years, including Rotary International, American Diabetes Association, YMCA, various local hospice organizations and Hospice Foundation of America. He is past president of the Gold Coast Funeral Directors Association in southern California and was recipient of the California Funeral Director Association (CFDA) Young Funeral Director of the Year Award in 2000.
Larry enjoys spending time with his wife, Julie and they are proud parents of five children.
Vincent E. Roberge – Business Consultant | email
Vince graduated with a degree in Economics with High Distinction from the University of Michigan- Dearborn. He also earned a degree in Funeral Service from Commonwealth Institute and holds a license in Mortuary Science in the state of Michigan. He is a Certified Funeral Celebrant and has worked in location management and operational leadership roles for Service Corporation International.
Vince began work in Funeral Service in order to make meaningful impacts on the lives of others. As a Business Consultant he enjoys positively impacting the customer experience, workplace, and operations of Johnson Consulting Group clients. Whether for client-families or clients of JCG, he has always been motivated by delivering work of exceptional quality. Not only does Vince draw on his unique blend of educational and work experience, but also from his years racing as a semi-professional cyclist across Europe and the United States. Outside of work Vince enjoys spending time with his wife Gosia and their Newfoundland dogs.
David Adams – Business Development Consultant | email
David graduated from Southern Illinois University in 1977 with a degree in Mortuary Science. He served as a partner/licensed Funeral Director/Embalmer at a firm in Southern Illinois. In 1984 he joined Batesville Casket Company, a leading manufacturer of burial and cremation products. During his 25+ year tenure with Batesville, he served in a variety of sales and management positions. These roles enabled him to gain experience, knowledge and in-depth understanding of sales and merchandising strategies, industry demographics, and the complexity of the changing funeral industry market. David also gained invaluable experience by serving as the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at a leading funeral/cemetery complex in the Greater San Francisco Bay area. For the past four years, David expanded his professional resume by serving as the Director of Corporate Development for a publicly traded acquisition company. Throughout his career, David has gained extensive knowledge and diverse experience with all aspects of the death care industry.
Marissa Morah – Marketing & Communications Manager | email
Marissa is the Client Services and Communications Coordinator for Johnson Consulting Group. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Business Communication from Trinity International University in Deerfield, IL. During her time at Trinity, she was able to gain experience in digital marketing through various internships, where she handled social media marketing efforts, blog writing, and content management. She now handles both digital and traditional marketing efforts, trade shows, and other content creation to tell Johnson Consulting Group’s story.
Claire Pritchard – Marketing Assistant | email
Claire joins the Johnson Consulting Group as the Marketing Assistant. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Mass Communications, with an emphasis in Advertising and Public Relations, from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. Claire has both corporate and agency experience in the B2B and B2C space and brings her passion and expertise in marketing to the JCG team.
As a dog mom of two, Claire is also a fitness instructor, foodie, and can usually be found on top of Camelback Mountain.
Phoebe Glemba – Sales Administrator | email
Phoebe comes to Johnson Consulting Group with a Bachelor’s Degree in Management from Arizona State University. During her time in college, she discovered that she is passionate about empowering and assisting the leaders of the organization or business she is working for. As Sales Administrator, Phoebe puts her passion into practice and works closely with the leaders of the Business Development team and our clients to help execute superior business consulting practices. She previously worked in Student Enrollment Services at Glendale Community College in Arizona for three years, both servicing students and providing administrative assistance to the department leaders.
When she’s not working, Phoebe loves spending time with her family and attending yearly conferences for their church located in Tulsa, Oklahoma
Tim Fullerton – Business Development Consultant | email
Tim has been serving families in the Cemetery, Funeral and Final Expense industry since 2007. He has met with over 1000 families during the tragic time of a loved ones passing, and understands how to present educational content about the funeral and cemetery process that will guide them to making a decision that is right for them. Tim is delighted to take his knowledge to the JCG clients and be a part of the Johnson Consulting Group Team!
Zach Osselaer – Financial Analyst | email
Zach earned his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Arizona in Economics and also received a minor in Mathematics and Business Management. While attending school he worked as a manager at Domino’s Pizza. Currently he is working towards receiving his real estate license in the state of Arizona.
As a Financial Analyst at Johnson Consulting Group, Zach brings management experience and an analytical mind to the team. He is responsible for providing a wide scope of accurate financial analysis for our clients.
In Zach’s free time, he enjoys hiking, going to movies and spending time with family and friends.
Simon Wong – Financial Analyst | email
Simon graduated from Arizona State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting. After graduation, he worked at a student loan company as a staff accountant preparing financial documents. Thereafter, Simon worked at an insurance brokerage as a staff accountant preparing financial statements and reviewing an assortment of accounting procedures. Simon’s prior accounting experience and analytic abilities supports his role as a Financial Analyst at Johnson Consulting Group. Simon enjoys bicycling, hiking and listening to music in his free time.
Michael Yates – Financial Analyst | email
Michael graduated from Arizona State University with a Bachelors in Finance with a minor in Political Science. During college Michael worked at a start-up software company that developed financial compliance software for cash intensive businesses.
In his spare time Michael enjoys watching and talking about sports and relaxing at home.
Berny Gaarsoe – Lead Accountant | email
Berny brings extensive experience to Johnson Consulting’s financial services. He graduated from the University of Utah with a Bachelor’s 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.
Nate Larsen – Lead Accountant | email
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.
Grant Reynolds – Lead Accountant | email
Grant is a tenured Lead Accountant with Johnson Consulting Group. He has received his Master of Science Taxation from California State University Fullerton and Bachelor of Science Finance from Arizona State University and has worked in the banking and tax planning industry for over 10 years. Knowing that time is valuable, Grant focuses on improving efficiencies with accounting practices and uses his experience to create lasting solutions to the accounting problems facing his clients.
As a Lead Accountant with Johnson Consulting Group, Grant develops client relationship to provide accounting solutions and financial statement analysis. He believes actively engaging client needs builds financial stability and increases profitability.
While not at work, Grant plays with his twin boys and hobbies as an amateur carpenter.
Sheryl Lawary – Lead Accountant | email
Sheryl brings over 15 years of accounting experience to Johnson Consulting Group. While earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Accounting from the University of Phoenix, she worked with certified public accountants and tax attorneys. Prior to her accounting career, Sheryl worked as an Assistant Trust Administrator in Wealth Management and Private Banking.
As a Johnson Consulting Group Senior Accountant, Sheryl builds and maintains strong client relationships and anticipates their needs. Integrity is her core value. Sheryl is responsible for providing accounting and bookkeeping services to our Accounting client base.
In Sheryl’s off hours, she enjoys the outdoors and the challenges of hiking.
Niccole Delgado – Lead Accountant | email
Niccole graduated from the University of Phoenix with honors, earning a Bachelor of Science in Accounting. Niccole is a current member of the Delta Mu Delta International Honor Society in Business Administration. Her past work experience in the credit and banking industry as an SR Rapid Cycle Test Analyst provided her analytical and strategic decision making, as well as teamwork skills. Her innovative ideas help strengthen customer relationships, improve processes, and fortify the company brand. Niccole’s dedication to Johnson Consulting Group’s core values and mission to provide the highest quality services, will ensure she is not only meeting, but exceeding, our clients’ expectations.
Lynne Jejna – Accountant | email
Lynne comes to Johnson Consulting Group with an extensive background in the finance/accounting arena. Her prior work experience encompassed preparing and analyzing monthly financial statements. She has worked closely with her client base to foster an invaluable partnership. This experience has afforded Lynne the essential skills needed to better serve her clients.
Allison Benedict – Accountant | email
Allison graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Economics from Arizona State University. She gained her professional experience at a local credit union applying her knowledge and skills in check processing, accounting, and risk management. She works closely with her fellow accountants to provide accounting and bookkeeping services.
Tuyen Tran – Accountant | email
Tuyen has a Master’s in Accountancy degree from Arizona State University. Her professional career prior to JCG was working for Food Service of America in their Corporate Headquarters in Scottsdale, AZ. In the accounting role she focused on cash management and financial analysis of vender accounts. Tuyen is a team player and prides herself on quick results and accuracy.
Lisa Grosskopf – Bookkeeper | email
Lisa comes to Johnson Consulting Group with over 15 years of Accounting and Administrative Support experience, specializing in small, family-owned businesses located in New York and Arizona. She holds a B.A. in Spanish with a minor in Economics from the State University of New York College at Cortland. As the Internal Bookkeeper at Johnson Consulting Group, she assists with Accounts Receivable, Accounts Payable and other accounting functions in support of the Controller. She strives to exceed expectations while supporting the team as well as engaging with clients.
At home, Lisa enjoys spending time with her son Logan, cooking, as well as reading historical fiction, practicing yoga, and playing with her dog June.
Tess Flores – Senior Administrative Assistant | email
Tess comes from a professional background in business administration and executive support. She has extensive experience in a variety of administrative tasks including accounts receivable and payables, correspondence, marketing, billing and project management. Her role includes office assistant, customer surveys and special projects support. Her main area of focus is in JCG’s management services department with client and organizational support.
Ciarra Guthrie – Administrative Assistant / Receptionist | email
Ciarra is a native of Mesa, Arizona but had the opportunity to explore the Midwest by attending Xavier University in Cincinnati, OH. While at XU, she received her Bachelor’s Degree in Sport Management with a minor in Communications. Upon graduating she interned with the Cincinnati Reds and eventually made her way back to the desert by working full time with the Arizona Diamondbacks in the Inside Sales department.
Ciarra brings a wealth of sales, management and coordination skills to the company and prides herself on being of service to each department in the company to make her coworkers day as smooth as possible.
When she is not working, you can find Ciarra in a yoga class, walking her dog Ty or at a local restaurant trying out new eats like the foodie she is.
Whitney Nikander – Business Operations Manager | email
Whitney is passionate about positioning teams for growing together and organizations for scalability. At Johnson Consulting Group, she works to create processes and cultivate relationships that promote culture and operational efficiency. Whitney brings to JCG a Bachelor’s in Psychology from Grand Canyon University along with varied experience working with executives from engineering to technology companies. As Business Operations Specialist, she is a support to all departments to empower the JCG team to continue being what we are – excellent at serving our Customers.
In her free time, Whitney enjoys traveling, arranging flowers, spending time outdoors and discovering local restaurants with friends and family.
Bill Cutter – Consultant | email
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 he teamed up 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.
Dale Espich – Consultant | email
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 U.S. Dale has worked with funeral businesses 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.
Rich Sells – Consultant | email
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, as well as a Hall of Fame recipient for ICCFA,. 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.
Bob Horn – Consultant | email
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 foster this environment of success and growth.
Ken Knauss – Consultant | email
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.
Charles Merrick – Consultant | email
Charles has been a licensed Funeral Director and Embalmer in the State of Arizona for over 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 over fifty five years during which time they have enjoyed their four children.