At a time when interest rates are at historic lows, it’s good to be in an industry that offers outstanding investment opportunity. Dating back to the Great Depression, banks and business people alike have viewed the funeral profession as low risk, dependable and honorable borrowers of money.
Over the last two decades the landscape of the funeral business has changed. We’ve had mergers, acquisitions, litigation, regulatory changes and many other events that have led the financial industry to be leery. We know that the fundamentals of our business are solid, however the challenge is convincing the financial community.
Because of the state of the business climate, there has never been a better opportunity for industry professionals to borrow money. The historically low interest rate environment and availability of capital make this a very exciting time. If you have borrowed money in the past, you know how frustrating this process can be…It need not be! The key is working with likeminded people to achieve your objectives.
If you are looking to grow your business, the three primary ways are to buy, build or expand. In almost every case you are going to need capital. The good news is that capital is available if you know where and how to look for it.
Acquisitions become available for a variety of reasons. The reasons may dictate the speed and pricing to an extent, but the important thing to know is that you never know what opportunity exists until it’s been evaluated. Be prepared!
In most cases, acquisitions are the fastest way to grow a business. We have all seen it with the large public companies as well as the local operators who have experienced extraordinary growth. We’ve thought, how in the world can they do that? They must be crazy! The truth is that it’s not too difficult if you know what you’re doing and what to look for. When a location is strategic, established and purchased with the proper planning there are few ways to grow quicker or smarter than through an acquisition. There are approximately 21,000 funeral homes across the United States. You don’t have to look too far find to find the one you want.
CHANGING CONSUMER DEMANDS
This industry is changing. More so now than ever the consumer is becoming more educated and demanding. The demand for modernized facilities, celebration of life and increasing cremation rates mean that many of the facilities built 20 or more years ago need renovations. Whether it is updating the facility, expanding or adding a retort, the consumer is demanding that we change to meet their demands.
Life expectancy is nearly 10 years longer than it was just a short time ago. This means that the decisions are being made by a different consumer than they were a short time ago. There is a growing notion that the average client family visits two or more funeral providers before selecting the facility that will care for their loved one. They want to see the facilities, meet the people and know what to expect when it comes to the care of the deceased. Baby boomers are not so accepting. They expect buildings to be bright and airy, restrooms to be large and conform to ADA standards. Furniture should be comfortable and chapels without pews. Not meeting the demands of the consumer can cause a loss of call volume and cause the call to move down the street.
Families often prefer non-religious based services and may not want memorialization. Typically well-educated and social families want to acknowledge their loss and will often have receptions at country clubs, banquet halls or restaurants. These families are not afraid of spending money on the events. Thousands of funeral homes nationally are expanding their facilities, or buying neighboring buildings to operate their own reception halls. Many firms are hosting business events, weddings, anniversaries and even birthdays. After all, operating a funeral business is wonderful training for running a successful hospitality business.
The neighborhoods we grew up in don’t look the same as they did and certainly not the way the way they did when our parents were growing up. In many cases the socioeconomic, ethnic and geographic location of the consumer has shifted. As the population shifts, you must shift with it. New developments continue to pop up all around our communities and the population centers shift. The key for sustained growth is moving with, or ahead of that growth.
Funeral directors have been seizing these opportunities for years. Whether by building a new facility or converting an existing business, the funeral professional must grow with the community. Always trust your instincts, but support your intuition with information about demographic trends and objective analysis on start-up costs and financial projections. Looking objectively at the whole picture will usually give you the correct answer. Evaluate, analyze, pressure test and prepare to move into action.
EVALUATE YOUR CAPITAL SITUATION
How many loans do you have? How do your rates compare to what’s available today? The answer is that most of us don’t know. Because the process of getting loans can be burdensome and not something we deal with very often, it gets little attention. If you have dealt only with your local bank, didn’t shop rates and terms, it is likely it’s costing you thousands. It’s often overlooked, but being smart about your balance sheet can usually save you thousands each and every month. It will also give you peace of mind. With interest rates as low as they are today, now is the time to evaluate your situation and make changes to meet your goals and objectives.
Managing and growing your business is a continuous process. Evaluating new opportunities and changing trends, in and out of the industry, means that the modern funeral professional must be on top of their game. The current state of the financial industry presents us with some of the best opportunities in decades. Whether you want to buy, build, expand or simply get your house in order, the available capital is there. The key is knowing what you want, where to look and how to get it.
The lending process can often be complicated and frustrating. Inject confusion on the lenders part about the profession and it can be outright ridiculous…It need not be. There are several banks that welcome our business with open arms. You need to be prepared and know what to look for and where. Consult with an industry professional. There are people who deal with these situations on a daily basis and know how best to get you what you need. As we look to kick off 2015, be sure your foundation for growth is as solid as it can be.