For any funeral home looking to grow, strategic planning is a crucial piece of the puzzle. Rather than get caught up in the urgency of day-to-day operations, strategic planning is an opportunity for leadership to focus on the projects that will lead to long-term success. That said, it’s not a challenge you can leap into unprepared. If you want your long-term growth plan to succeed, strategic planning is a crucial step of the process. You must establish precise goals, assess your business’s capabilities, and decide on the best path forward. Having this plan in place can help you better understand what your funeral home is capable of and avoid costly, ineffective initiatives that only serve to stress your team. When setting out to craft a strategic plan for the upcoming years, here’s what you should consider.
When strategizing key company initiatives in your funeral home, start by defining the end goal. By beginning with the end in mind, it’s easier to plan ahead and effectively allocate the resources required. Are you looking to grow your funeral home business profits? Do you struggle with staff turnover and want to create a better culture to attract and retain talent? Or perhaps you’re interested in exit planning and want to get the business in a good place before selling it.
Evaluate the Prior Year
Once you’ve decided on a company initiative, whether it is introducing new services or optimizing an existing process, the next step is to understand where you are currently and where you’ve been in the past year. Take some time to reflect and collect feedback from your team. Explore questions like:
- What went right?
- What went wrong? What did we learn from these failures?
- What are the biggest opportunities in front of us?
- What are the biggest current challenges we face?
- Where do we want the company to be three years from now?
At Johnson Consulting Group, we send our clients a pre-work questionnaire that includes questions like this and more. The questionnaire is completely anonymous and serves as a crucial starting point as we craft a strategic plan for our clients. By consolidating the answers into a workbook, we can gather insight into a client’s starting position and better advise them going forward.
Analyze the Situation and Establish Key Company Outcomes
Once you have a better understanding of your previous year, it’s time to perform a SWOT analysis. Performing a SWOT analysis on a regular basis is a powerful way to keep track of your funeral home’s health as a business. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Your funeral home can use a SWOT analysis to assess internal operations and how you stand up to competitors, which helps the leadership team understand where the company is currently positioned. From there, you can decide what outcomes you’d like to see for your funeral home. This could be any number of things, such as improving the family experience, increasing preneed sales, or expanding to a second location.
Choose a Key Company Initiative
Now that you have a foundational understanding of your business’s capabilities, it’s time to choose Key Company Initiatives (KCI). Your team likely has many wonderful ideas, so this is an excellent time to analyze and vet each option before choosing which ones to focus on first. This consists of three steps:
Brainstorm a list of possible KCIs that could achieve the outcome you want. Include everyone during this process, as it will help identify everyone’s perspective. When we work with clients, a JCG facilitator will go around the room and gather each person’s thoughts on what is the most important initiative to work on first. Each member of the team will have a unique perspective to offer, which can provide valuable insight during the process.
After gathering a list of possible initiatives, break down each initiative into more precise components. This will help your team understand how feasible the initiative is as far as budget, current staffing, and other available resources.
- Name of initiative – Define what the project is and what it will involve.
- Owner – List who will spearhead the initiative. This person does not necessarily have to execute on every step, but they are the main point of contact.
- Definition of success – What is the goal? Establish what your team hopes to achieve as a result of the new initiative.
- Milestones and timeline – Look ahead at your end goal, then break down the smaller steps necessary to get there.
- Key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics – Discuss how you will measure the success of the initiative using specific KPIs. You should gather metrics before, during, and after launching the initiative.
- Resources and support – Compile a list of resources your team can go to for more information. This might include consultants, market data, competitive research, and more.
As the funeral home manager or director, it will be your job to divvy up ownership and individual tasks according to your team’s strengths and availability. If we take the example of increasing preneed sales, you might want to appoint a lead sales agent for the initiative who can administer the training and report back to you on progress.
Once you’ve finished establishing the components for each KCI, it’s time to narrow down your list and decide which initiative to tackle first. For example, remodeling your funeral home facilities might be a KCI you have in mind to improve the customer experience. However, if you lack the cash flow to comfortably budget for the project, you might decide it will take a lower priority on your list. Where initiatives typically fail is when decision-makers don’t have all the necessary perspectives required to achieve the proper timeline or result. If your team rushes through the development, evaluation, and prioritization of a KCI, your team may struggle to achieve the desired outcome and waste budget and energy in the process. For example, the funeral home owner may prioritize their own ideas rather than take the time to gather the insight and perspective of their team. They might not understand how much time is wasted while waiting for outdated software or a slow network to load. This could directly clash with a KCI to improve the customer experience by adding an online chat to the website. This is where an outside facilitator, such as the experts at JCG, can be extremely helpful. We can offer funeral directors a fresh, unbiased perspective of the business and a strategic path forward.
Monitor the Progress
As you proceed through the steps of your plan, be ready and available to address issues that come up. In many cases, it will become necessary to adjust the budget. You should be prepared to do so, provided your point person has a thorough justification for said moves. You should also not be afraid to delegate or reassign work as needed. As frequently as possible, keep in touch with your leadership team to communicate any progress and setbacks. Accountability is a crucial part of the process, too. Management should regularly check in with the initiative owner, and the initiative owner should check in with any staff they are managing during the rollout. Estimates for budget and timeline are just that — estimates — so it’s likely they will differ from the final result. Accountability meetings can help leadership evaluate whether the initiative is on track and make adjustments as needed. Generally, it’s best to hold this accountability meeting every 90 days. During the review, recognize successes and wins of the initiative as well as any challenges or concerns. This is also a good time to check if employees are hitting any barriers that are holding them back from success. During our strategic plan accountability meetings with clients, we also ask the questions: What went right? What went wrong? What did we learn? Questions like these will help you determine how to work more effectively. While each of your initiatives will differ in nature and scope, your business can continually improve the way you plan for and approach new initiatives.
Partner with an Expert
With thorough and strategic allocation of resources, your funeral home can accomplish goals both in the near- and long-term. However, it’s not always obvious where to position your money and your people. If you need help with the planning process, consider enlisting the help of consultants. At Johnson Consulting Group, our team of death care consultants has helped dozens of funeral businesses plan and implement strategic initiatives that help them grow. Most importantly, our consulting team has a clear and holistic vision of how resources play into the equation. We can help you set budgets and stick to them. The most important initiatives for your business require budgets and galvanized teams. With the help of JCG consultants, we can help you figure out how to align these resources with your greater success.
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