By Denise Zoephel, Assistant Executive Director
One of my favorite quotes from C.L. Lewis is, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too?’ ”
Around this time last year, the Selected Board of Directors and Headquarters Staff embarked on a mission to provide our members operating funeral homes and cemeteries with information, support and networking opportunities. We started with a special Bulletin edition that showcased members who leverage creativity, years of operational experience and unique alternatives to traditional practices. We also featured beautiful photos showcasing the gardens and grounds our members have created for the families they serve. Most importantly, we began to connect members who didn’t know that we have 80 Selected members who own both a funeral home and a cemetery.
The next effort was to bring members together face-to-face at the 2016 Annual Meeting in Orlando. Lance Larkin, Larkin Mortuary, UT and Bill McReavy, Washburn-McReavy Funeral Chapels, MN, presented a session for members managing a combo location or for those contemplating the development or purchase of a cemetery. Topics shared included growing preneed and at-need revenues, developing cremation options for cemeteries and mausoleums, and what the value of vertical integration—headstone, vault manufacturing, flower shops and weddings—can add to the mix.
Also discussed were the challenges combo owners face in managing staff, maintenance challenges, cemetery equipment, irrigation systems, computer systems and onsite crematories. If you were unable to attend, audio and handouts from the session are available at selectedfuneralhomes.org/2016-annual-meeting. I encourage you to take a moment to tap into this valuable information and view the amazing photos Lance and Bill shared.
The conversation continued the following morning at a special networking breakfast which featured a lively discussion covering many topics. It is always exciting to watch our members approach problems through a lens of opportunity. Those who participated got a first-hand chance to tap into some valuable organizational knowledge which only comes from the continued sharing of information and experiences. Highlights from the conversation included:
- Common challenges vs. those unique to each market
- Discussions about controllable vs uncontrollable
- Concerns regarding juggling priorities, especially when sharing resources
- Staffing and maintenance issues
- Varying management styles depending on the where a cemetery resides
- Keeping the sales staff
- Addressing, educating and offering unique options for cremation families
What’s next? In conjunction with this special Bulletin edition, we are excited to announce the launch of a Funeral Home + Cemetery Management landing page on Selected’s website that will house materials and resources including a roster of members who own both a funeral home and cemetery. This roster, which ties directly into our database to ensure up-to-date information, can be a great resource for those who don’t know who other Selected Combo owners are or who are looking for assistance and support. We plan to continue to explore other opportunities and encourage Combo owners or their staff to reach out and provide resources that we can share with all members.
In addition, we once again will offer a special session and networking breakfast at this year’s Annual Meeting at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel, Chicago. On Tuesday, September 12, plan to join us for the Funeral Home + Cemetery Management Combo Firms session and on Wednesday, September 13, for a networking breakfast. Meeting information is available at selectedfuneralhomes.org/annual.
As you work on your business, know that Selected strives to offer opportunities to help you with the problems you are trying to solve, the needs you are trying to meet and the outcomes you are trying to achieve. Please reach out to me at email@example.com with questions or suggestions. I look forward to hearing from you.