Friday, December 19, 2014

It's okay to be a little lazy

Rich Darby,
Chief Operating Officer
One of the greatest “silent” gifts given to us each holiday season is the gift of laziness. In the hustle and bustle of today’s business and personal world, we are moving at a faster pace than ever.

It seems around the holidays everyone eases up on the gas pedal, and we allow ourselves to be just a bit more lazy than normal. I truly believe this ok. I believe we all need to take some time and just rejuvenate every once in a while. We deserve to focus on family and friends, and understand that business will be there after Christmas. There is nothing wrong with taking a few days just for you. If you are beating yourself up and fighting an internal struggle right now, stop fighting. I encourage you to allow yourself a few days to re-energize. You will be far more productive afterwards.

I have plans to take some time off between Christmas and New Year’s. I am looking forward to spending some wonderful time with my lovely wife. I haven’t abandoned my work ethic. I haven’t thrown away thoughts or work projects. I have just put them on hold for a few days. I am allowing myself to “de-stress.” Don’t worry, when January comes around, my articles will change. I will once again be kicking everyone’s rear to get up out of our chairs because there is business to take care of. Until then, Happy Holidays from the Darby family.


This article originally appeared in Trigard Tuesdays, our weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at http://www.trigard.com/tuesdays.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Do you believe in what we do?

Linda Darby-Dowers,
Chief Executive Officer
At Trigard, we offer funeral professionals an educational program we call Trigard University to give them a feel for what we do. We invite members of our profession from across the country to tour our manufacturing facilities, learn different marketing techniques, visit our funeral homes and participate in many other educational activities.

Often times when I am speaking with a group visiting our program, I will ask the question, “Do you believe in what we do?” I feel like this is a very important question to ask, especially the younger generation. If we don’t believe in what we do, then how are the families we serve supposed to believe as well?

After asking that question, it is interesting to see the facial expressions. Most often they say yes, however, there have been a few who I can tell are contemplating their answer. When I see a concerned face in the crowd, I tell them that people can tell if they believe in what they do or not. We are a very privileged industry. We help people at one of the worst times in their lives. We provide products and services to help get them through it so healing can begin. If you aren't quite sure if you are a believer or not, please take the time to figure out how to solve this problem. The families we serve are counting on us to believe in what we do.


This article originally appeared in Trigard Tuesdays, our weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at http://www.trigard.com/tuesdays.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Does the logo really matter?

Julia Sullivan,
Creative Director
Take a look around your facility. Does anything have the Trigard logo on it? Is it the blue logo or is it maroon? Either way it says Trigard, but did you know that having the right logo really makes a difference?

You are very important to Trigard’s brand. The Trigard brand is used in advertising, on vehicles, on websites, on signs, on business cards and even through word of mouth. Every time we share something about Trigard, it’s an opportunity to build the reputation of our brand, our dealers, our customers and our products.

When someone is searching for more information about Trigard and finds your information, what do they see? Does it match our other branding? Is the information current?


Logos evolve. Take Ford’s logo, for example. It has changed drastically since the company began. Would you know what to expect from Ford if they still used one of their outdated logos? Even if you remember one of their older logos, more than likely you connect their current logo with the modern Ford brand you know and trust.

The Trigard logo has evolved, too. If you are still using an older generation of the logo, now is the time to modernize. Contact our Customer Service team, and we’ll send you a FREE CD with a copy of our current logo and all of our current vault images.



This article originally appeared in Trigard Tuesdays, our weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at http://www.trigard.com/tuesdays.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

How "warm" are your interpersonal skills?

Stuart McDaniels,
Materials Manager
A few years ago, there were some interesting studies released that discussed “warmth” being the most powerful personality trait in social judgment. The researchers predicted that by holding a warm or cold beverage it would increase the feelings of interpersonal warmth or coldness, without the person’s knowledge.

Two studies were conducted. The first demonstrated participants who briefly held a cup of hot (versus iced) coffee judged a target person as having a “warmer” personality. In the second study participants holding a hot (versus cold) therapeutic pad were more likely to choose a gift for a friend instead of themselves.

In other words, holding the warm object leads to a behavior that is more generous. This is great if you are trying to make new friends, but could be a problem at the negotiating table.

If you are planning to discuss a business deal, purchasing a new vehicle or even talking with your kids about what time you want them home for the evening, remember to put down that cup of coffee. Also, if you can, find a way to get a warm beverage into the other party’s hand. It could lead to a better outcome for you.
 


This article originally appeared in Trigard Tuesdays, our weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at http://www.trigard.com/tuesdays.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Are your goals set for 2015?

Jeff Miller,
Vice President of
Business Development
As we near the holiday season and the beginning of a new year, it's the perfect time to begin planning goals for 2015. Whether you’re a vault dealer, funeral home or cemetery, setting goals is an all-too-familiar task. How many of our goals are realistic and attainable? Sometimes, we can set them too high, which makes them impossible to reach. 

A great way to begin planning and setting goals for 2015 is to sit down with key people within your own business. They can help narrow your thoughts and help you establish:
  1. what is most important to accomplish
  2. a working plan and strategy
  3. who is responsible for fulfilling the goal
  4. who is managing the follow-up
It’s important to set goals and strategies to accomplish them so we don’t fall back into our daily routines and watch the market change around us. Don’t worry if you don’t accomplish every goal on the first try. When we work towards a goal, we continue to focus on our business and the changing market place. This may require several attempts, but over time, a well-managed plan will pay dividends. 

At Trigard, our goals for 2015 include continuing on our path of growth, continuing to support our dealers, and focusing on new account opportunities. I would love to hear your goals and strategies for 2015. Email me at jeffm@trigard.com.
 


This article originally appeared in Trigard Tuesdays, our weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at http://www.trigard.com/tuesdays.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Strong relationships are the pathway to success

Karen Darby-Ritz,
Advance Planning Manager,
Camino del Sol Funeral Chapel
and Cremation Center
When you look back on your life, what do you remember the most? Is it that new cellphone you recently purchased, or the days spent on the job? Or, is it the relationships you have built with colleagues, friends or family that made a bigger impact?

A successful life is not about the things we acquire during our lifetime. It’s about the relationships we cultivate along the way. Quality relationships can be the path to success in life and business. When we have a healthy relationship with others, communication becomes more seamless. Healthy relationships can help to make even the most difficult of situations end well.

Quality relationships consist of three important values: empathy, care and respect.
  1. When we empathize with the families we serve, we must put ourselves into their shoes and really feel and understand what they are going through.
  2. By empathizing with families, it also shows them that we care about them and the loved one that they have lost. 
  3. When we listen to a family's needs and help them as much as possible, it shows them that we respect them.
Relationships don’t happen by chance or continue to grow unattended. Any relationship takes effort, not just in the beginning, but throughout the life of the partnership. Sustaining a relationship may require us to step outside our comfort zone, but in the end, it is worth it because that is what helps make a strong relationship.

This article originally appeared in Trigard Tuesdays, our weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at http://www.trigard.com/tuesdays.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Stay educated and get involved

Blake Swinford,
Project Manager
How often do you leave the office to learn and connect with other people in our industry? Are you involved with regional, state or national organizations? I think one reason a lot of us are afraid of change is that we don’t make the time to refresh our knowledge and get involved.

At Trigard, we offer an educational program called Trigard University. It includes an agenda committed to helping vault dealers and their funeral home customers by handing over the tools needed to make their companies succeed in today's competitive environment. In just a few days at Trigard University, you can learn new ways to make a positive impact on your business that could last for years.

The curriculum is tailored to your specific needs, which can include:
  • A brief history of how Trigard got started
  • A lesson on the tools proven to help you sell the products that your family deserves
  • An in-depth tour of our manufacturing facility
  • A tour of one of our many funeral homes – where we test our own products
  • A few minutes with our pre-need manager on how to grow your business
Many organizations across our industry offer many opportunities to get involved, but one close to my heart is NCBVA. The National Concrete Burial Vault Association acts a single voice for all burial vault manufacturers, regardless of product brand. They offer training, membership and certification opportunities all year round and once a year they hold their Annual National Diversification Convention. This year it will be held February 13 – 15, 2015, in St. Petersburg, Florida.

I encourage you to get out of the office and take advantage of the educational and professional opportunities available to you.
 


This article originally appeared in Trigard Tuesdays, our weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at http://www.trigard.com/tuesdays.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Three customer service strategies for 2015

As the holidays approach and the end of the year draws near, now is the perfect time to plan your customer service goals for 2015. At Trigard, customer service is our number one priority. We care about you and the families you serve.

Having a successful Customer Service team isn't easy. We follow a few strategies that might help your team as well.
  1. Deliver on your promises. Every order that arrives on time or service that goes smoothly reinforces your customers’ trust in you. Customers don’t want you to promise them the moon as much as they want you to deliver it on time and with a smile.
  2. Pay attention to the details. Sometimes the little things make the biggest impact. Figure out the details that your customers notice and make them a routine part of doing business with you.
  3. Analyze when things go right. When you hear a complaint, you usually have discussions to find out what went wrong and how to prevent it from happening again. Next time you get a compliment, find out what went right and how to repeat it. 
Remember, keeping loyal customers happy is a great measure of success.


This article originally appeared in Trigard Tuesdays, our weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at http://www.trigard.com/tuesdays.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Steps to help embrace change in your business

Brodie Krause,
IT Manager
In June of this year, Microsoft released the Surface™ Pro 3 tablet computer. Earlier this week, I read a headline that mentioned Microsoft releasing the details of the Surface Pro 4 – less than 6 months after the release of their previous version. Every month there’s a new cell phone released, soon to be replaced by the next one. We live in a culture of change, and our society thrives on the new and the improved. So, why is it that the one place we are reluctant to embrace change is in our business practices? We still rely on the way it has always been done instead of looking for ways to do it better.

Did you know that the fax machine was first patented in 1843? That’s not a typo. Before the Civil War, fax technology became the next big thing. And today, 30 years shy of 2 centuries later, so many of us still rely heavily on the technology. I’ve recently begun converting our company from traditional faxing to electronic, and it is amazing to see people embrace the change.  Before we began, the question was “What’s wrong with our existing fax machine?” But as I show people how to use the new system, that question has changed to “I can really send a fax from my cell phone?” or “I don’t have to physically be in the office to see the incoming faxes?”  It seems so minor, but in the end, it’s going to save time and money, and enable us to respond to our customers’ needs with flexibility and agility. This is just one example of the ways we can innovate and update, not just for the sake of change, but to break certain habits, in this case a 200-year-old habit!

So how do you move forward?
  • Step one, identify the problems or shortfalls with the way things are currently done. 
  • Step two, research the alternatives. Find out what new technologies exist, and how they can improve upon what you found in Step one. 
  • Step three, put it in to action. Step three is tough because it is that pivotal point where you move from talk to action. Expect some hiccups, but carry it through. 
  • And finally, Step four, evaluate the impact the change has made. There’s no denying that change can be scary, but to refuse to innovate is to remain static in a dynamic world, which only limits your growth opportunities.
 
This article originally appeared in Trigard Tuesdays, our weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at http://www.trigard.com/tuesdays.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The helpful view of the grounds crew - Part 2

Patrick Lewis,
Grounds Manager
After getting great feedback on my last article in Trigard Tuesday about the difference between concrete boxes and lined, sealed burial vaults, I thought it would be beneficial to continue the conversation. When a family chooses a concrete box for the protection of their loved one after burial, they not only run the risk of ground water rising up through the drainage holes in the bottom. But, they also run the risk of the flat lid disintegrating and breaking down, which causes many other problems.

The lid of a concrete box is completely flat, which doesn’t allow the ground to distribute its weight proportionally across the surface. Over time, the grounds weight, as well as the weight of cemetery equipment, puts too much pressure causing the lid to crack and cave into the concrete box. This movement of the lid causes the ground to sink and move – making the cemetery grounds uneven.

In order to fix the cemetery grounds, we have to repair it by tamping or refilling the sunken area with more dirt – causing the lid to break even more. It is an endless cycle that can be prevented by encouraging the families you serve to bury their family member in a lined, sealed burial vault.

As you may know, a burial vault has an arched lid which allows it to shift the weight of the ground more proportionally than a concrete box. I understand that some families have financial limits when purchasing an outer burial container for their loved one. But for families who have the luxury of choice, they deserve to really understand the difference between a concrete box and a lined, sealed burial vault.

If you need help with the conversation, we have some helpful materials, such as a poster and a sales sheet, that do all the talking for you.


This article originally appeared in Trigard Tuesdays, our weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at http://www.trigard.com/tuesdays.

Pet memorialization doesn't have to be all or nothing

This article originally appeared in the September/October issue of Funeral Business Advisor.

As members of the funeral profession, we understand the importance of memorializing our loved ones. This includes our family members, our friends and even our furry and feathered animal companions. For many of us, our pet is a dinner date, a snuggle buddy, a “wing man,” a friend to exercise and play with, and so much more. They love us and depend on us. They are a part of our family.

In 2013, the Animal Pet Products Association (APPA) conducted a survey to find out how much money is being spent on pets each year. The results were astounding. Pet parents in the United States spent roughly $55 million on pet products in 2013, including food, toys and pet care products. Pet owners are willing to spend their hard-earned dollars on their adorable pets. With this information in mind, it would come as no surprise that when a family loses a pet, a number of them are willing to spend the money to create a memorial in their honor.

As funeral professionals, when we decide to offer pet memorialization, how much do we want to invest? Will this part of our business be bigger than burial vaults, caskets or memorials? It is worth our time to create a dedicated space in our selection rooms or buildings for the pet families that we serve.

I don’t believe that a construction project or building addition is required to begin offering pet services – and to do it right. Do you have an additional prearrangement room that doesn’t get much use anymore? Is there an office that is slowly turning into a storage room and has gone unused for years? You can transform an unused area into a special place for pet services.

As with any new venture, it’s easy to get wrapped up in making sure that you have a comprehensive selection of products for families. But when you’re converting a space, instead of focusing on the “what,” I think you need to focus on the “how.” Create service packages for your families and gather educational resources for them about grieving and pets. Yes, products are part of the equation, but what can make you stand out is demonstrating that you understand the process of losing a pet.

As an animal lover, I understand the grief pet families suffer when they lose a furry friend. It is heartbreaking. And, in their time of loss, they want someone who will understand what they are experiencing. They want someone who knows that their animal’s life mattered. That is why it is important to provide a special, dedicated space to educate families about pet memorialization services and products. Just like anywhere else in your facility, the space should be comfortable, inviting and created with care. But is just as important to have the right people working with the pet families you serve.

Having the right people helping the families you serve makes all the difference. Some people are just not animal lovers. It takes a special person to work in the funeral industry, and it takes an equally special person to work in pet memorialization. You wouldn’t want someone who didn’t like dogs to be helping you say goodbye to your German shepherd.

Saying goodbye to a family member, whether it is a person or a pet, is never easy. Families need to feel like their loved one mattered and they want to go to a place that provides the right resources. How do you educate the community about your resources? There are many ways to get people talking about memorializing their pets. Build partnerships around the community with veterinarians and animal shelters. Your funeral home can even host a community event to invite pet families to see your facility and your new pet selection room.

Offering pet memorialization in your facility is not an all or nothing proposition. As long as you provide the pet families you serve with a warm and welcoming space to let them know you are committed to helping them memorialize their furry friend and that their life mattered, you will make a difference.


Linda Darby is Chief Executive Officer for Trigard, Trigard Memorials, a memorial park and seven funeral homes across Illinois, Indiana and Arizona.  Her family has been in the funeral industry for four generations, helping families remember, celebrate and heal. Learn more at www.trigard.com.


Find new uses for your miniature samples


This article originally appeared in the August issue of NCBVA's The Bulletin.


It might be difficult, but it’s time to step away from miniature vault samples. I have talked to many experienced funeral professionals who insist that miniatures work for them; it’s what they’ve always used to help families make arrangements. But the families that make funeral arrangements today are not the same as the people who made arrangements twenty, ten or even five years ago.

Using outdated selection room tools, like miniatures, puts your funeral home customers at a major disadvantage. While they may be used to miniatures, familiarity doesn’t make them the best tools for the job. My old flip phone worked just fine when I traded it in, but I still let it go. It did everything I needed it to, but I wanted to be able to do even more with my phone. It was time to get a current model. The same goes for these selection room tools.

If your customers are still arranging with an outdated display, it’s as if they’re using an old flip phone. Technically it might work, but it would be so much easier if they used the current model.
I know you might be thinking about the money you’ve already spent? I understand that you likely made a significant financial investment in miniatures for your customers. Or maybe you asked them to have some “skin in the game” and share costs. Either way, it’s easy to look at a wall of miniatures and see a big check for $3,000—or more—that you’re not willing to throw away.

Instead of replacing an existing customer’s miniatures, start upgrading when you acquire a new funeral home customer. Don’t offer a new customer old solutions. Give them something new to set them apart from their competitors. Bringing them new sales tools for the selection room is part of the value that you can bring to them as a supplier. No new customers on the horizon for you? Maybe one of your existing customers is planning to renovate. Instead of moving the old miniature samples, design a new display specifically for the new layout of their selection room.

But remember, the upgrade doesn’t end once you have new materials in place (and the miniatures are out). Continual training is required to make any change stick. Imagine if you got your new phone, you spent a few minutes with the guy at the store, and that was it. No access to tips, manuals or someone to ask for help. You’d instinctively look for the same buttons that were on your flip phone, but when they’re not on your new device, you’d likely get frustrated very quickly. It wouldn’t take long for you to start hating the new phone, and you’d wonder why you upgraded in the first place.

The same goes for new displays. Whether the new selection room tools are videos, wall displays, interactive software, touch screens or digital catalogs, if you aren’t providing continual training for your customers, they’re going to start getting frustrated and longing for their old miniatures.
What if you aren’t ready to provide that kind of selection room and arranger training? What if you feel like you’re too busy in the vault plant pouring to spend time answering questions about the selection room? Ask your supplier for help. Just like your customers depend on you, you must be able to depend on your supplier for support and solutions.

Now how will you know if the transition is successful? You’ll know when you start seeing your customer’s average vault sale increase, and your customer should see it too. Reach out to congratulate them, and then ask if you can share their story with your other customers. Once one customer experiences success with new display systems, it easily begins to snowball. Then you can start working to upgrade your existing customers, sharing concrete data about the benefits of modern selection room tools. And that’s when you can start moving out the miniatures.

We are on a campaign to find new uses for miniatures. I’ve joked about turning them into flower boxes or donating them to dog parks as water bowls. But could they be used for something else? I’d love to hear your ideas. Because once we all start moving the miniatures out of selection rooms, we’re going to have a surplus of them.

Julia Sullivan is Creative Director for Trigard and Trigard Memorials. She has more than thirteen years of marketing and public relations experience. Email her at julias@trigard.com.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Are you a "next gen?" You're not alone.

Ethan Darby,
Director of Business
Development
Before coming into the funeral industry, I had no idea how many companies were family ran. I think there is something special about a family run funeral home, vault dealer or cemetery.

The traditional evolution of a family business is the succession of the next generation. As part of this next generation in the funeral industry, I can tell you that our voices are often muffled, and rightfully so. We are lacking the experience and industry knowledge that our family members have earned over many years of hard work. The problem with this is, without a voice, we cannot properly learn to run a company on our own. This can cause a halt in the evolution of the family business. Here are a few things you need to know about your next generation coming up:
  1. We do have good ideas. An outsider’s perspective can be invaluable. If you are a next-gen, speak up. If you are an owner, listen. You may be surprised at what we have to say.
  2. Being heard means the world to us. Even if you don’t use our ideas, it means a lot just to know  you listened.
  3. Most of us don’t want anything handed to us. We know working hard and earning our way into the business gains respect. Respect is vitally important to us.
  4. We want responsibility. We want to know exactly what is expected of us, so we can prove ourselves.
  5. We want to be involved in the big picture. As family business owners, you have a huge advantage. You know exactly who will be running your business when you’re gone. Let us start learning how things work NOW. The more we learn now, the better off we’ll be when you hand over the reins.
Are you a member of the next generation trying to find your way into your family’s business? You’re not alone. Are you a family business owner trying to usher the next generation into your business? You’re not alone either. I cannot express the importance of understanding that there are others out there having very similar issues. I encourage you to reach out and have conversations with others in our industry. They may not have all answers for your issues, but I think we can all take some comfort in knowing we are not alone on this roller coaster we call the family business.


This article originally appeared in Trigard Tuesdays, our weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at http://www.trigard.com/tuesdays.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Importance of staying current

Jason Murphy,
Director of Family Services,
Sunset Memorial Park
When your company makes a change, how do you tell your customers? At Sunset Memorial Park, we recently updated nearly all of our brochures, disclosure forms and regulation forms to ensure we are handing out the most current information to our customers. Why is it important to do this on a regular basis?

Our industry is constantly changing and evolving. With the cremation rate on the rise, new products are frequently being introduced to the market. With current product information, we are able to show families that we offer the best products they can find. Today’s consumer has so many resources at their fingertips that you must make sure your resources appeal to them. Otherwise, they will look elsewhere.

It may seem obvious, but do your customers have all of your current procedures, rules and regulations? Whether you are a vault dealer, funeral home or cemetery, this can save your company many headaches in the future. When you make your customers aware of your rules, it helps everyone. If a problem does occur, it will give you a leg to stand on and will make it much easier for you to correct the issue.

As a cemetery or funeral home, are you staying up to date on new products? If you see something in a newsletter, magazine or online that you would like to offer, reach out to your dealer.

As a vault dealer, are you telling your customers what’s new? If you need help getting this information to your funeral home and cemetery customers, let us know. We’ll gladly help you.

Staying current on new trends in the funeral industry not only helps your bottom line, but it also helps the families you serve.


This article originally appeared in Trigard Tuesdays, our weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at http://www.trigard.com/tuesdays.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Let's give them something to talk about

This article originally appeared in Cremationist

When it comes to conversation, do most women really talk more than men? A recent study, conducted by the University of Maryland School of Medicine, found that women use an average of 20,000 words per day, compared to men who average only 7,000 words per day.

As women, what are we using all of those words to talk about? There are so many things that we experience in our lives and so many big moments that shape us; from graduation to getting our first job, to falling in love and getting married, to having children and grandchildren. When we reflect on our lives, it’s these memories and milestones that may come to mind first. But everyone’s life story is much more than the landmark events. The small moments and people we meet along the way are a part of us and help shape who we are and what we value.

But regardless of how many words spoken in a day, there is one subject that most people probably haven’t brought up in casual conversation: how they would like to be remembered.

Think about the people who matter to you. You probably know most of the big moments in their lives. You might have even helped celebrate these milestones. What about the other things that really matter to them? Do you know what kind of legacy do they want to leave?

With the fast paced world that we live in, we are not taking the time to listen to each other’s stories. As a result, there is a continuing trend of people wanting everything done quick and easy, including memorialization. Now, more than ever, it is vital to educate the families we serve about the importance of memorialization. We need to get them talking.

As I hope you already know, the Funeral and Management Information Council’s (FAMIC) has launched a powerful consumer campaign. “Have the Talk of a Lifetime” encourages families to have conversations with their loved ones about life, the things that matter most to them and how they would like to be remembered. Our industry is coming together and speaking with one voice, and FAMIC is inspiring the conversation.

These conversations are already happening across the country. An NFDA survey conducted in April 2014 reported that almost 60% of consumers who had heard of the campaign said it encouraged them to talk to their family about memorialization. That’s a lot more conversation about a topic that is usually left off the table.

How do you get people in your community talking? As a member of CANA, you have access to download multi-media materials from http://www.famic.org/campaign. You can contact CANA for login information. You can post the video and images to your website, print customized brochures, talk about the campaign during pre-need appointments, speak to groups in your community and share on your social media.

The time is now. Your involvement will be what helps us begin to change consumer opinions and attitudes toward memorialization. Whether you are a woman who uses lots of words during her day, or a man who uses fewer, when you endorse “Have the Talk of a Lifetime,” you can enrich the fabric of our communities and grow your bottom line.


Linda Darby is Chief Executive Officer for Trigard, Trigard Memorials, a memorial park and seven funeral homes across Illinois, Indiana and Arizona. She is the current FAMIC President. Her family has been in the funeral industry for four generations, helping families remember, celebrate and heal. Learn more at www.trigard.com.


 




 

Start planning your year end taxes


Beth VadeBonCoeur,
Accountant
It's hard to imagine, but another year is almost over. Business owners often don’t think about reducing their taxes until tax season, but by then, it’s too late. The next three months are the prime time to evaluate your taxable income and to take action.

Section 179 

Section 179 of the tax code allows companies to deduct equipment in the year it is purchased. It provides an immediate deduction versus the normal depreciation over its lifespan. In past years, the limit was up to $500,000 per year, which encouraged companies to spend money on capital expenditures to spur the economy. This allowed companies to significantly reduce taxable income while investing in new equipment for their company. This year, the Section 179 limit was decreased to $25,000. Even though the deduction is smaller, it should not be overlooked. If your company has not spent more than $25,000 on new furniture and equipment this year, you should reevaluate your company’s needs to see if there are items that you should purchase before the end of this year. Could your business benefit from a new vehicle, tents or lowering device?

Timing of expenses
Are there routine repairs or maintenance that will need to occur within the next 6 months?  Do you purchase office supplies on a monthly or quarterly basis? Another easy way to reduce your year-end tax bill is by reviewing the needs of your business and your cash flow. This can help you can decide whether it would be beneficial to take care of these needs before the end of this year, instead of next year.

Bad debts
Do you have any outstanding customer accounts that should be written off before the end of the year? If the probability of collecting on an open account is low, then write the account off as a bad debt. Don’t worry, by writing an account off as a bad debt, you are not preventing future collection on that account.

Bonuses
If your company has additional income this year, consider paying bonuses to employees. Bonuses should be paid during the tax year to be expensed against taxable income. They are also a good way to show recognition and appreciation to employees that have helped make your year profitable.



This article originally appeared in Trigard Tuesdays, our weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at http://www.trigard.com/tuesdays.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Leave the office and return with more


Drew Edwards,
General Manager,
Sunset Funeral Homes
Last week, we had quite a few visitors come tour Trigard and  Sunset Funeral Homes, including a young couple who started a funeral home from scratch. They have grown it into a prominent business that is well respected in their community. We spent two days sharing ideas, philosophies and, of course, good food and drinks.

When they left, my notebook was full of great ideas that could change the future of our funeral homes and even add some revenue to the bottom line. It is my hope that they left Danville with just as many notes and ideas.

This experience reminded me that none of us needs to reinvent the wheel. We are all here to serve families and help them during one of the most difficult times in their lives. We need to work together and continue to share ideas with each other. In order to do that, we have to leave the comfort of our own offices. That means pulling yourself out of the day-to-day operations and experiencing something new.

I challenge everyone to leave the office for a few days and find something that will make your business better when you return. Whether it is touring a manufacturing plant, having a discussion with a different funeral home, cemetery, or vault dealer, or simply talking to other business professionals in your community, you owe it to yourself, your staff, and most of all to the families you serve.
 

This article originally appeared in Trigard Tuesdays, our weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at http://www.trigard.com/tuesdays.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Trigard unveils new funeral home app at NFDA


The register book line is about to change forever. Trigard Interactive will unveil its new app during the 2014 NFDA International Convention and Expo in Nashville, Tennessee.

The app goes far beyond a mobile version of a funeral home website. The flagship app features:
  • iBeacon technology to tackle the problem of long lines to sign the register book at visitations
  • The ease of downloading, registering and customizing a condolence message in the comfort of their own home
  • The ability to send out push notifications to users informing them of upcoming events, specials or other news
  • The ability to generate pre-need leads because the app keeps people in your community connected to your funeral home
Expo attendees are invited to visit Trigard booth #2030 for a live demonstration. Can't wait for NFDA Expo? You can sign up for email updates about Trigard Interactive at  www.trigard.com/tuesdays.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q8u2E_RZpio


This article originally appeared in Trigard Tuesdays, our weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at http://www.trigard.com/tuesdays.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Charitable giving boosts morale

Sheryl Baumeister,
Human Resources
What's the best way to boost employee morale? New office chairs? Company apparel? Time off? These are all great ideas, but have you ever thought about rallying your team around charitable giving?

Encouraging employees to participate in company-sponsored charity events can increase morale and create a stronger team environment. Surely you've heard of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. You may have even participated like our staff at Sunset Funeral Home & Cremation Center, Champaign-Urbana Chapel.

But you don't have to dump water on your heads to rally your team. What about volunteering on a Habitat for Humanity house build, walking for March of Dimes or hosting a Salvation Army toy drive? Gather ideas from your employees and see what happens when you all work together. 



This article originally appeared in Trigard Tuesdays, our weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at http://www.trigard.com/tuesdays.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Employee spotlight: Larry Leonard

Larry Leonard,
Shipping and Receiving
By Ryan Snyder 

Larry has been with Trigard for 13 years. He is responsible for all of our shipping and receiving functions. This includes getting all of our orders ready for shipment, making all UPS arrangements and coordinating freight for both inbound and outbound on common carrier and for customer pick-up.

Larry really enjoys when the customers pick up their freight at our facility. He explained, "It's always nice when a customer comes in because you get to see and talk to them about how they are doing and how their business is going." He believes in providing our customers with not only a quality product, but also quality service.

When asked what our customers mean to him, Larry commented, "without them, Trigard wouldn't be what it is today."

Thanks to Larry for his hard work and dedication to providing quality services to our customers. 


This article originally appeared in Trigard Tuesdays, our weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at http://www.trigard.com/tuesdays.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Everyone deserves a final goodbye

Donna Darby-Walthall,
Chief Financial Officer
The reaction I get from people after telling them what I do never ceases to amaze me. It either totally stops or starts the conversation. Some people are very uncomfortable with the topic. Most people are intrigued and start to ask questions. I love when others find the funeral profession interesting, because it allows me to tell my story. I get to tell them how we help families at the most difficult times of their lives.

One way that Trigard helps families honor and celebrate their loved ones' lives is with the Healing Tree®. I love this product because it makes the graveside service more personable and allows families to participate in the ceremony. Everyone gets to take home a Memory Ring® as a keepsake in remembrance of their loved one. It is a very powerful service.

This is just one way to help families remember and there are so many more. Everyone deserves a final goodbye. Let's do it the best way we know how.

This article originally appeared in Trigard Tuesdays, our weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at http://www.trigard.com/tuesdays.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

I'll take traditional anytime

Rich Darby,
Chief Operating Officer
On July 26, I watched a beautiful young bride walk down the aisle of a church with every pew jam-packed. This young lady didn't choose a destination wedding. She chose a more traditional path. She chose to get married the way it has been done for many generations. 

This bride told her future husband to spend the night in a far off location to ensure that they didn't see each other before the ceremony. This bride chose to have seven bridesmaids, seven groomsmen, two junior groomsmen, a flower girl and a ring bearer. In my opinion, she did it right.

The ceremony was short, elegant and personalized. The event was customized to suit the personalities of both the bride and groom. It was an occasion that left everyone who attended walking out with a smile. There were no shortcuts, and there was nothing left out. Months and months of hard work and preparation went into this beautiful exchange of vows. This wedding was something that every little girl dreams about as she plays dress up in her room at five years old. It was a beautiful, traditional occasion.


Mr & Mrs. Ethan and
Keri Darby
As this bride, who is now my daughter-in-law, walked down the aisle towards my oldest son Ethan, his face lit up with love, joy and excitement. This day had finally come. As a proud father and as a person so engrained in funeral service, I walked out of that church on that afternoon and thought to myself, I will take traditional anytime! 






This article originally appeared in Trigard Tuesdays, our weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at http://www.trigard.com/tuesdays.

Monday, August 18, 2014

A funeral director's take on cremation memorialization

This article originally appeared in the June issue of American Funeral Director.

Imagine you are helping a family celebrate the life of their matriarch. Grandma wanted to be cremated, but the family didn’t want a direct cremation. Instead, they had a visitation and memorial service. You created a powerful photo collage and video for them to help celebrate the life of their loved one.

The family picked out a beautiful urn for their loved one’s cremated remains. The daughter tells you she’ll be the one taking it home. She thinks she’ll place it on her family’s mantle with a picture of her mother. 


When the family leaves, each one of them hugs you. They thank you repeatedly for outstanding service. You anticipate glowing comments on their follow-up survey. You feel like you have done your job well. But have you really? 


Stop and consider your funeral home’s cremation rate? And of those families, how many go home with an urn, but without a plan? Is an urn on a mantle enough? Are you explaining the importance of memorialization and all of the options to every family?

Educate about scattering

When a family thinks about cremation, they aren’t usually thinking about a long-term plan for the cremated remains. We all know that too many urns intended for the fireplace mantle end up in a closet. 


If the family comes to you with any kind of plan, it often involves scattering. As you know, many families have a romanticized idea about scattering. They may have seen “Bridges of Madison County” many times and dreamed of releasing cremated remains from their own favorite covered bridge. But, let’s say ten years down the road, the family reunites at their loved one’s resting place and it has been turned into a subdivision or a supermarket. What do they do? Their special, sacred place is now commercial property. They no longer have a place to share memories and honor their loved one’s life. 


We need to be bold and educate the families we serve. Families need to understand why it is so important to memorialize their loved ones. Most families don’t lose a loved one every day. They often don’t understand how important it is to have a special, permanent place to share memories. It is our job to educate them. It is our job to help them understand.

Encourage permanent memorialization

When you let families walk out the door without understanding all of their cremation memorialization options, are you really doing your entire job? Of course it is our job to honor the family’s wishes, but we also need to teach them what they don’t know. 


Where do you start? Tell them about other families that have learned the importance of cremation memorialization. Share the regrets of a family who chose to scatter and now doesn’t have a special place to leave flowers on their loved one’s birthday. If you don’t have your own story to share, you are welcome to use one of mine. Email me, and I’ll send you a copy of a video called “Blake’s Story.” It’s a few years old, and I look a little different, but the message is the same: even after scattering, it’s vital to have a permanent place of honor.

Give families options
Once a family understands the importance of memorialization, explain their options. Tell them about the unique characteristics of a memorial rock that can hold cremated remains. Explain the benefits of a space in a niche tower. Talk about in-ground interment options. Show them a memorial bench in a cemetery or a bronze plaque on a memorial wall.


Does it feel overwhelming to have to know about more products, even on top of everything you already need to take care of? As a funeral director, it can feel like you always need to have all of the answers. While you are the family’s primary resource, you can – and should – rely on your business partners to give you the information you need. Ask your local cemetery what their most popular cremation memorialization options are. Ask your supplier for talking points when you meet with families who plan to scatter. You must also do your own research. I encourage you to go to conventions and read industry publications.

Believe in it
Offering an exciting variety of cremation memorialization products isn’t enough. The bottom line is that you have to believe in what you are doing. Do you believe that every person deserves a permanent place to honor their life – including those who choose cremation? Do you believe that a memorial helps the family heal? If we want to be effective educators and teach the families we serve about permanent cremation memorialization, we have to firmly believe that it is not okay for a family to walk out the door without a memorialization plan in place.
____________________________________________________

Rich Darby is Chief Operating Officer for Trigard and Trigard Memorials. He earned his funeral directors license from Southern Illinois University in 1987, and is licensed in Illinois, Indiana and Arizona. His family owns and operates Trigard, Trigard Memorials, seven funeral homes and a memorial park across Illinois, Indiana and Arizona. Email him at richd@trigard.com.