Tuesday, December 15, 2015

3 reasons you're not updating your selection rooms

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

By Linda-Darby Dowers, Chief Executive Officer

Education and staying involved with our industry have always been important to me. Not only do I regularly attend industry conferences across the country, but we also invite our vault dealers and their funeral home customers to visit us at Trigard University. This program is a way for us to share the ideas, tools and processes that we’ve seen work in funeral homes across the country.

When we talk with our dealers about updating their customers’ selection rooms, we constantly talk about using more modern tools. I know this won’t come as a surprise, but there are still so many funeral homes using miniature vault samples as their main tool for selling burial vaults. It may have worked in the past, but is it really still the best tool we have? I have heard families ask if the miniatures are infant vaults or even urn vaults. So why are we sitting back and letting the families we serve have an unclear view of the burial vault? Why aren’t we changing and making the decision process easier for them?

We won’t embrace change
No matter what the situation, change can be hard. We are creatures of habit. We take comfort in doing things the same way over and over again. We have seen our comfortable way work in the past, which makes it harder to believe that there’s any reason to change it. But there could be a better way. Even if our way works, something else could be even better.

The way we sell burial vaults is no different. 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. It works. But the problem is that there is a better way of doing things. For several years, we have seen funeral homes significantly increase their average vault sale by using graphic wall displays and new scripting during arrangements.

The families that make funeral arrangements today are not the same as the people who made arrangements twenty, ten or even five years ago. They are living in a digital world where they are surrounded by strong graphics and images daily. They have become accustomed to simplified choices with more options, and it’s time our vault presentations reflect that.

We think all families are the same
When two children learn a new task, one will learn one way and the other will learn in a completely different way. So, offering a variety of tools to help them learn is important. The same goes for families who visit a funeral homes selection room.

It’s easy to generalize and assume that every family we serve will learn the same way, but that isn’t the case. Not every family is the same and they all have different learning patterns. To be an effective educator, it is important to give your funeral homes a variety of tools to use to teach the families they serve about your products and services.

We’re focused on how much it will cost
Sometimes, as funeral professionals, our unwillingness to change our selection room stems from the investment we have made in our miniature display. I understand that a lot of money goes into creating a display of miniature burial vaults, and to just replace them and put something new up is often times hard to swallow.

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. Whether the new selection room tools are videos, wall displays, interactive software, touch screens or digital catalogs, you must provide continual training for your funeral directors and sales staff, or they’re going to start getting frustrated and begin longing for their old miniatures.

What if you aren’t ready to provide that kind of training to your staff? What if you feel like the information is too overwhelming? Ask your burial vault dealer for help. Just like the families you serve depend on you, you must be able to depend on your dealer for support and solutions. 

Friday, December 11, 2015

3 Things that will start your day off right

Rich Darby,
Chief Operating Officer
During the past three decades of working in the funeral industry, I have learned a few tricks to make my work days more successful.

Living in such a fast-paced environment can create a lot of pressure and stress. To help begin my day on a positive note, I do three simple things every morning. And, let me tell you, it has made a world of difference in how my day turns out. These simple steps get me in the right frame of mind, put me in a positive mood and prepare me to tackle any issue or problem that may come my way.

Here is my secret recipe:
  1. Wake up early. Every morning, I wake up about 30 to 40 minutes earlier than I really need. This gives me time to wake up calmly and prepare for the day. This allows you to wake up on your own terms, instead of in a rush to get out the door. If you wake up frantic and in a rush, you set a pattern for the rest of your day.
  2. Eat breakfast. Take the time to fix yourself a healthy breakfast every morning. I suggest including a something high in protein. This will provide you the energy you need to kick start your day off. It's alright to have a cup of coffee to give you that extra boost, but everything in moderation. I have been told that eating breakfast is like starting a fire each morning. And, you keep that fire burning by adding to it with smaller meals throughout the day. 
  3. Read or meditate. I wouldn't consider myself a highly religious person, but I do enjoy reading text from the Old Testament, the New Testament, a Psalm and a Proverb. Why do I do this? Because it keeps me focused and grounded. If bible reading isn’t for you, I suggest reading a self-help or meditation book to start your day off focused. 
As we get ready for this holiday season I challenge you to make this your New Year’s resolution. It isn’t painful and the reward is unbelievable. I would love to hear how it has changed your life. You can email me at RichD@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.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Making the graveside personal

Angel Jett,
Graphic Designer
This year as I plan and shop for holiday gifts for my family and friends, I find myself getting stumped. Is this candle too generic or is it my friend's favorite scent? Will my dad remember this drill bit set or will it be added to the pile of other tools? Gifting items with personal meaning can seem stressful, but we want to bring joy into our loved ones' lives and show them we care.

When we celebrate the life of a family’s loved one, it’s an opportunity to do the same. Maybe the casket and flowers are pink because it was Grandma's favorite color. Or, maybe the burial vault is decorated with a military emblem to honor an uncle's dedication to serving our country. But there is one more way to create an additional level of personalization.

As a graphic designer at Trigard, I have the honor of creating personal, custom Appliqués for families across the country. When a family shares their vision for an Applique, it is so much more than just photos and words; it's a heartfelt tribute to their loved one’s life and we hope family and friends are delighted when they see the final work of art at the graveside.



You can add even more personalization to an Appliqué by:

  1. Choosing the right photo. We encourage families to take the time to go through cherished photos to choose the perfect image for the Appliqué. Or they can even choose a few special images to create a collage for the background. Though it may be an emotional time, revisiting those photographs will bring back so many memories to help them as they begin to heal.
  2. Personalizing it with their name. Once the a background image is chosen from their personal photo collection or from our always growing library, adding the loved one’s name and dates can be a powerful way to make it even more unique.
  3. Picking a special quote or phrase. Families can also choose to include an inspirational quote or phrase on the Appliqué. Whether it was something their loved one always said or their favorite scripture, including it in the design can be a way to leave a meaningful thought with family and friends at the service.
  4. Writing a farewell note. Sometimes, families choose to write a message on the vault or Appliqué at the graveside service. This is a unique way for them to begin their healing journey.

The marketing team and I would love to help you bring to life the vision of the families you serve. Even if you’ve got a time crunch, as long as we have all of the materials by noon CST, you can rest assured you will receive the Appliqué in 24 hours, just email all the details to marketing@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.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Help families honor a loved one this holiday season

Erin Brodbeck, LCSW, CT,
Director of Grief Services,
Sunset Funeral Home
With the holiday season drawing closer, do you plan on reaching out to families you have served during the past year? Your guidance and understanding during this time of year can be beneficial to a family who is newly bereaved or even someone years into their grief journey.

Many things change after someone dies, including traditions during the holidays. But, one thing families can do is add a new tradition to their list by honoring the life of their loved one. That way their memory stays alive, and they are always a part of the celebrations.

Here are a few ways the families you serve can honor their loved ones during the holiday season:
  • Lighting a candle 
  • Leaving an empty place at the table 
  • Decorating a tree with ornaments that tell the story of their life 
  • Purchasing a present for them and give it away to someone in need 
  • Placing holiday themed decorations or grave blankets on their resting place 
The holidays are tough for anyone who has lost a loved one. Encourage the families you serve to be patient, only do what feels right to them, and not to be afraid to ask for help and extra support if they need it. By providing these helpful tips to families, you help them create new and meaningful connections with their loved ones at this special time of year.


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 20, 2015

It's time to lay the groundwork for your future

Linda Darby-Dowers,
Chief Executive Officer
At church last Sunday, our minister called his sermon “Building for the Future - A Great Investment.” It discussed laying the groundwork for our future. It doesn’t matter if that means we need to get our finances in place, our businesses in check or something else, we need to prepare.

Our society is stuck in a rat race. Our lives are so fast and furious. And, I think sometimes we don’t want to slow down and invest the time to make our quality of life better. I know it’s hard, but the next time you are faced with something that requires you to show true grit, instead of looking for a quick win, stop and think how working through it could impact your future.

A few weeks ago, we celebrated Veterans Day. So many men and women fought long and hard for the freedoms we have today, and some even gave their lives. Can you imagine what our country would be like if they hadn’t made so many sacrifices for the future of our country? Please, stop and take the time to lay the groundwork for your future, it will be worth it in the long run.



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 13, 2015

What is your B.A.T.N.A.?

Stuart McDaniels,
Materials Manager
Those of you that follow my articles closely will find that I often talk about negotiation. I consider myself to be a student of the process of negotiation and continually look for opportunities to get better at it. I believe it to be an important part of our social interactions, whether they be in business or with friends and family.

In the book Getting to Yes: Negotiating Without Giving In, the authors, Roger Fisher and William Ury, coin the phrase B.A.T.N.A., which means “Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement.” Simply put, this means it’s the best solution you have without the other party getting involved. It’s not really your best outcome necessarily, but it is the best you can do without them.

Having a good B.A.T.N.A. improves your negotiating power. Knowing you have a good alternative keeps you from giving up as much as you might if you had no alternative. And, you should generally never accept a resolution worse than your B.A.T.N.A. If you have no other options, you are likely to give in to demands from the other side that you normally would not.

If it’s beneficial to you to disclose your B.A.T.N.A. then you should do so. This can help frame the negotiation and identify to the other party that you do have other options. Otherwise, it is best to not disclose it as you can give up leverage.


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 6, 2015

Are you creating personal relationships with your customers?

Jeff Miller,
Vice President of
Business Development
Do your customers only know your “professional personality?” Or do they only see you in a suit and tie or work uniform? Even though having a strong professional appearance is important for your relationship with your customers, showing your personal side is valuable too.

When you are a Trigard customer, you are part of the family and we will treat you as such. We try to find every opportunity to get to know you and your company on a more personal level. Don’t know where to start building your more personal relationships? Well, the holidays are right around the corner. Invite your customers for a holiday gathering or take them to dinner. This is the perfect time of year to start deepening your relationships. Strengthening personal relationships with customers will enable you to more easily accomplish business objectives with them as well.

There are other options as well. If your customers only see you at the grave site as a vault dealer or at the funeral home as a funeral director, then try changing your routine and getting out into your community. Volunteer at your local food bank or hold a community event. Whatever you decide to do, be yourself and have some fun with your customers.

If you want to share your ideas for connecting with your customers, I am always interested in hearing about them. Just 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, October 30, 2015

Life celebrations are back, back again.

Karen Darby-Ritz,
Advanced Planning Manager,
Camino del Sol Funeral
Chapel and Cremation Center
Recently, a lot of funeral publications have been talking about life celebrations being a big part of our industry again, and I am stoked. Families are once again seeing the value in celebrating their loved ones’ lives.

Didn’t George Santayana say, “Those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it?” Maybe, it is because those who remember how beneficial a life celebration was to the grieving process are starting to preplan their own final wishes. Maybe our society is learning about healthy healing. We have the tragedies, place them behind us and move on to a new day. A day that recognizes the joy alongside the sorrow at a life celebration. A day that recognizes the support given to family members by those who attend the celebration.

In my years of preplanning final wishes for families, I have educated hundreds of people about healthy healing and informed them that their wishes are only limited by their imaginations. Because, as funeral professionals, it is our job to make sure families honor their loved ones appropriately. We make their wishes come to life.

If we give each family we meet their understanding of a life celebration and bring their vision to life, then we will be successful. We will beat anything that stands in our way.

If you would like some suggestions, please email me at karenr@caminodelsol.com. We’d love to share our successes with 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.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Are you planning for your education?

Blake Swinford,
Project Manager
Can you believe it is already the end of October? Where has this past year gone? The days keep flying by and before you know it, we will be ringing in the new year.

Have you thought about your goals for next year? If so, is one of them to start educating your staff and your customers better throughout the year? If it isn't, then it should be. Before we become overwhelmed with the holiday season, I encourage you to start planning your educational goals for next year now.

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 giving them tools to 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:
  • The story of Trigard and how passion drives everything we do
  • Proven tools to help you increase your average vault sale
  • An in-depth tour of our manufacturing facility
  • A tour of one of our many funeral homes – where we test our own products
  • A sit down with our pre-need manager on how to grow your program
Are you a vault dealer? Are you making end of year visits to your customers to deliver holiday gifts? Make a point to invite your funeral home customers to Trigard University.

Are you a funeral home or cemetery? Do you want to see Trigard in action? Are you interested in how our vault liners are made? Or need some marketing help? Call your vault dealer and ask for more information on attending Trigard University. You won’t regret it!

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 9, 2015

What makes you most proud?

Patrick Lewis,
Sunset Memorial Park,
Grounds Manager
When visiting a cemetery, many families assume their funeral director or someone from the cemetery sales staff will be the ones to help them around the grounds. But, more often than not, when a family needs to find their loved one in the cemetery or needs help with the vase in their memorial at Sunset Memorial Park, my team and I are the ones who help them.

As  Grounds Manager, I don’t always get a lot of face time with the families we serve because the grounds crew and I usually work “behind the scenes.” A typical day for us is spent mowing, tending to our memorials or doing something else in the park. While working, we have encountered a number of first-time visitors. Some have just lost their loved ones and some are just coming to terms with the loss. They finally feel comfortable enough to visit their loved one's resting place. And, my crew and I are there to help them locate their loved one and continue the healing process.

If I have learned one thing over the years, it is that all people grieve differently. And, it is our job as funeral and memorialization professionals to guide them and help them through their journey. Even though I don’t always see the families we serve, I care about them and want to help them when I can. So, when they need me, I will be there to help them.

I am proud to work “behind the scenes.” What are you most proud of?

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 2, 2015

Are you writing this down?

Ethan Darby,
Director of Business
Development
When you are standing in your manufacturing plant, how often does someone come up with a brilliant idea? I can't tell you how many times a week it happens at our plant. We are constantly hearing remarks, such as "You know, I'm sure we would be much more efficient if we moved those two stations closer together," or "What if we invoiced our customers through email instead of post mail?" Everyone looks at each other and nods their heads, and then what happens? Nothing.

Why is that?

Every company has problems, and I truly believe they can often be solved by a simple process change. The good thing is you and your employees know how to solve the problems. The bad thing is no one is implementing them. So, if we have the answers, why are we battling the same problems for months and even years at a time when we have the solution right in front of us? The answer is organization and planning. And, I have a simple solution for you, write it down. The next time someone in your company has a brilliant idea, write it down and save it somewhere. I suggest a document on a computer that can be easily accessed.

It does take time and energy to implement a solution. So, you have to carefully choose a problem to solve when the time is right. If you notice things have slowed down a bit, refer to your to-do list and see what the most feasible change you can make at that time is. I suggest sorting the to-do list into sections, such as high effort/high impact or low effort/high impact. This will help you prioritize and decide which problem to tackle first.

Our day-to-day routines are easy. Change is hard. But, organization and prioritization can help you see what is up ahead, as well as what has worked in the past. I encourage you to start a to-do list and see where it takes 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, September 25, 2015

Staying proactive during the winter

Jason Murphy,
Director of Family Services,
Sunset Memorial Park
With fall upon us and winter right around the corner, sales people tend to become a bit anxious about a lack of productivity during this time of the year. As Director of Family Services, it is my job to make sure our sales staff doesn’t buy into that belief. Our goal is to always maintain or increase our sales during the colder months of the year. Here are some tips that may help your firms do the same.
  1. Prepare and schedule community seminars and events during these months. We like to schedule our events at local restaurants and provide free meals or snacks to those in attendance. Most of the time, the cold weather does not prevent the general public from missing a free meal. This will allow you to get your sales staff in front of a large group during the months where walk-in business is low. 
  2. Another idea is to plan some fun holiday-related events at your location. Whether it is inviting the public to decorate some Christmas ornaments, or hosting a cookies and apple cider event in the fall, you will be surprised with how many people will attend.
  3. Schedule appointments in the homes of families you serve. During the winter months, many elderly people don’t want to risk driving to the funeral home or cemetery office to meet with a sales rep. So, take that cancellation opportunity away from your clients and go to them. Bad weather is one of the biggest reasons and excuses for salespeople during these months. So, not only are you giving them a better opportunity to close the sale, but you are also keeping them more accountable at obtaining their sales goals.  
No matter if your business is a vault dealer, a funeral home or a cemetery, by utilizing some or all of these strategies, you will be surprised at how successful your cold season months become. In 2014, we had our largest sales month in December, so I know for a fact that these techniques work. Now, give them a try.


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 21, 2015

Thank you to the vendors and sponsors of the Trigard Synergy Convention

A special thank you to all the vendors and sponsors of the 2015 Trigard Convention who were able to attend. If it wasn't for you, we wouldn't have been able to pull it off. 



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, September 18, 2015

Ways to improve your cash flow

Beth VadeBonCoeur,
Accountant
Cash flow is the gasoline that makes your business run. When you have positive steady cash flow, your business can run smoothly with no delays in paying vendors or worries about paying payroll. But when your cash flow is slow or negative, it is hard to continue to operate a business. These steps can help improve cash flow for any business.
  1. Invoice promptly – The quicker you invoice your customer after the service or product is delivered, the sooner you will receive the payment.
  2. Consider giving a discount for quicker payment – Many businesses offer a discount for early payments. This can help improve cash flow. A 1 to 2% discount, if paid within 10 days, is a common business practice.
  3. Actively work on collecting past due accounts – The tasks of identifying past due accounts and following up with phone calls or letters need to be done on a regular basis.  
  4. Control inventory levels – Keeping inventory levels at an adequate and consistent level can help keep cash flow more even. Try to reduce excess inventory. Try to purchase inventory in smaller batches more often instead large purchases less frequently.  
  5. Pay bills only when they are due - Pay your bills according to your vendor’s payment terms.
These are just a few suggestions to help your business with cash flow.  When your business has good cash flow, you can respond faster to opportunities and resolve unexpected problems that occur.


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 14, 2015

What happened at Trigard Synergy Convention? Part four.

It's our fourth week of recapping the 2015 Trigard Dealer Convention in Indianapolis.

We began our final day presenting sales awards for achievement during 2014 to select vault dealers. Superior Vault Company of Merrill, Michigan (pictured) received the “You Get It” Award. This special award recognizes the dealer who showed extraordinary commitment to serving families. Watts Vault and Monument of Des Moines, Iowa, was recognized for highest overall sales volume.

In the large business division, awards went to Southside Grave and Vault Inc. of Skipwith, Virginia, for the highest growth percentage; Rocky Hill Vault, Inc. of Cromwell, Connecticut, for the second highest; and Mark H. Bott Co. of Ogden, Utah, for the third highest.

Oxford Grave and Vault of Oxford, Alabama, was recognized for outstanding growth for the midsize division. In the small business division, Bates Vault and Services of Tylertown, Mississippi, was recognized for outstanding growth. 

We finished off the day with a great presentation from Tim Massen, Graystone Associates out of Houston, Texas. He shared statistics and information on the state of the funeral industry. You'll find some of his most quotable quotes on our Facebook page.


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, September 4, 2015

A funeral director's view of Trigard Convention

Drew Edwards,
General Manager,
Sunset Funeral Home
Last month, I attended Trigard Convention in Indianapolis. As General Manager of Sunset Funeral Home, I usually only attend the conventions that are held in the home office of Danville, Illinois, but since it was so close, we made an exception.

During my 22 year career as a funeral director, Trigard is the only burial vault brand I have ever sold. I might be biased, but I truly believe that the Aegean® is the best burial vault ever made. And, by attending this year’s convention, I confirmed my assumptions. In Indianapolis, I saw that the Trigard dealer network is more than burial vaults. I don’t only buy Trigard brand products because of the product. I buy them because the dealers are a group of individuals who truly care about their businesses, the families they serve and even the industry.

For those of you that were able to attend, I want you to know it was an honor to spend those few days with you. It reaffirmed my dedication to Trigard, and I understand why we continue to grow in such a competitive market. I learned so much in those three short days. I learned that it isn’t about the concrete, the liner or the mold. It’s about the people that represent this great brand all across the country.

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.

What happened at Trigard Synergy Convention? Part three.

It's our third week of recapping the 2015 Trigard Dealer Convention in Indianapolis.

After presentations from Creative Director Julia Sullivan, new Manufacturing Manager John Albers and Project Manager Blake Swinford, our big day of continuing education continued with Creative growth strategies and succession planning by Jeff Miller. He continued the message of growth, opportunity and encouragement as he offered creative growth strategies to our dealers. He discussed the importance of breaking out of your daily routine to focus on growth. He emphasized the importance of making time to work on your business, not just in your business. He also talked about an often difficult subject, succession planning. He explained that the time to make a plan is before you need to have one.

We were thrilled to welcome Sarah Fisher to Trigard Convention. She is the first female Indy Car team owner, and the fastest woman to ever qualify for the Indianapolis 500. She talked about her journey building a family business in an otherwise corporate industry. She shared an exciting video and held a lively Q&A session. We've been sharing some of her most quotable quotes on our Facebook page.


"Working together is just as important as working in competition." ~ Sarah Fisher


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.

What are your long-term goals?

John Albers,
Plant Manager
When the school year starts and the fall weather begins showing its face, it reminds me that the end of the year is just around the corner. So, why does that matter? It is only September. This matters because it is the perfect time of year to begin thinking about our goals for the next year and maybe even long term.

Do you have long-term business goals in place? Do you work in a business culture that encourages strategic planning? Are you only working “In” the business and not “On” the business? If you don’t have an answer for these questions or you don’t like the answer you do have, then maybe it’s time to step back from the daily grind and consider creating a vision for the future.

At Trigard Convention in Indianapolis, I was given the opportunity to meet many of you for the first time. I learned a lot about this industry as well as about you. One fascinating thing that I brought back with me is the vault dealer’s positive approach towards some of the skepticism that exists in the burial industry. I have brought that back to our offices and I try to encourage our staff to have a positive attitude toward strategic planning. I believe it will better support the customer and improve the quality for the customer. I realize this is a marathon and not a sprint. We’re embarking on a journey of continuous improvement which requires small improvements over the life of the company. This will help your company have a long and prosperous future.


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 31, 2015

What happened at Trigard Synergy Convention? Part two.

It’s our second week of recapping the 2015 Trigard Dealer Convention in Indianapolis. Our big day of continuing education began with a warm welcome from Donna Darby-Walthall on behalf of the entire Darby family.

Continuing education kicked off with a high-energy presentation by Julia Sullivan, Creative Director. She talked about the importance of getting comfortable being uncomfortable, especially as the industry continues to evolve and grow. She reaffirmed our commitment to our dealers, emphasizing that they continue to be Trigard’s strongest resource.

The presentation transitioned from growth opportunities to specific tactics, focusing on ways dealers can invest in relationships with the funeral homes they serve, specifically by updating funeral home selection rooms. She used McDonald’s advertising through the years to show how just because outdated information is accurate, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s working for the customer.

She challenged the vault dealers to consider when a family’s last interaction might have been with the funeral home before coming in to make at-need arrangements. It might have been decades since the last time someone they love died, they had to make at-need arrangements for another family member or they pre-arranged their own celebration of life. Wouldn’t you hope that things have changed?

Vault dealers were particularly excited about the new flyer sharing a very personal story of the impact of the Healing Tree®. This art is available for any funeral home, cemetery or vault dealer to use to help share the impact of this graveside ceremony.


Next, new Plant Manager John Albers and Project Manager Blake Swinford talked about continuous improvement efforts. The technical details of some of the adjustments were discussed, but the most important takeaway was that all of the improvements came from dealer suggestions. More ideas, suggestions and feedback is encouraged.

This week: Stepping up your selection room (and our strategy)
Manufacturing improvements and how they benefit you

Next week: Creative growth strategies and succession planning
Special guest speaker Sarah Fisher

September 15: Sales awards
The state of funeral service

September 22: Sponsors and vendors


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.

What happened at Trigard Synergy Convention?

What happens when Trigard vault dealers gather from across the country for three days of learning, networking and exchanging ideas? Great things happen. Synergies form. Everyone gets better.

Two weeks ago, we held the 2015 Trigard Dealer Convention in Indianapolis. Now that we've had a little time to settle back into our regular routines, we're confident that it was a great investment of everyone's time. 100% of attendees said that they were able to connect with other dealers and exchange ideas. But beyond the new information and connections, our dealers told us how much they appreciated the positive atmosphere.

With so much negativity, doom and gloom, and fear buzzing because of the shifting landscape of our industry, Trigard Convention was a bright spot for everyone who attended. But we didn't want to "blow smoke" and make false promises. During the three days, we took a hard look at the challenges facing our industry, but instead of shaking our heads and resigning ourselves, we put our heads together and presented our best ideas for navigating the years ahead.

We'll be recapping these sessions during the next three weeks right here in Trigard Tuesdays. As we said during the convention, we all want to grow. By helping each other and sharing our best ideas, we all get stronger.

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, August 28, 2015

What are your greatest fears?

Sheryl Baumeister,
Human Resources
I know you hear us preach about the importance of educating your staff all the time, but that is because it is so important. Actually, last week a cross-section of our staff spent the day learning about the “Basics of Lean Leadership.” We were overwhelmed with information about "lean" – what it is and what lean tools can do. I believe at the end of the day, the majority of us felt this new way of thinking is the way to go. It will make our work environment better by developing procedures that assure smooth product flow and a decrease in inventory and operating expenses. Sounds like a no-brainer doesn’t it? Will it be easy? NO!

To get to where we want to be will require change. I know, I said a bad word. The evil “C” word. Often times, change is what keeps us from moving forward and from growing. We like the comfort of what we know and sometimes fear the unknown.

As Zig Zigler says, “F-E-A-R has two meanings:
  1. "Forget Everything and Run" 
  2. "Face Everything and Rise" 
The choice is yours.

Fear is something we have all faced and will face again. It’s inevitable in our life, career and business. So rather than fearing the unknown, let fear be a driving motivation to actually help you make the change necessary to succeed and rise. Moments like this provide us with an opportunity to show our resolve. Taking on uncertainty is a great confidence builder.

Where will you let your fear take you today? What successes await you just around the corner? I challenge you to be bold and step outside your comfort zone. Challenge yourself and do something you might fear. There are only two possible outcomes.



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, August 21, 2015

What are you selling to your customers?

Donna Darby-Walthall,
Chief Financial Officer
If you ever need a reason to attend a convention, learning and networking with other funeral professionals has to be number one for me. A few weeks ago, we held our biennial dealer convention. If you weren’t able to attend, you missed out on a wonderful experience.

At the end of the three-day event, we passed the microphone around the room for everyone to share what they learned. One answer from a Trigard dealer has really stuck with me. He said that he never realized before, but the success of our business isn't based on the products we sell, it is about the experience they get out of the product. We are really selling the experience. And, he is exactly right.

If you haven’t seen our recent Healing Tree® advertisement, then you need to contact our Marketing department to get a copy. It is a real-life story about a woman who lost her mother, and at her graveside service she took a Memory Ring® from the top of her mom’s Healing Tree burial vault as a keepsake. She now wears it around her neck to make her feel closer to her mother. The Healing Tree and the Memory Ring are the products being sold, but what she experiences when she holds the Memory Ring in her hand after lifting it from the burial vault or wears it around her neck is what means the most. Now, that is selling an experience.

These are the types of things that come out of our Trigard Conventions. If you are a vault dealer, I encourage you to attend the next convention in 2017. If you are a funeral home or cemetery, I encourage you to get your vault dealers to our conventions. You will learn so much from your fellow dealers. I promise you won’t regret it.


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 17, 2015

Trigard Convention was a success.

Another Trigard Convention has come to a close, and we are feeling rejuvenated, revived and recommitted to providing the tools and resources our dealers and their funeral home customers need to help families through some of the hardest days of their lives.

All of us at Trigard are so grateful to the dealers who took time away from their businesses to attend. If you joined us at Trigard Convention 2015 and stepped away from your daily routines,we hope you found it to be exciting, informative and valuable.

We are most excited about all of the ideas and new opportunities for synergy that came out of the three days. The Buchanan family was a great partner, and we are excited to see how they can help our dealers grow.

Be sure to check out all of the photos on our Facebook page from last week. Look for the special convention recap articles in Trigard Tuesdays during the next few weeks.



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, August 7, 2015

What does it take to be successful?

Rich Darby,
Chief Operating Officer
How many of you spend hours researching the internet, looking at excel spreadsheets and analyzing the ways to success?  How many of you are at your wit’s end trying to figure out what it takes to be successful in today’s marketplace?  I have a very simple solution for you and it only consists of 2 simple points:
  • Define what type of business you want to be
  • Outwork everyone else in that industry
In this fast paced world, we are so busy trying to compete with our competitors that we forget what kind of business we want to be. Do you want to be the type of company that low balls their prices? Do you want to be an internet company? Or do you want to be the local company down the street? Whatever type of business you choose to be, stick to it. Don’t waiver and don’t go against your gut. Be exactly who you want to be. Be committed, stand firm and be strong. Understand that the road to success is full of bumps, but true leaders will always prevail. Go to bed each and every night knowing that the path you have chosen is best suited for you and your growth.

Once you have defined your type of business, WORK it! There is no advertising campaign, pricing scheme, product display or magic potion that can outperform good old fashioned sweat equity. Today’s consumer appreciates great service. They place a high value on a great experience. They will seek out and pay more money if they find value in the company and business model you have built. I challenge each and every one of you to sit at your desk today and formulate a new plan that involves going the extra mile, going above and beyond, doing more than anyone else. Put that program together and the excel spreadsheets will automatically take care of themselves.

I want to thank each and every one of you for being faithful readers of our articles. We truly appreciate all the great feedback we receive from you. Until next time. Keep calm and work on!


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, July 31, 2015

Do you need a Facebook Bluetooth® beacon?

This small, plastic pod-like device is making big promises about the future of business. The Facebook Bluetooth® beacon promises to boost your social connections to your customers while protecting their privacy. Installation is simple and you can’t beat the cost: FREE.
 
We’ve requested beacons for all of our Sunset Funeral Home and Camino del Sol Funeral Chapel & Cremation Center locations. (Only a limited quantity are currently available. You can request yours now and it will arrive sometime in the future.)

It’s always exciting to have the latest gadget, but do you really need one in your funeral home or cemetery?

Just because the Facebook Bluetooth beacon is free, it doesn’t mean you should absolutely request one. Making it worth it is going to take some time investment and expertise. You’ll need to regularly engage with people using the tool. It’s not just a “set it and forget” thing like printing a brochure. If you don’t have a plan for the beacon and how you’ll use it, I suggest waiting to request one. Focus on other priorities right now, but keep it on the list.

If you’re an early adopter, you’ve probably already requested a beacon (or five). We’ll be doing lots of strategic testing to see what really makes it worthwhile to the families we serve, but I’m confident we’ll focus on two things no matter what:

Creating lots of value on the Facebook page.
Value doesn’t have to mean discounts, although we may consider offering a small gift to people who visit our page. Following the best practices of Guy Kawasaki (link to his website), we curate articles, images and ideas from around the web and serve them up to our Facebook fans without asking for anything in return. We create a culture of service, sharing information and ideas that our customers want to know – not just what we want to tell them.

Encouraging check-ins.
People are tired of hearing me say that getting people to attend a service at Sunset Funeral Home is the single best marketing tool we have. Once they do, they immediately see the value, understand why we’re different and start thinking about their own legacy. Facebook beacon promises to encourage check-ins, which would allow friends of people in attendance to see where they are. The more people checking in, the more attending a funeral becomes normalized. The more “normal” it seems, the more people who will make the effort to come pay their respects.

I’ll keep you posted on how our Facebook beacon installations are going. If you receive one, would you let me know what’s working for you and what’s not? You just might see your story in an upcoming newsletter. You can email your stories to julias@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.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

What is good grief all about?

Erin Brodbeck, LCSW,CT
Sunset Funeral Home,
Director of Grief
Services
On the first Monday of every month, Sunset Funeral Home hosts a lunch for anyone who is grieving the loss of a loved one, called the “Good Grief Lunch.” It’s been a great source of support for many individuals who are learning to live their lives without their loved ones. It truly has been good for their grief.

This lunch got me thinking about how good of a job we are doing as funeral professionals in promoting good grief. Do we even know what it really is? Funerals and other rituals are one of the first steps in good grief, but are something that our culture tends to avoid. Rituals can help the newly bereaved to face grief head on; something that is essential to healthy healing.

I would encourage all of you to stop and take a minute to think about the grief side of our industry. Maybe some of you can relate to the grief the families you serve endure. If you can remember the way you were feeling after the loss of your loved one and what helped you through it, then those feelings could potentially help do something for the families you serve during the worst time in their lives. By taking the time to empathize with them, some truly remarkable ideas can emerge that will help them start on their grief journey the right way. And that is what good grief is all about.

If you are looking for some ideas on how to help encourage good grief, contact me at erinb@sunsetfuneralhome.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.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Are you ready to go public?

Linda Darby-Dowers,
Chief Executive Officer
If you haven’t heard of "Have the Talk of a Lifetime" by now, then you haven’t been reading my articles in Trigard Tuesdays. This campaign makes me so excited for the future of our industry. And, it is about to get even better! Until now, we have been sending the message of “Have the Talk of a Lifetime” through a grassroots effort across the funeral and memorialization industry. Now, we are introducing a brand new public awareness campaign and reaching out directly to the public.

Can you tell I am excited? I hope so, because the number of people we will touch with this campaign will truly be amazing. We will be educating families on the importance of what we do and why we do it, all while helping them with their journey of healthy healing.

You may be asking, “What does this campaign do for me?” Whether you're a funeral home, vault dealer or cemetery, your customers look to you as a resource and the tools provided to you through the campaign helps get the conversation started. The “Have the Talk of a Lifetime” campaign reintroduces the heart into our industry, which is where we need to focus, no matter our role.

Are you ready? Are you ready to answer questions about the campaign? Are you ready to talk passionately about healthy healing? If you need a refresher on everything the “Have the Talk of a Lifetime” campaign has to offer the families we serve, visit FAMIC’s website. As a member of the Trigard family, you get free access to tools to help you educate yourself as well as your community. Just call our Customer Service team at 800.637.1992 for the login information. I encourage you to start thinking of ways to incorporate the “Have the Talk” campaign into your daily business efforts. You won’t regret it!


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, July 10, 2015

How to negotiate without confrontation

Stuart McDaniels,
Materials Manager
Negotiation can be a scary proposition to a lot of people. For some it comes naturally, but for others it can feel awkward, intimidating and maybe a little confrontational. Whether we realize it or not, if we interact with others frequently we may be negotiating more than we appreciate. Maybe you’ve had a recent discussion with your significant other about what’s for dinner, or maybe you worked out a deal with your child over television times versus bed times, or even perhaps you talked your way out of a speeding ticket at one time or another. These situations all involve a measure of negotiation. It’s likely you solved these issues by coming to some sort of agreement without confrontation.

In order to avoid an uncomfortable or confrontational negotiation, try approaching it as joint problem solving instead. If you actually approach a negotiation as a confrontation it will likely be confrontational.  Instead, focus on finding a creative solution and not on what either of you will have to give up. You obviously don’t want to be a complete pushover during the process though so keep in mind that joint problem solving includes your needs as well. This viewpoint can make negotiation a little less intimidating if it’s something that makes you uncomfortable.


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.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Positive attitudes fuel success

Jeff Miller,
Vice President of
Business Development
Let’s face it. We’re all wired differently and view things differently. But, in the professional world, whether you feel the glass is half full or the glass is half empty can greatly determine your level of success or lack thereof. Optimistic people typically have an advantage on those in business who opt to think negatively. We all have a few clients that tend to always think the sky is falling. They tend to operate with an attitude that frankly drains their energy and ability to succeed.

I believe optimism and positive attitudes definitely are contagious and fuel success. Next time you are with a client, colleague or business associate who seems to focus on the “glass is half empty” approach, make a point to turn them in a more positive direction.

Often times in our profession, we will talk about how the business has changed. We will talk about the fact that cremation is growing and less families are choosing funerals and memorial services. And, in situations like this, it is important to respectfully speak up and bring the positivity back to the conversation. For instance, I was recently at a training session with a group of funeral directors. During the session, it became very obvious that one of the directors had a “glass is bone dry” perspective on the information being discussed. He was self-defeated and convinced that our “best days” were far behind. Going out on a limb and taking a bit of a risk, I switched gears and addressed his beliefs and opted to share my own. At the same time, I tried to motivate the others in the room to start a more positive conversation. Some may call it aggressive behavior, however, we drew him back into the fold and convinced him to think more positively. Doing nothing would have enabled him to drain the positive energy from the room and the ability for us to have a successful training session.

I believe that if we take a step back, re-focus and surround ourselves with the positive, energetic people, our best days are ahead of us. I challenge you to speak up and spread optimistic and positive thoughts about the future of our industry. It can only lead to 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, June 26, 2015

Are your families logical or emotional consumers?

Karen Darby-Ritz,
Advance Planning Manager,
Camino del Sol Funeral
Chapel & Cremation Center
Do you remember why you bought your last car? Was it because of the pretty color? Or was it something more logical? If you ask someone why they bought their car, they will more than likely explain their logical reasoning such as the gas mileage, the safety rating and the affordability.

The same goes for funerals. If you ask someone why they chose your funeral home, they will likely say the convenient location, the affordable prices and the service options. Are these the only motivators?

More times than not, consumers think they are making decisions based on research and facts alone. But actually, there are many other unconscious factors in play such as:
  • What others are using or doing
  • Personal biases
  • Fear of losing out on a product
  • Personal drive
It’s not that they’re lying about their choice, it’s because they want to believe the logical reasons that back up their decisions. We all have a need to be able to defend our actions to ourselves and to others.

You might buy a cherry red sedan because it subconsciously reminds you of the cool convertible you had as a teenager, but you’ll likely buy it because of the safety rating.

So, to best present our funeral home’s products and services, we need to paint the full picture for them. Whether it’s a price shopper on the phone or a family deciding between urn vaults, it’s not enough to tell them what we think they want to know. We have to reach them on both an emotional level and a logical level. Sure, you can explain tensile strength or warranty details, but you also need to talk about peace of mind. When you can reach a family on both levels, you are proving to them you have real value.


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, June 16, 2015

What's outside your backdoor?

Blake Swinford,
Project Manager
At Trigard, we value education. Whether you learn from schools, webinars, seminars or conventions, it is important for all of us to stay educated about the latest ideas.

While driving home from an extrusion seminar at Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport, Pennsylvania last week, I began thinking about the upcoming national conventions Trigard is attending. Going to these conventions and networking with funeral professionals on a national level is very valuable, and we always leave with great ideas to implement at our own facilities. But, do you have to go to the biggest convention to get the best ideas?

Do you frequently attend state conventions? You don’t always have to have a booth, but I can’t emphasize enough the importance of exploring the educational and professional opportunities that are available to you at the state level. Learning what is going on across the country is very beneficial, but seeing what others are doing in your own back yard can be even more important.

It's a great time for you to start making plans to attend upcoming conventions. Explore those happening close to home and those across the country. And, if you're a Trigard dealer, be sure to join us at Trigard Convention, August 12 – 14, 2015 in Indianapolis.


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, June 12, 2015

Why do you do it?

Brodie Krause,
IT Manager
I used to work in a corporate environment. My tasks were largely the same as they are now, but the whole environment was shaped around strengthening the company’s bottom line. We were in the widget business. Selling widgets for the biggest profit, with the least amount of overhead, was what it was all about. When things got tough, I would often ask myself, “Why am I doing this?” and I would really have to strain for an answer.

Fast-forward a few years. I recently received a message from a friend whose family had been served by our funeral home. They thanked me generously for the care and support their family received from our staff. This is why I love what I do and where I do it. I’m the IT guy. I wasn’t directly involved in any of the preparations for this family, but because I’m part of this team, I get to work each day towards the goal of satisfying and comforting families. My work supports those who in turn support grieving families.

When you get caught in the whirlwind of your day-to-day business, do you find yourself wondering why you’re doing it? Do you sometimes find your motivation lost in the minutia of taking orders, digging holes or pouring concrete? Last week, our Creative Director, Julia Sullivan shared a common story about a family’s horrible experience regarding the burial of their loved one. Think about those families who, in their grief, are placing their trust in your team to make sure their loved one is interred respectfully.

My friend thanked me because their family felt loved and respected as they went through the initial grief and memorialization process. I want to take a moment to extend that gratitude to you, as members of the greater Trigard team of dealers.  My friend’s family thanks you, as do all the other families whose trust falls in your hands each day.


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, June 5, 2015

Teach families the difference

Julia Sullivan,
Creative Director
I recently heard about a cemetery that was sued when a woman discovered that her loved one had been buried in an outer burial container with holes in the bottom. Even without being there, you and I know that it was most likely a concrete box (described as a “grave liner”), and she might have even been told that it was required by the cemetery. But that’s likely where the conversation ended.

I don’t know the details of the conversations that were had, but I know that the family is upset, the cemetery is stressed and the media is involved. All of it could have been prevented with a one-minute conversation.

I think about the number of families across the country who have chosen a concrete box instead of a lined, sealed burial vault. I realize it can be because of financial reasons, which I respect and can sympathize with. But how many families end up with a concrete box with holes in the bottom because they didn't understand the difference?

Make sure this never happens to a family 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.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Memorial Day 2015

Honoring the men and women that fought selflessly for our freedoms and paid the ultimate sacrifice is something that many of us in the funeral industry do not take lightly. We received many great photographs and stories of how you celebrate and honor the fallen during the Memorial Day holiday

Calvary Catholic Cemetery & Mausoleum in Lincoln, Nebraska
At Calvary Catholic Cemetery and Mausoleum, they held an outdoor mass followed with a meal of hot dogs, chips and cookies. They also help a ceremony dedicating and blessing the new stained glass in their mausleum and above ground mausleum for miscarried babies.


The Funeral Source
For Memorial Day weekend this year, The Funeral Source attended four different wreath-laying ceremonies and four different parades around the Cincinnati Tri-State area. They also laid flags on a number of fallen veteran’s graves, including a gentleman who fought in Iwo Jima and Guada Canal. The Funeral Source is thankful for the sacrifices that our soldiers have made so that we may enjoy the freedom and democracy that the U.S. offers to its citizen.


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.