Wednesday, December 28, 2016

New funeral keepsake for families

Adding family photographs, symbols and words of endearment to a Trigard burial vault or a cremation urn vault can be a touching celebration of a life. That’s why many families want a matching memento.

Trigard has created a Keepsake Plaque that matches the Applique. The 12”x 3” PVC plaque fits on any mantle or desk and looks sleek when mounted on a wall. It can be shipped with the applique so that the family can have the plaque at the time of the funeral or graveside service. 

Funeral directors can call 800-637-1992 to connect with the nearest Trigard dealer.

Introducing new Applique choices for Trigard burial and cremation vaults

To help you better address the growing trend in personalized memorials, Trigard has added new Applique options for burial and cremation urn vaults, making graveside and committal services unique and personal.

NEW IMAGES: We’ve add 3 new photo backgrounds: a basketball court, a sky that is bright blue and a sky with a cloud shaped like a cross. Each one is an ideal backdrop for a portrait photograph.

BLENDED IMAGES: We now offer the blending of two background photos into one. Imagine the duck and deer backgrounds together for a hunter, or the cornfield and flag blended together for a farmer.

EMBLEMS: The possibilities seem limitless with our new emblems, celebrating the hobbies, careers and passions of a loved one. These emblems can be beautifully incorporated into any Applique, ranging from a simple background to a full collage.

To learn more about our personalized Appliques, call the Trigard marketing team at 800-637-1992.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Worsham student wins Trigard scholarship

Trigard Vaults 
proudly awarded a scholarship to Tristan Jardee, a student at Worsham College of Mortuary Science in Wheeling, IL. Jardee received the scholarship because he demonstrates a strong academic performance and a commitment to helping grieving families remember, celebrate and heal.

“We believe Tristan will be a caring leader in the next generation of funeral directors,” said Trigard Chief Executive Officer Linda Darby. “We are happy to invest in his education.”

He was awarded a $250 scholarship to help complete his studies. It is one of many scholarships awarded by Trigard each year.

While visiting Worsham College to make the announcement, Darby spoke to students about the changing face of the death care profession. Trigard’s Vice President of Business Development Jeff Miller and Project Manager Blake Swinford also spoke to the class. 

Monday, October 31, 2016

The importance of attending conventions

By Jason Murphy
Director of Family Services, Sunset Funeral Home and Memorial Park

Recently, many of our Trigard Burial Vaults team attend the National Funeral Directors Association(NFDA) convention in Philadelphia. After chatting with a few of them, I hear one thing in common. They all expressed how energized they felt after being around many other people in the industry. 

In my personal experience, I have also found that I get this same sort of refreshed feeling after attending conventions. I am always excited to get back to work and try out the new ideas that I learned about or simply share some of the items that I discussed with my peers. Recharging your battery is great, but I also feel conventions provide other important benefits as well. 

While at conventions, you are able to network with others who may be experiencing some of the same challenges that you face. This allows you to learn what has worked for them… and maybe more importantly, what has not worked. This could possibly save you a ton of time from trying something that is designed to fail. Through networking, you may also have the opportunity to grow your business. Obviously, with Trigard, we are always looking for new opportunities to partner with progressive firms, so these conventions are truly important for us to share our unique burial vaults and urn vaults with the rest of the industry. 

Speaking of networking, I feel that conventions provide a platform for new friendships and connections. I am part of the Illinois Cemetery and Funeral Home Association(ICFHA) Board of Directors. Through this opportunity and the many conventions that I have attended, I have developed strong friendships. These friendships go beyond simply being in the same industry. These friendships help when you need a favor or some good advice. It is always comforting to know that someone is a phone call away and will gladly go out of their way to help you in whatever you need. This is always a better strategy than just “Googling” an answer you that seek. 

My advice would be to attend as many conventions that fit your budget. You never know where a golden nugget is hiding, so allow yourself ample opportunities to find 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

Monday, September 26, 2016

How to Stay Positive in Negative Situations

By Sheryl Baumeister, Trigard Human Resources

Are you tired? Boy, I am!  With all the negativity about who to vote into the White House, standing up or taking a knee during the National Anthem, copy and paste if you love Jesus, “Like” and “Share” to win!

It’s exhausting!  By the end of the day, we find ourselves emotionally drained by all of the negativity around us.  All these negative comments and situations can make us feel frustrated, angry or even tempted to take on a negative attitude.  Instead of doing that, let’s try to rise above it by using a few simple tactics.

1. Focus on you 
Regardless of what others do or say, we can control our own attitude.  Ask yourself why are you reacting this way?

2. Reverse your reaction
When someone is acting in a negative way – yelling, pouting, arguing, being passive aggressive, negative body language – try acting the opposite way.  When you choose a more positive reaction, you’ll feel more positive.

3. Don’t take it personally 
More often than not, another’s negativity isn’t about you.  Maybe the person has had a really bad day and is dealing with a lot of stress you are unaware of.  It’s difficult to know what’s going on in someone else’s head.

4. Stay in the moment
When you focus on what is happening now (not what has happened or could happen), it’s more difficult to feel negative.  Don’t let your negative thoughts and feelings take control.

5. Practice gratitude
When dealing with someone who is being negative, remind yourself of the positive experiences you’ve shared and be thankful for those.

If you are dealing with a completely negative person or situation, be grateful for the opportunity you’ve been given to strengthen your own inner positivity.  It’s an opportunity to practice positive thinking.

Staying positive around negative people is always challenging, but making use of these tactics will make even the most negative interaction easier to face.  Regardless of the situation, it’s up to you to choose a positive attitude.

This article originally appeared in Trigard Tuesdays, our weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at

Friday, September 16, 2016

9/11 Memorial

By Donna Darby-Walthall, Trigard Burial Vaults Chief Financial Officer

We recently passed the 15th anniversary of September 11 – the day when terrorists attacked the Twin Towers in New York City and changed thousands of lives forever. I still have a hard time imagining that other human beings could so intentionally take the lives of many people.

Being an owner of Trigard Burial Vaults, where we wholeheartedly believe in and support memorialization, I am glad to know that a place of remembrance has been created. The 9/11 Memorial honors the people who were lost that very dark day. It offers an opportunity to bring people together, in much of the same way we saw the world come together immediately following the attacks. The Memorial Museum is another way to pay tribute to and remember each victim. It includes a tribute full of pictures, recordings and love notes of all victims. (Take a virtual tour of the museum.)

I have read that men and women who work and volunteer at the Memorial have gotten to personally know the victims through the stories of love and support of the remaining family members.

I truly believe we live in the greatest country in the world and we will not be taken down by terrorists. May we always remember the people who just went to work like any other day and how tragically that work day ended for them. God bless them, their families and you.

Another Look Back
Read Linda Darby's reflection on 9/11 as it relates to Have the Talk of a Lifetime.

This article originally appeared in Trigard Tuesdays, our weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at

Monday, September 12, 2016

Why it's important to make time to give back

By Rich Darby
Trigard Chief Operating Officer

Do you give back? In this fast-paced, dog-eat-dog, try-to-get-ahead-of-the-next-guy world, giving of your time and energy seems impossible, doesn’t it? It is so easy to say, “I can’t because I don’t have time.” If you are this person you may want to rethink your thinking. I have one suggestion for you… MAKE TIME.

You’ll discover that giving your time and talents can be a wonderful stress reliever in your day-to-day whirlwind. There is nothing more satisfying than working for a cause. Whether it’s coaching your child’s sports team, volunteering at church or becoming a Big Brother or Big Sister, giving back will be more satisfying than your paying job. 

Do you wonder why that is? I think I have figured it out. I truly believe the satisfaction comes from the fact that giving back is something we CHOOSE to do. Our job is something we MUST do. Now don’t get me wrong; I love going to work. It energizes me, satisfies me, challenges me and rewards me. But giving back completes me. 

When my time comes and I am nothing but a memory, I want my legacy to be that I made a difference in someone’s life. I don’t want my legacy to be about how many businesses we owned or how many awards I have won. I want my legacy to be that Rich Darby walked this earth and that this was his contribution to the world – the sweat equity involved in giving back. 

Our family has always been taught to give back. It started with my grandparents and parents. It continues with me and my siblings. Now, our children are getting involved in our community and giving back.

We own and operate more than 10 different businesses. Wouldn’t it be easy to say we don’t have time? Well here is the real answer:
  • My oldest sister Karen is co-chair of a local business networking group in Sun City West, AZ.
  • Next, my sister Donna volunteers at Camp Healing Heart, a camp for grieving children.
  • My sister Linda is co-chair of the Have the Talk of a Lifetime campaign, a national cause to help the funeral industry as a whole.
  • I am president of Operation Honor Guard, an organization that raises money and supports honor guards nationwide.
  • My brother Scott is involved in a choir in Phoenix, AZ that travels and brings joy to many lives by his singing talent.
Are you reading this and struggling with the question, “Do I really have time to give back?” Again, I will reiterate that you need to make time. It will be the most rewarding and fulfilling part of your day. Thanks for reading! 

This article originally appeared in Trigard Tuesdays, our weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at

Monday, August 29, 2016

Little things can make a big difference

By Erin Brodbeck, LCSW, CT, Director of Grief Services, Center for Loss & Healing

With all of the tragic events that seem to be happening in the world today, I have been thinking about grief from a larger perspective. What does grief look like on such a large scale? What can we do as an individual to help support one another, not only as citizens of the United States, but as citizens of the world? These are hard and overwhelming questions that don’t really have any straightforward answers.

I’ve had the privilege of working exclusively with grievers for three years now and I have learned that it is the little things that matter. We can do so much with just one little act of compassion and love. It makes more of a difference than we probably will ever know.

Maybe you’re saying to yourself, “It won’t really matter. It’s just a little note.” or “I just said I’m sorry. It is not like they haven’t heard that 100 times already.” But it truly does matter. Taking the time to show empathy and support to someone is one of the best things that we can do for each other.

So the next time you are sitting down with a family, try to think of one little thing that you can do for them, even if you think it’s insignificant, and they will think the world of that one simple act of kindness.

This article originally appeared in Trigard Tuesdays, our weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at

Monday, August 22, 2016

“Your company is only as good as your leadership”

By Linda Darby, Chief Executive Officer

Our management team just attended The Global Leadership Summit which was offered through Willow Creek Church in the Chicago Area. This is the second year our team has been able to participate in this Summit. 

This program always exceeds my expectations! I just loved to be able to take our management team to an event of this caliber. The Summit was simulcasted to different churches (and most recently to our local prison) in the United States and Globally as well. The tag they used when promoting the program this year was “Everyone Wins When a Leader Gets Better.” Stop to think about what that means for a minute…. ok, your minute is up for you Millennials! 

Pastor Bill Hybels’ opening statement was “Your company is only as good as your leadership.” 
That, my friends, is a powerful statement.  I can promise you this series of speakers challenged me and our team of leaders to truly look at ourselves and what we do when leading our company together.  Our hearts' desire is to be the best partner to our clients, employees, vendors and community. (Read more about our mission statement.)

This summit truly gave us the opportunity to “fill our cup.” What are you doing in your organization to grow your leadership team? 

I will close the article with one lasting impact statement John C. Maxwell shared with us, “Intentionally add value to people every day.” That, my friends will make a difference in our families, our businesses and our world. 

Want to learn more? Check out these resources from this year's Summit and free videos from last year's Summit

This article originally appeared in Trigard Tuesdays, our weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at

Monday, August 15, 2016

Don't be that annoying salesperson who I ignore

By Stuart McDaniels, Materials Manager

As a buyer for Trigard, I deal with many outside vendors. Thinking back through my purchasing career, I have probably sat across the desk from hundreds of people. It seems like I have experienced just about every kind of selling tactic, style, opening and closing imaginable. (Although I am sure there are a few sales ploys that I haven’t been exposed to yet. It seems new techniques are being developed all the time.)

Recently, I realized something interesting though. No matter what method a salesperson uses to sell to me, when it comes to large purchases, I really only respond to one technique− relationship selling.

A true story
There is a company that contacts me often. They want to sell me freight services. This company is a rather large company and is owned by another, even larger company. It seems that their sales strategy is to telemarket and email random companies, hoping someone will call them back. Often, I hear from them twice a week. Sometimes it’s an email. Sometimes a voicemail. Sometimes both! Usually it’s a different person each time, but occasionally I have the same person contacting me for a couple weeks straight. Invariably someone new will call and I will never hear from the previous person again.

The interesting thing is that I never return their calls. Never ever. They may have great service or may be able to save us money, but the sad truth is that they will never have a chance to tell me about it due to their tactics.

Unfortunately, this company does not understand how annoying it is to see their email or listen to their voice message for the eighth time this month. I don’t want annoying phone calls and emails, one after the other, all saying the same copy and paste message.

I don’t need a widget; I need a partner. I want a relationship.  
I want someone to appreciate and solve my problems, to know me and the company I work for. I want someone who understands that I need more than annoying calls and emails. When a supplier has driven you to the point that you don’t even like talking to them, you have to question their tactics. In a relationship, both parties have to like each other. It just doesn’t work otherwise.

Relationship Selling
Lately, I’ve been involved on the sales side of things and exposed to a great book about smarter sales. It’s called SPIN Selling. I really took to the book’s message. It teaches the difference between a small sale and a large one and demonstrates how each requires a different approach. Once you’ve read and understand the concept, it really is instinctual. It’s something you already knew but never thought about… or to put it into other words, you know it to be true.

Throughout the years, I’ve learned the approaches I like and the approaches I don’t like, and frankly what works and what doesn’t. I can say that relationship selling has shown to be the most effective for large and repeat sales. I encourage you to continue to educate yourself dutifully and push yourself to learn to do what doesn’t come easy.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Need sales help? Gamble on yourself!

By Jeff Miller, Trigard Vice President of Business Development

I’m a betting man. I’ll show you.

I bet you’re busy. I bet that the simple act of running your business consumes most – if not all – of your time. I bet you’d like to grow your business, but it’s hard finding time to make sales calls. I bet you’d like to have a dedicated sales team, but can’t find the time or budget to build one. So, did I win the bets?

Let’s make one more bet… I bet I know the perfect sales person for your company. You!

Yes, I know for business owners like you, who work directly in the day-to-day operation of the business, it seems impossible to find time to dedicate to sales. However, you may be surprised.

Give it one day. 
As a starting point, dedicate one day each month to the sales growth of your business. After all, there is no one better than you to pitch to prospective customers. Who better to follow up with current clients? You’ll love the response you will receive when you show up at their place of business. Use these meetings to discuss the marketplace and share your thoughts with owners and managers.  It will prove to be very productive.

Still not convinced that you can break away for a day? With some simple planning, your routine operations will run without you for a day or two each month. This occasional absence also gives others in your company the opportunity to step up. It will help make better team players.

You are probably the most reliable, experienced and trusted sales person you know, so consider hiring yourself for this very important role. I think I’m making a safe bet when I say, “You will do a great job. You’ll thoroughly enjoy the experience and love the long-term results!”

Feel free to call me at 800-637-1992 to discuss this approach and share your thoughts about filling the all-important salesperson role.

This article originally appeared in Trigard Tuesdays, our weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at

Monday, August 1, 2016

What are your blind spots?

By Julia Sullivan
This article originally appeared in The Director. 

This year, my local newspaper published a disheartening story about a funeral home located about 40 miles from my house. It involved a funeral director with a suspended license. There’s no need to share the details of his abominable behavior.

For the record, I know that unethical people with suspended licenses are NOT the people who are reading this article. It’s quite the opposite. If you’re taking the time to dig into an industry publication, I know you are committed to lifelong learning. You know that each family you serve has one chance to say goodbye to their loved one, which means you only have one chance to get it right. You’re not just one of the good guys (or gals); you are dedicated to the profession and to quality service.

And yet, as I read the newspaper article, even though the things that this funeral director did were despicable, I focused in on the quotes from the family. I wanted to hear their perspective. One quote stood out to me. It was practically a footnote, but it leapt off the page as I read.

“Then we talked about urns. It was weird. He went into a back room and brought out an old catalog with pictures of urns.”

Seems pretty harmless, right? In fact, catalogs are pretty standard fare. It’s just not possible to have every product available in a selection room.

But something wasn’t right for the family. Even after their ordeal, as they retold the story to the reporter, it made a big enough impression on them that they mentioned it. And the reporter, in turn, decided to include it in the story. Even the editor kept in this small detail that seems arbitrary.
Think about your own funeral home. Would you ever imagine that the way you present your urn options could have a lasting impact? I was genuinely surprised. It got me thinking about the tools manufacturers create for funeral homes to help families select products.

When you look around your funeral home at your marketing and selection room tools, what do you see?

There’s the catalog of cremation options you’ve used for years. You can find anything in it in seconds flat, which you know families appreciate. Those are the miniature vault samples you’ve always had. You can’t count how many families have chosen a vault using them as a guide. Look at the casket end-cuts. You clean them every single day to keep them looking great so families can run their hands over them without picking up a single speck.

If you had an open house and invited the community, what would people think as they explored? Would they think that your reliable catalog looked like it was designed a decade ago? Would that make them wonder if there haven’t been any new ideas or products in ten years or more? Would they be concerned that there might be new products, but it looks like your funeral home sticks with things that are older?

When they see the miniature vault samples, would they understand what they are if you’re not there to explain? I’ve heard so many stories of families seeing miniatures and wondering if they’re for babies or for cremation.

And then they see your pristine end-cuts. Their spotless condition might not be impressive to them, because they expect your selection room to be spotless. In their minds, it’s a given. But then they might start to wonder why the end of the casket is so important. Every time they’ve gone to a funeral with a casket, they mostly see the side. As your visitors try to imagine someone in the casket, it might feel more like a city morgue from a TV crime drama with bodies sliding in and out of drawers. Yikes. That’s not what you meant for them to think at all.

These hypotheticals will make some funeral professionals feel defensive. I’ve had this conversation at national conventions and have heard some insist that “their” families wouldn’t ever think any of those things. But if you’ve made it this deep into this article, I’m confident that you’re not in that category. You’ve probably already thought about some of these things, and you’re likely doing many of them differently.

We all have things that we can’t see clearly without a little outside perspective. Even the most progressive, up-to-date, stellar-satisfaction-survey funeral homes have blind spots. The newspaper article I read earlier this year was the nudge I needed to look at some of the top tools that we customize for funeral homes differently. This article can do the same for you.

One of my mentors once said, you don’t know what you don’t know. It’s easy to see all of the things that you’re already doing right, but it’s nearly impossible to understand what could be improved if you don’t think it needs improvement.

The best way I know how to see your own blind spot is to bring in some outside perspective. Do you know someone in your community (but not in the funeral profession) who, like you, has a reputation for stellar service? Could you trust each other to be that set of fresh eyes? Do you have a friend who has never needed to make arrangements with you? What would happen if you invited them in to look at what you do to see if anything stands out before they need your help?

This article originally appeared in Trigard Tuesdays, our weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at

Monday, July 25, 2016

5 steps to keeping it in the family

Ross Darby
By Ross Darby, Director of Business Development 

I’m lucky. Right out of college, I found a job that I love… thanks to my family owning some pretty innovative businesses. Knowing that I was going to be the FOURTH generation of Darbys in the death care profession, I studied family business in college and I learned some interesting facts:
  • 90% of American business enterprises are family businesses.
  • 62% of total U.S. employment is thanks to these enterprises.
  •  Only 30% of family businesses in America will pass the reigns to the next generation, even though close to 70% would like to keep it in the family.
The most shocking stat for me was that by the fourth generation, only 3% of family businesses continue to exist!

There are hundreds of reasons why family businesses don’t continue, and I can’t address all of them. But, I have 5 doable steps to help any family business thrive.  

Teamwork makes the dream work.
Routinely complete projects with every generation involved. Not only will you “win” together, but you’ll also be surprised how much you can learn from each other.

Communication is key.
Open communication regarding projects, changes and people will make things run smoother. Many issues and unpleasant surprises can be avoided just by talking.

Don’t go to bed mad at each other.
Sure, it’s a saying used for married couples, but it can be applied to business too.  Never let issues go unresolved. Think before reacting. Don’t stew about things too long.

Don’t let the fear of change rule you.
When one generation starts daydreaming of retirement, it can be stressful on every generation. Big changes are scary, but they can be profitable too. I believe if you aren’t changing, you aren’t growing. Let the next generation know that you expected them to pick up where you left off… yes, and raise the bar even higher!

Have a plan.
The time to start a succession plan was YESTERDAY! Create a step-by-step plan and share that with the next generation.

The death care industry is unique, including its large number of multi-generation businesses. Personally, I love that aspect. It’s something I want to continue. I don’t want to be the last generation. Do you? If you’re a family business, join me in making a commitment to use these steps and grow the passion for generations to come.

This article originally appeared in Trigard Tuesdays, our weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at

Friday, July 15, 2016

Our new mission puts new focus on you

Blake Swinford,
Project Manager 

We are more than half way through 2016. Where are you with your New Year resolutions? Have you kept all of them? Half of them? None of them? We often make pledges that we don't keep.

At  Trigard, we have recently made a commitment that we know is here for the long haul - a new mission, vision and set of key values. Best of all, they include you!

Mission: Our mission is based solely upon you. We will be the best partner to our clients, employees, vendors and community.

Vision: Our vision is to be the clear choice; a strong, viable, innovative leader.

  • Passion
  • Integrity
  • Innovation
  • Leadership
  • Family
  • Stewardship 

While you may have not kept the goals you set at the beginning of the year, it’s never too late to start something good.  If your company has an outdated Mission or no Vision or Values, now is the time to get started. Need inspiration? We are here to help. Just pick up the phone and call 800-637-1992.

This article originally appeared in Trigard Tuesdays, our weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Do you have the same passion as our Founding Fathers?

Karen Darby-Ritz,
Advanced Planning Manager,
Camino del Sol Funeral
Chapel and Cremation
With the Fourth of July being just a week ago, I started thinking about the principles, passion and faith our Founding Fathers had in changing our great nation. During the process, they worked together and discussed common concerns, ideas and solutions. It was not without arguments, flared tempers or stomping out of the room. But, the important lesson we gather from our past leaders’ hard work is that change takes focus and persistence.

I feel like this way of thinking can be applied to the funeral industry as well. It seems to me that the same message is conveyed over and over again, but not much seems to change. We tire from the struggle to champion our cause.

I recently finished reading a Consumer Connection report from Costco which suggested that families who have lost a loved one buy their own casket or urn, and bring it to the funeral home. They also suggest that families shop around to get three “quotes.” The whole article portrayed funeral professionals to be economic opportunists. It focused solely on the merchandise and very little on the help we can provide families. It was so disheartening! What should we do? Should we just give up and not fight for our cause? My answer to that question is a resounding, “No!” What would have happened if Ben Franklin or Thomas Jefferson just gave up? What if they said, “It’s just too hard to change this, I’m done!” The cost to us would have been great. We would not have been able to win our independence. The American Dream would have been just that, a dream.

As a profession, we understand what values are important to us and our families. We talk to each other, we disagree and sometimes there’s shouting and walking away. But, let us remember it’s all a part of the process. We must stay the course and fight for our industry just as our Founding Fathers did for our nation. Our industry has great value. Let’s continue the fight to solidify the changes we know must happen.

This article originally appeared in Trigard Tuesdays, our weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Give the families you serve peace of mind

This article originally appeared in the June 2016 issue of American Funeral Director

Written by Rich Darby, Chief Operating Officer

As a funeral director and co-owner of a burial vault company, I am always looking for better ways to explain the importance of a burial vault. I am always trying to figure out what I can do to help overwhelmed families understand that a burial vault prevents the grave from collapsing and gives them peace of mind.

Making a loved one’s funeral arrangements can be overwhelming. Technology excites me, and I am always the first to own the newest gadget for business. However, this is one time that technology may not provide the best solution. I have come to the conclusion that the most important thing we can do when meeting with a family is to make them as comfortable as possible, starting with a short conversation about what they can expect before entering the selection room. I describe the room and make it clear that they will need to select two things: a casket and a burial vault. If you don’t set the family’s expectations before you enter the room, the burial vault can feel like an unexpected add-on. By spending just a few minutes outside the selection room, you lay the groundwork for your educational conversations ahead.

Then, it’s your time to shine, and this is where technology can make a difference. When all we had were end-cuts and miniature vault samples, funeral directors felt a lot of pressure to come up with the right words for each family. Now with technology, even a newly licensed funeral director can have all the right words.

For example, as you enter the selection room you are given the perfect opportunity to educate the family on the difference between a concrete box and a lined, sealed burial vault. I’m sure you know that it’s important to point out that a concrete box has holes in the bottom to allow for drainage and only prevents the earth from collapsing. I’ll bet you have a great way to explain that a lined, sealed burial vault provides layers of protection by including a polymer lining that works with the concrete to help prevent breakage. How many times have you talked through layers of protection and explained how a strong seal helps protect against outside elements?

But technology takes the pressure off. You can play a video that uses animation to educate the family. A miniature vault sample can only demonstrate so much, but a video from your supplier can show a vault in the ground, what rising groundwater looks like and how a concrete box can break down over time.

While walking through the selection room, you can put an iPad® in the family’s hands and empower them to explore your vault options. Today’s families are used to shopping online and navigating choices on their own. Complementing your vault presentation with interactive technology brings the family into the process and makes them more comfortable.

Speaking of online shopping, have you ever felt overwhelmed by the number of choices? The same applies in the selection room. If you are looking to increase you burial vault sales, I recommend presenting only three vaults: good, better and best. This allows families to more easily compare the vaults available and feel less overwhelmed. As a funeral director, you may understand the difference between a dozen different vault options, but an emotional and grieving family won’t be able to decipher the differences.

Over and over again, I have seen funeral homes limit their number of burial vault options and watch their average vault sale rise. The majority of families will choose your middle option – which should be your target vault and the one that offers the best value.

I encourage you to not be tempted to make an unsealed, unlined concrete box (or grave liner) your entry level unit, even if it’s painted. A concrete box is not the same as a lined, sealed burial vault. When you choose this as your “good” option, you automatically anchor the family to a lower price point, which will lower your average OBC sale.

I know it can be hard to change your selection room presentation, especially if it’s been working for you for many years. I’m not saying you have to replace everything you have with TVs, monitors and iPads. But modern consumers are challenging us to try new things. I encourage you to do your research, push yourself out of your comfort zone and do what’s best for your funeral home. The families you serve will benefit.

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, a memorial park and seven funeral homes across Illinois, Indiana and Arizona. Email him at

Friday, June 24, 2016

Finding your change barrier

Brodie Krause,
IT Manager
As a teenager, I worked a few summers as a laborer for my dad who was a journeyman plumber/pipefitter. During that time, I learned to install water lines by using solder to sweat the joints together. Fast forward 20 years, and I find myself in the midst of a bathroom remodel. Unfortunately, Dad passed away 7 years ago, and so instead of being able to lean on his knowledge, I could only dig back to the memories of what he taught me. This meant breaking out the blow torch, flux and solder, and spending a ridiculous amount of time-fighting to keep the water out of the lines long enough to make leak-free joints. After burning an entire weekend on the project, and still not being able to turn the water on, I decided to step back and think through what I was doing, and if it was truly the most efficient use of my time. I began to research alternate methods of installing water lines, and my mind was blown at what I found. Pre-soldered fittings, compression fittings, and the Holy Grail, QuickConnect fittings that required no solder, and no tools. I woke up the next morning as soon as the hardware store opened, purchased a couple fittings, and within 5 minutes, the house had water again. My weekend had truly been wasted.

It left me asking, “Why?” As I thought through the answers to that question, I began to identify the barriers that had existed in my mind. Barriers that prevented me from embracing the changes that could have made this project so much more manageable.

First, there was a tradition. I had been taught by my dad, who was a master of his craft, that when you’re installing water lines, you do it with a torch and solder. It was so ingrained, that at the beginning of this project, I never even considered that there might be other methods available, and even once I was open to the idea, I felt like I was dishonoring his memory by thinking that his way wasn’t good enough. But I realized I was honoring him by keeping the Krause family tradition of plumbing alive, even if it looked a little different than when he did it.

Second, I was held back by the illusion of cost. As I began looking at those other options, I balked at what I initially considered to be ridiculous costs for those other types of fittings. The way I’d always done it cost a fraction of what these new methods cost, at least, at the retail counter. When I began to consider the additional cost of my time, which had literally consumed an entire weekend, plus the cost of parts that got damaged when fatigue and frustration led me to make mistakes. Suddenly, those new QuickConnect fittings seemed like a bargain!

Finally, there was the barrier of thinking “That’ll never work.” Surely, it couldn’t be that easy, I told myself. But as I did the research and saw self-proclaimed “old-school” plumbers recommend the new methods, I realized it was worth trying. And, I wasn’t disappointed.

We face the same dilemma in the business world. What practices do you have in place simply because that’s the way you were taught, the way you’ve always done it, or a misunderstanding of what it means to honor your heritage? How afraid are you of investing in a new system, simply because of sticker shock? Do you have a realistic grip on your doubts, or do they control you and prevent you from moving forward?

Something I’ve been taught in the past few years is that if you aren’t moving forward, you’re falling behind, even if it feels safer to just stand still. As you face the need for change in your business, take a step back and identify the things that hold you back, you just might find those mountains to actually be molehills.

This article originally appeared in Trigard Tuesdays, our weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at

Friday, June 17, 2016

Is millennial turnover a problem? How can we prevent it?

Ethan Darby,
Director of Business
“I think a trillion dollars of student loans and a massive skills gap are precisely what happens to a society that actively promotes one form of education as the best course for the most people. I think the stigmas and stereotypes that keep so many people from pursuing a truly useful skill, begin with the mistaken belief that a four-year degree is somehow superior to all other forms of learning.” - Mike Rowe

As someone who recently graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree, I can tell you first-hand that we have severely over-emphasized university learning in our society. Growing up, I can remember relentless pressure coming from role models telling me I had to go to college and get a good degree in order to be successful. While I did learn a lot while I was in school, I find myself only using a very small portion of what I learned. The rest of it was either forgotten or doesn’t apply to what I’m doing.

I remember hearing a story recently about a large bridge that was to be built in Alabama. The planning, budgeting, and material collection was all done. They were only missing one thing – people to physically build the bridge. Due to a lack of welders, the project was put off, and has no estimated completion date as far as I know. This is a scary thing to me. It also blows my mind that I graduated with so many people with great degrees and high I.Q.’s that are now left scrambling to find even a low-level job when there are job shortages all over the place in the technical field. And with Baby Boomers starting to retire, this shortage is only getting larger. 

Employee turnover seems to be a consistent problem amongst our dealer network and pretty much any type of manufacturing company I come across. The largest amount of turnover seems to be occurring in that age group of 23-30-year-olds. Why is that? I think the first reason is that there are simply less of us. We bought into the idea of getting a four-year degree, so we went and racked up crippling student loan debt only to get a job totally unrelated to our degree. The pool of younger people with technical knowledge is small and only getting smaller. If you can get your hands on a millennial with some technical knowledge and potential, how do you retain that individual?

Create Excitement for Employees
One thing I have personally tried to help implement within our own company is transparency. If you trust your employees, share things about your business with them. If they don’t know which way you are steering the ship, how can they possibly help you miss the iceberg? 

Also, let them know what opportunities lie ahead. They should know what you value as an employer- what can they do to add value to themselves? And if they do add value, what types of rewards are available? 

Millennials are actively known as the social media generation. We are used to having a voice, and we also want one in the workplace. We have great ideas that give us a unique perspective on things. Listen to us, and we will reward you in more ways than one. 

Don’t get me wrong, there are a few bad eggs in every generation, but I think Millennials get a bad rap. Give us a shot, and I promise you it will be worth your while.

This article originally appeared in Trigard Tuesdays, our weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at

Monday, June 13, 2016

Insight from the next generation

Jason Murphy,
Director of Family Services,
Sunset Memorial Park
As the next generation begins to become more involved in the funeral industry and move up into manager and supervisory roles, some professionals who have been in the industry for many years question whether they are ready to take on the responsibility. A majority of the youngsters coming into our profession are what society likes to call a “millennial” and in my opinion, the “millennial generation” often times gets a bad rap.

If you consider my age, I would be considered a millennial. And, I have often times heard the terms lazy, entitled, stubborn and even selfish used for professionals my age. But, not everyone in our generation qualifies. Over the past several years being a younger manager, I have found that how you are viewed by others is determined by your actions and your attitude.

One obstacle millennials face in any industry is being respected by their peers, especially when they have been involved in this industry for many more years. As a millennial, I know how hard it is to earn the respect of those you work with, especially if you are their supervisor. In my experience, the key to having a healthy relationship with your staff is to work hard for them.

What do I mean?

Put your employees best interest before your own. Maybe that means covering shifts for evenings, weekends or holidays. It could mean something simple, like returning a phone call to an angry customer, or simply providing positive reinforcement and feedback when needed. Anything you can do to cause less stress for them will only increase your chances of being accepted and respected as their supervisor.

Be available and open for conversation. Have face to face interaction with your staff as much as possible. There is so much more value and meaning in conversation versus hiding real issues in an email or text. People will respond quicker and with a better attitude when issues are confronted head on and not left to fester. I know all too well that millennials love to use technology, but you shouldn’t rely on technology to do the dirty work for you.

Have an open mind. One of the biggest worries of a millennial is that we are not pulling our own weight.  It is extremely important that our mentors and individuals we work with give us the opportunity to prove ourselves before being lumped into the “entitled” group of our generation. So, please keep an open mind and remember that everyone at some point was where we are in their workplace. Pick us up when we stumble, but don’t give up on us.

This article originally appeared in Trigard Tuesdays, our weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Summertime living is not easy

Scott Darby,
Media Manager,
Certified Funeral Celebrant
Camino del Sol Funeral Chapel
and Cremation Center
Memorial Day weekend has, for a long time, been considered the beginning of summer. I used to live in New York City and it was understood that summer business hours were in effect from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend. The work week was reduced to four days because Friday became one’s “travel to our weekend house” day. By mid-summer, as the temperature rose, leaving work early on Wednesday or Thursday to catch the "jetty" to the Hamptons or Fire Island was expected.

For those of us who work in the funeral industry, we don’t get that luxury.

While people are leaving work early on Thursday, you’re working to ensure the families you serve are cared for during one of the hardest times of their lives. While most people are going to barbecues and pool parties, you are working tirelessly through the summer whether it be at the funeral home or in the hot sun hauling concrete burial vaults or digging graves.

Author and philosopher Sam Keen says, “Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability.” Well, I’m writing today to recognize those of you out there working despite the urge to leave work early because the families we serve are more important. You are the ones who give up a piece of your weekend to make sure a grieving spouse gets the closure he/she needs. At Trigard, we want you to know that we recognize and respect your hard work and we are proud to serve you.

Now, don’t forget to use lots of sunscreen, keep drinking water and have an awesome summer season!

This article originally appeared in Trigard Tuesdays, our weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at

Friday, May 27, 2016

Do you take pride in your work?

Drew Edwards,
General Manager,
Sunset Funeral Home
Just a few short years ago, and after extensive market research, the Darby family purchased a building in Champaign, Illinois, to become the sixth Sunset Funeral Home location. Now, it is a beautiful, modern facility that has a design and presence that is completely different than any of our other funeral homes.

As with any new market, there was a lot of hard work to do. It was a long process to earn the trust of the community before our phone started to ring. Although it was a great experience, as with any new adventure, it had its learning curves. First of all, the new location is only 35 short miles from our main funeral home location. But, to our surprise the cremation rate between the two locations was drastically different, ranging from 34% at our existing location to almost 80% at our new location. Although this number didn’t scare us, we found that you need to operate your business a little differently. One of our biggest obstacles was the loss of the burial vault sale. The cemeteries in this market are very aggressive. Many times when you meet a family you find that the cemetery has already sold the grave space, the memorial, the opening of the grave and even the burial vault. This can equal thousands of dollars of lost opportunity.

A few weeks ago, I was serving a family at our new Sunset Funeral Home location that had already taken care of their cemetery needs, including a burial vault. After a beautiful celebration of this gentleman’s life, we all left the funeral home on a rainy afternoon in procession to the cemetery. Once arriving at the grave, I was completely disappointed in every aspect of the graveside services. The tent looked like an old army tent from 50 years ago, every one of the chairs were soaking wet, we were standing in mud, and you could not even see the burial vault. Just a set of rollers with a covered hole underneath. We had to remove the chairs from under the tent to allow room for everyone to get under the tent, which was leaking in multiple areas.

I tell this story because I want you to remember to take pride in your work. Although we had nothing to do with this graveside service, the whole experience made our funeral home look bad. People will associate that cemetery with our funeral home, and there is little we can do to prevent it. We personally vowed to do everything in our power to prevent this from happening to another family. We will continue to tell our story, and explain the difference between someone trying to turn a quick dollar, and the professional company that places the family first. I hope you will join us and do the same. The families we serve deserve 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

Friday, May 20, 2016

How are you changing our industry?

Donna Darby-Walthall,
Chief Financial Officer
“Because that's how we have always done it.” How often have you heard that come from the mouth of professionals in our industry? To me, it is frustrating. Over the past ten years, I have watched the funeral industry change dramatically, and it’s time we shake things up to keep things moving in the right direction.

Change can be seen as a bad word to some people, but there is great value in change. We just need everyone in our industry to see it. The changes you make can be as simple as incorporating an Appliqué into your product offering. Or something as drastic as getting rid of all your miniature samples and replacing them with wall graphics. To some, this could be scary, but it shouldn’t be.

At Sunset Funeral Home in Champaign, Illinois, we recently held a “Have the Talk of a Lifetime” ladies luncheon and style show. While we were promoting the event by hanging flyers, I overheard a woman say, “What? A style show at a funeral home?” I say absolutely. It was a great opportunity to bring people unfamiliar with our services into our facility and teach them about preplanning. Not only did we get to show off our funeral home, but those that attended had a great time. We will do it again.

This is what I am talking about. These are the kind of things we need to be doing to change the way we have always done them. If you’re an “out-of-the-box” thinker as well, we would love to hear your ideas. Give us a call at 800.637.1992, and together we will shake things up.

This article originally appeared in Trigard Tuesdays, our weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at

Monday, May 16, 2016

Do you see what your customers are seeing?

John Albers,
Plant Manager
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then, in my opinion, seeing it in person should be worth a million. Recently, a dealer approached me during his Trigard University visit about making a change to one of our products. During our discussion, it was difficult for me to understand exactly what he wanted. But when we looked at the exact product he was referring to, it became clear. By seeing the product in question, we both understood what each other needed.

I strongly believe that seeing first-hand what our customers are dealing with makes their situation more relatable. For instance, when vault dealers visit their customers they get to talk to them in person and learn first-hand about any issues they may be having. The same applies to our funeral homes and cemeteries. The more funeral directors and cemeterians interact with the people in their community, the more they know about what they need and want.

At Trigard, we offer our vault dealers, funeral home and cemetery customers the opportunity to visit us and see how we operate through our Trigard University program. By seeing how we work on a daily basis, you get a better understanding of what we do.

If you are interested in participating in Trigard University, give our Customer Service team a call at 800.637.1992 for more information.

This article originally appeared in Trigard Tuesdays, our weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at

Friday, May 6, 2016

Could your company benefit from a war room?

Sheryl Baumeister,
Human Resources
When the movie War Room hit the theaters last fall, I am embarrassed to say I had no desire to see it. I really didn’t know anything about it and assumed from the title it was a military movie. Boy, was I wrong.

As any military personnel would know, a war room is where military leaders meet to study maps showing the current status of troops in battle and plan a strategy against their enemy. In the movie, Miss Clara’s war room is a prayer closet where she spends time asking for God’s guidance.

Several days after viewing the movie, I still find myself thinking about it. Are there other areas in our life where we could benefit from a war room? Merriam-Webster defines a war room as:
  • A room at a military headquarters where maps showing the current status of troops in battle are maintained.
  • A room (i.e. a business headquarters) used for conferences and planning that is often specially equipped (i.e. with computer or charts).
In our businesses, I believe creating a war room is a way of empowering our employees to come together as a team to brainstorm, solve complex problems and crank out big projects. In reality, it doesn’t even have to be a room. As long as the space allows the team to have the ability to write and draw ideas, it will work. This helps to make their ideas tangible and easier to work with. They can use whiteboards, chalkboards, sticky notes, whatever works best for your team.

Working together to move the business forward will inspire your employees and keep them engaged. 

By the way, I did enjoy the movie!

This article originally appeared in Trigard Tuesdays, our weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at

Friday, April 29, 2016

What does it take to be a multicultural provider?

This article originally appeared in the March issue of Canadian Funeral News

by Ethan Darby, Director of Business Development

When is the last time you served a family from a different culture than your own? Or who have different religious beliefs? We live in a multicultural society that continues to change and evolve over time. In fact, did you know that over half of the population of Canada was born outside of the country?

Last year, I visited Toronto for the first time. And, while I was there, I didn’t notice much of a cultural difference in daily life compared to my hometown in the States. Eating in restaurants, checking into a hotel and traveling didn't look that much different from life in Illinois. But once I started visiting funeral homes and learning about their daily operations, I started seeing big differences. And I started learning a lot.

It got me thinking about the opportunities we have to express our beliefs and carry on traditions. Two of the most significant events I can think of are weddings and funerals. These are the times that even less religious people tend to want to honor their family's traditions. It can provide comfort and help us feel connected to our history. That’s why it is so important to understand different cultures when working in the death care industry.

My family owns a few funeral homes in the United States. It gives us a really unique perspective as a supplier. We get to use our own products every day and really understand what funeral directors need. We've had the privilege of honoring the loved ones of families with traditions and religions very different from our own.

One family brought incense to burn during the service. They placed it next to a bowl of fruit and a picture of their loved one. They were delighted to find an arrangement of lit candles in our lobby that happened to be lit for a remembrance service later that day.

Another family wanted to be present as their loved one was cremated. Per their request, they helped place the body in the crematory and stayed for the entire time.

Yet another family prepared the body of their loved one for burial themselves. All of the towels used had to be buried as well.

I wasn't familiar with any of these customs before. Even though I had to learn about the specific rituals, it's not hard to understand their significance as the families said goodbye. Understanding is the first step in becoming a more multicultural funeral provider. But what's next?

Whenever possible, say yes.
When a Jewish family explained to our director that someone would be here with the body of their loved one at all times, we didn't hesitate to figure out how to make that happen. It's not always easy to do things that are outside of your typical daily operations, but if it's important to the family and their traditions, I believe it's worth it. They only get one chance to honor the life of their loved one, and it's our job to help them do it their way.

Let the family lead.
It's been our experience that the family usually starts the conversation about the specifics of their traditions. While there's some benefit in doing a little research ahead of the arrangement, this is one time that it's absolutely okay to not be the expert. In fact, it might even be better to be in the role of student.

Of course your experience as a funeral professional has great value. You help families through the hardest days of their lives all year. But families will want to carry on their traditions their way. Your first job is to listen carefully, then to incorporate their requests along with the things that you know lead to healthy healing.

Pay attention to every detail. 
As funeral providers, we know that the details make all of the difference. Having a fresh pot of coffee ready when the family comes to meet with you for the first time makes them feel welcome. No matter if you are working with a family from an Islamic culture or a Jewish religion, you should know every detail from what their loved one is wearing to the direction the body should be facing. But, the most important thing to remember is to give the family what they want. They have the final say as to what customs and traditions they want to include.

Every family is unique. 
No matter where a family is from or what religion they practice, their loved one’s life mattered. The special effort and attention you give a family with traditions different from your own will also benefit a family who shares your background. Their loved one was just as unique, and their family's traditions are just as special. The bottom line is that if you're giving each family individualized service and listening to their requests, you know you'll be serving them well.

Ethan Darby is the Director of Business Development for Trigard and Trigard Memorials and is a member of the Darby family’s fourth generation. His family owns Trigard, Trigard Memorials, a memorial park and seven funeral homes across Illinois, Indiana and Arizona. 

Friday, April 22, 2016

Do families care about what we do?

Rich Darby,
Chief Operating Officer
As a funeral professional, I often ask myself, “Have I made an impact on the families I serve?” That question was answered just a few weeks ago.

It was a normal day in the office when I received a call from a lady named Teresa. It was the 15 year anniversary to when I helped make her mother's funeral arrangements. She had been thinking about her mother's service that day and wanted to thank me for taking care of her mother all those years ago. She remembered so much about the service and the planning of her mother's life celebration. She remembered every detail, including the time we spent at her home writing the obituary, picking out her mother's outfit for burial and going through family pictures. She ended the call by thanking me for the rose I laid on her mother’s bed after we took her body into our care. She still has the rose, and it means so much to her. She remembers dreading going back into her mother’s room that day to see an empty bed but was pleasantly surprised when she saw that simple sign of love. It brought tears of joy to her eyes.

What I didn’t realize 15 years ago, when I was just “doing my job,” was that my normal daily activities were something very special to Teresa and they would stick with her forever. All of those little extras are what stuck in her mind. They stuck so strongly that it initiated a phone call to me 15 years later. I cannot tell you how humbled and honored I was to receive her call. Often times in this profession, we may feel taken for granted. But, we couldn’t be more wrong. It is our job to care for these families during one the hardest times of their life. We have to keep doing all those extra special things that we do because it will last a lifetime.

So for all of you reading this article, thank you for being the professionals that you are. Each and every day you make a difference in someone’s life. I only hope and pray that you receive a call 15 years later. It warmed my heart.  

This article originally appeared in Trigard Tuesdays, our weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Can you guess our favorite part of the ICCFA Convention?

Every expo that we attend is another opportunity for our Marketing team to shine. Our job is to design a booth experience that attracts attendees and provides points of conversation for people to learn - or learn more - about what we do and how we can help them grow. Each booth is special and memorable, but this year's ICCFA Convention and Expo booth was one for the books.

We had the very special opportunity to use the booth space to tell the story of the Darby family business to help celebrate Big Jim receiving the ICCFA Educational Foundation's Lasting Impact Award this year. Each ICCFA attendee received a digital copy of Big Jim's book, "No one looks up to a grave digger: a memoir." (You can download your own copy here.)

But the best way to sum up the experience is to hear it in Big Jim's own words. Click the picture below to watch his rousing acceptance speech.

Please help us congratulate Big Jim on receiving the award by posting some kind words 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

Friday, April 8, 2016

Are you stepping outside your comfort zone?

Erin Brodbeck, LCSW, CT,
Director of Grief Services,
Center for Loss & Healing
When you think about your life and who inspired you and helped shape who you are, is there one person that stands out? For me, that person is my grandfather, James “Big Jim” Darby. He is one of the most innovative people I know. He, along with my parents, have been amazing teachers in the value of hard work and perseverance. I am who I am because of them, and I couldn’t be more grateful.

My grandpa is a very hard working man. And, if you didn’t know already, he is being honored with the 2016 ICCFA Lasting Impact Award at this year’s ICCFA Convention and Expo in New Orleans on Thursday, April 14. It truly amazes me to think about how he got where he is today. He literally started from the ground up. He constantly fought and struggled, and was forced to step outside of his comfort zone. But, eventually, he created something amazing.

As a vault dealer, funeral home and cemetery, you have to believe in what you do and force yourself to step outside your comfort zone to really make a difference. You have to push, struggle and fight to get anywhere that is worth going. You can make a difference just like my grandfather has, you just have to push yourself and find a way to make yourself heard. Stop telling yourself that you can’t, and just do it. Your only limitation is your own imagination.

This article originally appeared in Trigard Tuesdays, our weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at

Monday, April 4, 2016

What are you doing to make a change?

Linda Darby-Dowers,
Chief Executive Officer
"There was a young man walking down the street who happened to see an old man sitting on his porch. Next to the old man was his dog, who was whining and whimpering. The young man asked the old man, “What’s wrong with your dog?” The old man said, “He’s lying on a nail.” The young man asked, “Laying on a nail? Well, why doesn’t he get up?” The old man then replied, “It’s not hurting him bad enough.””

I recently came across this story by Les Brown, professional speaker and author of Live Your Dreams, and it really got me thinking. How often do we talk about wanting to change, but continue to do the same thing over and over again? The same applies to a majority of us in the funeral industry. We know there are ways we can improve our companies, but we are so comfortable in the way we have always done things, we don’t want to change.

The dog in this story preferred to whimper and whine about the nail being stuck in his side, rather than moving and being more comfortable. When you are faced with a problem that needs fixing, are you going to moan, groan and complain? Or are you going to wake up, get up and make a change? It’s your choice, do something about 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

Friday, March 25, 2016

What is the "law of the lid?"

Stuart McDaniels,
Materials Manager
What is the value of leadership?  How important is it in your professional or personal life? John Maxwell, a leadership expert, speaker, pastor, and best-selling author of the book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, says that leadership has an incredible impact on every aspect of life.

Maxwell explains that leadership is the lid that determines a person’s level of effectiveness. The higher one’s ability to lead, the higher the lid on their potential. An example he gave was that if a person’s leadership rate was an eight, then they would never be more effective than a leader whose effectiveness is a seven. He also says that if one’s leadership rate is a four, then their effectiveness would never be higher than a three. He claims that one’s leadership ability, for better or for worse, always determines their effectiveness and the potential impact of their organization. The lid is either preventing the best people in the organization from reaching their potential, or pushing them away.

In my view, this is a powerful way to think about the process of leadership and success, and the relationship between the two. I believe that too often we focus on success when we should be focused on developing stronger leadership skills. Success is the byproduct of leadership and that leadership is the process to produce success. Can we be successful without good leadership? Yes, but without the ability to lead, a person’s impact is only a fraction of what it could be with good leadership. Whatever could be accomplished will be limited by their ability to lead others.

But there is good news. A person can become a better leader through education and hard work. If someone increases their leadership skills, they can also increase their effectiveness. When they do this, the chance of success and the ability to fulfill their potential will follow.

This article originally appeared in Trigard Tuesdays, our weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at