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

Friday, March 18, 2016

Is it time to change your presentation style?

Jeff Miller,
Vice President of
Business Development
Every professional, regardless of their choice of profession, develops a presentation style early on in their career. This can be how you share information with a customer or the tools you use to sell products and merchandise. This style is more than likely the result of a combination of factors, including formal education, shadowing a mentor, personal preference and market conditions. For those of us who developed ours many years ago, we must ask the question, “Does my presentation style need to be adjusted to meet today’s consumer?”

I am sure the majority of us can agree that times have changed, and so have the consumer’s demands and expectations. When I started in this industry, a funeral arrangement typically consisted of the scheduling of service times and presenting and selling of merchandise. It was a repetitive and predictable process.

Today, families have so many options, they don’t know what they want for their loved one. As cremation rates increase and the industry continues to change, so should our presentation styles. So what do we need to do? As funeral professionals trying to help the families we serve, we need to simply listen. We need to listen to the family in their time of need and give them what they need.

When you change your presentation style by really listening to the families you serve, you will have more satisfied families. And, when you have satisfied families, you more than likely will have better profits. It’s a win-win for everyone.

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, March 14, 2016

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. 

Monday, March 7, 2016

Are you strategically planning for your future?

John Albers,
Plant Manager
Every company evolves in some way throughout the years. As it changes, you may find that your tried and true business plan, that has served you well for many years, just isn’t giving you the results it once did. There could be a number of reasons why, including consumer trends, competitive pressure, manufacturing costs and changes in management. To make sure you are remaining viable in the marketplace, it would be wise to improve your plan. By creating a sound strategic plan, you will shed light on the true state of your company and create a roadmap for the future. Through strategic planning, you are developing a documented vision for your business and visualizing a map for success. You are saying, “We’re going to be around for the long haul.”

So, what is involved in a strategic plan?

  1. First, you should establish a mission statement, which is a concise statement of why your business exists. It provides a compass for business decisions, no matter who has to make them. But, statements don’t equate to a plan by themselves. A plan requires goals and a course of action.
  2. When planning out your goals, you must evaluate your competencies, structure and the marketplace. Playing to your strengths has served you well in the past, and this is one place you don’t need to invoke change. It should be the foundation in which you build from. Set your course of action through prioritization and make a short term and long term plan. You might not be able to address all of your issues simultaneously, so directing your attention and resources toward the biggest return first is the way to go.
  3. Don’t go at this alone. Your best resource is your staff. They have helped you get where you are today. You may think you have all the answers but your employees have their own experiences and perspectives. You may miss out on some great opportunities if you don’t involve them in the process. This is serious business for your future, so don’t take it on half-heartedly.

At Trigard, we are currently going through a formal strategic planning process with the sole purpose of building a stronger future for you, our employees and ourselves. I encourage you to do the same and take a close look at your business plan. Your future depends on 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