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