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