Friday, July 28, 2017

Trigard dealers are recognized for their excellence

We at Trigard are blessed to have dealers who have not only risen to the challenge in our business, but also excel in new and exciting ways. During the Trigard Distributor Convention, we recognized some of these people.

Wilkes-Barre Burial Vault, Outstanding Growth in the Small Business Division

Paschal Burial Vault Service, Outstanding Growth in the Mid-Size Division

Southside Grave & Vault, 3rd Highest Growth in the Large Division

Roberts Vault Company, 2nd Highest Growth in the Large Division

Chesapeake Burial Vault Company, Highest Growth in the Large Division

Watts Vault and Monument, Highest Sales Volume

Sometimes, our accomplishments cannot be measured in numbers. Sometimes it’s something that is just something inside us. Something that causes you to look at someone and say, “Hey, that guys just gets it!” That’s why we have the Trigard “You Get It Award.” This year, we did something we’ve never done before; we gave two of these awards.

The “You Get It Award” goes to Handley Precast Systems, Inc. This is a company who knows what it means to be full-service. Handley Precast embraces the entire Trigard product line. From Serenity vaults to bronze memorials, they provide great service, true professionalism and smiles. Lots and lots of smiles!

Clinton Excavation & Burial Vault LLC also received the “You Get It Award.” Clinton Hedgepeth embodies everything about #TeamTrigard. From taking the lead on social networks, to his legendary Christmas parties for customers, to helping out a fellow dealer with a rush applique, Hedgepeth is a role model and team player all in one.  

Congratulations to all our award recipients and everyone on Team Trigard who had a winning year! 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

James Jefferson: Bonus Materials

When interviewing dealers, we sometimes ask the light-hearted question about employees… “Who is your favorite?” James Jefferson, owner of the Southside Grave and Vault Inc. in Skipwith, Virginia, had no problem answering the question.

“One would be Marcus “Big Boy” Coles. Marcus goes above and beyond. At times when you have a whirlwind going on, and you don’t know how you’re going to get through the day, Marcus makes things happen.”

“Robert Jefferson is the other one. He is my first cousin. He is another guy who will do whatever it takes to make things work.”

Great job guys! 

Dealer Spotlight: James Jefferson

In 1992, James Jefferson was looking for part-time work and even though he knew nothing about it, he decided to start digging graves. That may sound far-fetched, but not for a man who replaces 0% know-how with 100% hustle. He cold-called funeral homes, learned on the go and grew to become a strong presence in the industry… and at Trigard.

“I was at a graveside service, when a gentleman from another area brought a Trigard burial vault product I had never seen before. It caught my eye. Soon after that, a funeral director told me that he wanted another option for burial vaults. So, for a couple years, I bought Trigard vaults directly from another company, but when he went out of business, I was left with no vaults. I told my wife that night, ‘We need to start making burial vaults.’ She asked, ‘How are we going to make vaults?’ I said, ‘I don’t know, but we’re going to figure it out.’
“I love being aggressive. I love looking at the overall structure of my company and seeing what we can improve. Being able to set a goal and seeing it come to reality is a huge passion of mine.”

Today, James owns the Southside Grave and Vault Inc. in Skipwith, Virginia. His business has expanded to include a full-service monument and headstone company, too.

“When I first started, there was competition within 100 miles on all four sides of me,” said James. “If I wasn’t willing to grow into their areas, those guys would have stomped me out. We decided to grow. Our footprint expanded. We built relationships with other guys in the area and we were actually able to stomp out our competition.”

One way that James sparked growth was by taking advantage of Trigard’s openness to innovation and created his own distribution chain. He pours vaults and sells vaults in bulk to others who then finish the vaults and setup at cemeteries. James believes this system works because it is based on strong relationships.

“You have to manage your business and the relationships within your business. You have to hold everyone accountable. It works out well, but both parties must display professionalism. There is a level of trust that must be established, and there has to be room for everyone involved to get a piece of the pie. It is in everyone’s best interest for things to work that way.”

James’ growth also comes his commitment to education because he knows that we can’t assume that families understand the importance of the burial vault.  

“One time, we were at the graveside waiting to proceed with the internment and the director, who we hadn’t worked with before, kept looking at his watch. He asked if he could leave. I said, ‘Well I’m going to do the same thing whether you’re here or not, so go ahead.’ After a while, the family kept looking at me and told me I could get started.

“So, I started closing and lowering the vault below the surface of the ground. The family said, ‘Whoa, wait a minute, it’s too deep! We wanted this to be above the ground.’ In the African American market, in some sections of the country, they use what is called an above ground vault. It is where the cover of the vault is not buried and is seen above the ground. The family continued, “If we would have known the vault would be fully buried, we wouldn’t need a vault!’ I stopped lowering and asked politely ‘Why did you choose to have a burial vault?’ The family answered, ‘We wanted something to protect the casket from the water and the dirt.’ I replied, ‘Well that’s exactly what a vault is designed to do.’ The family responded with ‘Well no one ever told us that.’

James learned from that experience and adapted. As a result, he has built trust and respect with the people he works with.

“I think it’s important that families know we provide a product and service to help them through one of the last things they can do for their loved one. We take pride in that, and we cherish the opportunity to be able to help them. We want to be looked at as experts. For example, a friend of mine recently called me and said he was considering disinterring his parents. He wanted to know how I felt about that. It’s rewarding to me to know that he places that trust in me. He believes that I will help him come to an ethical and gratifying decision.”

James also reaches out for help as tool for growth.

“I also hired an independent firm about 7 or 8 years ago. I was trying to get a general idea of what the cremation rate growth might be in my area. According to the trends at that time, my potential to grow was strong and we’ve yielded some of that. It was well worth the investment. What a lot of people don’t realize is that the state and local government have programs in place to help assist people like me with that kind of thing.”

His efforts have paid off. He has expanded in space, employees and business approaches.

“We have one manufacturing plant in Chase City, Virginia.” We started off with a small 51’ x 84’ building. We worked with that until we literally could not grow anymore. It became apparent to me that if we are going to grow, we need a larger building, so we built a new building about 5 years ago.”

In that new building, James typically has 18 employees putting in a hard day’s work.

“I try to hand pick them. I don’t want to go to the unemployment office and grab anyone whose applying. I’ll usually ask current employees for suggestions, and I’ll do some ‘recon’ work to find the right fit.”

Speaking of great fits, James believes he and Trigard are a good match.

“Trigard is very accessible. You listen. When I originally approached Trigard I said, ‘To be honest, I come from the poor side of town. I’m not looking to be treated special or anything. I just want to be treated fair. I just need an opportunity.’ In all the years that I’ve been involved with Trigard, I’ve been treated fairly. Big Jim made Trigard very accessible for someone like me who was a nobody in the industry at that time.”

There is no way to speak with James and not feel optimistic about the future of our industry. His focus on the future is through a different lens --a lens that sees only opportunity! 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Springtime is growing time

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

When Spring arrives, I think of farmers getting in the field and planting their crops. I am kind of envious of them. Why? Each year, they get to start fresh. If last year’s crops didn’t grow as well as expected, they farmers get a chance to replant and try again this year. 

Yes, I realize that it isn’t that easy and there is a lot more to farming than just replanting, but I hope you get my point. We as burial and urn vault manufacturers don’t get to plant a fresh crop and start over every year. We must keep what we have, while growing new business. Our success must be continual.  

What is your definition of success? How are you maintaining? When I think of success, a few words and phrase come to mind. 
  • New ideas
  • Don’t be afraid
  • Believe in what you do
  • Be professional
  • You must spend money to make money
  • Communicate
  • Set and work towards goals
These are just a few things that I associate with success.  As we begin as new Spring, join us as we look for ways to stay successful. Now is the time to regenerate! 

At Trigard, we offer a wonderful opportunity for growth - Trigard University. It includes an agenda and tools to help vault dealers and funeral home customers grow business. Now is a great time to reserve your spot for Trigard University. It is one of the most unique and talked-about activities that we do at Trigard. I promise; it is a trip well spent. 

So as we begin Spring 2017, my wish for you is continued success! I know that we all must work on maintaining and growing. Let’s make it a priority. Let’s so it together! 

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Cassandra Meek receives Trigard scholarship

Trigard Burial and Cremation Vaults proudly awarded a scholarship to Cassandra Meek, a student at Carl Sandburg College’s Mortuary Science Program in Galesburg, IL.

Meek received the scholarship because she demonstrates a strong academic performance and a commitment to helping grieving families remember, celebrate and heal.

“We are happy to invest in Cassandra’s education,” said Trigard Project Manager Blake Swinford. “We are confident that she will be a caring leader in the next generation of funeral directors.”

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

Meek was received her scholarship while her class toured Trigard Vaults, Trigard Memorials and Sunset Funeral Home in Danville, IL. They also heard Trigard Chief Executive Officer Linda Darby talk about the changing face of the death care profession.

Team Trigard: Meet Ross Darby

Ross Darby is the Director of Business Development at Trigard Burial and Cremation Vaults. He is part of the 4th generation of the Darby family. Get to know Ross with these fun facts!

Team Trigard: Meet Stuart McDaniels

Stuart McDaniels has been with Trigard Burial and Cremation Vaults for almost nine years, but you may have not heard much from him. He worked behind the scenes, creating a strong supply chain. You'll hear more from Stuart now, though.  Recently, he changed positions and joined our sales team.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Trigard Dealer Spotlight: Greg Tilley of Ideal Burial Vault

“I have never made funeral arrangements, but people I know ask me about arrangements… like I know what goes on.”

Greg Tilley is being modest when he talks about funerals. He has never arranged a service, but as owner and operator of Ideal Burial Vault in Corfu, NY, Greg understands loss. 

“I tell this to our new hires: Think of every vault or setup you do is for somebody’s mother or somebody’s father. This is nothing new, but that’s how you have to think about this. You need to be of that mindset constantly.

“I want the families we serve to know, that’s how we view what we do. Yes, we are a stepped removed, but we still cry with them. Suicides are unbearably wrenching. We’ll lower a casket while a father is just screaming crying. We feel their pain, and I want them to know that.”

Greg also knows a graveside service can help the healing begin.  

“We’re here to help heal their loss. We want them to feel some comfort that we care. This isn’t just a waste of money. You probably hear this from people all the time - just throw me in the ground! I get mad when people say that. It’s such a slippery slope. Where are we offering protection?”  

Greg learned this caring by watching his family. “It’s a family business. It chose us, we didn’t necessarily choose it. It’s part of who we are. We see our Dads eating it, breathing it, sleeping it. It’s more than just a job. It’s what our family does.”

Original plant was built in 1953
Tilley’s grandfather started the business in 1953. When Greg compares his generation to his grandfather’s generation, Greg says, “Man we are just so lazy and spoiled!”

But we would disagree with Greg. He started working for the business when he was just five years old, helping with set ups. Greg became an official employee at 15 years old, when he worked summers and school vacations. He started delivering vaults at age 18. 

Greg is still a proud family man. He is married to Amy and is father to Nate (12) and Neve (10.) He is head coach for Neve’s hockey team and was an assistant coach for both kids’ team last year. 

Greg recently sold the plant his grandfather built and purchased a new one. Greg dug down and looked at the numbers to make sure this was a good decision. He factored in travel distances, wear and tear on vehicles, over-handling of product and equipment maintenance. 

“It was a very complex calculation. The numbers weren’t really screaming this is a no-brainer.”  

He is confident he made the right decision, though. The new building is more spacious, in a better location and a new facility. 
New plant for Ideal Burial Vault 
“It’s hard to pick out that one thing that you do that’s different. It’s important to talk to your peers. Go visit them to see how they do things to see if there’s something you can find that works. How are you spraying paint? What size tip are you using? That sort of thing.

“We get told a lot that we have the best-looking product and best-looking concrete. I’m not sure what we are doing to cause that. The unknown secret may be the release agent we use that eliminates bubbles. I try to avoid being corporate, but as you grow you need to adopt some of that.”

Greg is implementing Customer Relation Management (CRM) software to help manage his paper work, contacts and more. He is hoping to completely convert to this software by April.

“I’ve lived with paper for 30 plus years, so the thought of getting away from that is exciting to me. It’s amazing how something that used to take so many pen strokes and pieces of paper can be done in one click. It used to be 10 services in a day would be a hard day. Now hard days are the norm, and truly hard days are more like 20 services in one day. I need this program to stay organized. We tried to go through websites for orders and organization, but that hasn’t worked. I have a buddy that is an IT guy, and we decided to go with custom software. We’ll have a TV monitor out in our plant that shows our inventory levels.”

“The Appliqués have changed our burial vault industry forever. I don’t know that anything, whether it be the Aegean or Healing Tree lined vaults, that has had the impact that a custom Applique has had. Nobody has stood around a vault painted copper and silver and said, ‘Oh wow, look at this, they put his name plaque on it!"

“People stand around crying and looking at an appliqué. It’s the last thing. They’ve been through the procession lines, they went through the video montages, but this is it. This is their final goodbye. It is a very impactful moment.”

At first, Greg considered Trigard because of financial reasons, but then he discovered something more. 

“It was purely a dollars and cents thing. We were a dealer who used a 3rd part liner manufacturer in Auburn, NY. It’s what I learned at Trigard University that really sold it, though. Trigard does everything all out, and that’s what we wanted to be associated with. This is a relationship business. It’s not always about a dollar here and a dollar there.”

Thank you Greg! We appreciate the time and insights you
shared with Trigard Burial and Cremation Urn Vaults

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Movement supporting military funerals becomes nationwide organization

Operation Honor Guard (OHG), a movement started by Trigard Chief Operating Officer Rich Darby, has become a nationally-recognized charitable organization, recently receiving non-profit status and a federal trademark.

In 2013, Darby attended a graveside service in Danville, IL and saw the worn and mismatched uniforms of the volunteer Honor Guard, a ceremonial unit who performs military honors at funerals for veterans and service members. He knew he wanted to help, so Darby created Operation Honor Guard.

Over the last three years, this organization raised funds for 30 Honor Guard units in Central Illinois. Darby believed this success could be repeated nationwide and applied for 501 (C)(3) status and a registered service mark. Operation Honor Guard recently received both, allowing the organization to make a coast-to-coast impact. During Operation Honor Guard’s recent Day of Giving, OHG raised $180,000 nationally.

You can join the movement and help support Honor Guard units. Visit