Facing the Challenges
If we haven’t had the opportunity to meet each other yet, either in person or online, I am Robin Heppell. I am a consultant that assists funeral homes and cemeteries in the areas of applying proactive & competitive strategies and using funeral-related technologies.
I am a fourth generation funeral director and during my 20+ years in funeral service, I have worked firsthand in a very competitive market consisting of corporates, independents, discount providers, and two memorial societies – not to mention a very high (now 90+ %) cremation rate.
One of the unique issues about funeral service is there is very limited, formal training on how to take a strategic approach to managing your funeral home or cemetery in today’s environment. You probably entered the professional by one of two ways. The first is what I will call generational, meaning your parents or other relatives were already involved and directly or indirectly you grew up in the business. It was a natural choice to continue serving the community. The other entrance is what I would call lateral, meaning that you didn’t have prior (internal) exposure to funeral service and were drawn to it as a desire to serve. Either way, you probably didn’t expect to be facing the challenges of today.
Unfortunately, the training that funeral directors receive from mortuary school doesn’t teach us to be funeral strategists and how to deal with the business challenges that you face today. Also, you cannot ask the previous generation how to deal with discounters, Internet shoppers, Costco, and hotel chains.
So how do you deal with the challenges that funeral service faces today?
I had the same question, and especially in my home market there was no one in the industry that had experience with the issues that we were dealing with.
So I went back to university and received my business degree in Entrepreneurial Management. I knew that I needed to become a strategic thinker and solve the problems on my own. Although the entire program was beneficial and provided many frameworks to apply to all aspects of business management, the greatest skills I learned were from my participation with the University’s Case Competition Team. A Case Competition is where a team was given a business case study from a university like Harvard, INSEAD, or Ivey, and had 3 hours to read it, analyze it, make a recommendation, and present that recommendation against other teams. With that pressure, you learn to apply the strategic tools to make sound decisions.
As a business consultant, presenting to and talking with members of the profession, I have found the following to be true:
- The funeral industry has some unique challenges that other industries do not have
- Individual markets have their own issues and there are not blanket answers that solve all problems
I have also realized that there are commonalities that affect all in the funeral service, but the problem is how to identify what are common and what are unique.
At this point I could just tell you hire me to tackle your issues in a one-on-one scenario – and of course for those who wish that personal consultation I will make myself available – but my goal of this site is to elevate the level of thought and I want to teach you how to fish instead of selling you the fish.
Whatever causes you the most pain – tough competition, price shoppers, losing calls, cremation families, memorial societies, expensive marketing – these tools can give can give you a competitive advantage for just a small investment of your time. So here we are going to look at some of the tools that I use on a daily basis to solve clients’ problems. The three that I recommend to get started with are the Environmental Scan, Porter’s Five Forces, and the SWOT Analysis.
If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org!
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PS: Please feel free to forward this on to anyone who has wondered what I do and how I can help.