The Impact of Donald Trump on your Funeral Business


Self-confessed, I fell asleep watching the election coverage last night. I woke up this morning, checked my phone with my bleary eyes and found out that Donald Trump won the Presidential Election.

Before you start thinking that this is just another written statement of whether the results infuriate me or make me gleefully happy, IT’S NOT. This post is meant to be an honest reflection of my thoughts and how it specifically relates to my professional life.

Over my bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios, I digested the results of the election, while also tried to compose my thoughts. From the standpoint of a small business owner, who we elect to not only run this country as President, but also those we elect to Congress will impact our professional lives. My thought process went down the same path as when Barack Obama got elected…

Regardless of who the POTUS is, what will make the biggest difference in my life are the decisions I make over the next four years.

The decisions that are made and the laws that are created/amended during the next four years will certainly impact our business. HOWEVER, it is the decisions that we make to adjust and adapt our business to these changes are the ones that will have the MOST IMPACT.

Think about your business. There are both “controllable” and “uncontrollable” conditions within your business. Example: uncontrollable = a family that decides to cremate instead of bury; controllable = what vendors we choose to do business with. Example #2: uncontrollable = what the tax rate is for small businesses; controllable = looking around our business to create additional earnings/profits to recoup in the case that the tax rate increases (not as expected now that Trump has won).

When a small business owner takes the bull by the horns and makes lemonade out of an unfavorable, uncontrollable condition, he/she is a successful business owner. Even better is when he/she makes decisions that result in success that align with the business’ long-term core competencies and mission.

On the other hand – think Wall Street, think Corporate America. When pressed with an unfavorable and uncontrollable condition they are forced to prioritize short term success over anything else – EVEN THEIR CUSTOMERS.

Just relate this back to Friday’s news that Batesville is closing its doors at their Panola manufacturing facility. “On Thursday, 200 employees at Batesville Casket Company found out that come 2017 they won’t have a job. That’s because the well-known casket company plant is shutting its doors in Batesville and continuing production in Mexico.” Connecting Directors quotes CEO, Chris Trainor, attributing the closing to the fact that “Every year there are fewer burials, requiring fewer caskets…”

Batesville in this circumstance was faced with an uncontrollable, unfavorable circumstance – fewer burial unit sales resulting in less caskets being sold. They decided to shift production to Mexico, dramatically dropping the labor expense involved in the production of a casket, thus making caskets more profitable. Okay, so they were faced with declining sales due to an uncontrollable condition, and they decide to change their business practices.

The big issue I have with this plant closure is announcement they made 39 days ago on October 1st… any guesses? Their price increase to their funeral home customers! So, they realize additional profits by getting caskets made in Mexico, strip the funeral director (whether you like it or not) of the ability to say that model is Made in the USA, all while simultaneously increasing prices on these caskets? Upper management of Batesville knew 39 days ago that they would be making this announcement to close the door on over 200 employees, yet it still decided to raise prices to its funeral home customers.

Batesville’s “How We Operate” section on their website lists the following… “We strive to provide a superior return to our shareholders, exceptional value to our customers and great professional opportunities to our people…” I guess how they have listed these three principles follows directly in line with how Batesville prioritizes these principles. #1 – Shareholders; #2 – Customers; #3 – Employees.

Let me take a minute to get refocused here. Batesville was dealt an unfavorable, uncontrollable condition (something that all businesses will always have to deal with); they reacted in a way that prioritizes the short term (shareholders), over the long term (customers); and this is where the wheels fell off the bus, in my opinion.

What can we learn from this?

In unfavorable, uncontrollable conditions, it’s relatively easy and enticing to produce positive results by making short term decisions that ignore the long-term objectives and goals. The challenge is keeping that long term in mind.

You may be happy with the outcome of the Presidential election or you might still have fire coming out of your ears. If you don’t like the uncontrollable situation you have been dealt, whether it be the election, cremation, changing demographics of the market you are serving… what is my advice?

  1. Take a risk. Step outside your comfort zone. Find a solution to the problem – Network with peers to see if they have encountered and solved the same problem you are facing, take the time to listen to different perspectives from various vendors whom you would ordinarily not have the time for… pick their brains!

  2. Be accountable to your own business first – don’t let your relationships with vendors dictate the value your families get, or your raises to your employees. Watch out for your customers and your employees first.

  3. Take ownership of the next four years – (it will seem like I am copy and pasting this from the beginning of the article… and it is because I am) what will make the biggest difference in my life are the decisions I make over the next four years. The decisions that are made and the laws that are created/amended during the next four years will certainly impact our business. HOWEVER, it is the decisions that we make to adjust and adapt our business to these changes are the ones that will have the MOST IMPACT.

PS – Will Batesville’s prices rise even further if Trump ends up implementing import tariffs/builds a wall around Mexico? Not a sermon, just a thought.


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