It's Been Slow...


You hear this a lot from funeral directors this time of year as we finish out the last couple of doldrums weeks of summer. I went to one funeral home last week, and the funeral director had nothing but time to talk and complain about the lack of calls this summer.

I talk to another funeral home on the phone today, and the funeral home owner says, “I haven’t been this slow since I took over the business in the 70’s.”

Another 250-call funeral home even admitted to me that they hadn’t had a death call in almost 6 weeks – Not. One. Single. Call. It takes a lot for a person who sells caskets to wish a direct cremation on someone – but in this instance I was wishing on the direct cremations (or anything for that matter – we’ll take an after-thought jewelry sale at this point!)!

Though over all this bellyaching, no one seems in a rush to make any changes or to do anything differently. Most are simply waiting and hoping for that 4th quarter business to throw a rope into the hole that has been dug during the slower spring and summer months. I have been in this business long enough to know that maybe this business is not as seasonal as let’s just say selling pumpkins – but it is seasonal.

Here’s the thing about selling pumpkins. You know that people will always come in October to buy pumpkins right? Well, what if it rains every weekend leading up and to Halloween, so not as many people get out to buy pumpkins. What if the summer was incredibly dry and the field don’t yield as many pumpkins? What if the market crashes, jobs are lost and the family who used to buy three pumpkins only buys one pumpkin – if they even buy one at all?

There was that time when the death rate dropped from 8.3 on average to 7.9 people per 1,000. Then there was that other time when the death rate was fine, but the market crashed and people went from spending $8,000 on a funeral right to a direct cremation, which they still strung out their total funeral bill of $2,500 over 12 months because there was simply no insurance and no money in the bank account – now multiply this situation over 10 families and see how much revenue and profit is lost.

Listen – I am not trying to be a Negative Nancy here. For all I know your 4th quarter might be full of traditional funerals and pumpkins spice lattes. But that’s exactly my point – you don’t know what will happen this 4th quarter.

My recommendation – start planning now.

So, what if that slow season continues and the decline in call volume increases your overhead per call? Or how about the more likely scenario in your call volume increasing, but your average profit per call declines?

What is your plan?

Well originally your plan was that if no calls came in this afternoon and there were no families to meet with was to mow the lawn – even though you just mowed it a couple days ago…

My suggestion – the family doesn’t notice if your grass is 3/4 of an inch or 7/8 of an inch. Forget the lawn mowing that can wait a couple more days. Take a half a day and truly analyze your business. You will be amazed at what you can learn in just a couple of hours. Look at trends over time specifically. You will find the ups, and you will find the downs. Make a phone call to that guy or gal you met at the trade show and their product/service has stuck in your mind ever since.

You have 6 weeks – 6 weeks until funeral busy season gradually starts to kick in; 6 weeks until major suppliers do their annual increases; and of course, 6 weeks until the start of pumpkin season 😊. YOU HAVE TIME. You have time to make the necessary adjustments.

Remember, it’s slow. Use this precious time when your mind is clear and you have the time to think, study and analyze. I also dare you to think differently. Be bold, ask questions. Ask the question, “What happens if I don’t buy the 7 caskets you want me to buy – will you not give me back my own rebate money?”.

After your half day of analysis is done – then ask yourself – am I partnered with the right product/service vendors? Are they moving the same direction my business is moving? Are they staying ahead of the curve – and therefore keeping my business ahead of the curve? If your answer is no to any of these questions – you have six weeks until YOU begin turning into a pumpkin!


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