I’ve been doing some consulting work (freelance and, incidentally, free of charge) for a young man with a fascinating vision; He wants to create the first nationally-branded removal service.

Once just a backup option for funeral directors with a small staff of full-time employees, removal services have gained popularity in recent years.  The acquisition-happy days of the eighties and nineties replaced owners with managers, and, in turn, changed much of funeral service from a lifestyle to a job.

Other factors in the marketplace (dwindling profit margins, migration toward cremation, lack of available talent) have forced many short-staffed and harried funeral home owners to stop making night removals, preferring to send a removal service.  Several SCI firms that I follow have even stopped making removals all together; they contract everything through a service.

My experience with removal services has been mixed.  Several firms that attempted to serve our needs used subpar employees.  While I certainly endorse anyone’s right to smoke off the job, I grimaced every time a family referred to one removal service employee as “smelling like an ashtray.”

And since most removal services are locally-owned and usually owner-operated, customer service is often “whatever the boss feels like doing today.”  Overworked and understaffed removal services can leave you waiting for service for hours.  Others have trouble getting employees that will show the dedication required by the work.

This young man is fresh from another industry.  He’s only worked in the funeral industry for a few short months.  And while he found success building a company in a separate field, I can’t help but wonder if he can create a successful national brand in an industry that still chooses business relationships based upon backslaps and “who you like.” 

Also, I worry that already-stressed funeral directors will have little time to give him the chance he’ll need to prove his worth.  It can be detrimental to sever a relationship with your current removal service, regardless of their inattentiveness or inappropriate behavior, just to give an unknown an opportunity.

Do I think a nationally-branded removal service will work?  Of course I do.  Do I think he’ll make it happen in the next two or three years?  Please.  This is a ten-year plan at least.  But I hope he tries.  I could use the consulting money once he gets moving!

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