As part of my end-of-year accounting – yes, I started early – I’ve begun reviewing how much my part-time workers have cost so far.

Surprisingly, I haven’t paid a single part-time worker more than $3000 this year, with the whole lot of sewers and assistants costing less than $10,000 for 11 months work.

The fact that I’ve only paid Kim, my part-time office assistant, a tad over $2000 for 11 months of constant work suprised me because it seems like she’s always around.  Truth is, she only works a few hours a week and I pay her a small hourly wage.

It also struck me that so many funeral homes spend thousands of dollars on un-measured advertising (church bulletins, printed school programs, yellow-page directories, etc.) without a second thought but are often reticent to add even a single part-time employee.

And yet, so many funeral directors run around doing minor, unimportant tasks because there’s not enough help.

So my solution is:  hire a part-time employee!  Drop some of the un-measured advertising, have a part-time employee work a few hours a week (maybe Thursday afternoons) and get yourself out into the community to advertise in person!

Have trouble making it to the Kiwanis luncheon each week?  Missed the last three Episcopal church functions because of paperwork?  Spending too much time on mundane tasks that someone other than the brains of your operation could accomplish?

There’s already plenty of evidence that part-time employees aren’t that expensive and they can help you free up important time to socialize (read: advertise for your firm) and build important relationships in your community.  But I’d also suggest that employees can help advertise on their own.

I’ve already discussed turning your part-time employees into ambassadors in the posts, Ten Ways to be Seen as a Community Contributor #9: Hire Spouses of Movers and Shakers, Ambassadors Aren’t Just for the U.N. and DAILY NAG: Hire Some More Part-Time Help.

To reiterate:  part-time employees who are treated well can become mini-billboards for your company.  By hiring well-connected, well-known “ambassadors” for your company, you dispatch advocates into the field who will tell their friends, neighbors and other acquaintances about your firm.

As I was considering the topic of this post, my mind kept going back to the time I spent working for Hospice of the Comforter.  Because of the non-profit business model, HOTC has very few extraneous employees, so they work super-hard getting volunteers to come work for them.  These folks work for no monetary compensation.  What they do get is love, recognition and appreciation.  And it works!

Now, I don’t mention HOTC because I think you should look for volunteers, but one of the jobs that volunteers do there is quite appealing:  they bake Otis Spunkmeyer cookies!

Several times a week, a volunteer will go to the kitchen at HOTC and bake five or ten dozen cookies.  The wonderful smell fills the second floor of the administration building!  Once they cool enough, the volunteer will put ten or more into a small display bag (white with a clear window) and attach a HOTC sticker that explains the mission of hospice and the work done by the employees and volunteers of Hospice of the Comforter.

These cookies are taken by the development staff to area organizations and doctors offices to encourage groups to discuss hospice and doctors to consider hospice when treating patients with end-of-life concerns.

Translated to the funeral industry, wouldn’t a “cookie ministry” like this one go a long way toward building a strong opinion of your funeral home in the community?

Imagine “Ethel” coming in on Tuesday afternoons and baking cookies for three or four hours.  Maybe a second part-timer (or even Ethel herself!) goes out on Wednesday and delivers cookies to area nursing home residents and staff or the secretaries at local churches.

The really ambitious might plan to distribute fresh-baked cookies the day they’re made.

This kind of advertising does two things.  First, it reminds people that your firm can do more than just handle death.  You provide for the living by creating a welcoming, home-style environment.  And what says “welcome” more than the smell of fresh cookies baking?

Second, it extends your care past the day of a funeral.  It tells people in your community that you care about them while dispatching a non-vested person (the cookie deliverer) into the field to talk up your firm.  Imagine the looks on peoples’ faces when they get free chocolate chip cookies from a funeral home employee!?!

While you can get an oven and the cookie dough from Otis Spunkmeyer or other companies, why not search out a local person who loves to bake and has a few good recipes.  Ask around; someone’s bound to know a little old lady or retired man who bakes the most awesome cookies around.  You provide the ingredients and a place to prepare the cookies and he/she provides the skills.

I don’t expect many to take up this idea, but just hiring a part-time employee to accomplish any mundane tasks will at least free you up to do some of the important community relations work needed.  And if you treat the employee well, you might even see some off-hours advertising done by an employee who tells their friends and neighbors how great your company is.