Daily Nags


Are you “making do” with junk tools?  Maybe you’ve cobbled together an old van and a worn-out stretcher (that only works half the time) to keep your removal service running.

Word to the wise:  unless you’re selling rock-bottom prices, people expect to get what they pay for.  And frankly, bad tools are dangerous – for you, your workers and your customers.

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It’s very exciting to get your funeral director’s license.  Unless you’re in Colorado – I don’t know what you folks do.

mugshot.jpgMost states probably make you attach a picture of your freshly-scrubbed, innocent and wide-eyed face and hang the license in a prominent place near the entrance of your funeral home so that everyone can see who is licensed to work in the facility.  (And don’t get a mugshot like this guy – that’s Chapman, who shot John Lennon!)

But years go by and you get older, while the fresh-faced, deer-caught-in-the-headlights newbie in the picture stays the same.

Heck, your picture might be so old that your hairstyle has gone out of style and come back into style in the meantime.

So today’s Daily Nag is simple:  Change that picture!

People enter your firm everyday.  And while you’ve seen that picture approximately 6,000 times, your clients may very well be seeing it for the first time.  Don’t let them see the “fade” haircut you had in 1984 or the wide lapels of your leisure suit.

Look like the times you serve.  And change that picture at least once a year.

Imagine that Wilson Phillips singer Carnie Wilson was a funeral director?  Her license would still have a picture like this:

Although now she looks like this:


Roadway photos courtesy of Daily Cognition

Take a look at the traffic nightmare above.  Imagine navigating this unfamiliar road system without directions.  Locals might tell you how easy it is, once you understand the framework and the basic rules.  But you’re just passing through town and don’t have months to learn the system.

But imagine now that you could hire a ‘guide’ when you entered this maze and pay him/her to escort you through the difficult maze until you found your way to the other side.

This is the dilemma a consumer faces when a family member dies.  And you are the guide.

Funeral directors who claim that families know what they want and how they want it to be done and won’t accept any suggestions are missing the point.

When you enter the plate of spaghetti that is a highway interchange, you know where you want to go.  You may even have a dim idea of how to get there.  And while you might think a simple left turn is in order, you might find a situation like this one:

To turn from Rosanov Street to Khoroshev Street in Moscow you have to make the journey indicated in red.

The same is often true for funeral service.  And families have no idea of state statutes or basic rules of etiquette that you deal with on a daily basis.  It is your job to guide them.

But even funeral directors who understand their role as ‘director’ and ‘guide’ too often forget that most families have never “been this way before.”

So you have to explain why you’re taking certain steps.  You have to be aware that they need extra reassurance.

Because even though you’ve buried ten beloved grandfathers this month, your client family will only bury Grandpa Jones once.

People are more comfortable when they know what’s coming and what to expect.  So don’t let your families continue on a confusing journey.  Offer to be a guide and point the way to where they want to go.

They’ll thank you for it.

I met a lot of people at the IFDF Convention and I noticed one disturbing fact:  people are afraid to make eye contact.

And these weren’t people on the street, minding their own business.  These were convention attendees who had entered the exhibit hall and were browsing the products and services being presented.  They were there to find the greatest new product or that one service that will help make their funeral home wildly successful and beautifully profitable.

And yet they walked around with their hands in their pockets (or folded in a defensive posture) and avoided eye contact because that initial moment of introduction is so hard to initiate.

So my nag for today is MAKE EYE CONTACT. 

Show some “love.”  Smile.  Connect with people in public by chuckling if something funny happens or offering to open a door at the post office for that guy who’s carrying five oversized packages.


ABOVE:  Dr. Andre Campbell shares a laugh with the gray-headed guy on an elevator. 
Notice all the glum faces around him.  (photo courtesy of
SFGate.com)

Amazing things happen when you make a connection with someone in public.  Quiet subway cars full of serious people turn into conversation areas if you’re just willing to make eye contact and say a pleasant word.

A quick joke in a stalled grocery store line can make an unappealing wait slightly more bearable.  People open up when they know you’re friendly.  Their guarded stance and wary looks turn completely around when they know that you’re a “nice guy.”

If you’ve listened to our other Daily Nags (Wear Your Nametag! and Shake Hands) you’ll also be adding to your firm’s reputation.  Acts of kindness and humorous grocery store outings are so frequent that that person whose day you’ve brightened will remember you and, if he/she has stolen a look at your nametag, will remember your firm for your kindness.

Is it hard to do this?  Possibly – if you’re a shy person or are worried about the response you’ll receive.  But the negative responses are so infrequent that I gladly take them because I know that for every ho-hum reaction I’ll get fifteen or twenty smiles and giggles.

I like smiles and giggles.  They make my day brighter and the next time I see that person, they reflexively treat me better.

PAST DAILY NAGS:

It’s NOT A Good Morning

Mind Your Manners

Quench Some Thirst

Be Prepared for Auto Emergencies

Hire Some Part-Time Help

I Know I’m Not Your Mother, But…

Before any longtime smokers throw their keyboards in disgust and stomp outside for a smoke, I should tell you that I smoked for 8+ years.

 Even when I was a smoker, I still got disgusted when our removal service sent us that one driver who chainsmoked in the van.

It got so bad that families would spend the first ten or fifteen minutes of the arrangement conference complaining about how bad the smell of the removal service worker was.

If you smoke, you might not be aware of how pervasive the smell can be.  If you smoke in the removal vehicle, the cot cover will absorb the smell.

 Do yourself a favor.  Stop smoking in your company vehicles.  If your cot cover smells, wash it.  Better yet, buy a new quilted cot cover from us.  In all likelihood, your current cover doesn’t have a great protective lining, likes ours do.  So you’ll be replacing the cover with a safer, more attractive alternative.

RELATED DAILY NAGS:

Shake Hands

Mind Your Manners

Quench Some Thirst

Stop Skimping!

Yesterday, April 16, 2007, a gunman killed 32 people at Virginia Tech before turning the gun on himself.

As funeral professionals, it is so easy to immediate spring to action, considering the necessary steps to serve such families during such a catastrophe.

Remember to take a moment this week, to consider first your basic human reaction.  Too often, funeral professionals forget to allow themselves to grieve along with the community.  We resolve to stay focused on the families we serve, rather than kneeling beside them and crying out our grief with theirs.

You’re human, too.  Don’t forget it.

Further admonishments can be found in our Podcast:  Funeral Directors… Don’t Forget to Grieve.

As much as wearing a nametag or driving a marked car, shaking hands while maintaining eye contact will make a positive impression on anyone you meet.

Just remember, dead fish handshakes and too-firm handshakes are bad.  Keep your hand relatively firm, shake two or three times and smile. 

Shaking hands sets the other person at ease.

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