PLUS: Cremation Liability How Vulnerable Are You? Borrowing Right For You and Your Business

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1 The Funeral Professional s #1 Resource For Business Growth and Profitability July/August 2008 TM TM PLUS: Cremation Liability How Vulnerable Are You? Borrowing Right For You and Your Business

2 Let Us TRANSFORM the Monument Process. Helping your families acquire a cemetery monument a tangible tribute to their loved ones should be a healing step. Too often, it is a series of headaches and risks. aegis has transformed the process. Save Time. Save Money. Make Money. aegis is a revolutionary system that eliminates the hassles and risks of the monument process by saving you time and money and providing a satisfying consumer experience for your families. Through the aegis system, you design, personalize and customize cemetery monuments right from your computer. Results are 3-D, in true granite colors and immediate, so families see their monument at the first meeting and design modifications can be made quickly. Approval is just a click away. Consider these bottom-line benefits: Easy and fast, eliminating, on average, four weeks Renders and prices the monument Eliminates price quotes approval drawings paperwork Helps to replace lost revenue from increased cremation rates Frees your staff of time-consuming follow-up Transforming the Difficult

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4 TM CONTENTS COVER STORY SOLUTIONS ON 30 LEADERSHIP 46 In Touch With Death by Michael Feeney MANAGEMENT 22 Maintaining Your Funeral Home s Financial Health Part I: Enhancing Revenue in a Changing Environment by Kathy D. Williams & Melissa A. Drake 24 Reflections by Tom Wozniak 26 Caskets Imported From China: Look Before You Leap by Mark B. Allen 36 Choosing a Funeral Home Entity by Kathy Bennett 44 Borrowing Right For You and Your Business by Eugene de Sosa MARKETING 42 Remembrance What is the Key? by Amy McGee 48 Tribute Videos Can be the Gift That Keeps on Giving by Barbara Gustin Contents Personalization: It Just Doesn t Get Any Easier Than This FEATURE 18 Cremation Liability How Vulnerable Are You? by Steven Schaal JULY/AUGUST2008 Vol. 2 No. 4 Brian McDonald, VP of Operations Tracy Ogburn, Copy Editor Heavy topic. Light solution. When people deal with something heavy, sometimes their conversation tends to get light. The weather. What they had for dinner. Last night s ball game. So it should be no surprise that while the Elite urn vault from Trigard is a heavy hitter, it still knows how to keep things light. Thanks to a proprietary blend of high-strength, low-density concrete, the Elite is available in a version that s as easy on the back as it is on the eyes. Which is good. Because when you think about it, don t you already have enough heavy stuff to deal with? TECHNOLOGY 40 Something Old Something New by Wallace Miceli COMPANY SPOTLIGHT 28 AC Furniture 34 NRJ Enterprises 10 INDUSTRY ALERT 52 BUYER SOLUTIONS 54 SPECIALTY VEHICLES 57 ADVERTISERS INDEX FUNERAL HOME SUCCESS STORY 50 Black & Clark Funeral Home 6 FBA July/August To learn more about Trigard urn vaults and other Trigard products, visit us at com, or call your representative today

5 TM TM TM The Funeral Professional s #1 Resource For Business Growth and Profitability July/August 2008 Publisher s View LOOKING IN THE MIRROR Have you ever looked into the mirror to fi nd that you do not recognize the person standing there? Well recently that happened to me. It was a shocking revelation that left me wondering what had happened to the youthful body and good health I had once maintained. It was not a good feeling. I had lost control of my health and quality of life. It is not like it just happened overnight, although time moves so fast that it sure felt like it. But years of neglect can add up very quickly. Well fast forward two months and with a lot of hard work and almost 30 pounds lighter, I have come full circle and regained what I had lost. I have learned that you cannot take your eye off of the things that are important, like your health or business, or you could fi nd yourself in the same predicament. As years pass and things change, we rarely stop and pay attention to the most obvious things in our lives. Do we look in the mirror at our business and take a proactive approach to the changing times, or are we totally caught up in day to day operations that we miss the most obvious things that a mirror would reveal about our business and life? I want to encourage you to take a look in the mirror at your business, before one day you do not recognize it and it is too late. In this issue, just like other issues, our Cover Story profi les a company within the industry that provides unique solutions for you and your funeral business. funeralone has graced this cover and I encourage you to read the article and see for yourself the solutions they provide because they truly are creating ground-breaking products and services for the funeral industry. You will also fi nd many other editorials under the topics of management, technology, leadership and marketing that hopefully provide you with ideas, strategies and solutions that can help your business grow. I want to announce to our readers that we are in the process of creating a comprehensive website directory of industry suppliers, as a tool to help you find what you are looking for in a quick and concise manner. This is the beginning phase of several changes we are putting into place in the upcoming year to become more of a resource for funeral directors across the United States. We would love to hear any feedback or suggestions that you may have. You can contact me at and share your thoughts and insights on how we can help you and your business in the future. And lastly, I am thankful to the contributing writers and advertisers who have made the July/August 2008 issue possible. It gives me great pleasure to be able to provide such a valuable tool to our readers. So go dig in and I hope you enjoy this issue. Michael Manley Publisher FBA July/August 2008 Cremation Liability How Vulnerable Are You? Borrowing Right For You and Your Business July/August 2008 Funeral Business Advisor Magazine A FMM MEDIA PUBLICATION 211 Townparke Circle, Suite 200 Louisville, KY Phone Facsimile Publisher, Michael Manley Creative Director, Brian McDonald Funeral Business Advisor Magazine is published bi-monthly (6 Issues a year) by FMM Media, LLC. 211 Townparke Circle, Suite 200 Louisville, Kentucky Subscriptions are free to qualified U.S. subscribers. Single copies and back issues are $7.99 each (United States) and $10.99 each (International). United States Subscriptions are $54.00 annually. International Subscriptions are $65.00 annually. Visit for fresh content updated frequently and to access articles on a range of funeral industry topics. FMM Media provides its contributing writers latitude in expressing opinions, advice, and solutions. The views expressed are not necessarily those of FMM Media and by no means reflect any guarantees that material facts are accurate or true. FMM Media accepts no liability in respect of the content of any third party material appearing in this magazine. Copyright All rights reserved. Funeral Business Advisor Magazine content may not be photocopied or reproduced or redistributed without the consent of publisher. Postage paid at Manchester, NH. For questions regarding subscriptions, please call or Postmaster: Send change of address form to Funeral Business Advisor/Circ. 211 Townparke Circle, Suite 200 Louisville, KY ARTICLE REPRINTS For high quality reprints of articles in this issue, contact Michael Manley at or via at 8 PLUS: Editor, Shawn McDonald Associate Publisher, Lisa Angus Copy Editor, Christy McDonald The video was the most moving part of the service; it helped bring closure to our time of grief. It was a great blessing to our family as well as all who saw it; and so much better than a bunch of photos. We could not have received a better gift. Thanks. ~Alice~ A HEALING EXPERIENCE AS INDIVIDUAL AS EACH PERSON S LIFE As industry leaders and innovators, Memories By Design is guided by grief therapy research to provide ongoing emotional and spiritual solace. A Memory Keepsake video draws from the power of imagery, music, and emotion to create an enduring tribute honoring the life it celebrates. MAKING A DIFFERENCE Exceptional quality to reflect your high standards of excellence Images carefully restored and artfully arranged by multimedia experts Original music, composed and timed to provide comfort and peace Cinematic scenery designed to commemorate a life DVD copy-protection technology ensures you are the only source of copies t: f: THE GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING Closing each service with a moving production commensurate with the high quality of your funeral home provides a real gift that can begin the healing process. You can be confident that as the family shares the video, they pass along their experience with your funeral home. Call to find out more.

6 INDUSTRY Breaking News & Announcements ALERT<< Honoring Life with Service and Value Matthews Cremation and the NFDA Announce Pet Loss Business Development Conference Opportunity Unleashed Matthews Cremation and the National Funeral Director s Association (NFDA) are proud to announce the first ever, Pet Loss Business Development Conference Opportunity Unleashed. This 1-day educational experience in six (6) major cities brings together a unique blend of professionals within the pet death care industry. The following cities will host the conferences: San Francisco, CA July 15, 2008 Phoenix, AZ July 17, 2008 Austin, TX July 29, 2008 Together, our faculty will present a series of business development strategies that build meaningful memorial services that connect with today s pet parent. The invitation to participate is open to anyone interested in learning more about this Celebration of Companionship. We invite you to go to or call to learn more about how you can capture this service opportunity. Space is limited so secure your spot today for this informative and thought-provoking event. Funeral Service Foundation Supports Women in Funeral Service Scholarships Awarded to NFDA Professional Women s Conference FSF announces New Women in Funeral Service Fund Professional Women s Conference Scholarship Winners: From left to right: FSF Executive Director Melinda Mueller, Andrea Wasley, Terrie Lynn Lockwood, Patricia Moody, Cindy Phillips, Anne Haas Orlando, FL July 31, 2008 Columbus, OH August 12, 2008 Waltham, MA August 14, 2008 Brookfield, Wis. The Funeral Service Foundation (FSF) awarded five scholarships to select attendees of the 2008 NFDA Professional Women s Conference in April. At the conference, FSF also announced its new Women in Funeral Service Fund, dedicated exclusively to supporting the advancement of female funeral service professionals. Scholarships included registration to the conference, held April in St. Petersburg, Fla., and a $400 travel stipend. Recipients included Terrie Lynn Lockwood, owner and manager of Sorenson-Lockwood Funeral Home in Grayling, Mich.; Cindy Phillips, advanced planning consultant and funeral director intern at Brooks Funeral Care in Clive, Iowa; Patricia Moody, licensed funeral director, embalmer and funeral celebrant with TLC & Memories in Stonington, Conn.; Anne Haas, funeral director and embalmer at Robert L. Crooks Funeral Center in West Alexandria, Ohio; and Andrea Wasley, managing partner, funeral director and embalmer for Carriage Services at Bailey Funeral Home in Plainville, Conn. Recipients were recognized by FSF Executive Director Melinda Mueller at an awards luncheon on April 12. Bios of scholarship winners are posted on FSF s Web site, The Professional Women s Conference involves women in the process of making decisions that impact the future of funerals, said scholarship winner and second-career funeral director-intern, Cindy Phillips. Together we shared concerns and opinions on issues that impact our service and profession. Participating in this conference reinforced my decision to enter funeral service, and that this is a profession that is personally satisfying and success-filled. In addition to awarding scholarships, the Funeral Service Foundation announced a new fund, the Women in Funeral Service Fund. The new fund will support scholarships, grants, programs and research to advance females in funeral service. The first contributors to the Women in Funeral Service Fund included Wilbert Funeral Services, Nomis Publications, and several women who attended FSF Fund Day, a social event and fundraiser at the conference. Scholarships to the 2008 conference were sponsored by Deaton- Kennedy, Messenger, Nomis Publications and attendees of FSF Fund Day. Applications for scholarships to attend the 2009 NFDA Professional Women s Conference in Austin, Texas will be available on the FSF Web site in January The Funeral Service Foundation, through grants, scholarships and research initiatives, supports career and professional development in funeral service, the advancement of funeral service and allied professions, public awareness and education, and the improvement of children s lives. For more information, visit Timeless Memories Selects Kanet to Promote Custom Keepsakes Timeless Memories of Lake Mary, Florida, has chosen Cincinnati s Kanet Advertising to market their Reflections Collection tribute video/photo album package. The company chose Kanet, says CEO Blake Kelley, because of the firm s broad experience in the death-care industry. We had worked with other agencies that required a time-consuming education on the industry. Kanet understood our needs right away. While tribute videos are common, Timeless Memories is the only company offering a video and custom photo album together in one value-priced package. For the time being, it is a unique offering that allows funeral directors to double their revenue, explains Kelley. Kanet can help us quickly target the funeral directors who are looking for ideas like this to grow their business. The Timeless Memories team restores old color photos and poor quality black and whites for an attractive keepsake Book of Memories. Custom lifestyle backgrounds are used in both the album and the Tribute Video to celebrate the deceased s passions and personality. Timeless Memories is a division of Share Memories LLC, which also includes a pet memorial division. Recognized Leader in Integrity and Design. Astral is the low-cost producer of 18 and 20 gauge steel caskets. We maintain high eye appeal and quality while offering superior customer service. Easily customized to meet the needs of the families you serve with Astral s unique one-sizefits-all cap panel program choose from hundreds of in-stock cap panel options. Astral caskets are given a high quality finish in our environmentally friendly powder coating facility. To inquire about Astral products contact your Astral distributor or call today! Matriarch Orchid Pink Crepe 18 Gauge Steel *also available in White Liberty Silver Oyster Crepe 20 Gauge Steel *also available in Light Blue Delta Blue Blue Crepe 20 Gauge Steel *also available in Silver, Copper, Orchid, & White 10 FBA July/August **Shown with Window/Cross/Hands Insert Panel

7 INDUSTRY ALERT<< INDUSTRY ALERT<< Baby Boomers Take Over the Final Frontier Funeral Planning, Early and Online Baby boomers get the personalization and the convenience they demand with a free, online funeral planning tool called My Funeral. Seattle The baby boom generation is looking at traditional American funerals and saying, No, thank you. This society-changing group of 79 million Americans cares more about the specific details of their funerals than any previous generation. They want to make sure their funeral plans are recorded and known. In response to this demand, two baby boomers have created a free, online funeral planning tool called My Funeral. In the past, most Americans have not planned their funerals, presuming their families will take care of things when the time comes. Today, baby boomers want their funerals to reflect the way they lived and what they loved. Sonny Ewell from Rockland, Massachusetts, was the town s ice cream man for decades. At his funeral, his ice cream truck, with bells ringing and lights flashing, led the procession. Nan Kempner s New York City memorial included her love of Mozart s Requiem; guests received a CD recording of this favorite selection as a funeral favor. From large, extravagant funerals to small, potluck gatherings, the rules are changing and My Funeral is part of that change. My Funeral is a simple, online tool that includes every issue involved in funeral planning: from obvious issues like, Do I want to be buried or cremated? To details such as, I want my nephew Nate to read Psalm 139 verses The My Funeral tool involves seven steps, but users can skip steps or stop at any time and all their completed work will be saved. My Funeral helps people consider their many options, make informed decisions, and pass these decisions onto people who will carry out their wishes. My Funeral is a feature of a funeralplanning website. David Johnson and Anna Copley, partners in TheFuneralSite.com, are available for interviews and backgrounders on the Internet, the funeral industry, and the trend toward personalized funerals. Contact at and (253) Contents Barnes Digital Memories Introduce New Digital Wooden Memorial Urns and Other Digital Products Barnes Digital Memories has launched production of a line of digital products to service the funeral industry. The products include a digital picture frame, a digital urn, and a digital keychain. These products are among the first of their type to enter the funeral industry and are sure to be a huge part of the industry business in the future. Everyone has switched to the new digital cameras. The flexibility of these digital photos has opened up many new opportunities. Funeral Directors have welcomed these opportunities with open arms and have begun using DVDs and TVs in their services. The product line brings an opportunity for added revenue in the preplanning, conventional funerals, and cremation categories. It is a new and innovative way to preserve and present a loved one s memories. The digital age is upon us and it will surely be a category that will continue to grow and reach higher levels of acceptance and demand. Digital Urns are produced in oak, cherry, and walnut. They feature a removable 7 inch digital picture frame that works on both battery and with an a/c adapter. Inside is also a 4 inch by 6 inch photo holder with a custom engraved brass nameplate. The urns are made in the USA. The 7 inch clear picture frame holds up to 25 pictures and can be updated from your computer USB. The frame also displays a clock or calendar instead of the pictures if the consumer so wishes. The third product is a unique photo keychain. It has a 1.4 inch LCD display and holds up to 56 photos. It also updates through your computer USB. This is a product that everyone in the family will want. Rickey Miller of Barnes Digital Memories told us that the test marketing responses have been way beyond expectations. The manufacturing is geared up for an exciting kick-off of these new products. Rickey also was quick to mention that those of you who are not tech savvy need not worry. Barnes Digital Memories will take care of all of the technical aspects for you. Barnes Digital Memories can be reached at You can also visit their website at Blair Nelsen & MKJ Marketing Introduce Cremation with Confidence Largo, FL At a time when consumers have reason to seriously doubt the integrity of cremation and crematory services nationally, it is a very good time for funeral homes and cremation services to offer Cremation with Confidence TM. Blair Nelsen, owner of the Nelsen Funeral Home & Crematory with multiple locations surrounding Richmond, VA and the Cremation Society of Virginia, holds the trademark on the phrase Cremation with Confidence. Blair Nelsen comments, Serving 1,500 families annually, we have come to learn the anxiety many families feel when they select cremation. The national scandals involving body part removal, or crematories that commingle cremated remains cause families to question the integrity of their funeral home and cremation services. It is this group of individuals that 'Cremation with Confidence' speaks to. Blair Nelsen commissioned MKJ Marketing to create a brochure based upon the quality control procedures employed by the Cremation Society of Virginia to explain the quality difference. The piece, a full color, oversized brochure is intended to be handed to family members when they ask questions about cremation, at public events, as a pick-up piece in the funeral home, or mailed to families considering cremation services. The rights to use the Cremation with Confidence slogan and related products is licensed to individual funeral firms through MKJ Marketing on a permanent and exclusive basis. Cremation with Confidence is another element in MKJ s product line intended to overcome the cremation challenge. MKJ s cremation marketing first started with the Cremation Options informative consumer brochure, and then expanded to include MKJ s Cremation Arrangement System, and television advertisements that explain that selecting cremation does not preclude funeral and memorial services (as many consumers continue to believe). For more information on MKJ s cremation products, and to determine if Cremation with Confidence is available in your market, contact MKJ Marketing at or visit 12 FBA July/August July/August 2008 FBA 13

8 INDUSTRY ALERT<< INDUSTRY ALERT<< Garrett Funeral Home Becomes Independently Owned Again Ahoskie, NC The Garrett Funeral Home of Ahoskie, North Carolina became independently owned and operated again in late The business was purchased by a partnership formed by CW Stoots, of Hickory, North Carolina, and two employees of the business. Over the past 5 years, the Garrett Funeral Home had been owned by the public companies of the Loewen Group, Alderwoods Group and finally Service Corporation International. The funeral home was purchased by the partnership formed by CW Stoots, Dick Ashley, the funeral homes long time manager, and Chuck Jones, a licensed North Carolina funeral director who has also moved to Ahoskie to help lead the operations. We are very excited to have partnered with Dick and Chuck to buy the Garrett Funeral Home, commented CW Stoots. The business has a great reputation in Ahoskie and we re going to do everything we can to continue the heritage and continue to increase service provided to the community. CW Stoots is a licensed funeral director in the state of North Carolina and is actively working to purchase additional funeral homes. His typical structure is to bring managers in as partners. After the purchase he encourages employees to emphasize local ownership and service to the community. Mr. Stoots also is the owner of Cabri Funeral Consultants, which assists funeral homes in the southeast with their pre-need programs. NewBridge Group, a leading business broker to the funeral profession, assisted in the transaction. For more information, contact NewBridge Group, , or visit Trigard Simplifies Bronze Sales with Bronze 180 System Kit Danville, IL Trigard is introducing a 180 degree spin on creating a bronze memorial. No more complicated presentations with too many products. Trigard Bronze is proud to announce the most modern, simple, and productive solution for memorial sales. The 180 system is built on simplification. It begins with a Memorial Profile questionnaire that helps the family decide which memorial is best for their loved one. The Memorial Profile drives the product presentation. Basically, there is no selling involved; it is truly an information provided presentation. The family answers the questions, points are assigned to each answer and added up, and the point totals define the product line presented. Trigard Bronze has also reinvented the wall display. The 180 System wall displays will fit any wall type and come in two versions: The Basic Display utilizes miniature bronze samples in a smaller wall footprint. The Premier Display utilizes full size 24 x 14 memorials with miniature bronze companion memorials. Both wall displays are organized in to three tiers: a good, better, best system that makes selection less difficult for families. The different levels of memorialization are simplified by product accent choices. The Portrait Bronze is a simple texture, color and font choice. The Gallery Bronze is a specific work of art, border/no border, and font choice. The Collage Bronze is a choice background, photographs, and font. Both the single and companion Collage memorials have photo placement templates that will allow for consistent looks and sales from your counselors. The key theme throughout is simplify. Clear choices will make for clear decision making. Finally, any memorial can be enhanced with Trigard s Antique Oxide or Brilliant Impression TM Full Color. The 180 System Kit comes complete with a step-by-step Sales Training Kit, Order Procedure Guide, Trigard s newest presentation booklet and Trigard s The Difference is Clear brochure. A CD is also provided complete with order forms, test results, warranty, and a new customer application form. For additional information on Trigard Bronze or our 180 System Kit, please contact Kelli or Carla at Eco-Scent.com Introduces Specialty Fragrance Program Specifically For The Deathcare Industry Lexington, Alabama Eco-Scent, a leading provider of fragrance delivery systems, announced the release of scent packages for the deathcare industry. The packages include scent disbursement machines and a fragrance library that communicate both brand and image. The power of Scent is often overlooked as directors consider the sensory experience of their clients. Scent has the strongest link to memory, and therefore it is one of the most direct ways to influence emotions, says Senior Director, Lisa Marie. Fragrance impacts Memory, Emotion, Environment and Experience all elements communicating your brand and your client s perception of your brand. For example, says Marie Distress is a strong emotion connected with this industry. Fragrance can reduce the impact of these emotions while strategically driving preferred emotions of calm. Our ScentZone is perfect for Funeral Homes, each room with its own ambience. Scent is selected to enhance that room s purpose. Our Aromastat delivers multiple fragrances through the HVAC, changeable with a remote touch screen. You could have Hazelnut Coffee and change it to Orange Blossom later in the day. Marie continues, We are a service industry. Scent cartridges are shipped monthly. We give you the equipment in exchange for a promise to use the service. However, we allow a 90 day out. We want customers to be bound by satisfaction not legalities. For more information on Eco-Scent and how fragrance can either enhance or re-shape the image of your business, call Lisa Marie at or visit California Funeral Directors Association Announces New Preneed Insurance Plan The California Funeral Directors Association is pleased to announce that Unity Financial Life Insurance Company of Cincinnati, Ohio has been selected as the exclusive carrier for the new California Funeral Directors Preneed Insurance Plan. Recently launched at the 2008 CFDA Convention in Long Beach, California, the new plan will be available exclusively to CFDA members. Unity Financial Life Insurance policies will be sold only by Association members to its client-families. The new plan features both single premium and installment payment plans and is competitively priced. An early payoff feature is available and funeral directors have already found that the commissions paid by Unity Financial Life Insurance Company are well above those currently available in California. Unity Financial Life Insurance Company was selected after extensive research conducted by FDSC, the for-profit affiliate of CFDA. A financially strong company was absolutely essential to our selection of a statewide carried, said Mark Kuhn, President of the FDSC Board of Directors. Kuhn added, This entire effort was to provide the best preneed plan available in the market which would benefit the consumers of California and the Association membership; we feel we have accomplished our goal in the selection of Unity Financial Life Insurance Company and have added a valuable new member-benefit for our membership. CFDA member funeral homes are encouraged to learn more about the Unity plan by contacting Steven Skiles, CFDA Area Representative at (619) or the FDSC at GOT NEWS? Do you have a press release that you would like to share with the readers of Funeral Business Advisor? your news, including contact information to Press releases may be edited for content or because of space constraints. We regret that we can not respond personally to all releases received. A thanatology specialty service company AUTOPSY Autopsy/Post Services, Inc. Fonde En MIIXM PRIVATE AND FORENSIC AUTOPSIES MED. MAL. AUTOPSIES POST-MORTEM NEUROLOGICAL DIAG. (Alzheimer s, M.S., etc.) POST-MORTEM DNA (PATERNITY) ANALYSIS Southern California - (818) No. California & Nevada - (925) Florida - (321) AUTOPSY ( ) For franchise opportunities please call our Southern California location SM 14 FBA July/August July/August 2008 FBA 15

9 INDUSTRY ALERT<< INDUSTRY ALERT<< Grief Tools Available On-Line For Pet Owners Minneapolis, MN In 2006, revenue in the pet care service industry reached $18.2 billion and savvy funeral directors who understand are expanding their services to include pet cremation a rapidly increasing niche market. But families are looking for more than just a way to dispose of their beloved pet. Kelly Baltzell, president of Beyond Indigo, a website development company that specializes in customized funeral home websites (www.beyondindigo.com), also feels that funeral directors need to be aware that families who lose pets experience the same kind of grief that they might experience over a human death. I believe that it s harder for pet owners to grieve, because many in society don t understand that human-pet bond, said Baltzell. But studies have shown that the grief you feel when your pet dies is just as real as the grief you feel when a loved one dies. Baltzell and Beyond Indigo have recently developed on-line tools that are linked to clients websites for people who are dealing with the death of their pet. We offer tools like posting an on-line memorial about your pet, articles and advice on dealing with grief, and forums for people who want to chat with other pet owners who are experiencing the same kinds of feelings, Baltzell said. Through these website tools, we validate the feelings these families are experiencing and we help them through their grief. For more information about these tools, please contact Beyond Indigo at or visit Halo International Introduces Prayer Card Crucifixes Mark Pennington, creator and founder of Halo International has designed a new full color crucifix series based on familiar and beloved prayer card art from Cromo NB, Milan,Italy. Measuring /2 high and 5mm thick, the beautifully crafted hardwood crosses are laminated with brilliant full color images and highlighted with gold foil. Available excusively through Halo,this breathtaking new series is designed to be placed in a casket or beside a Memorial Urn and adds immeasurably to the religious value of your services. It can be presented to the family following the service as a treasured memorial. Eight crosses are included in the series: Eastern Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Christ in the Garden, The Madonna, The Sacred Heart of Jesus, The Kneeling Christ, The Last Supper, and the Irish Saints Cross. HALO s commitment to price, quality, and service makes HALO, the manufacturer and distributor of the world s most unique collection of products for the funeral and cemetery industries, a trusted supplier. A brochure featuring the complete new Prayer Card Crucifix Series is available online at or by requesting a printed brochure from your Halo International Corporation representative. Or, contact Mark Pennington at for more information. Preferred Funeral Directors International Conference Investigates Opportunities Largo, FL Preferred Funeral Directors International (PFDI) a professional association of independent funeral homes with members throughout the US, Canada, and Europe, held its annual spring conference at the Charleston Place Hotel in Charleston, SC. The conference of 45 select members and family met from Saturday April 18 through Tuesday the 22 nd with the objective of exploring the evolving challenges and opportunities facing contemporary funeral home owners. According to Blair Nelsen, PFDI President, The death care industry in general and the funeral profession in particular, has been in a period of transition for most of the past two decades. Funeral home owners change with the times, but sometimes the pace of evolution is too slow. As an association of progressive funeral home owners, PFDI members want to better understand these challenges and opportunities so as to match the pace of change set by the consuming public. Business sessions were conducted on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, and included guest speakers as diverse as Joe Sehee, Director of the Green Burial Council, and nationally recognized antiques and collectibles authority Harry Rinker. Harry Rinker is an author, radio and television personality that has directed his attention to assisting funeral directors in meeting the need families often have in liquidating the personal belongings of deceased family members. Many times in the past families underestimated the value of personal collectibles, but today many of yesterday s valued collectibles have actually lost value as consumers deal with excessive debt and other financial challenges. Nonetheless, funeral directors can help families by giving them advice on valuating these belongings and taking them to the right outlets to convert them to cash. This topic fits well in the aftercare programs. Personnel challenges were a continuing theme of the convention. Funeral home staff members require training in all forms of communication with the public, beginning with telephone price shoppers and arrangement skills. One means of addressing the personnel challenges is to recruit and hire better qualified staff members. For this reason, Jennifer Casselli, Human Resources Director at the Charleston Place Hotel presented their policies and procedures for assuring quality service with a staff of over 500 hospitality employees. PFDI will convene again in September when Lisa Baue, Baue Funeral Homes in St. Charles, MO will host the autumn convention. For information concerning Preferred Funeral Directors International, visit Blair Nelsen of the Nelsen Family Funeral Services, of Richmond, VA gave a member presentation on the growing trend to have a columbarium on college campuses for alumni and staff. The group visited the campus of the Citadel, a South Carolina Military College with an on campus columbarium. Mark Smith, McAlister-Smith Funeral Homes, Charleston, SC, presented operating a funeral home in a high cremation market. Glenn Gould, CEO of MKJ Marketing presented pricing, profit and customer satisfaction. Vickie Zimmerman, Arnold-Wilbert Inc., gave a presentation on the importance of your prop master in funeral service. Stephen Velker, Arnold-Wilbert hosted a lunch and tour for the members at the Charleston-Wilbert Vault Co. Jeffrey Gair of the Evans Funeral Homes in Baltimore, MD discussed how his firm has addressed the challenge of the price-conscious consumer with the Peaceful Alternative Funeral Chapel. Mr. Charles Anderson, owner of Anderson Funeral Homes in Franklin, OH presented his firm s marketing strategies for building volume and other marketing challenges. 16 FBA July/August July/August 2008 FBA 17

10 FEATURE Cremation Liability How Vulnerable Are You? Wake Up Time Why is funeral service a lightning rod for bad press? Dateline, 60 minutes, 20/20 love it when tragedy shows its ugly face. Just when we think we have hurdled the last skeleton that fell from the funeral closet, another professional black eye hits the national press. The scars from Nobles, Georgia and Seabrook, New Hampshire have not even begun to heal and now.jackson, Mississippi. The judge s settlement with Nobles, Georgia should have hit every funeral professional like a ton of bricks, (in this case, firebricks) after roughly $80 million was awarded in settlements of which 56 funeral homes paid $36 million or an estimated $643K per business. The wake up call was made to those who were willing to listen. But NO Seabrook, New Hampshire was quick to follow, and guess what, early reports indicate that the financial settlement for crimes committed will easily dwarf the amounts reported earlier. The underlying speculation influencing the settlement Funeral Professionals should have learned from Nobles, Georgia. Shock & Suspicion What I find puzzling is how anyone could be naïve enough to believe we are dealing in an environment where we can afford to have anyone other than ourselves control our liabilities for conducting business. Reported in the USA Today, in Jackson, Mississippi, there was a crematory owner being accused (yes innocent until proven guilty) of hosting an audience bucket for left-over cremated remains not returned to families. As the media (and certainly plenty of attorneys) swarm the town of Jackson and the news breaks of this development, hundreds of families who know their loved ones were cremated are immediately put into shock and suspicion; wondering if a portion of their loved one was thrown into this ash community of complete strangers, discarded like waste. I find it impossible to fathom how professional funeral home owners could allow themselves to learn the hard way; what might inevitably be their own kiss of death the need for implementing a crematory due diligence policy. One Bad Apple To make certain this discussion does not turn the wrong corner, it is important to identify that we are experiencing the old cliché how one bad apple can ruin the whole bunch. However, the majority of third-party crematories run a legal, ethical and professional business. Now this should not lower anyone s guard or give you a false sense of security it is just important to note that with these bad apples we are not dealing with the mainstream just a hidden few who unfortunately, because of the luck of the draw, could be in your backyard. Suspicious it is your business to be.you are your families advocate! For those crematories we see as the majority, they should be applauded for establishing strict guidelines for conducting business and eliminating any shortcuts that could jeopardize the critical bond between you and your trusting families. Most have attended Operator Certification courses and implemented policy and procedure standards established by industry experts such as the Cremation Association of North America (CANA). Certainly even the best can improve. If I was to identify any area that requires continual attention, it would be how third-party crematories educate their clientele (Funeral Homes & Families) on the safeguards they put in place in guaranteeing chain of custody and the elimination of errors not only in returning the correct cremated remains, but to the best of their ability, all of them! Red Flags If we were to evaluate the common red flags that get crematories and funeral homes in trouble, the problems tend to start in the following areas: When bodies are always picked up at the funeral home by crematory personnel. When paperwork is not filled out properly, signatures not in place prior to custody exchange, and this does not appear to be a priority for the crematory. When funeral home personnel do not visit the crematory (announced or not) periodically, checking conditions of the facility, body identification, record keeping, etc When cremated remains are returned to the funeral home (or family) by the crematory, rather than picked up with the proper signatures exchanged. You will notice a common denominator in this modest list, it is the absence of YOU at the crematory, keeping a watchful eye on your most precious charge, a family s loved one. The Funeral and Cemetery Bureau of California created a table which summarizes the most common violations found during compliance inspections of crematories. It is not a complete list of all violations for which the Bureau can take disciplinary action, but the categories are OWNERSHIP AND MANAGEMENT, FACILITY, LICENSE, CONTRACTS AND DISCLOSURES and IDENTIFICATION REQUIREMENTS AND CREMATION RECORDS. The Bureau may issue a warning letter, an administrative citation or citation with fine, or may issue an administrative accusation for violations of the law. For this particular discussion, let us review the violations that are associated with one of the listed categories; Identification Requirements and Cremation Records: Identifical Requirements and Cremation Records Failure to return to the container all personal effects that are not processed with the cremated remains unless otherwise directed by (continued on page 20) 18 FBA July/August 2008

11 (continued from page 18) the person with the right to control disposition. Failure to maintain cremated remains in a durable container. Failure to store/maintain cremated remains in a place free from exposure to the elements. Failure to responsibly maintain cremated remains. Placing a second body in the cremation chamber prior to removing all fragments of the prior cremation. Disposing or scattering cremated remains in a manner/location that the remains are commingled with those of another person. Placing or interring the cremated remains of more than one person in the same container or interment space (without legal written authorization). Failure to maintain an accurate record of all cremations performed. Failure to have/maintain a system for identification of human remains. Failure to have a written system for identification of human remains. Failure to utilize a permanent label, disk or tab with a unique number to identify cremated remains. Failure to record the unique identification number for the decedent on all paperwork regarding the decedent s case. Failure to provide a larger or additional container when the cremated remains container is insufficient to hold all cremated remains. Failure to have human remains in a cremation container and/or labeled with the identity of the decedent. Failure to refrigerate body within two hours of receipt when not cremated within 24 hours of receipt. There is simply no excuse for a crematory to not follow the strictest procedures when it comes to performing these services. If you do not own a crematory and it requires you to use a thirdparty provider and they have not provided you with their written policy in conducting business, demand it, or move on to Plan B. Through the collective efforts of CANA, The International Cemetery, Cremation & Funeral Association (ICCFA) and The National Funeral Director s Association (NFDA), a crematory due diligence packet was established to provide the foundation for protecting your business and the families you serve. The due diligence packet isolates four (4) areas of focus when it comes to handling cremation services: 1. Internal Due Diligence for Funeral Homes 2. Crematory Records Request 3. Crematory Interview 4. Crematory Inspection If you have not established these business guidelines within your own practice and everyone on staff is singing out of the same hymnal, every day you are playing with fire and I do not mean that which comes from the crematory equipment. Controlling Chain of Custody Investment 101 More and more businesses have come to the conclusion that cremation is no longer a fad and the number of services performed annually is only going to grow. As we talk with equipment investors, the urgency to purchase not only stems from cremation growth, but the ability to capture the additional revenue dollars from these services, the capacity to perpetuate the all important one-stop shopping experience and lastly, to control the vital chain of custody. We are working more frequently with funeral professionals whose businesses are at the low-end threshold for cremation services. These individuals recognize the time is now to take a proactive position when it comes to protecting their current/future business liabilities. For this particular discussion, we will use the KISS principle to outline the process map for this investment: Picking A Location (Building Should Be Enclosed) Minimum Space Requirement 12 x 24 Floor 4 ½ reinforced concrete (level) Ceiling Clearance 9 Zoning Approval Extension of Use permit Locate A General Contractor HVAC Gas (Natural or LPG) connection/hookup Electrician Install 220 connection/hookup Roofer Prepare for stack penetration Crane Off load/place equipment / Lift Stack into position Equipment and Accessories Cremator Power Pak II Entry Electric Cremains Processor ECP-200 Operating Work Station VPS-1 3-Body Cooler Timeline (Once Zoning has been approved) Air permit (if required) Performed by Manufacturer Pre-Construction Checklist Performed by General Contractor INTRODUCING Digital Picture Frame Equipment Production Performed by Manufacturer Shipping/Installation General Contractor and Manufacturer Post-Construction Checklist Performed by General Contractor Startup/Personnel Training Performed by Manufacturer Operator Certification (if required) Performed by Manufacturer Through this process you should consider partnering with a company that has a team of consultants, engineers and certified technicians to help you from point A-Z towards establishing a successful crematory that will allow you to control your own destiny. For those funeral and cemetery professionals who are simply not positioned because of space limitation to own a crematory, embracing a crematory due diligence policy should become an immediate priority. To receive a copy of the Crematory Due Diligence packet, please contact CANA (www.cremationassociation.org), ICCFA (www.iccfa.com), or NFDA (www.nfda.org). Together, let s announce by our actions that we will not become vulnerable by the performances of others when it comes to handling cremation services. As we are witnessing too frequently, the ramifications could be your own professional kiss of death. FBA Steven Schaal is the division manager Sales and Marketing for the Matthews Cremation Division. He can be contacted at New products for added revenues with Pre-Planning, Conventional Funerals, and Cremations... PERSONALIZED MEMORIAL SYSTEMS New and innovative ways to preserve and present memories! BE THE FIRST IN YOUR AREA, CALL TODAY! Unique advantage over the competition Upsell revenue Multiple sales per family Strongly enhances word of mouth Embrace the digital age Set-up and creation is simple and easy Wooden Memorial Urns w/ 7" Digital Picture Frame Photo Keychain Barnes Digital Memories SPECIAL INTRODUCTORY OFFERS ARE NOW AVAILABLE ON OUR WEBSITE 20 FBA July/August July/August 2008 FBA 21

12 management solution Melissa A. Drake & Kathy D. Williams Maintaining Your Funeral Home s Financial Health Part I: Enhancing Revenue in a Changing Environment Independent owners of funeral homes of all sizes are faced with the daunting task of dividing their attention between the service aspects and the financial elements of their businesses. While the ultimate goal of funeral directors should be to deliver exceptional quality, highly personalized, caring, and compassionate services to their families, they must also be cognizant of the firm s financial performance, especially in today s market. This article is the first in a two-part series. The second part will address the financial and budgetary components of running your funeral home and it will appear in the September/October issue of Funeral Business Advisor. Although there are differing theories (Pine, Creedy, Hathaway) about when the Baby Boomers will reach the age of death, there is no doubt that when it occurs, whether in one, two, or five years, it will positively and dramatically affect the annual number of deaths in steady and fairly rapidly growing numbers. In the meantime, however, the current number of deaths in the United States is somewhat depressed. Simultaneously, there has been an increasing trend toward cremations, green funerals, and other non-traditional services, all of which have had a negative economic impact on many funeral homes. Even though the number of deaths is predicted to rise sometime in the (near) future, it is important to be cognizant that the eventual increase in the number of deaths will likely be countered by increasing trends toward more creative (nontraditional) alternatives to funerals and other commemorative death practices. Therefore, it is likely that the overall financial impact of these trends on funeral home revenues will continue to be significant nationwide. Although difficult to pinpoint a timeframe with exact precision, this is a propitious time to consider the impact that the Boom may have on your community and your firm. Are you ready? Can your firm withstand the next couple of years if the number of deaths remains flat or spirals downward even more? Can your firm handle a dramatic increase in number of calls over the next few years? Are you over- or under-staffed? What can you do to circumvent the loss of revenue from the decrease in traditional calls? Do you have the capability to think outside the box, to be creative, to survive these changing times? There are many ways to counter-balance the financial impact of the current and likely future trends through offering innovative, ancillary deathcare services and expanded merchandise offerings to families. Added revenues can be derived from a multitude of sources, whether it be from the offering of additional or enhanced services or new products and merchandise (from video tributes to stationery products to jewelry, and beyond) to help families memorialize their loved one in new ways, or providing monument and/or marker sales, pet death care services, post-funeral reception services, the use of a funeral celebrant, and enhanced pre-need and after-care services. There are countless ways to directly impact your firm s revenue and increase profitability while effecting higher levels of satisfaction from the families you serve and sustaining your firm s financial health. Ask your current vendors for an analysis of the merchandise you currently sell and for suggestions for additional offerings. Take advantage of the ICCFA, NFDA, or State Association Conventions to tour the exhibits for an overview, visit and revisit those of relevance or interest, see what there is to offer, talk to your cohorts, talk to your vendors, and think outside the box In addition, in the current environment of increasing technology in which websites, internet browsing, and on-line shopping prevail, it will be critical for funeral homes to be on the cutting edge. Websites are a relatively inexpensive, but crucial form of advertising for funeral homes. Yours should be designed to tastefully provide detailed information about the firm s history, its facility, your staff, service offerings, and other helpful lossrelated information such as aftercare organizations, to-do checklists, a bibliography of relevant self-help readings, and so forth. There are many creative web designers working in the field who can customize your existing site or create a new one that will suit your specific needs and desires. Check out other funeral home websites, determine the elements that you like, and craft a wish-list. Then, work with a professional to implement an attractive and informative site which will allow you to be shopped 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The funeral industry as a whole remains fairly strong even in the face of the current flat or decreased number of deaths, the increased rate of cremation and other non-traditional means of disposition, the growing trend toward green funerals, and an overall weak economy. Equip yourself with the tools you need to effectively adapt and stay attuned to the changing environment within funeral service. FBA Melissa A. Drake is the COO and President and Kathy D. Williams is the CFO and Secretary/Treasurer of American Funeral Consultants, Inc. They can be contacted at , or by at 22 FBA July/August 2008

13 management solution Reflections In simple terms, the Yin-yang symbol represents how things work. It represents opposites as well as change. Yin-yang applied to business says that we continually work with change and opposites to achieve success. Each of us has a unique story about how we began in the funeral industry and its affect in our lives. The Yin-yang symbolizes Tom Wozniak many of the things I have learned since entering this industry ten years ago. This industry has been a welcomed change so I would like to share my short story and lessons learned. Two Contrasting Industries In 1998, after 15 successful years, I needed a change from the high tech industry. Technical consulting was a commodity and loyalty was absent. Heart and feelings were mostly missing for me in this industry. And for the last three years I had been disheartened and bored rigid. At the time, my friend had a small business producing urns for the funeral industry. Like most people, I did not care to know about the funeral industry nor about the rising cremation trend. Despite his urn business being extremely small with negligible profits, and despite what seemed at the time like an absence of reason, I chose to get involved. However, in following months, I had two special incidents that helped me understand the reason for my attraction and decision. expressed something beyond words. Each one preserved a memory of a lifetime in an artistic way. Memory is a way of holding onto the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose. - From the television show The Wonder Years. The funeral industry woke me up to words such as grief, peace, gratitude, and dignity. The technology industry was steeped in logic. A funeral business, as with any good business, requires logic. However, the funeral industry also has heart. This industry helped me understand that business can be successful and have a heart too. A business without logic is short lived and one without heart probably deserves to be short lived. Like the Yin-yang symbol, business can be a collaboration of two opposite but necessary parts, heart and logic. Grief is itself a medicine. - William Cowper, Charity Appreciating Change According to Jenny Mo, a Chinese colleague, these Chinese characters convey a wish: May you and your business overcome your challenges and be happy and healthy. Create beautiful products at a fair price Develop good people who provide wonderful service Create an enjoyable experience for staff, customers, business partners and oneself Perhaps, they are not stars in the sky, but rather openings where our loved ones shine down to let us know they are happy. - Eskimo legend FBA Tom Wozniak is the President of Terrybear Urns & Memorials. He can be contacted at , or by at or visit The first eye-opener was exhibiting at my first NFDA convention. By fate, at my booth I spoke with a young attendee enrolled in mortuary school. With some reluctance I asked her, Why would you want to be a funeral director? Without hesitation she said that she wanted to help people who are grieving. She expressed to me that for her, this industry was about caring, memories and dignity, quite the opposite of my experience in the technology industry. My second minor epiphany happened while touring Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis, one of the oldest and largest cemeteries in the area. In the heart of the city, Lakewood is gorgeously landscaped with a large number of amazing statues and monuments. The statues had a unique beauty. They portrayed sorrow with dignity, love, and appreciation. Somewhere I heard that sorrow may be one of the deepest feelings a person ever experiences. The statues conveyed a depth of feeling and We all know that our industry is changing at a phenomenal pace with new challenges arising daily. There are many questions: What principles should guide a business to overcome its challenges and be happy and healthy? How does one reconcile the impersonal e-commerce aspect with personal service? How do you develop products and services that give beauty and meaning along with selling products and services that are simply commodities? Working in the funeral industry has been a surprising and refreshing contrast compared to my last career. More importantly, it has also provided me with positive business guidelines. I am thankful for what I have learned and strive to incorporate the following lessons in my daily work: Use logic and heart in business to make a profit Embrace and find opportunity in change 24 FBA July/August July/August 2008 FBA 25

14 management solution Caskets Imported From China: Look Before You Leap Ask ten funeral suppliers for their opinions about importing caskets from China and you ll get ten different perspectives. The Casket and Funeral Supply Association of America (CFSA) represents members on all sides of the issue and tries to clarify each position. Everyone in funeral service is poised for the magic year when Baby Boomers begin dying in numbers that promise to push the death rate to heights never before seen in our lifetimes. Projected deaths vary depending on the interpretation of the statistics. Conservative predictions suggest that deaths will be flatter than expected because of increasing life expectancies due to better healthcare and lifestyle choices. Optimistic predictions (from a funeral provider s perspective) forecast that deaths will swell beyond the capacity of current funeral homes and suppliers. If the latter is true, perhaps the debate over imports will be moot; there will be enough business to go around for everyone. But falling short of that gleeful prospect, the often-heated debate rages on between those who believe imported caskets offer a necessary way to cut expenses and boost profitability and those who believe that manufacturers in China are given unfair advantages that create an unlevel playing field. More than 33,000 caskets sold in the United States last year were manufactured in China. That is only 2 percent of the domestic casket market, but CFSA expects imported caskets to grow to 40,000 units in Clearly, funeral homes and casket distributors are seeking lower-priced caskets. That is not surprising considering Americans have developed an addiction to low prices. An unintended consequence is the loss of an average of 41,000 U.S. manufacturing jobs each month this year, as overseas producers attract business through bottomline pricing. Others argue that the global marketplace will and should weed out any company that is unable to provide products at prices customers demand. Imported caskets can make sense for a funeral home s bottom line. Prices are commonly percent lower than U.S. casket prices. But three major challenges persist: 1.) delivery time; 2.) product selection; and, 3.) customer support. Warehousing is necessary to fulfill customers orders on a timely basis since caskets from China generally require at least four to six weeks. Product selection is also limited because manufacturing in China relies heavily on mass production to make inexpensive products. Will Baby Boomers, who have earned a reputation for demanding what they want when they want it, be satisfied with a narrow choice of casket styles? Companies that import must also be concerned about casket damage, quality control and late deliveries. Restitution from a manufacturer in China is nearly impossible if the company does not voluntarily provide this support. I have never heard anyone associated with a U.S. casket company shy away from healthy competition. In fact, they acknowledge that competition leads to innovation and better customer service. Mark B. Allen What I often hear from domestic manufacturers is frustration that overseas casket manufacturers have disregarded the intellectual property rights of American companies. A few years ago Chinese representatives began flooding trade show exhibit floors in order to take photographs of North American casket manufacturers and distributors product lines. A wave of overseas caskets soon appeared bearing remarkable resemblances to that of domestic producers. The problem has been so common across all industries that the U.S. government initiated talks with China s government to address the problem. Mark Twain once said, Nothing is as weak as a relationship that has not been tested under fire. Most U.S. funeral directors and distributors have not yet tested their relationships with manufacturers in China to that extent, but a few growing pains could be on the horizon. Business Week recently reported, The days of ultra cheap labor and little regulation are gone. As manufacturers costs climb, export prices will follow. Costs are being pushed up due to several factors, including: 1.) workers demands for higher wages and better working conditions; 2.) new government regulations to reduce pollution levels; 3.) higher shipping costs due to soaring fuel prices; and, 4.) adjustment of China s dollar relative to global currencies. In other words, China is dealing with some of the realities that U.S. companies have dealt with for more than a generation. The impact these factors will have on imported caskets is unknown. For organizations that are seriously considering jumping on the casket-importing bandwagon, CFSA recommends careful analysis of the pros and cons of dealing with overseas companies. Research the manufacturers that offer top quality caskets. Things to consider when going through your due diligence process are: shoddy interiors, handles that break off or other defects that will only reflect badly on funeral service as a whole and will encourage families to reject burial as a means of disposing of a body. Beware of companies that are not well established. Because they rely on cheap labor and production costs, many companies go out of business quickly. Consider the range of caskets available. Offering only a few styles threatens to devalue the perceived value of caskets. Factor in the costs of warehousing and transportation, especially in light of escalating fuel and energy costs. Calculate the impact of paying for a shipment of caskets in advance of delivery (required by most manufacturers from China). Finally, evaluate the support you will receive if you have damage or other problems with caskets. U.S. casket companies have weathered a few storms over the years with funeral directors and distributors, but at the end of the day, all have recognized their common dedication to serving their customers in the best way possible. On that there is no debate. FBA Mark B. Allen is Executive Director of the Casket and Funeral Supply Association of America, an association offering resources and networking opportunities to funeral suppliers. He can be contacted at , or by at 26 FBA July/August 2008

15 Company Spotlight AC Furniture Company, Inc. Location: P.O. Box 200 Axton, VA Tel: Contact: Sherry Thomas ww.acfurnitureco.com Who is AC Furniture and what do they do? AC Furniture Company, Inc. (ACF) is one of the country s largest contract manufacturers of seating specifically intended for hospitality food service and health care segments of the commercial furniture market. AC Furniture provides furniture to funeral homes in all different styles and designs and can be used in any aspect of the funeral home. AC Furniture has been in continuous operation since The company is owned and managed by the founder Ken Robertson and was incorporated in 1981 as a privately held Virginia Corporation. With annual revenues approximately $60 million, the company currently builds and ships over 10,000 pieces of furniture a week. AC Furniture produces all the furniture themselves. They sell direct to funeral homes so there is no upcharge, allowing AC Furniture to pass the savings directly to the funeral home. What are the benefits to funeral homes for ordering furniture through AC Furniture? The furniture in your funeral home is a very important part of your business and a direct reflection of your commitment to quality comfortable surroundings. The benefit to funeral homes ordering through AC Furniture is that you get great quality, great service and can save money by ordering direct. AC Furniture is a direct manufacturer of their furniture so you order directly from them and do not have to buy through a company that acts as a middleman thus increasing the price you pay. A funeral home can save a lot of money and at the same time get the best quality by purchasing through AC Furniture. The other benefit is that AC Furniture can generally fill any order in 2 to 6 weeks. With manufacturing plants in Axton, VA., and Eden, N.C., the company enjoys the use of multiple facilities utilizing approximately 1 million square feet. These outstanding facilities are the equal to any in the country and demonstrate the company s ability to provide high value products consistently and on time. What are some of the furniture features that AC Furniture offers funeral homes? In addition to offering a broad selection of catalog items with expedited delivery, the company also excels at producing unique custom products specifically designed for the customer s need. This ability to react to customer demand is further enhanced by an extensive on-hand inventory of unfinished wood frames. With anywhere from 300, ,000 frames in inventory at any given time, AC Furniture is especially suited to handling the demands of key accounts. Their demonstrated willingness to maintain significant inventory allows them the ability to deliver on short notice. And when combined with their mill direct fabric program, it allows them to provide outstanding values on all upholstered items. Fabrics offered by AC Furniture meet industry proven standards and include modestly priced upholstery choices for price sensitive installations. With a choice of over 2,000 color ways, many selections meet (or exceed) minimum abrasion resistance standards of 30,000 rubs on wire and cotton. If you are looking for a specific color of fabric to match your funeral home, simply send AC Furniture a color sample of your current funeral home and they will assist with helping you choose the right fabric color for your furniture. Exposed wood furniture is hand finished in their facilities and allows AC Furniture to provide a wide variety of custom colors required. Offering more than the normal collection of standard finishes is another way the company brings value and customer service together. For 30 years AC Furniture has experienced ongoing and continuous growth in sales and profitability. They continue to work toward their goal of becoming a market leader and have the commitment of each of their 500-plus employees and associates. Their pledge is to consistently provide quality merchandise, responsive customer service and high value products to all the markets they serve. By doing so, they will continue to demonstrate that AC Furniture provides products that are not more than you need but more than you expect. How would a funeral home contact AC Furniture? Funeral homes can contact AC Furniture either by phone, , fax or by a letter and request a free catalog. AC Furniture will send their catalog to you that will showcase their many styles and selections of furniture. If you have any questions they are always available and ready to take your call. They understand the value of providing excellent customer service and uphold the highest standards of quality. For further information, please contact Sherry Thomas of AC Furniture at: AC Furniture Company, Inc. P.O. Box 200 Axton, VA Phone: (276) Facsimile: (276) FBA July/August 2008

16 COVER STORY COVER STORY Personalization: It Just Doesn t Get Any Easier Than This Providing your client families with extraordinary personalization products, easily and inexpensively, is paramount to both customer satisfaction and finding profit in each arrangement. I ve discovered a software program which will raise the bar on personalization. Introducing the Life Tributes Software Suite from funeralone Life Tributes is an amazing all-inone software application. It s taken funeralone five years to develop this oneof-a-kind personalization software and it s been worth the wait. While they listened closely to funeral service professionals who offered them feedback on their earlier Easy Tribute Creator software, they also listened for examples of dream personalization products. The staff then focused on developing simple, affordable software that could create extraordinary personalization products. The result is Life Tributes, the world s first all-in-one personalization software suite. It allows you to create powerful tribute videos, print materials, memorial web sites and webcasts in minutes, with the use of your desktop computer, printer and Internet connection. You don t have to be a tech wizard or graphic artist either; funeralone has made this software so simple to use that anyone can use it. It s our goal that any funeral home anywhere, whether large or small, shared Joe Joachim, president of funeralone, will be able to provide the best in personalization services to their client families easily, affordably, but most important, profitably. No Hassles or Worries Ok; so it s super-easy to use. But, it s also worry-free. Perhaps you re shaking your head and saying to yourself: What s there to worry about? Here s what. Many firms have unwittingly violated copyrights on the graphics or music used in the tribute videos made with other software, and such a violation can be expensive up to a $100,000 fine for each infringement. Everything in the Life Tributes software suite is licensed for your use, which means complete, built-in, peace-of-mind for you and your staff. This software is made just for the funeral profession; there s no built-in hassle coming from trying to adapt generic software to your needs. And, proudly continues Joe, with Life Tributes, there are no worries about copyright infringement. Guaranteed. The Life Tribute products are the highest quality, most fl exible and easy to customize products we have found in our industry. They bring a whole new level of value with their professional graphics, beautiful, vibrant colors and their huge selection of inspirational and touching verses. ~Nancy Lohman, Lohman Funeral Home, FL Life Tributes Can Do It All - Easily and Inexpensively Over 4,000 funeral professionals know how simple and cost effective our Easy Tribute Creator software is, said Joe, and now we re bringing the same concept to creating not only tribute videos, but print material, memorial websites and the newest thing to sweep the industry webcasting. The cost of each product is unbelievably low. For $20.00, your firm can create a tribute video for a client family, or professional-looking, custom print collaterals. A broadcast of a memorial service or funeral over the Internet will cost your firm only $40.00; and hosting a memorial website is free for two weeks. Tribute Videos Done the Life Tributes Way Tribute videos may have become a cornerstone of personalization, but many of them are little more than a slide show set to music. Life Tributes takes things two or three steps higher up the cinematic ladder with: Multiple Scan Technology (Reduce scanning time by 75 %!) Automatic Pan/Zoom Motion on Photos Amazing Scenic Video Backgrounds Unlimited Photos Over 100 Licensed Music Tracks You ll be able to upload the video to your website in one click, automatically create DVD labels and box covers, and create duplicates of the DVD for free. You can see a sample of a video created in Life Tributes as well as the software in action by visiting: Printing With Life Tributes you can create professional-looking, customized prayer and memorial cards, memorial folders, bookmarks, and thank you cards inhouse, in minutes. Choose from over 100 personalized themes, poems and graphics, add your client family s own photos, and Life Tributes does the work. You ll never have to worry about disappointing a family because you have full control since everything is done inhouse. And, you do all this with blank paper stock that is pre-perforated and scored and sold to you at cost from funeralone. Life Tributes is revolutionizing funeral home printing, with the profession s first and only Intelligent Print Design engine. The proprietary technology allows you to cut your print design time down to only a few clicks of your mouse. For only $20 you can print any or all of the following: Memorial Folders and Cards Prayer and Remembrance Cards Bookmarks Thank you Cards World-class printing couldn t be any easier or more affordable. Want to see samples or the print software in action? Go to Memorial Websites The Life Tributes software suite can create a personalized website automatically that can remain online forever, to establish you and your firm as the keeper of, what Joe likes to call the Library of Lives. Can you imagine having all of your client families friends and relatives coming back to your website to learn about their loved one, Joe asked me, hypothetically. Beyond creating value, the exposure for the firm alone will be huge! The Library of Lives will create instant value to a firm, and put them in a position where they re helping families tell and hold in trust their loved ones life story. Think about how powerful that could be! I experience daily the positive impact that Life Tributes personalization has on the families we serve. Life Tributes helps me to provide it all seamlessly, at minimal cost with world-class presentation. Without Life Tributes, I simply could not provide the same level of personalization and meaning. Walker Posey, Posey Funeral Directors, North Augusta, SC Simplicity is the Name of the Game The Life Tributes memorial website generator will create a dynamic website in minutes. No knowledge of HTML or website design experience is necessary for either your staff, or the family members who wish to edit, or amend the content. The sites can be fully customized and thematically co-coordinated with the other personalization products available through Life Tributes. Joe invites FBA readers to visit the following: to explore a memorial website in depth and to see how easy it is to create a memorial site. Webcasting If you ve ever thought about adding this to your list of services, now s the time to do it. There s simply no webcasting tool as easy or as inexpensive as Life Tributes. Providing webcasting is a business imperative, declares Joe. Life Tributes makes it simple for both the producers of the webcast and the viewers. We ve successfully adapted streaming Internet video technology to the needs of the funeral profession, and perfected it. A sample of a Life Tribute webcast can be seen at: Awesome Value, Revenue Potential and Marketing Support Day in and day out funeral homes are shocked with the revenue possibility that personalization can do for them. Your funeral home, using Life Tributes software, and serving just 100 families yearly, can easily expect over $25,000 in profit! Unbelievable isn t it? I m sure you ll want to prove it. And you can quickly and easily, with funeralone s Life Tributes Revenue Potential Calculator. You ll find it on their web site, at I guarantee you ll be stunned by the numbers. There are more important things to consider besides money. With Life Tributes, you ll elevate the level of service you provide your families and position yourself as the Go to company for families seeking to celebrate the life of a loved one. World-Class Technical Support With funeralone s free marketing support, your firm will find it simple to share the news of your Life Tributes personalization capabilities with your community. And funeralone offers industry-leading 24/7 live tech support, from a team which is among the best you ll find anywhere. Before the day ended, I overheard Joe speaking with a representative of a firm interested in obtaining Life Tributes. Every aspect of Life Tributes is designed to be easy, he said. We want to be your firm s long-term partner in personalization success. FBA About funeralone: funeralone is a cutting-edge personalization, technology, and aftercare company for the funeral care profession. Visit their web site at: or call (800) About the Author: Kim Stacey is a freelance writer and copywriter, who enjoys working with funeral service professionals and their suppliers. She can be reached by at: or: FBA July/August July/August 2008 FBA 31

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18 Company Spotlight NRJ Enterprises Location: P.O. Box 1773 Royal Oak, MI Tel: Who is NRJ Enterprises? NRJ Enterprises, LLC was founded in 2006 by licensed funeral director Ron Novak. NRJ is the next generation of what was originally Vinden USA. Vinden USA was the first funeral director gift catalog world wide. Last year, NRJ introduced a complete line of hand painted custom made glass ornaments. The whimsical casket, hearse, and funeral director (male and female) surely brought yule tide joy to funeral directors around the world. What Does NRJ Have in Store for Funeral Directors Now? Ron Novak has been a funeral director/embalmer for 25 years. He has worked for several high volume funeral providers in the metro Detroit area. Ron s experience working for 1,000 call plus facilities has paid off in developing products for funeral directors. Ron s innovations are created to help day to day endeavors. His latest product is designed to eliminate reputation killing errors in dealing with client family valuables with the I-See-It Jewelry Bag. Ron has also eliminated all the anxiety of burial vault presentations with the Instant-Grave-Site. Don t Bury Treasure. Save It! The I-See-It Jewelry Bag concept came from years of hassles dealing with valuables. Ron would always dump out jewelry items two or three times before someone was committed to their final resting place. Not only that, but the old fashioned velvet bags always came undone. A customer told Ron how a dry cleaner found a $1,000 ring in a colleague s pants pocket. The family thought it was buried with their mom. They even called an attorney. The valuable item was thankfully returned. Unfortunately, the rest of the community found out about this reputation killing incident. Good news!! The I-See-It Jewelry Bag innovative features will solve all your troubles. The zip-top feature safely confines all valuables. The see-thru front enables at-a-glance confirmation that you have everything. The release form is also a big help. Simply write in the desired items on the release form before the funeral. If several sets of families valuables are kept together in a common area, the name featured on the front makes sure the correct valuables go to the right family. No mix ups!! Make Every Burial Count with the Instant-Grave-Site A client family poses a question: Why do I need a warranted Contact: Ron Novak burial vault? No one is going to see it. Just give me the cheapest one you have. The director response, Well, okay. Another CRB. Chalk another one up for the uninformed. Finally, there is a display system that actually shows a burial vault in multidimensional, full color action. A 2 ft. x 2 ft. light box with a see through transparency is similar to a product marquee you may see at a high end retail store. In the past, all a customer would see was a miniature vault model by itself. Why would they upgrade? Now client families actually understand form and function. CRB s will change to base model warranted vaults. Low end warranted vaults improve to mid-line units. Mid-line units will improve to high end units. You get the picture. The Instant-Grave-Site system includes four instructional inserts that give a realistic depiction of merchandise in action. The lower portion of the transparency gives undisputable bullet points on the benefits of warranted burial vaults. The system also has an instructional DVD. Ron Novak actually uses role playing skits on how to use the display system during arrangements. Ron also addresses how to respond to those tough comments like, We only need the cheapest. He knows how to win over skeptics. Lastly, the DVD highlights a three month independent audited study that proves the Instant-Grave-Site will be an instant success for you. Door-to-door shipping is free. A two year manufacturer s warranty has bumper to bumper coverage for materials and workmanship. NRJ offers a 30 day money back guarantee as well. The unit weighs just over 20 pounds. It mounts easily in minutes on any surface or comes with a matching pedestal (extra cost). What s Next for NRJ? NRJ encourages the Instant-Grave-Site customers to call their burial vault providers. Let them know the success they are experiencing. Ron Novak wants them to team up with manufacturers to show their products. For 2009, NRJ will expand its Christmas ornament line. Santa suggests NRJ make an upright monument with Seasons Greetings on it as well as some other top secret additions. Go to for further details. 34 FBA July/August 2008

19 management solution Choosing a Funeral Home Entity n this world nothing can be said to be certain, except Ideath and taxes. The verity of Benjamin Franklin s wellknown and often-used quote will hit home with all funeral home owners. While the first certainty is clearly fundamental to the funeral home business, the importance of the latter certainty (taxes) is something owners cannot afford to underestimate. While taxes are in fact certain, proper consideration in the choice of a business entity can greatly impact a funeral business ultimate tax liability. Whether you own a funeral home or aspire to become an owner, a complete understanding of the range of entity types is essential. The choice of business entity is becoming almost as daunting as the cereal aisle in the local grocery store. There are many factors to consider when choosing an entity legal liability, federal and state taxation associated with business formation, operation and dissolution, the size of your business, the number of owners, payroll issues, and retirement plan options, to name some of the most important. This article will provide some clarity about the federal tax issues pertaining to these entities. The sole proprietor is the simplest form of business. While sole proprietorships are allowed to have employees, an owner cannot be an employee. The annual net income from a sole proprietorship is subject to two types of tax: regular income tax, and self-employment or payroll tax (current rate equals 15.3%). Each of these taxes must be paid to the IRS in quarterly installments in order to avoid underpayment penalties and a surprise tax bite on April 15 th. More importantly, all sole proprietors will need to secure good business umbrella liability insurance coverage. Finally, the sale of a sole proprietorship business is subject to only one level of tax on the individual s tax return. The next few entities are all forms of corporations. The first step in forming these entities is to incorporate with the state. The filing requirements, formalities, and fees all vary depending upon the locale and type of entity chosen. There are three types of corporations now available in the U.S. C Corporations (i.e., a regular corporation), S Corporations, and Limited Liability Companies. The taxation of each of these entities is very different. It is widely known that income from a C Corporation is subject to two layers of taxation. First, the net income from the corporation is subject to tax payable to the IRS in quarterly installments in order to avoid underpayment penalties. Next, individual shareholders are currently taxed on any dividend distributions at a 15% rate. Losses realized by the corporation cannot be passed on to shareholders but instead can be used to offset future, or past, corporate income. Since most funeral homes are closely owned and operated, shareholders that are active Kathy Bennett in the business must be treated as employees and must receive adequate compensation. This adds additional levels of tax in the form of payroll taxes shared equally by the corporation and the owner/employee, and individual income taxes levied on the owner s wages. Finally, the double taxation of a C Corporation also applies to its sale and/or liquidation. This can have serious tax implications if the corporation is holding substantially appreciated assets. Thus, shareholders who operate corporations that hold real estate should seek professional guidance from a tax attorney or CPA in order to gain a clear understanding of these implications and to initiate the steps required to mitigate the adverse tax effects. Another well-known type of entity is the S Corporation. Most people think of an S Corporation as simply a small business corporation that provides owners with the legal protection afforded other major corporations. However, there are many nuances of this entity that may not be so familiar. For example, S Corporations must be domestic corporations and can have no more than 100 shareholders. The shareholders must themselves be individual U.S. citizens or residents (except for certain trusts and tax exempt entities). S Corporations can have only a single class of stock and are formed by making a timely election with the IRS. Owners contemplating the use of an S Corporation should involve their CPA from the start so that this election deadline is not missed. Violation of these requirements at any time will lead to a forced conversion to a C Corporation (with likely adverse tax consequences), with a five year waiting requirement before being able to reconvert to an S Corporation. With a few exceptions, the income from an S Corporation is taxed only once at the shareholder level. The allocation of profits and losses of an S Corporation must be done in strict proportion to ownership interests. These items combined with cash contributions, distributions, and shareholder loans to the corporation, are used in determining the shareholder s basis in the S Corporation. An accurate basis is a requisite to properly determining the deductibility of losses and the potential tax impact upon sale or liquidation. It is important to note that a shareholder s guarantee of S Corporation debt does not increase that shareholder s basis in the S Corporation. Again, upon sale and/or liquidation of the S Corporation, tax is only paid at the shareholder level. The primary tax benefit of an S Corporation is that profit is not subject to self-employment tax. Instead, the payroll taxes are paid at the corporate level on the salary of the shareholder/employee. Any subsequent cash distributions to that shareholder are considered a return of capital not subject to tax. The catch is that the shareholder must receive adequate compensation, or else the IRS could recharacterize some of those distributions as salary. Compare the following example to that of the sole proprietor example. (continued on page 38) 36 FBA July/August Help strengthen bonds with your families while adding to your bottom line. Committed to creating lasting memories and legacies, one life story at a time. Ask about our Reflections Collection albums and videos a trouble-free way for you to offer families a unique, heartfelt and timeless keepsake that transforms them from grieving a loss to celebrating a life

20 (continued from page 36) Let s say the net income before taxes from your funeral home for the year is $10,000 and the funeral home pays out $5,000 in cash to the owner. The net cash left in the entity is $5,000. As a sole proprietor, the total tax liability for the year would be $4,116: $1,530 in self-employment tax plus $2,586 in individual income tax (28% tax bracket assumed). There is no tax on the $5,000 cash draw. As a solely-owned S Corporation, with this same fact scenario, the total combined taxes paid by the S Corporation and individual owner would be $3,413 (payroll and personal taxes combined). Thus, using the S Corporation structure rather than operating as a sole proprietor saves $703 in taxes ($4,116 $3,413). These tax savings add up when the S Corporation starts making money. The last type of corporation to discuss is the Limited Liability Company (LLC). The LLC is fast becoming the most frequently chosen business entity. An LLC is a creature of state statute, and some specific features vary by state. There are no restrictions on stock ownership and there are fewer formalities in maintaining the LLC. As with all entity organizational documents, it is essential that you have a complete and thorough membership agreement drafted that outlines the formation, operation, and dissolution of your LLC. LLC owners are called members. There are two possible ways to structure your LLC. You can have either a member-run LLC or a manager-run LLC. There are different legal and tax implications with these two types of LLCs. In a member-run LLC, all members share in the operational and decision making aspects of the business and are able to bind the LLC in a legally enforceable contract. They have the same voting rights and obligations. In a manager-run LLC, the manager does not have to be a member and the remaining non-manager members can have different voting rights and responsibilities. For federal tax purposes, an LLC is not recognized by the IRS. A single member LLC is considered a disregarded entity and the owner is taxed as a sole proprietor. If there is more than one member, the default tax treatment of an LLC is a partnership, unless an election is made to be taxed as a corporation (C or S). In general, a partnership is taxed in the same manner as that of an S Corporation all items of income and loss flow through to the individual members. However, the allocations do not necessarily have to be pro-rata. Creative profit and capital sharing agreements can be made between the members. Partnerships also have similar basis adjustments that must be made on an annual basis. The LLC is still a relatively new entity and the taxation and legal issues pertaining to it are still evolving. For example, there is the possibility that an interest in an LLC could qualify as a security and thus the transfer of such interest could be subject to the SEC securities transfer reporting requirements. There is also the issue of whether a member s distributable share of the LLC s net profits would be subject to self-employment tax. The current thinking in this area depends upon whether the LLC is manager-run or member-run. If the LLC is member-run then each member s share of the LLC s trade or business profits would be subject to self-employment tax. If however the LLC is manager-run, depending upon the facts and circumstances, there appears to be a position to treat the passive member s flow-through income as not subject to self-employment tax. A common use of LLCs in the funeral home business is to separate the assets from the operations by having the real estate held in an LLC, while business operations are conducted via an S Corporation. Properly implemented, this structure can protect the real estate assets from any legal liabilities arising from business operations. The funeral home owner can be both a member of the LLC and shareholder of the S Corporation. The S Corporation then pays rent to the LLC for the use of the building. The S Corporation could also be the manager of the LLC and receive a management fee. This structure can be expanded so that a single entity manages multiple properties. Limited liability is the primary motivation behind choosing the corporate form. However, it is important to note that, regardless of the entity chosen, business transactions must be separated from personal transactions. Open up a separate business bank account. Pay close attention to the requirements of preneed funeral arrangements. Do not mix those funds with your regular operating funds. Pay business expenses from a business account and personal expenses from a personal account. Keeping the accounts separate will not only keep your books clean and your return easy to prepare (i.e. it will save you money on the bill from your CPA), it will also protect you from a liability standpoint. If owners do not follow the formalities of their chosen entity and essentially use their business as an alter ego or personal checkbook, they could jeopardize their liability protection afforded from either their business umbrella liability policy or their corporate structure. Obviously, any actions constituting fraud or defalcations will pierce the corporate veil and that individual will be held liable. In conclusion, the decision on the type of entity under which you will operate a funeral home should involve multiple consultations with your business advisors to make sure that you structure your business in a way that meets your personal and business goals while simultaneously protecting you from a legal and tax perspective. These business advisors should include both your attorney and CPA who specialize in the formation and taxation of these entities. Since starting and operating a business have both legal and tax implications, it only makes sense to have both professionals involved from the get-go. The above information was presented to provide an overview. Tax planning is very complex and comprehensive; therefore this information should not be implemented without first seeking professional advice. FBA Kathy Bennett, CPA, is a funeral home Tax Advisor with Cooper & Schoff, CPA, PA. She can be contacted at , or by at 38 FBA July/August July/August 2008 FBA 39

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