Have you heard the saying “the elephant in the room”?
If not, it refers to those times in life when you have
a large, ever present issue that no one wants to talk
For every business owner I know, “the elephant in the
room” today is….the economy.
And more specifically, the dreaded ‘R’ word…
What’s going on?
Foreclosures are at an all-time high.
Banks with large portfolios of sub-prime mortgages are
failing in record numbers and major industrial giants
are sliding into bankruptcy.
With all of this confusion, Wall Street is reeling and
investor confidence is shaken. And if that’s not bad
enough, many so called ‘experts’ on the economy say
the ‘sky is falling’ and it’s only going to get worse.
Is the economy impacting your business?
Maybe your number of goods is still good but you’re
seeing other signs like collection problems or
families choosing smaller and smaller services.
But if you think the economy isn’t affecting your
business, you might want to consider that the media is
bombarding your families with doom & gloom messages
about the recession.
Surrounded by all this negativity, your families can’t
help but be affected. It’s human nature to react with
caution and cut back on spending or at least be
more careful about what they spend their money on.
No matter how hard you try, unless you’re hiding under
a rock, you can’t escape the ‘elephant’ in the room.
So what do you do about it?
Here are four things that I believe you can do to deal
with the elephant in the room….
First, always make sure that you are making
arrangements with as many family members as possible.
From my experience, funeral directors who struggle
with arrangements always want a small group. But the
ones who succeed always want a big group.
There are a lot of reasons why you want a big group in
today’s economy. The primary reason is that regardless
of what the press wants us to believe not everyone is
struggling these days. There are lots of businesses
out there that are doing just fine.
You want a big group in your arrangement room so that
you increase the chances that someone in the room will
have confidence to make a decision.
The other reason is that people are generally more
confident in a group. They have to do two very
difficult things; make arrangements for their loved
one and deal with the elephant. If there are only one
or two of them the odds that they will be willing to
take on the elephant are very slim.
The second thing you should do about the elephant
is…acknowledge it’s presence.
It’s there in the room. Everyone knows about it but no
one wants to say it out loud.
When you acknowledge the elephant you are letting the
family know that you are on their side.
Here’s a very simple thing you can say….”folks, I
know things are tight in the economy right now and I
also know that it’s important that your family and
friends have a chance to say goodbye to your Mom. So
let’s work together to figure out how we can make this
a beautiful memorial without spending too much.”
And don’t worry, saying that will NOT decrease the
amount of money they are willing to spend.
Saying something like that totally deflates the power
of the elephant. Instead of you versus the family with
the elephant in between you two. It becomes you plus
the family versus the elephant.
The third thing you need to do about the elephant in
the room is…give the family a valid reason to take
What truly separates the funeral directors who are
able to regularly arrange amazing memorial services
from those who struggle to convince a family to have a
visitation is their ability to answer the
Why should we have a visitation?
Why should we have a memorial service?
Why should we gather as a family to say goodbye?
Why does it hurt so darn much?
Most families won’t ask the questions out loud but
they’re thinking them.
The reality is that you’ve faced these questions every
day for the past 10 to 15 years. The elephant has just
made the entire situation MUCH worse.
Families used to have funerals without asking
questions but that was before baby boomers took over.
Now they need to know “why” or they won’t move
You can’t defeat the elephant without giving the
family really good reasons to these questions.
The key is….preparation. You’ve got to take the time
to prepare answers to these questions. Write them out,
rehearse them, try them out with your friends, and
then be prepared to answer “why” when your family
The fourth thing you can do to this annoying elephant
is…make the choices for the family REALLY easy.
There are two parts to every arrangement decision.
First the family has to emotionally decide that they
want (or need) to do something to say goodbye to their
loved one. If you successfully answered the “why”
question, this will be a very easy process.
The next part of the arrangement decision is they have
to choose what they want to do. How much visitation?
What kind of memorial service? How do they make it a
As I said earlier, they key is to make the decision
A lot of funeral homes really struggle at this point
because the only thing they have to show a family is
their FTC mandated GPL.
That’s the equivalent of a restaurant that gives their
patrons a list of ingredients instead of a list of the
meals that can be made from the ingredients.
Successful funeral homes bundle their services into
specific packages and present them to the family
alongside the GPL.
Families like to choose from packages just like diners
like to choose from the specials list at a restaurant.
And so…to make it really easy to decide you should
always present packages to your families.
To summarize…there are four keys to dealing with the
elephant in the room.
1) fill the room with family members so that together
you can take on the elephant
2) acknowledge the presence of the elephant and turn
it into the family + you versus the elephant
3) be prepared to answer the question “why” because
even in the best of times baby boomers won’t act
unless you can answer their questions
4) make the decision really easy by packaging your
Even if the press announces tomorrow that the
recession is “officially over” it will take months if
not years for consumers to regain their confidence.
The elephant may shrink but it will definitely not
disappear any time soon.
If your funeral home is going to be in business in 5
years…you have to defeat the elephant.
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