5 Great Business Books for Funeral Professionals

Ralph Waldo Emerson once noted, “If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads.” His words ring just as true today as they did when he penned them. Despite our easy access to search engines, apps and Wikipedia, reading good books remains one of the easiest, cheapest and fastest ways to absorb information. Reading has been linked with increased empathy and (of course) intelligence, and a well-stocked library provides a vehicle for us to experience new things, increase awareness and develop new skills.

I know that many of you struggle to find time to read – after all, you're almost always on call, often working through nights and weekends to meet the needs of your client families. But with every book you read, you become more empathetic, more thoughtful, more strategic. And that growth can have a significant impact on the success of your funeral home business.

Below, I’ve included five of the best business books I've read this year. This is certainly not an exhaustive list of the many great resources available to you, but each of these was chosen specifically for its ability to address the most common issues facing funeral businesses.

If you need to implement changes at your funeral home…

Switch Book Cover“We don’t promise that we’re going to make change easy, but at least we can make it easier. Our goal is to teach you a framework, based on decades of scientific research, that is simple enough to remember and flexible enough to use in many different situations—family, work, community and otherwise.”

Over the last few decades, funeral service has weathered tremendous shifts in consumer preferences. While a number of providers have been able to adapt their service model to meet the changing demand, many funeral homes still struggle with change. Switch by Chip and Dan Heath is an easy, fascinating read, ripe with stories of individuals who have walked into seemingly impossible situations and implemented radical, effective and fast changes that have dramatically increased their success.

It’s the ideal read for any funeral provider – or funeral business owner – who wants to implement successful change in their organization.

If your funeral home marketing could use a boost…

This Is Marketing Book Cover“It’s time to do something else with marketing. To make things better. To cause a change you’d like to see in the world. To grow your project, sure, but mostly to serve the people you care about.”

This Is Marketing by Seth Godin is, without question, the best book I've read this year. Seth Godin is a prolific and decorated author, with 18 best sellers, two successful companies and one of the most read blogs in the world. His latest book offers a pretty thorough summary of the key themes in his writing, giving readers actionable tips for successful, targeted marketing.

It’s a quick read and a good one for any funeral provider who is struggling to expand market share, increase customer satisfaction and foster more meaningful connections.

If your funeral home culture needs a face lift…

Five Dysfunctions Book Cover“Teamwork ultimately comes down to practicing a small set of principles over a long period of time. Success is not a matter of mastering subtle, sophisticated theory, but rather of embracing common sense with uncommon levels of discipline and persistence.”

Michael Jordan and the 1996 Chicago Bulls aside, no team is perfect. Every single one faces challenges, many resulting from avoidance, fear and distrust. In The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni identifies five problems that wreak the greatest havoc on teams.

His book is an easy, quick read – most of the text is structured as a fable with clear, actionable tips at the end, along with a simple assessment to identify which dysfunctions are damaging your team. 

If you struggle to develop and retain top performers…

Coaching Habit Book Cover“This book is not about turning you into a coach. It’s about making you a leader, a manager, a human being who’s more coach-like. Which means building simple but difficult new habits: Stay curious a little longer, rush to action and advice-giving a little more slowly.”

The NFDA estimates that the average funeral home will care for 113 decedents this year while supporting three full-time and four part-time employees. With seven people on the payroll and a 4 ½-year turnover, funeral home owners can expect to spend a significant portion of their time recruiting, interviewing, hiring and training new staff members.  

In addition to being time-consuming and frustrating, replacing existing staff members often leads to a temporary dip in service quality. Long tenure results in deeply knowledgeable and invested employees – employees who are responsible for the compassionate care of your client families. It’s in your best interest to hire top-performing employees and, once they’re on staff, to ensure they don’t look elsewhere for employment.

Becoming a better coach is an invaluable skill as a business owner – you learn to draw out the very best in your employees and, by investing in them, you make it more likely they will stay. The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier is a great resource if you’re looking for short, simple and clear ways to implement better coaching with your team. 

If you have trouble communicating with families in the arrangement room…

Crucial Conversations Book Cover“If you know how to handle crucial conversations, you can effectively hold tough conversations about virtually any topic.”

A pastor in my hometown once shared this wisdom: “If you want to see the very worst in a family, help them plan a wedding or a funeral.” There is something about milestones that draws out challenging family dynamics, and you may feel like you’re in the crosshairs every time you step into an arrangement conference.

Learning how to manage tough topics is an invaluable skill for funeral professionals. Crucial Conversations is a tried and true resource to help equip you with tools you can use to navigate challenging discussions with client families (and even co-workers).

There you have it – your fall reading list! And many of them are accessible as audiobooks for those who struggle to find time to sit and read.

These are, of course, only a handful of the many, many valuable business books available. What other business books have you enjoyed? Leave your favorites in the comments below.

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