One of the greatest business challenges many funeral home owners and managers face is finding the right balance between managing day-to-day operations and planning for future success. It may sometimes feel like you spend the majority of your time on things that need your attention immediately, and far too little time considering how to position your business for long-term success. In funeral service, schedules can change on a minute-by-minute basis and the families you serve expect you to be 100% focused in their time of need.
Though it can prove challenging, the benefits of a consistent approach to strategic planning are numerous:
- The chance to investigate and explore options. You can proactively investigate your business environment, challenges and opportunities in a less time-sensitive setting. An absence of planning will force you to make rushed, less informed decisions when confronted with both opportunities and threats.
- Improved control over the future of your funeral business. You design and plan your future as opposed to simply letting it happen.
- A clear purpose and direction. Your team members are more unified and understand what is expected of them and how they can contribute.
- Better business decisions. A clear vision for the future can lead you toward the actions that can help you reach your goals. Perhaps more importantly, a clear vision can help steer you away from those actions that will not help you achieve those goals.
- Well-allocated resources. Strategic management of your human and financial resources is key to your success. A solid plan for your future allows you to put your resources to work most effectively to help you achieve your goals.
It’s relatively easy to see the value of strategic planning, but it can be difficult to start and maintain a discipline of planning. Here are just a few tips to help you get started.
- Make time for it. Set aside the time and protect it. Unexpected events are the hallmark of funeral service, but it’s vital that you plan for uninterrupted participation in your sessions. Consider your options for back up and conduct the session at a time that is unlikely to be interrupted.
- Invite the right people. Include the leaders of your organization and make sure participants represent a range of perspectives and responsibilities in your organization. It doesn’t have to be a large group, but the groups’ perspective should be broad and well informed in terms of all aspects of your business.
- Prepare well. There are many tools and resources you can use to design your session and create an effective plan. Make sure you have key business information readily available. Create an agenda and follow it.
- Don’t “skip” the hard questions. It’s important that you be honest with yourself and confront the hard questions about your business. For instance, many funeral home owners say it’s their service to families that helps them stand apart from competitors. Attempt to answer questions like, “How does our service set us apart?” “What do we do that is different than our competitors?” “How would our clients distinguish between the service that we provide and that of our competitor?” If you can’t answer those questions, it’s highly unlikely your clients will be able to.
- Document and track. The insights, decisions and initiatives that result from your planning should be documented and shared with the planning group and your team. This also creates the plan your team will use to move forward in the execution and tracking phase or your planning cycle.
Creating an effective strategic planning cycle for your firm takes time and attention, but the process is key for your firm’s long-term success. In Part 2 of this article, you'll learn how to create a strategic planning cycle that will help guide your business far into the future.
As Senior VP-Planning & Development, Kim Medici Shelquist seeks opportunities and solutions to help our company and funeral professionals meet consumer demands long into the future. Click here to learn more about the leadership team at Homesteaders.