There is an old song released in April 1981 and sung by Barbara Mandrel entitled, “I was Country when Country wasn’t cool”. I have to admit that when I entered my freshman year of college at Texas Christian University in September of 1976 I started hearing music that resonated with me. . . .Waylon Jennings, Jerry Jeff Walker, Willie Nelson. . . artists that I had never heard of in Minnesota at that time. Circumstances led me back to Minnesota for my Sophomore year, but I still loved that music, and I was a little out of place listening to that music in my University of Minnesota dormitory when everybody held was listening to Peter Frampton or Boston or Queen. By the way, a young man by the name of Prince Nelson was playing at little venues on and around campus at that time. . . he shortened his name. . .and the rest is history. . . or maybe a column for another day!!
I also believe that I was a data driven businessman much before being data driven was ever cool. In the early 1980’s when I began operating our funeral home I was always looking at average sales, average casket prices, cost of goods sold percentages, advertising expenditure ratios as compared to new clientele obtained, and, even though I am not real technologically inclined, was greatly excited when I could put numbers on a “what-if” spreadsheet on the computer. As a matter of fact, that data knowledge also led me to become a “service priced” funeral director and owner before that was cool, also.
The data led me to believe I could make higher profits if I charged a higher amount for my services, including a fair profit in the charge, and sell merchandise, such as caskets, at cost to the consumer families. Our funeral home moved to that style of pricing in the late 1980’s and have never looked back.
I have a couple of quick stories that sum up my data-driven compulsion and decisions. The first is somewhat amusing and you have to understand that in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s we didn’t have cell phones equipped with calculators. So, I always carried a thin calculator in my pocket. One night at dinner I had an impulse on a financial matter and I pulled out the calculator. My wife, Angie, said to me, “I’m going to eventually bury you with that calculator in your hand.” Now, I know she said it because I was not listening to the conversation, however, to me it was a great compliment!!
My second story revolves around Tom Johnson, founder of Johnson Consulting Group. I first met Tom in 1991 and many years later he told me that at that first meeting he thought my new “casket at wholesale” pricing policy was “crazy”. However, he also told me he later realized I was just ahead of my time in charging for services over merchandise. Finally, about 2010 when I hired him to potentially bring my funeral home to market and he looked at my operating statements, he said, “Are these margins accurate?” He then told me that he was “really wrong” about my pricing policies from years back.
My point of that long introduction is that really knowing the proper data can make a big difference. However, you have to know what to look at and how spending in one area can save in another and vice-versa. Learning to do that is the big key. . .
That brings me to a free webinar that Johnson Consulting Group will be leading on Tuesday, June 15. The webinar is entitled “Data-Driven Decisions: Learn from the Industry Experts”. Johnson Consulting Group has assembled a panel to discuss these items:
- Discuss Best Practices for making data-driven decisions
- Highlight key sources for obtaining data
- Identify common mistakes to avoid
The panel will include:
- Beth Kmiec, Executive VP, Trust Administration – ClearPoint Federal Bank & Trust
- Nick Timpe, CEO – webCemeteries
- Ashlee Theising, President, ClearPoint Federal Bank & Trust
- Nelson Thulin, Director of Business Consulting Services, Johnson Consulting Group
You can access registration material here.
Finally, a couple of quotes that also fit into this conversation. When I think about being data-driven, I always think of poor luck bank robber Willie Sutton. As crude as it was, Sutton somewhat was America’s first data-driven celebrity. Although he went to his grave not admitting to this quote, he was once asked why he robbed banks. His answer? “That’s where the money is.” i.e. he had the data (and opportunity) figured out.
Finally, even when you know the data it sometimes takes a strategy or courage to make use of it. Wayne Gretzky, hockey’s all-time leading scorer said “. . . most players skate to where the puck is. However, I skate to where it is going to be”. Obviously, Gretzky figured out the solution when he knew the data. . . . you have to do the same.
More news from the world of Death Care:
- New York State passes bill allowing electronic signatures for funeral and cemetery documents. Hamodia
- Savannah Archives: The North and South of Laurel Grove Cemeteries. Savannah Now. (GA)
- Thirty headstones placed in Minnehaha County Cemetery Sunday. News video and print article. KELO TV – Sioux Falls (SD)
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