Preparation Matters



At times I get my ideas for articles from unusual places.  Last Sunday I was sitting in our church when the pastor noticed a less than average crowd.  He then made the comment that “Preparation Matters” and went on to say that he thinks many in the congregation had not planned for the first Sunday after the Daylight Savings time change.


The pastor mentioned that he thought lots of parishioners had went to bed at their usual time and had not prepared to lose an hour of sleep prior to church. . . .and that is why the crowd was fairly lean.  That’s when he made his “preparation matters” comments and was decidedly serious about his comment.


I thought of our funeral business and realized that “preparation” matters there too.  In some reality, the funeral business, especially the operation of conducting a visitation, funeral, procession, interment, and reception, is all about logistics. . . . and, to be good at logistics, you need to plan and prepare ahead of time.


It made me think of all the times over the years when we were moving a wake or visitation from the funeral home to a church for a reviewal “an hour before the service”.  There were the times when, even when prepared, an additional death call at the exact wrong time put us behind schedule and we really had to rush.  I’m guessing that there were times when families noticed “the rush”.


I do really believe preparation matters and if you are not good at looking at the logistics of funeral service and seem to be scurrying to catch up all the time, that image will give consumers a negative image of your firm.  It’s much better to be well planned and thought out in the execution of all services.


There are a couple of points about customer service and image that have stuck with me for over 50 years.  The first came in my teenage years when we lived next door to the family funeral home.  One of my jobs in our Minnesota location was to help keep snow off the sidewalks on weekends.  On one particular Sunday. . . a Sunday with no death care events planned, the weather produced just a dusting of snow on the sidewalks — nothing I thought worth moving.


Tom Anderson
Funeral Director Daily

Well, my father said to me, “Aren’t you going to clean the sidewalks?”.  My response was something like, “Why?  It’s just a little dusting that will blow off by morning.”  His response — “I want it to look like we are open for business if somebody drives by”.


That has stuck with me ever since and my teammates at work will attest to how often I took a broom or small shovel out just to dust off the snow during my career.  I always wanted it to look like “We were open for business”.  And, I think that thought can actually go to the image of your brand as always looking “prepared” or “ready”.


Secondly, when I was doing my internship as a 22-year old part of my job was moving flowers to churches for services.  As you may know, petals don’t always stay on all flowers.  One day after we were set up and before the family arrived at the church my mentor had me go out on the front steps of the church.  He then pointed to a couple of flower petals and said, “Make sure you always pick those up.  A family might arrive, see them, and think — if that’s how he cared for our flowers, how did he care for our mother”.


Obviously, that comment, given to me in the best of intentions about learning, has stuck with me since that date. For over forty years I’ve not only picked up flower petals that came off flowers I’ve carried, but I’ve picked up any I saw sitting around anywhere”.  I would also contend that act goes to image and brand also. . . . as immaculate of an environment that you can have will build brand.


So, the pastor on Sunday reminded me of how important “preparation” can be.  When I left the funeral home at the end of the day the schedule for directors for the following day was already posted.  Doing so did not eliminate death calls or walk-in arrangements that sometimes got in the way of our expected flow. . . . However, taking the time to make “preparations” well in advance helped to keep things on schedule as much as possible.


And, maybe my pastor will be able to make up for those that were “unprepared” on Sunday next Autumn when the clock “falls back” one hour and those that did not prepare find themselves with an extra hour to get to church!!!


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