What business are you in??

The standard “What business are you in” history lesson is still taught at the nation’s top business schools.  That lesson goes way back to when I was in college and contemplates the question of how you define your business may actually make or break the business as the business goes forward in times of technological advances and/or consumer preferences.

The classic story is that of the railroad industry.  From the late 1800’s to the mid-20th century, about the 1950’s, the railroad was the superior market share leader in cross country transportation.  In the 1950’s the DC-3 airplane allowed new companies to bring airplane transportation into the fight for some of the cross country transportation market share.

Companies like Union Pacific, Penn Central, and Great Northern dismissed the up and coming air transportation industry because they viewed themselves as being in the “Railroad business”.  However, the theory goes, if those companies had defined themselves as being in the “Transportation business” today’s leading passenger planes may well have Union Pacific, Penn Central, and Great Northern logos on them.  In essence, a narrow definition of what they did cost the railroad companies dearly in future growth.

So, what business are you in?  The funeral business?  The cemetery business? Or have you included all types and morphed into the death care business?  Can the death care business cover all things human and pet related?

This recent article from Smart Company Australia illustrates how the pet business has been humanized and is now a growing business in the field of pet death care.  I’ve noticed in the Minneapolis television market how one funeral home family has really endorsed this business and advertises quite regularly on television.

According to the article, Australian based Pet Angel Funerals is seeing a boom in their business.  Their owner says the business has been growing at a 5-6% monthly rate and the percentage of people who now humanize their pets is also growing.  That owner states he not only provides services for dogs and cats, but has provided his services for goats, alpacas, tortoises, and quite a few guinea pigs.

University of Tasmania retail expert Louise Grimmer is quoted in the article as saying, “The pet care and services industry is increasingly mirroring what’s already available for humans.”  Others say that people are willing to spend as much on pets as they would on themselves.

So, what business are you in?  Does it make sense to look to serve in the “Total Death Care” field, which would include pet deaths?  What are the pros of such — getting to know families earlier, serving heritage clients more often.  What are the cons of such — will some people look at you with less respect because they thought you only served humans?

If I choose to get into pet death care, do I use my brand or start a new brand?

I think, in today’s world, these are questions that you really have to have a solid look at.  That plane carrying pet death care is already on the runway. . . . wouldn’t it be better for your business if it took off with your logo?

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