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The Most Important Element of Business Profitability

Posted by Christopher Kuhnen on March 1, 2013

 The one overriding question I am repeatedly asked by funeral home owners is “What is the single most important factor that determines whether my business will be profitable or not?” Let me begin to answer this question by stating the obvious.
 The main goal for any funeral home is to earn a fair and reasonable business profit. Generating profits indicates that the funeral home is offering quality services and merchandise desired by families at a reasonable price. Developing a strong repeat clientele, generation after generation, in a particular family line is paramount to continued success. Funeral homes that generate fair and reasonable profit margins have the ability to expand and grow their operations; improve the livelihood of their owners, managers and employees and offer an expanded array of new and innovative services to those they serve. Any funeral home that cannot accomplish these will face the prospect of losing money and dealing with the consequences of financial loss.
 The consequences of financial loss for those who do not generate these life giving profits is they may be forced to reduce operational output. This reduction may include laying off employees, selling equipment or assets, cutting back on employee benefits, reducing service offerings or closing underperforming locations. Consistent business losses may ultimately force the funeral home into bankruptcy.
 What is the one single element that separates profitable from unprofitable funeral home operations? Communication!
 Effective communication is critical for any business of any size. Ultimately, poor communication doesn't just affect how well the funeral home staff does their job; it affects the business' bottom line. The effects of poor communication internally are profound. When employees can't communicate well with one another, they tend to work in silos and information that could help others never gets shared. Collaboration also suffers, so people sometimes struggle with a problem or project that could be easily solved if they were to work with others on it. Additionally, processes tend to get duplicated, because no one knows what others are doing. This hurts productivity. It also lowers employee morale, as workers tend to feel isolated.
 Lowered productivity due to poor communication means lowered overall profits. Thus, a lack of communication among employees of a funeral home might mean that, externally, the funeral home can't effectively compete with others on a profit-making level. Additionally, a funeral home that doesn't know how to properly communicate its brand value, services and merchandise will have a hard time marketing effectively to get new families. This will further hurt the bottom line.
 There are communication errors made in almost all funeral home operations today. People sometimes, intentionally or unintentionally, neglect to share information because they don't see how it can help others, when in fact it can. They also fail to really listen to others, (especially families being served) either because they are disengaged and unmotivated or simply because they are poor listeners. Some fail to answer communications in a timely manner such as phone calls and emails sent their way, and yet others lack follow-up skills. At the core of all of these problems is a basic lack of courtesy for others with whom the poor communicators interact with and/or work alongside.
 The key to success is quality, professional training. Training employees how to communicate properly and effectively in a funeral business environment, including explaining clearly what's expected of them, can go a long way toward solving communication problems. However, motivation often also plays a role in communication issues, because employees who lack motivation can simply not feel like putting in the effort to communicate properly. In such cases, it's important to tackle office morale issues.
Helpful Communication Tips
 Develop effective listening skills. Start with asking intelligent questions and setting a limit on your own “talk time.” By asking the right questions, you can gain additional time to properly convey your message and/or thought and win their undivided attention, as well as their signature on the bottom line. Listen closely to their reply and don’t interrupt. Good and effective listening is an art; it should be nurtured and practiced just like we would a speech. This means learning to look people in the eye when they are speaking, not allowing yourself the chatter in your head when you are listening, and finally, allowing no other distractions while you are listening.
 Turn off your racing mind. Concentrate fully on what the person you are speaking to is saying. Don’t prepare your reply while the other person is still speaking. Soak in what they are saying. Commit to the discipline of staying in the moment as others speak – this will prevent racing ahead
 Speak slowly. Chances are, when you initially connect with people on the telephone, you don’t have their full attention. Speaking slowly not only helps them hear – and comprehend – what you’re saying in the midst of their multitasking frenzy, but it also demonstrates your self-control. This control improves your credibility and trust factor. Most people tend to increase their rate of speech when they get nervous. Resist that temptation. Make a concerted effort…to…slow…down.
 Last of all, some people simply are not good communicators and no amount of training can make them so. That's why it's critical, at the hiring level, to look for individuals who possess the communications skills necessary to move your funeral home forward to enhanced profitability.


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