Dear “Ask the Director”
Whenever funeral homes are mentioned in conversations I have (and unfortunately, as I get older it comes up all too often) I hear about certain homes being a corporation. Is that the case? How would I know which ones are? When it comes down to it, why does the type of ownership really matter?
Arthur W., Stamford, CT
You ask great questions and I’m happy to try to answer them for you.
Over the course of the last twenty years, the funeral service industry has seen a dramatic increase in the number of corporate owned funeral homes as conglomerates have acquired locations all across the country. Because local families often choose a funeral home based on name recognition and long-term community roots, typically the original, often family, names are kept on the majority of these facilities. The sign names and some staff may remain, but the business model has changed and the local roots of the business have been cut.
A corporate owned funeral home needs to present itself as a “Mom & Pop” operation so it can benefit from the goodwill that the family name has developed over generations of service to the community. And don’t expect the corporate affiliation to be advertised. The reality is that corporations tend to be mostly concerned with sales figures and volume targets. On average their charges are 30-40% more than the independently owned competition. A corporate-owned funeral home’s first priority is to serve stockholders and earn them a return on investment. Many of their decisions are made based upon mandates passed down by the corporation and this can negatively affect the overall level of service. Corporate red tape, distant management and demands to lower costs tend to hinder their employees responses to family needs. Also, the level of employee empowerment is affected. To offer an analogy, think of the service you receive when shopping at Home Depot as opposed to shopping at Karp’s Hardware. It is a stark difference.
Family-owned funeral homes are locally owned and operated. Many families, like mine, have been in funeral service for generations. They operate a business based upon a personal relationship with the community and are actively involved in the communities they serve. They strive to offer the highest quality of service and merchandise to their families and are sensitive to the financial needs of the community in which they live and serve.
I hope this helps.