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Archive for September, 2014

Time for Something New

Last November we had some major water damage at the Clock Funeral Home facility in Fruitport, Michigan. It is a small facility (2500 sq ft with no basement) that we only have staff at when we are meeting with families or having visitations and funerals. We check on it regularly but it is not uncommon for there to be 5 day stretches that no one is in the facility. It seems that the furnace starter failed and the building was without heat for a while. It was also a matter of fate that we had an unusual early cold snap during that period. When we discovered the problem with the furnace we had it fixed, turned the heat up and left the building. DSC00602

Three days later our parking lot snowplow guy was clearing the snow and called us to say there was water running out from under the door. Not the kind of news you want to hear. What had happened was that the water pipes that run through the ceiling had frozen and cracked during the cold snap when the furnace wasn’t working. And when we turned the furnace back on it thawed out the pipes and the water started spraying water in the attic space above the ceiling. It eventually soaked the drywall and tiles and the ceiling came crashing down on the furniture. The water then continued to run for 3 days before it was discovered. Here are some pictures.

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This brought to us a major dilemma. This branch was small and didn’t have good bathroom facilities. The layout wasn’t good for larger crowds and we had shifted all of our body preparation to our main facility in Muskegon over 15 years ago. The business volume in Fruitport had been slowly declining for a few years and we wondered if it was worth it to repair the place at all or just close the facility down.

After a few weeks of thought and contemplation we decided to take a gamble and try something completely new and different. We decided to completely gut the building and turn it into an Event Center for all of life’s events. We are calling our new business “Sunset Celebrations”. Click here for the website. http://sunsetcelebrationcenter.com/

We will still be able to hold funerals, visitations and memorial services just like before. But now the facility has an open floor plan, with a sound system, TV’s on the walls and a small serving kitchen so we can hold any type of event that folk’s desire; wedding receptions, birthday and anniversary parties, graduation open houses, business meetings and baby showers. We are working with area caterers to provided food for events. The facility can comfortably handle crowds of up to 125 people depending on the layout.

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Under Construction

We are finally ready to reopen the place. Which is good because we have our first wedding reception there this weekend. And the road in front of the building which has been completely torn up for the last 4 months for a new sewer project will be open too. I’ll post photos soon.

I’m Dale Clock. Thanks for listening.

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Almost everyone in funeral service is searching for a simple answer to the main challenge that faces most of us.

“As the cremation rate continues to rise and our income continues fall because people are choosing less of the services and products that we typically provided, what should we do to remain profitable?”

And from that question come many more. Why are people choosing cremation more? Why are people choosing simple cremation providers instead of traditional funeral homes? What types of services and products do people really want? What can we do to be relevant in people’s minds? How are people getting the information they use to make decisions? Etc. etc. etc.

We are all in search of the “Secret Sauce”. The one magic thing that when we do it, or buy it, or install it, that “Secret Sauce” will solve all of our problems and transform us back into a business where things were normal and regular. A business where we knew what people wanted, we gave it to them, they paid us and we all made money (by accident) and everyone was happy.

Well I’m going to tell you right now that I don’t have the recipe to the “Secret Sauce”. So you can stop reading this article if that’s what you were hoping for. Life isn’t that simple. It never was. I’m writing this to let you know that you’re not alone out there in your search.

I was originally going to tell you about some of the things that I have tried over the last 25 years. What kinda worked and what didn’t. So I started listing everything I tried. The list kept growing until I reached over 60 different things. Some of the things we tried we are still doing. Many things came and went. If I showed you the list you’d get bored halfway through it.

I wish there was an easy answer, but there isn’t. I’m guessing it’s a combination of many ingredients. And the ingredients will be different for different size firms in different parts of the country. It’s no longer a one size fits all. I’ve attended numerous classes and seminars and I’ve heard some great ideas. But not all the ideas seem to fit with my philosophy. Not that they are bad ideas, just not a fit for me.

The biggest challenge that I see for most firms is to get the whole staff united in one direction. For 10 years I have been trying to move my folks where I think we need to go. Some folks have followed, some folks have left, some folks have died, some have retired and some wish I’d stop trying new things and just go back to doing things the way we used to.

If I was the charismatic leader that we read about in business books I would make wonderful speeches and lead my supportive troops into battle. But I’m not that kind of guy. Like many funeral directors, I am a pleasing accommodator that tries to avoid conflict. I can try to change some but, at 57 years old, I don’t see myself becoming a Lee Iacocca any time soon.

So I’ll keep refining and honing my message to my troops and to the public.

I still believe that the true vale of a funeral is the gathering together of people and the sharing of stories. It’s my job to help people gather together and help them share their stories and hear the stories of love and support from their friends and family. Everything we do at the funeral home has to focus on those two activities. And if they do, we will continue to serve the people for years to come.

I’m Dale Clock. Thanks for listening.

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