Leadership of Genesis Casket Says Company Is in It for the Long Haul
Article Provided by the: Memorial Business Journal. Written by Ed Defort
Indianapolis - To clear up some of the rumors surrounding the operation and future of Genesis Casket Company,
Nick Proctor, company president, said the casket manufacturer is in it for the long haul and expects to surprise some folks
as the company rolls out an expanded product line at the upcoming National Funeral Directors Association International
Convention & Expo October 7-10 in Charlotte.
It was a year ago in Chicago when Genesis made quite a splash. The new casket company was looking to make inroads
with a specialized product line and was already talking about expanding its distribution channels.
"We initially started Genesis with a strategy that focused on high-end products," said Jeff Wilson, Genesis chairman.
"The strategy was that we would be able to use mass manufacturing techniques that would aid in lowering the cost and
make the product more cost effective as well as provide a top-notch product for the industry."
In hindsight, Wilson called that strategy a little bit naïve. "To be honest, I think the folks that developed the strategy
felt very strongly about it," he said. "We have learned a great deal about the casket business, and with that knowledge, like
in any business, we have to course correct, and where we thought that bringing in a more upscale product with very competitive pricing would be an enticing option for the funeral director, it turned out that we miscalculated. What we really
needed to do was provide a more comprehensive product offering."
To really be taken seriously, Wilson and Proctor agree that the company would have to offer a fuller inventory of products, such as 18- and 20-gauge products. "We then would be able to offer a competitive price to meet the lower ends and
also dress that up with a finish to compete at the next level up," Wilson said. "Then we will still offer the products that
were just getting into the marketplace in July."
Wilson said management wasn't comfortable with the way manufacturing was going so a decision was made back in
spring to cease operations and bring in what Wilson called "a technical troop surge to work on some of the finish issues
and some other areas.
Like any start-up Wilson said Genesis had its growing pains. The decision to basically bring the company to a halt
was made by Proctor, whom Wilson said had been a senior-level officer with Gestamp North America, Genesis' parent
In an open letter to customers dated July 11, Genesis Casket said, "We have expanded our product line assortment. Initially, we focused on manufacturing only one design style - our 11 shell. Recently, we introduced caskets that feature our
22 shell and will be adding a third shell style in early fall, with more designs to come later in the year. To complement our
metal line, we also offer wood caskets sourced domestically as well as globally.
"We are here for the long haul. We are committed to making a difference in the funeral profession. In recent weeks,
we have invested in additional tooling and other manufacturing resources to ensure the caskets you offer families are ones
with which you can be proud - at a price families can afford."
Wilson reiterated that the company has its two main lines in operation, a third is coming and company engineers are
working on the introduction of the 18-gauge first, followed by the 20-gauge, which would be out in September. "The
hope is that we will have this by October, which will be one year from the time we started, and we will have a full complement of product manufactured in the United States," Wilson said.
He acknowledged that the company did make some staff adjustments last Friday.
"It was unfortunate, but we had to
rebalance our manufacturing costs and we had to take on more of an entrepreneurial spirit and leverage some of the resources we have available to us," he said.
The company's learning curve was steep but quick, Wilson said. "This has been a very challenging industry to learn and
I think we are learning key points of it," he acknowledged. "We are not going to go away from what we think are the fundamentals to success. We want to put out a quality product. We don't want to be a 'me too' kind of company. There are a
lot of fine regional companies out there, along with the larger, national manufacturers. We are committed to putting into
the marketplace a top-notch, quality product."
The distribution channels, Wilson said, are a work in progress. "It is one thing to bring something to the market; there
is another side to this strategy and that is how do we get this product we are manufacturing out to the end user," he said.
"It will be a challenge. We are working on a couple of different options we think are creative, but we don't have anything
nailed down at this point that we feel is the silver bullet. We are bringing in experts this week to start to formulate a plan."
Genesis, Wilson said, came into funeral service with the previous leadership with a lot of fanfare and then went silent.
"We are not trying to be purposely evasive," he said. "What we are trying to do is clearly understand our direction. We've
had to course correct, we've had to rebalance our manufacturing. We are a world-class manufacturer of metal products
and so this is what we focused on - let's get the product right where we want it. And let us continue to drive value in this
product with continuous improvement engineering activities. The other thing we found is that the companies that have
been in this industry for a while, the large companies as well as the regional companies, are outstanding companies with
Funeral service is a relationship business and Wilson said Genesis has come to appreciate that. "You have to build trust,
and all these things take time," he said. "We kind of got ahead of our skis a little bit. We built up this great infrastructure
with the hope and expectation that once we put this product out that was more competitive in the marketplace, there
would be a trickle-down effect."
He reiterated that the company is in it for the long haul, but the process will be take time. "This is going to be a long
process because of the tremendous competition in the market," he said. "It is going to take time to win market share and
grow the business."
Memorial Business Journal is a weekly electronic publication by the National Funeral Directors Association. The mission of this publication is to provide objective, comprehensive news and analysis to all providers and suppliers of goods and services to the death care profession.
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