Funeral Director Offers Thoughts on HATE / LIKE Relationship with Corporate Run Funeral Homes
This article originally appeared on the blog Confessions of a Funeral Director written by Funeral Director Caleb Wilde.
If you aren’t aware of the corporate monsters in the funeral business, let me introduce you to Service Corporation International (SCI, also known as “Dignity” funeral homes and cemeteries). SCI is “based in Houston and publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange (NYX), it operates more than 1,800 funeral homes and cemeteries in the U.S. and Canada. It has 20,000 employees and a market capitalization of $4 billion” (Paul M. Barrett). SCI is in a ongoing exchange with the Federal Trade Commision in an attempt to aquire Stewart Enterprises, the second largest funeral corporation; a deal that would effectively give SCI an additional 400 locations, and — what many argue — a violation of federal antitrust laws.
Just to be clear, I — like most independent funeral directors — don’t like corporate run funeral homes. I think they’re bad for consumers and they hurt the already injured public perception of the funeral industry by perpetuating the money-hungry mortician stereotype.
But, I want to be fair in my treatment of corporate run funeral homes. Here are four reasons I hate them and four reasons I like them.
FOUR REASONS I LIKE THEM:
One. New blood in the business
One of the greatest benefits that comes out of Corporate Funeral Homes is that they give first generation funeral directors an opportunity to enter and shine in the funeral industry. If you’re entering the funeral industry, corporate is a great place to find a job in an otherwise difficult market of family businesses that tend to only hire from within.
I know that many of you reading this post right now work at corporate funeral homes and I just want to say that the funeral industry needs you. You bring fresh perspective, hard work and heart to this trade. Perhaps the greatest testimony to your ability and talents is this: theoretically, a corporately run funeral home shouldn’t work. A “machine” shouldn’t be able to serve people in their most human experience. But, it does — to a degree — work. And the only reason it works is because the saving grace of corporate funeral homes is because of YOUR dedication.
Many say that corporate tends to pay their employees better than independent funeral homes.
Three. The Hours.
Independent funeral homes aren’t always managed well. For about seven years of my life, I was on call 24/7 except for two days out of the month. That’s right. I got two days off a month. There were times when I’d work 21 days straight, and I was on call for 24 hours of each of those days. No time for a personal life. No time for a vacation.
Corporate tends to be better run, having shifts and more days off for the staff.
Four. Vertical Movement.
Climbing the management ladder at an independent funeral home is difficult if not impossible. Like working for any family run business, the children of the owners always take precedence. You can work at a funeral home for 50 years and you’re still not able to earn the job that the owner’s 25 year old son is given. It sucks. And corporate is a great place to reward those who work the hardest.
FOUR REASONS I HATE THEM:
One. Some businesses are meant to be small.
Our family has served the Parkesburg and surrounding communities for over 150 years. We know our people. We grew up here. We shop here. We go to church here. If we did something wrong, it’d be in the newspaper the day before we did it. Our roots go deep. Heck, we’re related to half the local population.
If you take that heritage away and the interconnectedness we share with this community, you take away a key part in our ability to serve Parkesburg. Some businesses are meant to be small. Some businesses are meant to be local. Like a herd of cows trouncing through a garden, corporate funeral homes in a small community can end up doing more harm than good.