Why I became a funeral director and why I left the business 23 years later.
It’s called the death care industry. “Care” being a word that means something to me. I got into death care because I wanted to help people. And in my first years I was able to achieve that.
At that time, in the early 90s, the title funeral director meant something. A funeral director had the ability to sit with a family, listen to what their needs were and support them with some direction on how to achieve the type of service they were interested in - how to personalize things so the event represented their loved ones. But, as time went by that ability was more or less stripped from the directors in funeral homes.
Later in my career I remember working in a Winnipeg funeral home when a man came in to make funeral service arrangements for his father. He was in the sales and marketing business and as he walked through the casket displays he half chuckled, stating, “You guys are real masters of your craft.” And he was right - we had marketing gurus at our head office telling us exactly how to set up each display to make certain that more expensive products stood out. That’s when I realized our “craft” had become sales.
Today's funeral directors tend to be limited by their employers, with very little control over the types of products and services offered to the public and even less control over who the suppliers are. Deals are frequently made with caterers, florists and casket and urn suppliers, usually in exchange for exclusivity and rarely because there is a benefit to the family.
Today, the funeral and cremation business is primarily a sales-driven industry no matter where you are located. Today, I don’t want to work in funeral homes because I don’t feel I am given the freedom to actually help people there.
But working as a death care consultant, I feel that there’s no outside pressure to push people in any direction other than the direction they want to go. Where we provide a variety of options, at cost, based on arrangements and products the family requests, many funeral homes push products they want to make profits or commissions on (urn, coffin, etc.) and services they can make commissions on (catering, florist, obitiaries). And where we charge a flat fee for planning, most funeral homes keep adding fees as they add services. At Integrity, the cost to the fa