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Change Can Be A Good Thing—Except When It Isn't

Change Ahead Sign

The beginning of a new year, time to make those resolutions—and stick to them—finally.

When it comes to making a resolution about your business, be careful what you do and how you approach it. Getting your business in shape can be just as challenging as getting your body there but also comes with other risks.

Improving your business and how you operate is a terrific goal but there’s a lot of reasons to first consider. In particular, when you don’t know what you are changing to and what its impact will have on everything else. I am a true believer that change, like death and taxes, is a part of life. The key is possessing the knowledge and resources to do it right.

History has shown many businesses who saw a need for change but failed to do it well or waited too long then experienced struggles, if not eventual failure. Examples include: Blockbuster, Eastman Kodak, Montgomery Ward, Schwinn Bicycle, Commodore, Hummer, Borders, Pan Am, Olivetti, Circuit City. While each had its own issues, the overall message was the inability to adapt. Today, as the landscape evolves even more quickly than a decade ago, the most successful companies must anticipate change in order to survive. But again, don’t make change for the sake of change. Make change when you are confident it is for the better.

So what changes might one ponder in order to improve? Products line of caskets or urn selection, service package options, staffing, personalization options, catering service, grounds keeping, outside resources, capital projects? Like any business, there are a lot areas to contemplate when looking to improve your business. And there is a lot of information out there about what and how to change your business model—Social Media, digital advertising, DIY software, leasing versus buying, consulting firms, etc. But there’s not a lot of discussion about the consequences of that change on your business. Remember one of Sir Isaac Newton’s Laws of Motion, “For every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction.”? So what is the result you want and can expect from you actions of change?

Whatever change you plan to make, be sure to understand its impact on your current situation. To assist in making these decisions, use this simple criteria as a measurement.


  • Alienate—Your current families should be the foundation of your success. Despite the potential for receiving something better, most people don’t like change. Whatever you do, minimize the impact. Example: Your marketing shifts from the personal attention image to a lowest cost provider? Simply put, not everyone wants cheap. If you offer value, they will buy.

  • Compromise Price for Quality—Don’t underestimate your familys’ intellect. Be careful not to switch product lines and expect customers not to notice, especially if you charge the same. There can only be one low price leader. In addition, research has shown, price is not a compelling reason families make decisions. Example: You change to cheaper memorial card choices. Back to the adage, you get only one chance to do it right, don’t blow it by saving a buck or two.

  • Overwork Yourself or Your Staff—Creating additional duties to an already overtaxed staff is a recipe for disaster. Not only will you have an unhappy staff, the quality of work and attention your families expect will suffer, and ultimately, so will your reputation. Another physics lesson: You can go downhill fast but climbing back uphill is much harder. Example: You drop 3rd party off-hours pick-up services and delegate your staff to take on those responsibilities. This added burden of being on-call and losing sleep adds up quickly.

  • Lose Differentiation—Continue to promote the strengths that make you different and special in your community. When you have an advantage, maximize it and even add to it. If you let go of this, not only will you weaken yourself, you will strengthen your competition by evening the playing field. Example: You stop offering your unique personalization options. If this is a special offering, your families will notice and eventually, so will your competition, diminishing your reputation.

  • Lose the Focus of Value—Your current families come to you because they see value in your services and your products. This may include attention-to-detail, products, facility, staff, location, etc. Each and every part contributes to that value. Don’t take any of it for granted. Be consistent in the quality and value your families have come to expect. Example: You don’t replace your retiring celebrant. An integral part of your relationship with families, she was at the front lines of reaching families, representing your identity. You may have to ask yourself, “How can I not afford to replace her?”

Change is inevitable and many times it’s outside your control. However, how you respond to the change is what you can control. Like the popularity of cremation and the loss of revenue via burials, many firms have adapted to add more value (i.e. revenue) through personalization products, educating families on services they might otherwise not be aware.

For other areas that you might not be sure about, don’t be afraid to try new things. Identify the value and consequence for your change—not only to you but the family; your customers. Once you’ve done that and are confident of what to expect, then you will know—change can be a good thing.

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