It took months to erase the image from my mind.

It took months to erase the image from my mind. 

Two seven-year-old identical twin girls, dressed up in their Sunday best, were lying side by side in a casket. Their lives had been tragically cut short, and my client was chartered with caring for them and their traumatized family.

He was giving me a tour of his funeral home, and we walked into a room where the open casket had already been set up for their visitation. When I saw the two girls in the casket, I froze, unable to move or speak. Fortunately, my client quickly ushered me out of the room moments before my breakfast reappeared on the carpet.

Later, we talked about what it was like to care for the girls. At the time, we both had daughters about the same age, and to say that this death “hit home” would be an understatement.

I was in shock and at a loss for words, which rarely happens to me. But my client had a calmness about him that I struggled to comprehend.

He explained that the only way he could help the family was to remain centered in a place of hope and optimism. If he allowed himself to fall into despair, he wouldn’t be able to help anyone.

When faced with tragedy, he chooses optimism.

This event happened years ago, but even today, I have difficulty understanding how a funeral service professional can remain optimistic when surrounded by death, day in and day out. And yet, most do.

I’ve worked one-on-one with hundreds of funeral home owners, and the vast majority have been optimists. Pessimists don’t typically invest in my consulting services; if they do, the relationship doesn’t last very long.

Their relentless optimism defines the character of Funeral Business Builders. 

An optimist understands that life can be a bumpy road, but at least it is leading somewhere. They learn from mistakes and failures, and are not afraid to fail again.” – Harvey Mackay.

As I mentioned in last week’s newsletter, I’m beginning a long series of newsletters dealing with the skills you need to master to transition from Funeral Home Owner to Funeral Business Builder. The first category is character, and the first skill is optimism.

You might be thinking…” but optimism isn’t something you can learn.” Yes, it is.

But you don’t learn optimism by studying it. You learn optimism by experiencing it. It begins with a conscious decision to be optimistic every day.

There’s an old adage about how a fish stinks from the head down. Today, leadership gurus use that saying to describe how an organization is a reflection of the leaders.

A pessimistic leader typically creates a negative “glass is half empty” team. An optimistic leader creates the opposite.

Which team is better equipped to care for a traumatized family, the pessimists or the optimists? The later.

A pessimist will focus on the loss, while an optimist will find a way to celebrate life. Therefore, if you want your funeral home to grow, you must create a culture of optimism.

A fundamental skill of human beings is to assess and avoid threats. We’re wired by nature to evaluate situations and anticipate what can go wrong. 

But some people become oversensitive to what might go wrong. They become “the glass is half empty” people instead of half full. As a result, they become overly cautious and miss out on things in life.

Today funeral home owners are faced with navigating a lot of changes. For example, the shift from burial to cremation, the rise of one-day express funerals, and the “we’ll have a funeral later” culture. 

Some will look at these changes through a more sensitive risk/reward lens and choose to play it safe. They lose less because they risk less. But they also gain less because they risk less.

An optimist will look at the changes in the funeral industry and see nothing but opportunity. They’ll develop new ways to serve families to stay relevant even when faced with overwhelming changes.

How funeral home owners responded to the pandemic is an excellent example of the difference between pessimists and optimists.

When states severely limit in-person gatherings, many funeral homes basically shut down. But optimistic owners didn’t focus on what they couldn’t do; instead, they asked themselves what was possible and came up with creative ways to serve families.

My Funeral Business Builder clients gained market share during the pandemic because they were willing to try something new while their competition turned families away.

The truth is, some things will work out, and some won’t. However, the more relentlessly optimistic you are, the more you are willing to keep trying until you find something that does work. 

Show me a successful funeral home owner, and I will show you someone who has failed more than most but kept trying. Show me an unsuccessful owner, and I will show you somebody who quit after failing a few times.

Funeral Business Builders are relentlessly optimistic. Adopt that mindset, surround yourself with optimistic employees, and your business will succeed.

Until next time



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