A Different Retirement Option

I have an expensive habit. I buy a lot of books, specifically business books.

My office has packed bookshelves and stacks of books waiting patiently for a spot to open up. Some of them I’ve read cover to cover multiple times, and others I’ve picked up once, found the passage I wanted, and put them back on the stack.

Every few months, I go through a purging process. This exercise requires me to pick up each book, browse it for a few minutes, and try to remember why I bought it in the first place. My quick review can last hours if I find a particularly good book in my collection.

I did a book purging exercise recently and ended up spending most of a Saturday rereading The E-Myth by Michael Gerber. If you’ve never read it, I highly recommend it.

I remember studying The E-Myth when it was first published. I had recently started my first company and connected with the book’s concepts. 

As I skimmed the book, I thought about a major issue many funeral home owners are wrestling with these days. That issue is retirement.

When to do it? How to do it?

The average age of a funeral home owner is 66. Friends may have already retired. Their spouse may have retired. So a common question people ask  is, “when are you going to retire?”

Some people spend their careers in a corporate job with a clear “30 years and out” retirement plan. But business owners are not like that. 

As a business owner, walking away from what you’ve spent years building is not something that automatically happens when you reach a certain age. As a funeral home owner, it can be an even harder decision because of the relationships you have built over the years and your role in the community.

Over the past few years, I have had “the retirement conversation” with several clients. They aren’t ready to sell but can see it in their future. They engage my services to help improve their bottom line so that their business is worth more should they choose to sell.

In The E-Myth, Gerber discusses three competing roles for every business owner. There is the Entrepreneur who started the business while dreaming of success, the Manager who deals with the day-to-day operations, and the Technician who has to get stuff done or everything falls apart. Most funeral home owners I know spend their days switching between those three roles. 

Technician – they function as a funeral director

Manager – they manage the staff, facility, finances, etc. (typical funeral home owner tasks).

Entrepreneur – they’re actively trying to grow their business. 

As Gerber says in the book, “Entrepreneurs work on their business, not in their business”. In my work, I refer to this role as a Funeral Business Builder.

So how does this relate to retirement? Let me explain.

Most funeral home owners only consider one retirement option: selling their business. But currently, we’re in a buyers’ market because so many owners are in the same boat. Unfortunately, that means the chances of you getting top dollar are slim. 

What if, instead of selling your business, you gave up two of your three roles?

Stop being a technician (funeral director) and manager (typical funeral home owner) and instead focus on being an entrepreneur (Funeral Business Builder).

You might think hiring a funeral director and manager will be next to impossible. But isn’t that exactly what SCI or Park Lawn would do if they bought your business?

Business owners often make the mistake of believing everyone wants to be an owner. They don’t. In fact, the vast majority of people are terrified of the idea of having that level of responsibility. Instead, they just want a stable job.

The key to making this work is to become a true entrepreneur (Funeral Business Builder) and work on your business instead of in your business. 

As a Funeral Business Builder, your primary duties are marketing, developing better funeral experiences, and resource acquisition (staff, competitors, etc.). 

If you master those three areas, you don’t need SCI to write you a big check. Instead, you can write your own!

Yes, it will require you to learn many new things and change how you’ve been running your business for decades. But it’s incredibly rewarding and definitely more fun than playing bingo at a senior center.

Funeral Directors retire.

Funeral Home Owners sell their business and retire into a frugal lifestyle.

Funeral Business Builders create a business empire that produces generational wealth and have whatever retirement lifestyle they want.

Contact me if you’re ready to transition from being a typical funeral home owner (playing all three roles) to becoming a Funeral Business Builder. Helping owners make that transition is what I do.

Until next time



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