Funeral Directors as EntrepreneursOGR held its inaugural Young Professionals (YP) event last week and had speakers share on innovation, managing stress, pitching an idea to an employer, and solving challenges in the workplace.

Here are three quick takeaways from some of the sessions. OGR will provide a more comprehensive summary in the coming months. 

Photo credit: happy_serendipity via / CC BY-SA

1. Feeling stressed? Take a “gratitude snack.”

It’s no secret that funeral service professionals encounter a lot of stress in their jobs.  Research shows, however, that strategies can be implemented to combat stress. One of these strategies is practicing gratitude, which has shown to develop stronger immune systems, lower blood pressure, lead to higher levels of positive emotions, and combat feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Tips for practicing gratitude from YP Speaker Martha Ramos Duffer:

– Write down three things you’re grateful for every day. Keep a journal or log to track these items. (There’s even an app for it!)

– Every night before you go to sleep, look your partner in the eyes and state 3 things that you are grateful for about them.

– Ask staff members to share one thing they appreciate (work or non-work related) before daily huddles or weekly/monthly meetings. Make it a practice to encourage one another. Dr. Ramos Duffer promises you’ll see a difference in staff morale.

2. Need more sleep but can’t get 8 consecutive hours? Get two segments of 3-4 hours in a 24 hour period.

For funeral service professionals, whose sleep gets interrupted frequently when on call, getting a solid 7-8 hours of sleep each night may feel next to impossible. Research shows, however, that needing 8 consecutive hours of sleep each night is a myth. Dr. Ramos Duffer mentions that for optimal health, two sets of 3.5-4 hours of sleep every 24 hour period is sufficient.

Tips for optimizing amount of sleep from Dr. Ramos Duffer:

– Routine can be key for falling sleep. Set a time to consistently start winding down for nights you’re not on call. The same way a tired toddler can’t go to sleep is the same way that a depleted adult brain can’t fall sleep, so try to create a routine for yourself.

– Even if you’re on call, sleep in complete darkness or as close to it as possible.

– Looking at your smartphone before bed can have a negative impact on your sleep pattern. Avoid watching TV or using your computer  immediately  before bed.

Photo credit: @boetter via / CC BY

 Need fresh ideas for your business? Have a “bad idea” party.

Just in 2015 alone, funeral service providers encountered hundreds of trends which served as a wake-up call. These trends provided clues to where professionals need to focus in order to serve families in ways that are more meaningful, healing and palatable. In facing these trends, YP Presenter Lance Vaughn, in his session on “Innovation and Disruption”, gave the following tips for fostering innovation at the funeral home.

Tips for embracing disruption and innovation from Lance Vaughn:

– Continue to watch the headlines in funeral service and keep up with the changes in products, services and industry companies. Subscribe to Connecting Directors and trade magazines. Set up a Google alert for funeral service so any articles related to funeral service trends come directly to your inbox.

– Read Brick by Brick: How LEGO Rewrote the Rules of Innovation and Conquered the Global Toy Industry and learn how LEGO saved its company from going out of business. The book has several takeaways for any business.

– Get other funeral home staff or key leadership at your firm together for a “bad idea party” (brainstorming session where there are no bad ideas). Focus on one topic during each party.  For example, innovate on brand for one brainstorming session. Ask “Is there a better way that the world can perceive us?” During this session, encourage your staff to share any ideas they think of and challenge them to think of other ideas even if they don’t fit your industry. Take the ideas from the “bad idea party”, see if you can refine them, and brainstorm again on ways to implement some of them.

By Jessica A. Smith,
Assistant Executive Director
International Order of the Golden Rule