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A Track Record Of Trust. The story behind the nation’s largest privately owned and FASTEST. EASIEST.® funding company

A Track Record Of Trust. The story behind the nation’s largest privately owned and FASTEST. EASIEST.® funding company


Cover Feature in the Funeral Business Advisor : January – February 

“Our focus from the beginning was to be the best in the industry, not necessarily the biggest,” said Steve Calloway, president and co-founder of Express Funeral Funding.

Two phones, one fax machine and a blanket to cover the computers from dust at night, was just the beginning for Express Funeral Funding, which today has become the largest privately owned insurance assignment funding company in the nation.

In 2002, two years before an early retirement from a successful 22 year career as a financial and business executive for a large multinational company, Calloway became a co-owner and operator of a funeral home in New Albany, IN. This was the beginning of Calloway’s long time desire to own and operate his own business. Two years into ownership, an insurance assignment funding company proposed their services to Calloway and his funeral home.

“I did not know insurance assignment funding companies existed prior to this encounter, but I saw a tremendous value in the service. Having a background in finance and insurance, along with experience in funeral home ownership, I believed, this was something I could do,” noted Calloway.

In 2002, Calloway started a regional funding company, serving funeral homes in southern Indiana. Five years later, a casual lunch at The House of Bread in New Albany, IN between two friends and business colleagues sparked a partnership. Looking to expand on a national level, Calloway approached executive vice president, Mike Wilson with the idea. Also retired from a successful career but wanting to stay active, long-time entrepreneur Mike Wilson seized the opportunity.

“The day before I had lunch with Steve, I accepted a position in the Recreational Vehicle industry and was planning to sell RV’s,” said Wilson. “Right after that lunch, I called and let the company know, I would pursue a different path,” he laughed.

Both Calloway and Wilson envisioned building a funding company based on the foundation of total customer satisfaction. They were confident their combined passion and skill sets would develop the ultimate funeral home and cemetery resource, while providing superior customer service. With the support of their wives, the two moved forward and Express Funeral Funding was open for business.

In search of office space, Wilson’s wife, Liz, offered space on the overcrowded second floor storage area at her interior design shop. Calloway and Wilson accepted! The two settled into their space after a labor-intensive day of relocating dressers, couches, side tables, drapes, lamps and fabric samples to carve out enough space for their two used desks, a copier and a fax machine. With a modest beginning, their passion for excellence and mission to treat each funeral professional like family, the business excelled.

“Mike and I truly believed in providing more than just excellent customer service, but total customer satisfaction. It’s about meeting the unique needs of each customer,” said Calloway.

The two quickly realized they would need additional help to support the growth and continue providing the level of service their funeral homes and cemeteries expected and deserved. Looking no further than family, sons, Aaron Calloway and Michael Wilson left their careers to join on their father’s venture. Both sons with dreams of owning a business did not hesitate for the chance to work side by side with their fathers.

“I was advancing my finance career in California when my dad asked if I was interested in coming home to join the business, I immediately accepted,” said vice president Aaron Calloway.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to work with both of my parents in their businesses and could not wait for the opportunity to do so again as a partner in the company,” noted Michael Wilson, vice president.

The foursome developed a partnership seamlessly, each providing a unique skill set to contribute to the business’s success. With a competitive rate, technological advancements and desire for total customer satisfaction, Express Funeral Funding expanded quickly and continued to h¬ire.

Outgrowing their first office space, the team purchased a commercial office building in Clarksville, IN just across the Ohio River, minutes from Louisville, KY. With new space to support continued growth, they enlarged the sales and marketing team and began attending numerous state and national conventions. Expanding their resources, Express Funeral Funding realized organic growth year over year until their first acquisition of Jefferson Financial in 2016. With the opportunity to provide additional benefits such as online claim submission, reduced claim paperwork administration and complete claim advancements, Express quickly gained the trust of those previously using Jefferson Financial.

Experiencing continued success in 2017, Express Funeral Funding proudly became the exclusive preferred provider for the Michigan Funeral Director Association. In addition, they officially became the largest privately owned funding company, trusted by funeral homes and cemeteries nationwide.

With the support and confidence of their amazing funeral home and cemetery family, Express Funeral Funding has been able to provide their FASTEST. EASIEST.® services to more funeral homes and cemeteries each year.



What our customers are actually saying:

“Express Funeral Funding is superior in the industry in their knowledge and experience with insurance processing.  They provide prompt responses to ensure we have the information we need to best serve our families while being thorough and upfront about each unique situation that we all face in a changing environment. EFF makes the process simple so we can focus our time on the families we serve rather than jumping through the many administrative hoops insurance companies require.” 

Jan Smith, CFSP, Flanner Buchanan, Indiana

“Working with Express Funeral Funding has improved our cash flow significantly.  Their professionalism and quick turnaround time on processing our policies has really allowed us to concentrate on other important aspects of our business. They have worked miracles on some of the policies we didn’t think were fundable. It is an honor for our funeral home to have them on our team.”

Tamara Welch, Labby Memorial Funeral Homes, Louisiana

Express Funeral Funding has been a great partner to our funeral home, for a number of  years. EFF has allowed us to focus on the needs of our client families, with the confidence they will handle our insurance claims in a efficient  manner. Most insurance companies have specific forms and procedures that must be adhered to in order to secure payment and EFF’s service has allowed us to not only do away with our accounts receivables, but also has saved many staff hours which were previously being used to process claims! Thanks you for your excellent service over the years, it is truly appreciated.

David J. DeRubeis Sr., Cody-White Funeral Home, Connecticut 

In an industry where meeting the needs of families and providing stellar service is paramount; it is important to have partners that support your brand. I have worked with many funding companies throughout my career but EFF is by far the best in the business. EFF has been our insurance processing partner for five years. They understand our firm, our families and the financial aspect of the business. The entire team are like family and we appreciate that! The industry leader has to be Express Funeral Funding and we are thankful to have them in our corner!

Major Clora, Jr., Clora Funeral Home, Michigan


Living In The Cloud | How Each Generation Views Technology

Living In The Cloud | How Each Generation Views Technology


Featured in the Funeral Business Advisor: December 2017

By: Deanna Dydynski, marketing & public relations manager

Ten years ago you would have thought that “living in the cloud,” meant one is out of touch with reality or living in a fantasy world. Today however, to be “living in the cloud” refers to the Internet and a network providing remote access to decentralized information technology resources. Technology is changing how we drive our cars, walk or hover board around the mall, communicate, and it is definitely changing business and reshaping the funeral industry.

As funeral professionals, your suppliers are continually developing cutting-edge products and services to improve your business and help provide the families you serve with the latest innovations. Innovation and technology go hand in hand in developing the vision and strategy for businesses. The National Funeral Director Association encourages advancements in funeral industry technology by recognizing deserving companies with their annual innovation award. Technology raises the bar and pushes organizations to improve their services and enhance their business operations. No matter the size of your business, technology provides a variety of benefits that can help increase revenue and produce the results your customers are expecting.

Aside from improving business functions, technological enhancements can shape company cultures, practices and relationships. Technology is essential for the growth of your business, but because of generational gaps we are all on different levels of the technological spectrum. While some generations grew up learning their colors on an iPad, others are still learning whether the paper faces up or down on the fax machine. Admittedly, it can be confusing. Even with each generation’s different tech-savvy level, technology is constantly evolving and changing.

Every year Apple comes out with new versions of each product in their long line of innovations, creating must-have features such as facial recognition, filing applications, customizable control centers and more. The automobile industry is creating self-driving cars, engineering crash avoid systems, and adding Wi-Fi hotspots to vehicles. Even grocery stores are developing online shopping tools and creating tablet-ready shopping carts! News flash, technology is advancing rapidly and there are no signs of it slowing down.

Every industry evolves at its own pace. The funeral industry notoriously moves slower than others, but with consumer preference and demands changing, funeral homes and cemeteries are being pushed to advance their technologies at a faster rate. As funeral professionals you get the unique experience of interacting with every age range. Currently there are six different generations living in America. Six generations, all with different likes, dislikes, experiences and perspectives. While some generations may exhibit similar characteristics in communication or motivation, each carries their own unique set of ideals.

Whether you are handling pre-needs with 50 year-olds, arranging funerals with senior citizens or attending community events to connect with 20-somethings, your target market is really broad. Which means you have to be able to communicate with every age group and understand how each generation utilizes technology. In order to do so you must familiarize yourself with each generation’s experiences and characteristics:

GI Generation: (Born 1901-1926)

The GI’s were children of WWI, they lived through the Great Depression and fought in WWII. This generation is: assertive, community-minded, team players, loyal to jobs, groups and schools and are strongly interested in personal morality with standards of right and wrong. Most of this generation grew up without modern conveniences and remembers life without airplanes, radio and television (Generational Generalities, 2005).

While the majority of this generation is no longer in existence there several GI’s still living and most are not technology driven. My grandfather turned 94 years old this month. He begrudgingly uses a flip-phone from 2007, which is used to only make phone calls, no texting and is still confused on how to make outbound calls. He could make a six-course meal with a microwave and still calls a refrigerator “the Frigidaire.” His grandchildren are always on their “thing-a-ma-jigs” but he loves watching television and as long as it is turned up to an unbearable decibel for everyone without a hearing aid.

This generation made due just fine without technology and are happy to continue on just so.

Mature/Silents Generation: (Born 1927-1945)

This generation lived through the Korean and Vietnam wars, but also through the postwar happiness of peace, jobs, suburbs ,television, rock ‘n roll and cars! This generation sparked civil rights, women stayed home to raise children and men pledged loyalty to corporations for long-term careers. This generation also has the richest, most free-spending retirees (Generational Generalities, 2005).

Much like the GI generation, this group was on the cusp of technological advances. While their use of technology is extremely limited, much of this generation is willing to explore the benefits of technology. This generation is likely still involved in day-to-day operations at your funeral home and is the reason the fax machine from 1992, “works just fine.”

Baby Boomers: (Born 1946-1964)

This generation can be described as the save-the-world revolutionaries, the party-hardy career climbers and the “me” generation. This generation is self-centered, optimistic and driven. They also are the first television generation and a group that envisions technology and innovation as a learning process (Generational Generalities, 2005).

Baby boomers are adopters of technology and are willing to learn and explore the benefits that technology offers. My parents are baby boomers and definitely exude a willingness to learn how to use laptops, tablets, cell phones and the latest smart televisions and applications. I may have to remind my mother how to “tag” people on Facebook 15 times a month or how to download new Apps on her phone, but at least she tries!

Generation X: (Born 1965-1980)

Also known as the “latchkey kids” grew up street-smart with divorced or career-driven parents. The term latchkey came from the house key that this generation wore around their necks, because they would often go home to an empty house. This generation is very individualistic and entrepreneurial; they desire a chance to learn explore and make contributions. Generation X-ers are typically weary of commitment, cautious, skeptical and self-reliant (Generational Generalities, 2005).

This generation, believe it or not gives millennials a run for their money from a technology standpoint. A recent study by IDG Global Solutions showed that millennials and generation X have equally migrated to mobile devices, with 65% of millennials using a tablet simultaneously with another device and generation X following closely with 60% (2015). This generation is slowly migrating into more definitive leadership roles, paving the way for younger generations to implement even newer technologies.

Millennials: (Born 1981-2001)

Millennials, also known as the 9/11 generation, are nurtured by omnipresent parents are optimistic and focused. They do not live to work and prefer a more relaxed work environment. Millennials demand fast and immediate processing of information (Generational Generalities, 2005).

This generation prefers digital literacy, and gets all their information and a majority of their socialization from the Internet. The U.S. Census Bureau says there are 83.1 million people between the ages of 18 to 34 in the United States, and of those a recent study showed the average Millennial spends 18 hours per day using digital media (2017).

As a millennial myself, I can speak to this. I want fast Internet speeds, flexibility with the ability to work from anywhere, and access to the latest technologies. I enjoy the luxury of applying my mascara in the morning and calling to my male- Australian-voiced Siri to ask what the weather is like, without picking up my phone, and speaking into my television remote to tell it what channel I would like to watch without having to search through the guide.  Millennials find these tendencies “normal” and do not know a world without computers and technology, we are expecting it wherever we go!

Generation Z (Born after 2001)

Generation Z easily outnumbers the baby boomers and in 2006 a record number of births occurred in the US. The Z generation is growing up with web based learning and is throwing conventional toys like Barbie dolls and Legos behind for electronics such as cell phones and video games. This generation is growing up to be a savvy consumer; they know what they want and how to get it (Generational Generalities, 2005).

This generation asks, what is a typewriter? They are the ones you see doing 360 spins on their hover board in your funeral home parlor and asking for the Wi Fi password. As they grow up they are going to be expecting innovative technology solutions at every turn.

Understanding your consumer is essential for a successful business and with new generations segmenting into the funeral industry it is as important as ever. Millennials and Generation X-ers will be highly involved in the planning of funerals, remembrance services and cremations in the near future. Both of these generations are tech-savvy and are expecting your funeral home to be also.

These generations are going to look your funeral home up on their smart phone and they want to see a social media presence and an updated website. When they are planning a funeral service they will want to view their service options on a big screen TV or tablet. They may want to live stream the funeral or have the tribute video put on a USB drive and distributed to all of their family members. When a millennial or generation X family comes into your funeral home, they will expect to have access to the Wi Fi and expect you to provide innovative services.

Is your funeral home equipped with the necessary technologies to appeal to each generation coming to your funeral home? Do you still have an outdated website or poor social media presence? Are you thinking like your consumers and providing service options to appeal to younger generations? Do you still think “the cloud” is that big white thing in the sky?

Technology will continue to evolve and change the workplace and how the consumer interacts with your funeral home or cemetery. As funeral professionals you must constantly evolve with technology if you want to join the rest of the world in the cloud.

2017 NFDA International Convention & Expo

2017 NFDA International Convention & Expo


The Express Funeral Funding sales and marketing team traveled to Boston this October for the 2017 National Funeral Director Association (NFDA) International Convention and Expo ! The team began the week, at Stow Acres Country Club in Stow, MA for the Funeral Service Foundation Annual Golf Scramble. Express Funeral Funding was proud to sponsor the 12th hole as an Eagle-level sponsor, donating $3,000 to the event. While the day was scattered with cold winds and rain showers, this did not slow the foursome down! Andy Buckman, Adam Setty, Deanna Dydynski, and Jay Tiesing, brought home the trophy, winning the golf tournament with the best gross score of the day, 16 under! Later that evening the entire team had a chance to catch-up with fellow colleagues and old friends at the NFDA college-alumni-themed welcome party.

The next three days were jam-packed with motivational key-note speakers, educational seminars and NFDA campfire sessions! With the NFDA convention falling on Halloween, the Express team brought out their best for the October holiday. Suited, in khaki and neon orange-striped jumpsuits,  black boots, elbow pads and the necessary proton-pack, the team made sure the convention center was “all clear” in their Ghostbuster costumes! Not to go unnoticed, Adam Setty, customer relations manager completed the Ghostbuster group with his Stay Puft Marshmallow Man suit.

The remaining time at the national convention gave Express Funeral Funding a chance to thank funeral homes and cemeteries nationwide with amazing Express giveaways! The team gave away hundreds of gifts, from custom designed Boston t-shirts, and EFF Ozark koozies, to Apple Watches, Yeti coolers and much more! Now home in Clarksville, IN the Express team is gearing up for next year’s National Funeral Director Association convention in Salt Lake City!

Take a look below at some of the memories from the NFDA Convention & Expo!






Brand Like A Blooming Onion

Brand Like A Blooming Onion


Featured in the Funeral Business Advisor: October 2017

By: Deanna Dydynski, marketing & public relations manager

An onion, because of its many layers, is no stranger to deeper-thinking analogies, as with each layer you pull back, another reveals itself. Branding, much like an onion holds the same theory. Your business is the onion as a whole and each layer you uncover is an essential piece of your brand. This onion however, is a blooming one because as each layer appears, they remain connected, opening up to the heart of the onion, or the heart of your business.

So, how do you get your brand to bloom? Let’s flip the script and get down to some basic branding elements.

Branding is essential in building a business, as it gives your company a unique personality and perception in the marketplace. As the age-old saying goes, perception is reality.  Brand perception is everything to marketing professionals. How consumers think but most importantly feel about your brand, service or product can ultimately determine the fate of your business.

In today’s millennial, tech-savvy, opinion-driven, online world, the ability to share your thoughts, feelings and perceptions of a business, product or service is easier than ever. With online rating companies such as: Yelp!, Angie’s List, Facebook Reviews, Consumer Reports, Insider Pages and Funeral Home Ratingz your business has more outlets than ever for consumer brand-perception reviews.

So, how do create positive perception? You build a better brand. Your brand is not just your logo or your funeral home mission statement. Your brand is everything. It is your: Facebook page, website, staff dress code, landscaping, service options, showroom, marketing materials, hearse, partnering companies, the color of your arrangement room and more. All of these layers, or elements of your business are a reflection of your brand and you can believe that every person that has an interaction with your funeral home is going to formulate a perception.

While there is a long list of branding principals, ranging from moral code to design, we will focus on three. Why only three? In true onion analogy form, there are three parts to an onion, the outer layer, the inner layer and the heart. Let’s start with the outer layer and work our way in to the heart:

Outer Layer: Choose Imagery & Colors Carefully

Whether you are developing a logo, creating grief literature or designing the interior of your funeral home the colors and images you choose are essential and a direct reflection of your brand.

First however, you have to actually use imagery. Too many funeral professionals resist the opportunity to better brand their business through custom marketing materials. Did you know that we process images 60,000 times faster than text and that 93% of the information sent to the brain is visual? Feel free to speak to your families about your service selections without any marketing material, or go to a community event without any brand specific promotional items, but your families are only going to remember 10% of what you said to them three days later. Now, pair your GPL with imagery or create promotional items with your logo and they will retain 65% of the information you said to them (John Medina, 2017).

To marketing and advertising professionals, this is not groundbreaking news as most of our work is built around the appropriate development of imagery and color. So while it can be important to outsource to marketing professionals for brand specific materials, it is still important to have a basic knowledge of imagery.

As a previous marketing executive in the mental health industry, my understanding of the human mind and how it works plays a large part in the work I develop today. Successful imagery should have purpose, simplicity, symbolism and should stand out from your competition. Color psychology is a large portion of having successful imagery and it is critical in branding. It is no accident that companies like McDonalds, KFC, Wendy’s and Pizza Hut use red as a primary color as this increases appetite, or that Apple’s brand color is white which is associated with innovation.

So, what does your funeral home’s primary color say about your brand or even the color of your arrangement room? Color can evoke certain emotions, feelings and thoughts and in such an emotionally sensitive industry like ours, selecting appropriate colors is crucial. Take a look at this color marketing guide by the Fast Company:

It can take time and effort to develop successful imagery to enhance your brand. Choose carefully and you will find that it is necessary for the long-term success of your business.

 Inner Layer: Develop A Relationship

Now that we have uncovered the first layer and have knowledge of the impact that imagery and color can have on your brand, it is time to get a little deeper and develop a brand relationship with your families.

Jim Stengel, former global marketing officer of Proctor and Gamble, says that “We’re seeing more of an emphasis on brands building emotional relationships with consumers because it’s powerful and it works,” (, 2012).

As funeral professionals you build emotional relationships with the families you serve every day, because in the most trying of times, you are their greatest support system. However, with a shift in industry preference and religious affiliation, funeral homes can be left vulnerable. Consumers are expecting more from brands, so developing a relationship is more important than ever.

So how do you connect with consumers and establish relationships? Take some tips from some of America’s most trusted brands!

Amazon – Make It Personal

Amazon has created an online empire of shopping, saving consumers time, money and providing endless products. Fostering relationships with consumers by helping them make decisions with the “recommendation tool” has helped forge a bond and helped establish trust in the brand.

A 2017 Consumer Awareness and Preferences study conducted by NFDA, indicated that end-of-life services are becoming increasingly personal and families are wanting new and unique ways to celebrate their loved ones. Provide multiple  options and help families develop the perfect service to honor their loved one, this will help you develop a greater relationship.

FedEx – Live Up To Your Promise

There is nothing worse than being overpromised and under delivered, or not delivered at all. FedEx has developed an immensely trustworthy relationship with consumers by delivering packages on time but they reached customers on an entirely new level with their “We Understand” campaign, which recognized that the content inside of those packages were just as important as receiving them.

According to findings in an NFDA study, the most desired qualities when choosing a funeral director were honesty and trustworthiness.  Families want to trust you and they want brands to go above and beyond to establish relationships and show that you care about them. What additional services can you provide to develop more trust with your families?

Nordstrom- Focus On The Customer

Professor of Marketing at Northwestern, Tim Calkin says, “Nordstrom is all about the power of delivering exceptional customer service that goes above and beyond a typical service experience,” (Forbes, 2017).

Nordstrom is not known for having the lowest prices and they do not pretend to. They have developed a relationship with their consumers, where they know they may pay a little more but they are going to receive exemplarily service.

While consumers do want funeral directors to be conscious of their budget, it is not the main concern (NFDA, 2017). Has your competitor down the street ever cut their prices down to bring in the bargain funeral shopper? Let them, as long as you have developed a relationship with your customers and have established a trustworthy brand your business will not suffer.

While there are multiple ways you can establish relationships with your consumers, it is important to remain consistent and true to your brand, which leads us into the heart of the onion.

The Heart – Know Yourself

Know yourself and know your brand, seems obvious enough, right? Well, many businesses have difficulty explaining their brand. Can you describe your funeral home or cemetery’s brand in three seconds? Would your receptionist, funeral director staff or florist be able to describe it the same way?

Not having a uniform vision of your brand can have an effect on the consumers perception. After all, if your own staff cannot define your brand, how can  you expect your families to as well? It all starts with knowing yourself, your mission and your vision. While it can be difficult to define your brand there are some exercises recommends to better acquaint yourself.

1. Create A Character

Imagine yourself as a fictional character as it is easier to assign traits to a character rather than a business entity.  What is this person like? How do they behave? What are their best qualities and their worst? What does this person want to accomplish?

2. Compare & Contrast

Focus on differentiating factors that make you stand out from your competitors. Do you offer different services? Are your service costs lower? Does your location play a factor in your customer base? Try to think of a message that communicates your brand differently than any of your competitors.

3. Create A Feature

Many times businesses will establish a feature item or culture touchstone to better define your brand. Would landscaping a beautiful garden for you families to walk through or placing a fountain in your funeral home help develop a peaceful and warm brand perception? Sometimes having a feature item can help describe your brand better than any marketing material can.

Whether you know it or not, your funeral home or cemetery has a brand. Developing a strong brand and maintaining it takes commitment and planning.  The heart of your business is surrounded by your brand.  If you continually improve each layer of your business, you are on your way to branding like a blooming onion!

The A-Team Takes Over At The Independent Funeral Group Fall Festival

The A-Team Takes Over At The Independent Funeral Group Fall Festival

Express News

Fun Times In Chattanooga!

Aaron  Calloway, Express Funeral Funding’s vice president, along with director of sales, Andy Buckman and customer relations manager, Adam Setty traveled to Chattanooga, Tennessee late September for the Independent Funeral Group’s Fall Festival.

Proudly serving as the Independent Funeral Group’s sole endorsed insurance assignment funding provider, Express Funeral Funding was thrilled to support the organization’s conference along with sponsoring the festival’s closing-event river boat cruise. From the opening golf tournament to the educational seminars and amazing presenters, Lacy Robinson and Doug Gober, the conference was a complete success!

Express Funeral Funding is the largest privately held insurance assignment funding company in the industry! Since 2002 we have been providing funeral homes and cemeteries nationwide the FASTEST. EASIEST.® administration of life insurance assignments. We eliminate the challenges of working with insurance companies by limiting administration, providing immediate payment and advancing complete policy funds. All of these services can be provided at no cost to funeral homes and cemeteries.

As the sole endorsed insurance assignment funding provider for the Independent Funeral Group we offer competitive processing rates for members and are continuously improving our services to provide you and your families the FASTEST. EASIEST.® services. We want you to know we are here whenever you need us! Providing open communication through our newly designed website, our Facebook page and our personal cell phone numbers, we encourage you to reach out to us regarding any matter.

Check Out Some Of The Memories…








Sales Team Heads to Myrtle Beach for NFDMA Convention

Sales Team Heads to Myrtle Beach for NFDMA Convention


Express Funeral Funding is traveling to Myrtle Beach, SC this weekend for the National Funeral Directors & Morticians Association’s 80th Annual Convention. Visit the team at Booth 132 and enter in the Express Giveaway, you will be entered to win a: GoPro5, Apple Watch, Yeti Cooler, Yeti Rambler or Beats Solo Headphones!

Have you LIKED us on Facebook? You will have double the chance to win in the Express Giveaway just by “LIKING” our Facebook page. We will keep you up to date on industry trends and Express news, plus you’ll receive exclusive entry into every Express Giveaway. 

Meet the team going to Myrtle Beach:
Andy_Buckman Deanna_Dydynski





Featured in Southern Funeral Director: May 2017

By: Deanna Dydynski, marketing & public relations manager

The funeral industry, while it is incredibly unique in practice, the principals of business are no different than any other. In every industry, as businesses grow, they expand, acquire and merge. The funeral industry is no stranger to an acquisition or merger. Does the nation’s largest funeral home operator, Service Corporation International (SCI) ring a bell or the Matthews-Aurora acquisition of 2015? Whether a business is attempting to grow or survive, the development of strategic alliances and consolidation is key.

Mergers and acquisitions can be great for business as they can: create diversification of products and service offerings, increase capacity, create a larger market share, eliminate competition or improve financing and cost efficiencies by conjoining operations. As business owners, you know all too well there can be risks with any major decision. Forbes’s, Frank Vermeulen suggests that 70 percent of acquisitions and merger deals fail, whether due to clashes in culture, potential increases in debt or apprehension among employees during consolidation, there is no guarantee for success.

If you are debating on buying, selling or merging, there are several considerations you must take into account. A good friend and acquisitions lawyer of mine told me, “when pursuing an acquisition or merger, you want to get the dog but you want to make sure you get the dog without the fleas.” Meaning, if you are wanting to expand or join with a business you want to be sure you get the right one, as you do not want any unexpected surprises. A business effort such as a merger or acquisition is just that, an effort and before moving forward you will have to complete a series of due diligence and gather an extensive amount of information. After all would you really buy or sell anything without doing your research?

Let’s begin with the basics, and clarify the difference between a merger and an acquisition. While they are often uttered in the same sentence, they have slight differentiating factors. An acquisition occurs when one company purchases the business of another entity  and clearly establishes itself as the new owner. A merger, refers to a mutual consolidation of two or more businesses to form a new enterprise including the integration of operations, and the sharing of control and profits. Once you have a clear understanding of how acquisitions differentiate from mergers you can evaluate how either may affect your business.

While there is an almost insurmountable amount of time, effort and research that goes into such a great business deal, here are the 7 things you need to consider before pursuing an acquisition or merger:

1. Finances

This is an obvious one, investigating further into the company’s financial history, metrics and targeted projections is crucial. You will want to gather financial records such as the company’s annual, quarterly and monthly financial statements for the last three to five years, as this will give you a better understanding of the performance and financial condition. Additionally, information such as any aging accounts receivables, tax returns, depreciation schedules, debt payoffs or if the EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization) has been appropriately calculated. Let’s be honest, money is what keeps a business going and whether you are looking to buy, sell, or merge, financial matters are going to be a top priority

2. Customers

Understanding the company’s current and targeted customer base will be key in order to maintain and recognize growth opportunities. If you are planning to acquire another business, keeping the prior company’s customer base, and keeping them happy, should be a priority. As a potential buyer you will want to know the top customers, any specific terms created, customer backlog  or if there will be any issues retaining customers following an acquisition. On the flip side if you are planning to sell, you, will want to see that your customers fall into good hands. As any good business owner knows, a loyal customer base is important and if you are wanting to expand then you will make an effort to understand the ins and outs of your new potential clientele.

3. Employees and Management

You will have serious decisions to make based on the current employee base of the company you are planning to acquire or merge with. Gathering information on appropriate treatment of personal, employment and consulting agreements, incentive arrangements, bonus programs and compliance obligations will be points of focus when moving forward in a merge or acquisition. Aside from having happy customers, a happy staff is just as important, as your employees are the foundation of your business.

4. Litigation

Before making any significant investment you need a clear overview on litigation. Necessary legal  documentation you will want to uncover may include any filed, pending or settled litigation, threatened claims, consent decrees, injunctions, attorneys letters, arbitration matters or any government proceedings against the company. As you are funeral directors and most likely not experts on law, having a lawyer who specializes in mergers and acquisitions will be your best asset. Merging, selling or acquiring requires an extensive amount of legal documentation and involvement so you should be sure to engross yourself in any legal proceedings as much as possible.

5. Property

If you are wanting to merge with or acquire another funeral home, you are going to need a legitimate outline of all physical, technological and intellectual properties and confirm appropriate steps have been taken to protect these. Intellectual properties may include confidentiality and invention agreements. Is the seller infringing on these rights or is a third party infringing on them?  Does the funeral home you want to acquire have any copyrighted products or materials? What about crematory facilities, caskets, hearses, rental properties or additional real estate? If you are selling your business, the buyer is going to be extremely interested in the quality of your properties, so be prepared to encounter an extensive list of due diligence inquiries.

6. Competition

Knowing the competitive landscape for a business you are going to acquire or merge with is almost as important as knowing the business itself. Understanding the competitive environment a business operates in is crucial, as every marketplace is different. You would analyze another businesses’ competition just the same as you would analyze your own competitive market. Uncovering the different service offerings, pricing structures, advantages, history and customer base are all key pieces of information you will want to gather about the potential businesses’ competition.

7. Marketing

Determining how to integrate a new company into an existing infrastructure and make a brand transition smooth is a difficult task. While marketing and sales initiatives of another company may not be a top priority during the process of a merger or acquisition, this information will be key for future endeavors. Understanding the target company’s marketing strategies and arrangements will help uncover branding and growth opportunities. Marketing includes sales, promotions, communications and public relations, ultimately making up a large part of any business. So why would you not want to have a foundation of the existing companies marketing information? Did the funeral home conduct a survey and have valuable marketing information for the target area demographic? Do you have a list of all the stakeholders and a plan to properly communicate the transition? What about sales representatives, marketing literature, GPL’s and catalogs? These are all materials that will need to be gathered and assessed before moving forward with an acquisition or merger.

While these are just a few of the necessary elements of due diligence in moving forward with an acquisition or merger, ultimately, you are going to need a qualified team to assist you in getting “the dog without the fleas.”


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