Today’s blog entry is authored by Midwest Entrepreneurs Student Blake Little
Yesterday in class, we had the honor of visiting, touring, and further learning more about the funeral home industry by field tripping to the McGuire and Davies Funeral Home in Monmouth (see: http://www.mcguireanddaviesfuneralhome.com/).
Al McGuire, one of the two partners in the business, has been around the funeral business his whole life. He attended college to receive a secondary education degree and wished to become a high school teacher. His start in the funerary industry came when he moved into an upstairs apartment in a funeral home to avoid living fees. He also had found himself a place to work. Little did he know, this field of work would become one of the passions of his life; what he today refers to not as a “job” but rather “his vocation.”
After college, Al went on to work at a funeral home in Chicago for some years. However, Al wanted and needed a lifestyle change for his family, which includes his wife and four children. Monmouth, or “Mayberry” as he calls it, was just the answer he was looking for. He moved here in 1991 and started working for a local funeral home. After twenty one years there he and the owner had differences of opinion and the two eventually parted ways. Part of these differing opinions involved Al’s desire to modernize and innovate that the owner was opposed to. This move by his previous employer may have been the worst decision possible; it created an aggressive, eager-to-succeed new competitor.
Al brought his long-time friend Trevor Davies, who also had funeral home experience in the area, aboard his plan. The two leveraged everything they had such as home mortgages, retirement funds, the cemetery Al owned, and the fear of losing everything in order to fund this future business. The ground was broke for their nest egg on April 23rd, 2013. All in all, the two invested approximately 1.2 million dollars to build a funeral home that they consider to be the perfect option for funeral services. Al McGuire used his resources to find himself an accountant to help manage their finances. This accountant just so happens to be Trevor’s father.
The first year Al and Trevor owned the business, they received 39 calls. The second year, 2014, they received 69 calls. In the year of 2015, they have already received 15 calls related to business. Here at McGuire and Davies, a unique design is presented in order to accommodate any potential plans that one’s family may have. Their motto is “It’s not our funeral, it’s yours”. This unique design gives them the ability to slide down walls to help with multitasking in the building, provide guests with a kitchen for complementary coffee and lemonade or luncheons after a service, offices to discuss plans, a crematory, and a room to browse for supplies. This crematory, which cost the company about 90,000 dollars, gives McGuire and Davies the competitive edge against other local competitors that cannot do cremations on site. When speaking of the crematory, Al spoke of it not as a “cost” but rather as an “investment,” one that has paid itself off in roughly one year of operation.
McGuire really stresses gaining close relationships with his customers. Since it is a small town business, it is key to gain the customers trust and show them signs of reliability. Here he sells his customers a truly great experience and a grand variety of options. McGuire and Davies provides great services and very flexible hours to customers mourning their loss. All of this leads to the spread of very positive word-of-mouth communication about the business.
McGuire and Davies has been nothing less than successful in their short time open and have installed some key principles that have boosted them to the top. They have created a peaceful environment that allows them to accompany the needs of their customers. Even though this field of work presents much emotional stress on Al and Trevor, they find the strength to overcome and create great environment for their customers. I think the moral of this story may very well be “Treat your employees—as well as your customers— right”. We all know the value of treating customers right. But treatment of employees matters too; if not treated well, they could very well be your worst nightmare in the competitive business world.
Well done Blake… In closing, allow me to reiterate one of the key points discussed above. This involves Al McGuire speaking to the class yesterday about his $90,000 outlay for the crematory not as a “cost” but rather as an “investment.” One of the many keys to entrepreneurial success is minimizing necessary costs and then making the right investments (as part of taking the right risks, something we spoke about at length in the first week of the class this semester). Entrepreneurs are faced with risk all the time. It is knowing which ones to take and which ones to not take that matters. Al McGuire took a big risk when paying $90,000 for the crematory; but it was the right risk in that the investment has paid for itself in just one year and is one of the key profit centers of the business.
See you next week for more inspirational local and regional entrepreneurial stories and learning!