A fitting start to our regional entrepreneur speaker series was had yesterday in class. Al McGuire, of McGuire & Davies Funeral Home and Crematory, addressed the class regarding the ongoing efforts of himself and partner Trevor Davies to start a new business. The company is presently in the very early stages of start-up and is scheduled to begin formal operations from its new facility at 1007 North G Street in Monmouth in the summer of 2013. As Mr. McGuire put it, the firm is “starting from zero.”
Each of our speakers this semester will have an interesting and unique story of their entrepreneurial enterprise. The evolving story of the McGuire & Davies Funeral Home and Crematory is indeed interesting and unique. Both Mr. McGuire and Mr. Davies have extensive experience working for competing Monmouth-based funeral services firms. Recently, the two men decided to “go it on their own,” be their own bosses, and compete against their former employers.
Mr. McGuire addressed many issues of critical relevance to both entrepreneurs and to Midwest Entrepreneurs students. Below, I summarize three key issues discussed in class.
1. Successful entrepreneurial enterprises are often reflections of the entrepreneur behind them. Clearly, based on his stated focus on serving customers and responses to student inquiries yesterday, Mr. McGuire’s company is founded and will be guided by his empathetic concern for people, community, and spirituality. This concern is, as made clear by Mr. McGuire in class, extraordinarily important when dealing with grieving and vulnerable persons as one commonly does in the funeral services industry.
2. Arguably the main source of sustainable competitive advantage for any business— including entrepreneurial firms—is the creation and continual delivery of superior value to customers. This is something that I, a marketing professor by training, feature in all classes I teach here at Monmouth College. When Mr. McGuire was asked by a member of the class how he plans to compete against he and Mr. Davies’ former employers—both deeply entrenched, long-time providers of funeral services in the Monmouth area—his response was, essentially, that he will “out service” them. In other words, the plan for this new entrepreneurial enterprise is create superior value for customers by serving their needs, wants, and expectations better than any existing competitors. This was particularly evident when Mr. McGuire discussed how he will personally be available to do whatever is needed for customers no matter the time of day or circumstances. It was also evidenced when he spoke of the goal and purpose of a “funeral director” as closely listening to customers and then helping direct them to “where they want to be” with regard to memorializing and celebrating departed loved ones (as opposed to simply hard-selling the funeral arrangements that would make him the most money). Finally, Mr. McGuire discussed how his new firm will provide a service for which there is growing demand that is not currently offered in the local marketplace; cremation.
3. Successful entrepreneurs are risk takers who carefully and consciously take the right risks. Yes, entrepreneurs take risks. However, not all risks are equally worth taking. This was evident as Mr. McGuire discussed his reluctance to get involved with either government grants or well-intentioned individual investors. He and Mr. Davies have chosen, instead, to rely on local bank financing to get their business up and running. At the same time, Mr. McGuire realizes that the risk is high. As he put it, “all I own is on the block.” He is confident that the right risks are being taken and that all external debt— which he abhors—will be paid off in approximately 10 years.
This was a wonderful first guest-speaker class. Thanks to Mr. McGuire for coming and sharing his fledgling firm’s story. Thanks also to the Midwest Entrepreneurs students for their active involvement in discussion of issues raised by Mr. McGuire. Many relevant questions were asked and I expect this to continue as the semester—and our speaker series—progresses. Student comments to this blog—or other comments regarding Mr. McGuire’s presentation—are welcome.
Tomorrow in class we are scheduled to have a speaker whose entrepreneurial company and career is near the opposite end of the “life cycle spectrum” when compared to the McGuire & Davies Funeral Home and Crematory. Our guest will be Mr. John Twomey, who, after more than 60 years of running a network of regional agricultural businesses, recently sold his firm to Consolidated Grain and Barge, Inc.
I hope to see you in class tomorrow for what is sure to be another interesting and unique entrepreneurial story and discussion.