Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Five things to remember when revising your regulations

Salting, spraying and gravel – oh my! A few months ago, we worked with the Sunset Memorial Park Grounds Superintendent on a new regulations sign.

Many parts of the existing sign were still important, such as always allowing cut flowers and the restrictions we have in place during mowing season. But there were many new issues that we hadn’t even imagined. Some visitors are coming to the memorial park and salting, spraying weed killer and even adding gravel around their loved ones’ memorials. Others insist on leaving statuary next to a memorial, but don’t want it moved when the section is mowed and maintained.

It didn’t take long for the wish list of items for the new sign to grow far too long for any one sign to hold. So how did we whittle down the list without sacrificing information?

First, we gathered the most comprehensive, specific list we could. We included everything that we could possibly want families who visit the memorial park to know. Then we got to work doing some strong editing. Here are the top 5 things we kept in mind when streamlining your park signage:

  1. Your audience is made up of families who trust you to take care of their loved one. It’s easy to get focused on problematic visitors or times that someone violated your regulations. But keep in mind that your regulations sign is probably the first thing most people see when they enter your cemetery or memorial park. What kind of a mood does it set? Is it welcoming or does it sound like a lot of rules for a classroom of misbehaving children? Never forget that your sign is being read by families who are trusting you to take care of their loved one. They want a place to share their most precious memories, and your regulations sign should honor that responsibility.
  2. A sign can’t (and shouldn’t) replace an in-person conversation. It’s certainly a good idea to have your regulations posted clearly, but no sign can ever replace personal interaction. If you see someone violating your regulations, don’t expect the sign to take care of it. Instead, practice exactly what you and your staff will say to them to help them understand why the regulations are in place. It may be as simple as explaining the rules and where to find them.
  3. Focus on the typical visitor to your cemetery or memorial park, not those that stand out.  Just because one person dug holes to plant mums around their loved one’s ground memorial, it doesn’t mean that everyone who comes to your cemetery will do the same thing. When it comes to signs, be sure you’re focusing on the 80 or 90% of well-behaved, well-intentioned visitors. Then, address the outliers one by one. It’s like a classroom. 
  4. Build trust by focusing on what is allowed versus what is forbidden. Which would you rather read? Option A: No shepherd’s hooks allowed from March 1 to October 1. Option B: Shepherd’s hooks are welcome October 1 to March 1 when we are not mowing.
  5. Keep the wording simple and inclusive. When the internet was still young, malicious companies would buy domain names like and then offer to sell them to Jack’s Pizza for a ridiculous amount of money. The problem was the nearly limitless number of potential domain names, so you could never buy them all to keep one from being posted online. In the same vein, you can waste a lot of words on a sign trying to list out all of the items that are allowed or not allowed in your memorial park. Instead, find categories that are self-explanatory. It’s much easier to read “only cut flowers are welcome” instead of “potted plants, hanging baskets, silk flowers, wreaths, statuary, solar lights and stuffed animals are not allowed.”

This article originally appeared in Modern Memorialization, Trigard Memorials' weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

How are you showing your appreciation?

Donna Darby-Walthall,
Chief Financial Officer

As a family-owned and operated business, we understand the importance of family, which means every person working for any of our companies are part of that family. We care about our employees and we appreciate their hard work. Our organization wouldn't be where it is today if it wasn't for them. They are the ones in the trenches every day making things happen.

One way the Darby family shows their appreciation is by hosting a quarterly luncheon for the entire manufacturing division. We serve lunch, play games that give employees the opportunity to win money or prizes, and we enjoy each others company. It is a great opportunity for us to connect with everyone on a different level and have some fun.

Our manufacturing employees aren’t the only ones receiving our good praises. We also enjoy showing our appreciation by offering an incentive program to our funeral home staff at Sunset Funeral Home called the “Anything’s Possible Award.” Each employee is encouraged to nominate a fellow co-worker when they see them performing a task above and beyond their normal duties. If the person nominated wins, they not only get a monetary award, but they also get recognized by their fellow co-workers. I love when our employees see and recognize the efforts of their co-workers. It benefits us all.

How do you show your appreciation to your staff? I would love to hear some of your ideas. You can email me at

This article originally appeared in Modern Memorialization, Trigard Memorials' weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Are you letting your fears get the best of you?

Linda Darby,
Chief Executive Officer
Do you remember when you were a kid and life’s possibilities were endless? There wasn’t anything you couldn’t do. Do you remember wanting to be a singer, a dancer, a pilot, a teacher, or possibly a funeral director? What happened to those big dreams that you once had? Maybe you stumbled a few times while working towards your goal. Maybe you made a wrong turn and failed, and instead of facing your fear of failure, you just quit.

I can relate. I remember a time when I was just starting my career in the funeral and memorialization industry. I remember how passionate I was about being a motivational speaker. I wanted it so bad, but I was afraid. I was afraid I wouldn’t be any good and no one would want to listen to me. Until my dad, James “Big Jim” Darby, gave me some really great advice. He said, “Linda, you have to face your fears. You have to do the things you fear the most repeatedly in order get over that fear.” And, you know what? He was right!

I faced my fear. I started small and spoke to small groups and organizations. Today, I speak at national conventions. Some might say you can’t shut me up! (My siblings will attest to that.)

What do you want to accomplish? What was something you were passionate about while growing up, but are too afraid to try now as a grown up? I encourage you to fight against that fear and embrace it. The people we serve in our communities deserve the best that we can give them. Find your inner child and embrace that passion you once had.

This article originally appeared in Modern Memorialization, Trigard Memorials' weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

This is a digital world. Are you embracing it?

This article originally appeared in the April issue of Catholic Cemetery magazine. 

What was the last visit to your doctor’s office like? If you remember your medical records being kept in a big, manila folder and your physician carrying a clipboard, then it’s safe to say it’s been a while. Thanks to the advancements in technology, things have changed dramatically in the past few years. Your doctor can easily review your entire electronic medical record from their computer instead of sifting through papers in a folder. You can schedule appointments and review lab results online. In some parts of the country, you can even have a virtual doctor’s visit from home.

Technology continues to make our lives easier, in the doctor’s office and in the cemetery office. Today, families have come to expect companies to be current with the digital trends and don’t make exceptions for certain industries to have old fashioned practices. Even the post office has caught up by offering enhanced online tracking for your shipments. If you aren’t embracing technology in your cemetery, it’s time.

What do you use to explain memorial options in your cemetery? Are you still flipping through binders with line drawings? Are the sales sheets crisp and colorful or are they fraying at the edges? This binder may have worked well for you in the past, but is it really still the best tool we have?

We should be using graphic wall displays, video slideshows and digital images instead of old fashioned binders that offer families an unrealistic view of the different options of memorials we offer. The families that design memorials today are not the same as the people who designed them twenty, ten or even five years ago. They are living in a digital world where they are surrounded by strong graphics and images daily. They have become accustomed to simplified choices with more options, and it is time our memorial presentations reflect their preferences.

Technology can help you beyond the memorial selection. Cemeteries around the country are using online project management software to communicate with staff about upcoming burials and services and keep track of work orders. New apps help families locate their loved ones’ graves after-hours or on the weekends instead of having to rely on cemetery office hours. Lot cards have gone digital thanks to software that does an even better job of tracking information.

Technology has also revolutionized the manufacturing process for upright and bronze memorials. Instead of hand lettering, we can incorporate full-color photographs with an incredible amount of detail. You can even design a memorial online and approve a digital proof with the family instantly.

Technology has enhanced the way we reach the families we serve as well. Do you remember all of those direct mail campaigns and newspaper ads you did trying to communicate with your communities? We use to rely on the hope that people would buy the newspaper or save our postcards. Now, thanks to smartphones, we can be right in our customers’ pockets. Through social media and email, we can send invitations to events happening at our cemetery, share promotions and even celebrate a holiday. Technology can help us build better relationships with the families we serve.

Are you ready to take the leap and embrace more technology? I know change can be hard. We are creatures of habit. We take comfort in doing things the same way over and over again. We have seen our way work in the past, which makes it harder to believe there’s any reason to change it. But just like your doctor’s office has found new tools and systems to serve you better, there are new ideas and resources that can help you serve families even better.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Is memorialization losing its importance?

Stuart McDaniels,
Materials Manager
I love how the internet has changed how we interact with the world, especially when it comes to the interactions we have with others and the sharing of ideas and opinions. It used to be that there were very few outlets for opinions and ideas beyond three major news outlets, your local newspaper, and your neighbors and co-workers.

Sometimes, I feel our industry is still stuck in this old paradigm of limited thinking and information flow. That’s why I was extremely encouraged by an article I recently stumbled across online that discussed how a particular cemetery in Australia was being conceived to utilize GPS to mark grave sites. There would be no markers anywhere. The headline asked, “Could this be the end of gravestones?” The article spoke of how this “new technology” would challenge what a cemetery could be, and stated that “there is a huge gap between what people want nowadays and what has traditionally been made available.” The director of the landscape company who is partnered with the architects designing the site is quoted as saying, “This project is about changing how we celebrate death.”

Wow. Sounds a little scary if you are in the memorialization business doesn’t it? Well, not so fast. Remember earlier when I talked about the open flow of ideas across the internet? It just so happens that this publication has a comment section below each article that encourages readers to comment on the story they just read. I love reading these as they provide insight as to what the “average Joe” is thinking. Some commenters are there just to troll or have an agenda, but for the most part, there are usually some good responses.

What encouraged me so much about this article were a series of comments from various readers disagreeing with the substance of the article. Commenter after commenter talked about how the marker was more than just a way to mark the burial site. The most popular comment in the thread said “Then that place will be empty. The whole point of a cemetery is to have a tangible point of remembrance and GPS coordinates on your smartphone just don't cut it.” Another great comment read, “I think this misses the point. Most people like some marker, some memorial to say to the world, 'This person existed! They were here!'. At least, that's how I look at markers. I don't only visit those of my family, but others. Walking through an old graveyard is a wonderful and sobering experience.”

Remembrance and memorialization are the key ideas here. What they really are saying is memorialization is important. As an industry, we must not allow ourselves to believe any other way. I believe, when people are prompted to consider mortality and memorialization, most would concede that what they want for themselves may not take into consideration their loved ones needs to have something, somewhere, physical and tangible that enables them to remember or reflect on that person’s passing or a life well lived. This concept is important to our industry and is especially important to the fabric of our culture and society.

All of us in this industry have a unique opportunity, and a profound responsibility, to facilitate a discussion to educate everyone we come into contact with regarding just how critically important memorialization is. We must do all we can to get people to think about it and to consider the implications of a loved one's passing without memorialization.

This article originally appeared in Modern Memorialization, Trigard Memorials' weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Are you embracing your human instincts?

Jeff Miller,
Vice President of
Business Development
With Memorial Day being just a few days ago, I find myself, as I am sure most you do as well, reflecting on my own lost loved ones. I also find myself thinking about the many different beliefs of memorialization that we see in our industry. As human beings, in my opinion, it is our instinctual desire to memorialize a loved one after they die. We see it everywhere we go. We see it in the wooden crosses on the side of the road and the flowers and candles placed on the front door steps of a celebrity after they die.

Isn’t it our obligation as memorialization experts to embrace this desire and help families memorialize their loved ones the way they want? Remember, you are the experts and we help families create unique memorials every day. It is important to use your knowledge and passion to empower families to understand the importance of permanent memorialization. It’s our job to help them see the value in creating a place for future generations to share stories and create new memories. You will be surprised how your knowledge of memorialization and your passion will translate into better sales for you and more value for the family.

I encourage you to embrace the “instinctual desire” we all have and ask the hard questions to find out what the families you serve need. In the end, they will thank you for creating the perfect memorial to honor their loved one.

This article originally appeared in Modern Memorialization, Trigard Memorials' weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at