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Momentum for stalled, stuck, and stale industries.

An abandoned ship washed up on a beach.

By Steve McKee

Do nothing.

That’s how to go out of business. It’s true in every industry, but especially in the funeral business. Especially these days.

A few weeks ago, I read a story about the demise of Sears in which the author casually remarked, “Of course every business eventually fails.” My first reaction was to recoil—that’s not true! But with a moment’s reflection I realized he was right.

Most people can count on one hand the companies they know that are more than 100 years old. In the funeral industry it’s a little different, as many respected organizations around the nation have passed the century mark. But if you can name one that’s more than 200 years old I’d be impressed indeed. All businesses eventually fail.

Unfortunately, in this industry “eventually” seems to be picking up velocity. The digital economy has dramatically changed clients’ expectations, cremation has thrown the traditional financial model for a loop, and a rapidly-changing culture is causing many people to question the value of memorialization—and even grief.

You know that’s a problem. I know that’s a problem. But they don’t know that’s a problem. And that’s our problem. So if you want to go out of business, simply keep doing what you’re doing. Or sell to a consolidator and watch them go out of business (albeit a bit slower).

There is an alternative, and that’s to realign your business model with the evolving marketplace. It’s not simple, but it is straightforward. And it’s not without pain, but neither is lifesaving surgery. And it can be done completely in keeping with your mission and values. We’ve seen it. We’ve done it. We’d love to tell you about it.

Before you go out of business.


Steve McKee

This smart looking guy is our agency’s co-founder. When he’s not sitting in his not-so-oval office looking official, he’s busy writing books and winning awards for them.

How disrupted are you?

For over a decade, McKee Wallwork and Company has been a leader and innovator in death care. The firm’s groundbreaking national market research is to this day the definitive consumer segmentation study on funeral care. On the creative front, MW+C was behind breakthrough work including the inception of Passare, “Scatter Day,” YODO, and the documentary The Empty Chair. MW+C has served as the agency of record for leading funeral homes, cemeteries, and death care brands from coast to coast. In addition, the firm’s robust research arm is responsible for developing the Death Care Disruption Index in partnership with Selected Independent Funeral Homes, and the Death Care Genogram in partnership with Passare. This fall, MW+C  will release its first book on the future of funeral service, The Right Way of Death, authored by partner Eric Layer.

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