A vital job well done!

Awards 2021

Independents joined Golden Charter for the new Independent Funeral Director Business Awards this month, celebrating your achievements in supporting families through an unprecedented year.

On the evening of Thursday 2 September, Golden Charter’s Malcolm Flanders hosted an online awards event which included live entertainment and revealed the winners of this year’s new-look awards.

More than 100 of you submitted an entry, and on the night eight winners (and one specially commended business) took the spotlight.

Malcolm told guests: “Each of you was severely impacted by COVID-19 in one way or the other, but all of you have continued to deliver fantastic care, support and service for all your families in their time of need under very difficult restrictions.

“Recognised belatedly as key workers, we know you worked tirelessly over the past 16 months to make your businesses safe, procure PPE one way or the other, innovate brilliantly to maintain continuity for families, and ultimately still deliver a funeral service with the empathy and the dignity that the occasion always demands.

“So we at Golden Charter wanted to recognise that endeavour, and find a way to reflect your resilience, your imagination, and sheer bloody hard work, rather than just focusing on funeral plans.”

The lucky winners received £200 towards the charity of their choice, £800 towards future marketing costs, and a further £200 towards a staff celebration, in addition to their trophy and certificate.

Congratulations to each winner, and to Alex Little Funeral Directors who were successful in two categories judged by separate independent judges.

Here you can find out who won and see what each category’s judge said on the night.

Community Engagement

Alex Little Funeral Directors, Fife

Category judge Ben France of the Royal British Legion said: “It was a very difficult decision to choose the award winner, with so many funeral directors generously supporting their local communities during tough times. However, Alex Little stood out for me. For a relatively small business, the range of their community work was exceptional. Whether supporting the bereaved on Mothers’ Day, delivering food parcels to those in poverty, or helping local families living with autism, at the heart of a community faced by considerable hardships, they’ve gone above and beyond to make people’s lives better.”

Digital Innovation

Mears Family Funerals Independent Funeral Directors, Kent

Category judge Helen Clements of Where There’s Smoke said: “Mears Family Funerals [were chosen for] their development of a seamless digital solution to quote and order memorials, which works both online and in branch, and has had significant benefits for not only their business, but for the families and communities they serve. They embrace the possibilities of what digital solutions can bring, enabling greater customer engagement, so well done.”

Helen also specially commended Kinton & Daughter Funeral Services Ltd, saying: “Inez Capps has built an impressive TikTok presence, bringing insight, openness and creativity around the actuality of funerals to a new generation.”

Environmental Responsibility

Gaulds Funeral Services Ltd, Crieff

Category judge Keith Skinner of ITPEnergised said: “We chose Gaulds Funeral Services because of their great work at Strowan Woodland Cemetery, their efforts to provide low emissions burials, utilising recycled plastic to construct benches, as well as a conscious effort to protect and preserve local wildlife. Gaulds Funeral Services also demonstrated their ambition to reduce their own carbon footprint through the addition of zero emissions electric vehicles to their existing fleet, as well as evidence of environmentally conscious investment for the business as a whole.”

Customer Service

Alex Little Funeral Directors, Fife

Category judge Stephen McCann of Masters in Minds said: “All of the entries showed deep care, resilience, and innovative thinking, so well done. What really impressed us about Alex Little’s submission was the customer being at the heart of every decision they make. In the customer experience they provide, they think about the entire customer journey from beginning to end – their mindset is, if it’s not good enough for our loved ones, then it isn’t good enough for our clients. Some examples of the practices that stood out include a fresh flower on the pillow, rose petals for children instead of earth, and memory pins for families. They open their doors at Christmas for messages on the memorial tree, providing people in the community a space to positively celebrate and remember their loved ones. Positive memories of positive lives.”

Family Business, sponsored by SAIF

R Locke & Son, Oxfordshire

Category judge Tracy Black of CBI Scotland said: “Colin and George clearly demonstrated why they should win the best family business category. They’ve shown great innovation during the pandemic, and they’ve also continued to keep up with the pace of change, developing their social and digital media presence. They have great community spirit, with everyone in the firm involved in everything from scouts to sports, and last but not least, they continue to learn and develop their skills and they really do leverage off everyone’s expertise within the firm.”

Employees of the Year

North: Peter Watson, Jill Glencross Independent Funeral Directors Ltd

Central: Sue Gibbons, Sue Gibbons Funeral Service

South: Matt Watters, Cornwall Funeral Services

Category judge John Denholm, Denholm Associates, said: “I have been a judge for several employee of the year awards in recent times, but I can honestly say this has been the most difficult to judge that I’ve been involved in, because the nominees are all first class and they’ve all stepped up to the mark in what’s been a really difficult year. The winners really lived up to the values that we’ve been looking for: service to the community, added value to customers, and of course a tangible contribution to the business.

Peter Watson went the extra mile throughout the pandemic, took over when his boss got COVID himself, looked after the hundreds of tiny customer service aspects, while finding the time to launch a new memorial service.

Sue Gibbons also handles every aspect of a caring funeral service, but at the same time is conscious of serving a tight knit working class community, where she needs to deliver all of these services at really affordable prices.

And last but not least, Matt Watters, who’s worked in a family business since he was 15, conducted his first funeral when he was 16 would you believe, and all the while continues to receive five-star reviews from his customers.”

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