Live and on-demand

A series of online seminars has provided SAIF members with exclusive tuition in the comfort of their home or office.

As the industry faces new rules and regulations, many funeral directors decided to join in the process of digital learning through the monthly webinars that were organised and led by SAIF during 2016.

Attendees heard from experts offering information and advice on a wide range of subjects, including training, new policies and procedures and guidance from SAIF’s President. It was all conducted without the expense and hassle of travel or leaving work.

Earlier this year, SAIF was given full approval to award CPD (continuing personal development) points from the nationally recognised body, CPD UK. As the funeral profession moves towards authorised learning and development, it has been decided that 18 hours of CPD per annum is the norm for individuals to keep their professional status.

When SAIF secured the authorisation from CPD UK it was ahead of the game and now awards points to members who attend the regional meetings, AGM, Education Day and the webinars.

Speaking to SAIFInsight, SAIF Chief Executive Terry Tennens said: “The CPD approval adds further value to SAIF members. It shows customers that all our members are educated and are taking professional development as a continuous career path in order to be up on the legal, professional and operational responsibilities of being a modern funeral director.”

The webinars included a question and answer session with SAIF President Paul Allcock; an in-depth discussion with Matthew Gallagher, from P&S Gallagher Funeral Services, on design and marketing of new premises; and Douglas Houton from Irwin Mitchell LLP on dealing with difficult families from a legal perspective.

Other sessions included SAIF’s PR team at Genesis reviewing the benefits of social media marketing and John Helps, SAIF’s Accountant, discussing pension auto enrolment.

Below is key information on three of the webinars, giving a flavour of what the sessions involve.

President Paul: My life in the profession

In August, the focus of SAIF’s webinars turned to President Paul Allcock. The session, led by SAIF Chief Executive Terry Tennens, centred on Paul’s background in the funeral industry and the future of the profession.

Paul’s life as a funeral director started by chance when his lifelong ambition to be a footballer was suddenly ended.

“My father was a professional footballer and all through my schooldays I was geared towards going into the football profession rather than the funeral profession,” said Paul. “Unfortunately, after a short period in the professional game, it didn’t work out and I found myself out of work at 17 years of age.”

That same day Paul went into the job centre in Norwich and one of the few positions available was for a trainee funeral operative.

Dressed in jeans and without any time to change, Paul was sent along for an interview and given the job that same afternoon. He quickly worked his way up the profession, becoming a fully qualified funeral director and then starting his own family business, Allcock Family Funeral Services, in 2000.

Paul, pictured below, is keen for the profession to grow and spoke to Terry about the issues facing funeral directors: “Historically, funeral directors have had a bad press. There are sadly occasions when funeral directors bring bad press on themselves and I think it is very difficult in those cases to justify and argue the case. However, how to counteract these negative reports is essentially in our standards, both in facilities and in service, and that will give us a positive response.

“The biggest and most appropriate form of advertising is very much word of mouth and recommendation. Every funeral that we attend there may be two or three people, or 200 to 300, and every one of them sees the work that you put in. It is not just the families you deal with directly who get that very personal relationship with you and the care and support you offer, it is also all the friends and family who see what is happening at the time – a smooth funeral. It can be as simple as ensuring all staff have polished their shoes that can make all the difference.”

Make sure your pensions and finances add up

“Pensions are the biggest thing that has happened to small businesses and employers in general in recent months.”

That’s according to Chartered Accountant John Helps from Skingle Helps & Co.

The ‘Pension Autoenrolment Explained’ session examined the changes that have taken place and that will impact on every business, especially small family business such as independent funeral directors.

John, an ACA accountant and SAIF Treasurer, explained: “Every employer in the UK must put staff into a pension scheme and contribute towards it. If you employ at least one person, you are an employer and you have certain legal duties.”

He revealed that while employers can decide on what pension schemes they choose, there are steps that employers need to go through to prepare for automatic enrolment:

1. Plan
2. Decide
3. Change
4. Inform
5. Setup
6. Enroll
7. Process
8. Declare

John also provided some helpful information and words of wisdom on selling your business.

“Don’t leave it too late. It can take several years to get to the stage where a business is ready for sale,” he explained. “It is important to get your business straight. We all know there are things that could be better. When I look at my business, I realise there are some aspects that could be better and, if I wanted to sell, I would need to sort that out.

“If you are a funeral director you want to make sure the number of funerals you are telling your potential purchaser actually reconciles with the figure in your accounts. It is no good saying you do 550 funerals a year and that is not reflected in £1.2m of turnover. It has to tie up.”

The benefits of a tweet

Tim Miller and Craig Robertson, from Genesis PR, held an informative session on ‘How to get started with social media’, looking at why it is important and offering some practical advice and tips.

“There are 38 million active social media users in the UK and that number is growing every day,” said Tim.

“When you think about reaching your target audience there are the more traditional ways, with newspapers and advertisements, but there are so many people using social media that it really is a fantastic opportunity to raise your profile and help members of the public find out more about your firm.”

The main networks Tim and Craig focused on were Facebook and Twitter, two of the most dominant social media outlets in the UK and the world.

But why is social media relevant to funeral directors? According to Tim and Craig, the average amount of time people spend on social media is two hours and 13 minutes per day and it could make a real difference to your business reputation. “Social media helps promote what you do in your communities and builds your reputation in your community and your customer base,” explained Craig.

“If used as part of a marketing pool, social media can help promote you to customers and become engaged with other organisations you might be using, such as churches and ministers.”

Tim added: “Members of the public are using Twitter to look for funeral directors and are looking for recommendations.”

Tim and Craig were also keen to point out some pitfalls for social media users, including not posting relevant content, arguing with other users, using abbreviations such as ‘gr8 day’ and not posting for a month.

Those businesses who use social media should see five main benefits: increasing awareness; highlighting the business’ personality; increasing website traffic; reducing advertising costs; and engaging with your community.

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