Our family, caring for your family

When a 14 year old Tim Parry told his parents that he wanted to do voluntary work at the local crematorium they were a little concerned. Until that point, he’d been reluctant to talk about, or even acknowledge, the concept of death.

However, just six years later Tim’s mother and father are happy to help out as he establishes himself as one of the country’s youngest funeral directors, operating his own business, T J Parry & Family Independent Funeral Directors.

“It all began with family bereavement,” explained Tim, who is based in Burton-on- Trent. “We lost a couple of relatives one after the other. I found myself looking closely at the funeral director’s job. It was then I decided to volunteer at the crematorium.”

A local funeral director, George Simnett, noted Tim’s interest and invited him to gain some work experience. When Tim left school at age 16, George was quick to offer him an apprenticeship. “I worked for George for a while to get qualified and then moved to a funeral director in Burton-on-Trent.” It wasn’t long before he found himself longing for something different. “There was only one Independent in the town and I thought ‘Why not set up on my own?’” He did just that and opened his premises in September 2018, approximately one month after his 20th birthday.

Rewarding role

Tim said he finds it very rewarding to help people in difficult times. “After a death is a period when a family is very vulnerable and they put themselves in your hands. To be able to offer them a service that I believe is a one-off in this area is really satisfying. I love the feedback you receive. It’s thrilling when people tell you how amazing the funeral was or how their loved one would have appreciated all that was done. A funeral director has the chance to create a special bond with families.”

Needless to say, it was a huge step when he decided to set up on his own. He left a well-paid job to make the leap. However, any risks are balanced by his passionate determination to make the venture a success.

“It does take up your whole life, but I enjoy it. And it’s going really well. What I anticipated to do in six months I’ve done in two. I’ve also had some great feedback and we were asked to do one recent funeral after an earlier client recommended our services.”

While word of mouth is crucial, Tim has been quick to use radio and newspaper advertising and take advantage of social media, including Facebook and Instagram.

“Building a good reputation is key. There are important decisions to be made on things like ad content. We’ve been finding our feet and discovering what works and what doesn’t.”

The aim, Tim said, is to differentiate the company by offering a wide range of services and focusing on customer choice. “The ethos is traditional values with a modern approach. We want to make sure families get what they want. These days there are so many options available, from different vehicles and coffins to different types of funeral service.”

In line with that thinking, Tim is now promoting the benefits of pre-paid plans, having started working with Golden Charter. “It offers people financial stability and reassurance. The cost of a funeral can be a large sum of money to find at time of need. If people can pay for it over 10, 20 or 30 years it removes worry and the planholder gets everything they would want. It relieves stress for everybody.”

Family affair

In the meantime, the operation has become a true family business. Tim’s mother helps out with office duties, while his father helps with funerals. “My partner Jemma lends a hand with administration and is our in-house florist. Meanwhile, her father has a funeral supply business which makes all of our coffins. When we use the motto: ‘It’s our family caring for your family’, it really is!”

There are those who might think Tim’s youth would work against him. His experiences so far say the opposite is true. “People do remark on the fact that I am quite young and in my previous post I did have one person who admitted to being a little sceptical at first – but in the end she said she wouldn’t have had anyone else looking after her mum’s funeral.”

When he tells people what he does for a living one or two are not keen to hear more but nine times out of 10 they are intrigued and begin peppering him with questions.

Tim’s in no doubt he has made the right decision. “I’m happy with the way things are going with the business. There’s always room for improvement and it’s a slow process getting established, but we are keeping our head above water and doing well.”

Above all, when Tim makes a decision these days his parents are a little more relaxed.

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