Operations

How To Tap The Funeral Limo Business

Jim Luff
Posted on April 15, 2016

Funeral directors share common jokes about people dying to do business with them, or the rigors of mortician work, or earning ones “chaps” from hands dried out by embalming fluids. The truth is their jobs are probably one of the most important services offered to a person since a funeral service is the final mortal memory of the deceased. These jobs must be delivered without mistakes.

Do You Have What It Takes?
Funeral directors want the limo to match the hearse. They want limos without booze decanters, flashy LED disco light displays, or festive decor. The limo will transport family members to a funeral, not a night on the town. Put tissues in the vehicle. They want professionally dressed chauffeurs with good manners and good sense.

Unlike normal limo charters, the rule of ‘don’t speak unless spoken to’ does not apply. “I want the chauffeur to look after a grieving family as if it was his own,” says John Basham, owner of Basham’s Funeral Care in Bakersfield, Calif.

“Chauffeurs must always have a coat on, just as funeral directors do. They are an extension of my service and the family should never know the limo is sub-contracted.” Basham also requests chauffeurs to remove sunglasses when speaking to families. It is demanding work to exacting standards. You also must be financially prepared to carry a balance for four to six weeks.

Speaking of Money
Funeral work can be lucrative based on the sheer volume of business. However, just as you feel compelled to provide a discount for a large volume corporate account, funeral work does require some discounting on the price if you want to be seriously considered.

Some funeral directors pass on the exact cost to their customers and some mark it up to increase their bottom line profits. If you don’t provide a discount, there is no incentive for the funeral home to either call upon your company or refer their clients to you. The client could simply call you directly and pay the retail rate. Whether the funeral director passes on the discounted rate or marks it up, you should establish a funeral director rate applied fairly to all. Just as we farm-out jobs to local competitors, the funeral industry is also a tight knit group and regularly loans each other hearses and other equipment as needed. You don’t want them to compare pricing and discover one has a better price than another. Most funeral homes will ask you to invoice them after the job is complete, since there is no guarantee of actual hours spent working a funeral job, although the average is three hours.

Funerals frequently review the estimated time. It would be improper to be standing in the cemetery discussing overtime. Many families rely on life insurance policies or death benefits to pay for funeral expenses, and those claims take time to process. This means you have to work with the director on payment. The debt, however, always remains that of the funeral home since they are your client and any excessively past due accounts should be treated as such.

Rates & Profits
While rates may need to be adjusted to allow the funeral home to make a few dollars, the discount should be no more than the commission you might pay to a travel agency for work. Or you might want to consider a flat $10 to $15 off your normal hourly retail rate in exchange for an exclusive contract. While our profit margins are already thin, remember funeral work happens every day but Sunday. If the funeral home does not have its own limousine, you potentially have work almost daily. Never discuss or use the word gratuity in your pricing for a funeral home. They want simple hourly rates. If you normally include gratuities in your pricing structure, roll it into the price.

Details, Details, Details
The funeral director is the boss. Chauffeurs should immediately locate and check in with the director upon arrival and get all the details and expectations. Instructions will include who rides in which vehicle when multiple vehicles are assigned. The order of the vehicles is determined during the planning process and follows a hierarchy plan where the deceased’s immediate family follows the hearse, followed by surviving parents, and then any others. Chauffeurs may be asked to help with loading and unloading the casket in cases where pallbearers have not been assigned. Chauffeurs also might be expected to pick up flowers, special photos, the guest book or other items designated by the director to be placed in the family limousine.

When arriving at a location with multiple vehicles, chauffeurs should not open passenger doors until all vehicles are parked and all chauffeurs are in position to open the doors in unison. If space permits, the second limousine arriving should park to the left of the first limousine with its passenger door aligned just beyond the trunk of the first. This allows the group to exit together and quickly assemble as a group. The lead chauffeur sets the pace. In a funeral procession, limousines should stay close together, never allowing any cars to separate the procession. If the media is present, make sure the family knows about it and ask if they wish to speak to the media or be shielded from them.

Funeral Transportation Profits

Sample calculation for a three-hour funeral service with a 20% gratuity included. The mileage rate used is the standard IRS rate for business mileage and does not factor the super low fuel prices we enjoy. Workers’ comp rates and employer-based payroll tax will fluctuate based on your area, mod status, and employee:

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Related Topics: business opportunities, funeral business, funeral vehicles, special events

Jim Luff Contributing Editor
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