Funeral Business Advisor sat down with Jeff Edwards, the funeral director and owner of Edwards
Funeral Service in Columbus, Ohio to learn more about his career and experience in the funeral industry.
Did you always want to be a funeral director? How did you get into the industry?
I knew I wanted to be a funeral director since seventh grade. However, after high school and college I went into the IT and computer industry. My first career was as a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer and I did network and network design work. Later in life, I finally went back and took the time to knock out the necessary schooling I needed to pursue a career in funeral service.
I had an assignment in seventh grade where we had to write a report on a career that we were interested in pursuing at that time. After just experiencing a death in family at that time, funeral service was something that was familiar to me and I knew it was something I could do. The industry was very interesting to me and after doing the research I needed to do for the report, I became even more absorbed with the field at that point.
After I graduated from the Cincinnati College of Mortuary Sciences in 2002, I served an apprenticeship for a year and was licensed in 2003.
What was your first experience in the funeral industry like after making such a dramatic career change?
It was definitely an adjustment. I went from being a manager in my previous career field to being a newly licensed funeral director and embalmer. I worked a couple of different positions with a couple of different funeral homes, and being an older newbie. I really wasn’t being challenged intellectually and didn’t really feel successful as a director. I knew at any time that I could go right back into the IT field if I wanted to and in 2006 I almost gave in and left the funeral service industry because I had not found a position that I liked or was comfortable with.
Then one day, I came across a closed funeral home in my area. I always joke and say that I bought a pile of bricks, but I kind of did because the building needed a major renovation. But over the next year and a half, I was able to complete the renovation and open up my own funeral home (Edwards Funeral Service).
What makes Edwards Funeral Service stand apart from other funeral homes in the area?
We are still one of the newest funeral homes in Columbus. The only way to open up and break into this area that has over 50 funeral homes is to be a price aggressive provider.
I have always been aggressive with price and advertising and I’m not afraid to put my prices out there.
We are located in a part of the city that is slowly changing as a lot of redevelopment work is being done. We serve a lot of families that are economically disadvantaged, so our price points are very important.
It gives the families in this area the chance to have a nice service that they can afford.
Why did you choose to add a crematory to your funeral home?
We choose to add a crematory in 2012 because my volume grew so much in the years prior that I needed to have my own equipment. Before that I was using three different providers because I couldn’t overload any one in particular. Just last year, in addition to our own business, we have taken on a lot of trade work as well. So not only have we added a crematory, but we’ve expanded that operation with a bigger cooler as well. Our cooler now is the largest in Ohio now I believe and has space for nearly 100 bodies. We are also adding another unit to keep up with the growing volume.
We are located in Columbus, Ohio and we can get anywhere in the state in less than three hours. We offer a service, Direct Cremation of Ohio, for consumers that are wanting nothing but just direct cremation. We have a really nice website that allows us to reach the rest of the state, where we offer direct cremation and provide the transportation and cremation for one flat rate.
What is your favorite part about working in this industry?
Meeting and working with the families. I love that we are able to offer a solution at a price that works for our families.
Looking forward to the future, what are you most excited about? What are you concerned about?
I’m excited about the alkaline hydrolysis process we use and the fact that it is gaining popularity. It is a better method of disposition than cremation for families and for the environment. As more and more funeral homes begin to offer that process, it’s exciting. Cremation is pollution and even though it is the most popular form of disposition, it is not the best for our planet.
I am most concerned about the economy moving forward. I hate to see when families want a certain service, but don’t have the funds to make it work.
Do you have any advice that you would share with other funeral directors, especially those who are just now entering the profession?
Make sure it is what you want to do. Volunteer or take a job in a funeral home first and learn the industry before you invest in college, certifications, and your license. This is a 24/7 365 days a year lifestyle. It is so much more than just a career and you have to pour your heart into it. It’s not just 9-5 and you have to be willing to want to work after hours and even on holidays. Although it’s tough, it’s a very rewarding lifestyle. FBA