For most of us, getting ready to exit our business is unlike anything we have ever done before. We think it is supposed to be an unemotional business task…but it isn’t. Nor can it be.
Having spent the bulk of our adult life and career nurturing this beast, it is only natural that we are almost inextricably emotionally intertwined with it. Some are unable to disentangle themselves…still others can’t wait for the day. Nevertheless, we cannot ignore that this is more than a business transaction… it’s personal!
For many in funeral service this decision is compounded by a legacy of multi-generational stories. Stories of hard work, sacrifice, risks taken, victories and disappointments …small and large. In all respects, exiting your business…your career…is a significant life transition no matter how well we prepare.
The Curious Case of George Markham
George Markham, owner of Markham Funeral & Cremation Services, drove into the parking lot of his main location as he had for more than 30 years. As he parked the car he looked up at the freshly painted building and sighed. “Another day in the gulag,” he thought to himself.
Then he switched gears and thought again: “What is the matter with me! I have a good business. It’s growing. Why am I so tired?”
As George walked in to the office, his assistant, Mary, looked up and said, “Mrs. Bailey died last night, and the family is coming in at 2:00.”
“Let’s have Bill see them,” responded George. Bill was one of George’s best licensees.
“They asked for you.” Mary responded.
Bill sighed and said, “OK.” And headed to get a cup of coffee. Suddenly he turned and headed for the door. On the way out he called to Mary, “I am going to run an errand. I’ll be back in time to see the Baileys.”
He drove out of the parking lot and headed for the highway. An hour later he was sitting with his old friend and mentor, Sam Penn. Sam had sold his business six years before. George had apprenticed under Sam before returning to take over the family firm. Sam had remained a friend and mentor.
“Sam, I am really worried about myself. I think I have lost my passion. Don’t get me wrong; I love helping families I just feel like I am worn out with the whole thing. But I don’t know why. My business is ok. Cremation is growing but we are holding our own. I have a great staff and people seem to really like me. But all I can think of is that
I AM TIRED.”
“Join the club,” Sam responded. “That’s exactly how I felt before I decided it was time to get out.”
“So you think it’s time for me to sell?” George asked.
“No. I can’t make that decision for you. But it is time that you explored your options. What are you now…55?”
“53 thank you.” George responded. “Maybe it’s just midlife crisis.”
“Maybe.” Sam answered. “Maybe not. You have been in this business all your life. It’s natural for you to be at least a little burned out. I was in the same boat. It was very frustrating. Unfortunately, for me, after you left I never had anyone I thought could take over.”
“So, what did you do?”
Sam leaned forward and looked at George intently. “George, owning a small business can be very isolating … especially a funeral home. I finally realized that I was too close to the problem and I needed to talk with someone who could help me sort it out. I called Alan Creedy. I knew I could trust him, he wouldn’t be judgmental and could help me understand the options on my terms.”
“So, he recommended you sell.” George said.
“No, not at first. First he listened. He helped me sort out my options like I wanted. He did an assessment of my business which helped me know what it was worth but also showed me where I could improve some things to make my life easier and more profitable. Best of all he told me the truth.”
“Like what?” George interrupted.
“Do you remember Phil Stiller? Alan helped me realize I was only keeping him because I didn’t want the pain of the confrontation. Getting rid of him took a lot of pressure off me. But it wasn’t until Alan made that clear that I took action.” Sam laughed. “Getting rid of Phil was like finally getting over long term constipation.”
“So what made you decide to sell?”
“I realized I was too old at 63 to keep at it. I think if I had been in my 40’s I wouldn’t have sold. But age makes a difference. Then Alan helped me find a good fit and get a good price. With Alan fit is as important as price.”
George thought for a minute. “I really think I would like to sell to my key man, Bill Carson, but I don’t think he can afford it.”
“Do you know John Opus up in Knoxtown? Alan helped his key man get that done and he didn’t have any money either.”
“George, I think you should call Alan. But there are two things you should know. First, Alan is passionate about funeral service and you just might find yourself reinvigorated…and if you do he can show you how to make it fun again.
Second, Alan is about the whole picture. He has a 7 step process that takes into consideration all kinds of things like children, key staff and important staff (they’re different you know), timing, fit and the after tax impact. He is concerned about maximizing your price but he is more concerned about maximizing your retirement on your terms.
“Alan Creedy has not only been a dear friend for over 30 years, but has been a knowledgeable and trusted advisor. Virtually all major decisions our funeral home has made, Alan’s expertise was solicited.
Alan will not compromise the truth even if hearing it is painful. We unequivocally endorse him.”
Mark Jahn • Owner, Zwick & Jahn • Decatur IN
“A prayer says: ‘Seek to understand.’
“What impresses me most about Alan is his passion to understand what moativated people to act, coupled with effective solutions that work.”
John Horan | President, Horan & McConaty | Denver
For more than 35 years Alan Creedy has been helping independent funeral home owners achieve their goals.
A CPA with a degree in psychology he is especially suited to unraveling the idiosyncrasies of small family owned businesses. As an expert in funeral service he is adept at finding solutions to the wide-ranging challenges facing a rapidly changing profession.
In addition to his extensive management and financial background he is a Certified Exit Planner (CExP).