President's Message - So What's Your Story?
By Jon Deitloff, CFSP, OFDA President
Without reservation I can say that Nelson DeMille is my favorite author. He crafts a story so I feel a part of it as I read it. He creates rich characters that get involved in believable situations but mostly I love his dialogue between the characters. I have yet to read one of his books where I didn't laugh out loud at some of the conversation. If you have not read any of his books, I highly recommend them as he is a fabulous storyteller.
I don't have the talent Mr. DeMille has for crafting a story but I love to talk. My co-workers have told me my stories are verbose and often boring. That may be true but I am entertained by them. Usually my stories are very true to the facts. Occasionally, with friends, I will tell a story that starts with a small lie and I'll push it as far as I can until I am discovered. The best stories are when you get others around you involved in the discussion and each one feels they are telling the story.
Funeral service has a wonderful story to tell but unfortunately it gets told far too seldom. In recent years it is a story that has been told by others who are focusing only on the sensational or the scandalous. When negative exposure comes out we all want to set the record straight but unfortunately legitimate responses often sound like excuses or alibis. We need to be the ones telling our story, not responding to someone's version. Without question we'll like it better and the outcome will be more accurate if we are the author.
The best way to tell a story is to live it. E.C. Daves is a mentor and former boss of mine. He conducts himself in a manner that exudes confidence and commands respect from others. To my knowledge E.C. has never told any of his employees how to dress or how to behave but with few exceptions his employees all emulate his behaviors. That follow-the-leader behavior has made their funeral homes the market leader in their city. If you were to ask any of these "followers", most would tell you their actions were their own but there is too much uniformity in their behavior for it to be random. They can see his personal story unfold and they want to tell their story in the same manner.
All of us promote ourselves and funeral homes within our communities. How many of us promote our profession? We need to talk about the benefits of funeral service and stop selling the features. Our critics scoff at our merchandising and our marketing. They question our motives and even our relevance but they seldom criticize our concern or our dedication. It's those traits we need to emphasize when talking with families. We need to tout the lifetime of personal rewards when speaking to those considering entering our profession. There are wonderful people in your community that would make great employees given the proper insight to funeral service. If we craft our message carefully, we can speak volumes without opening our mouths.
I am deeply honored to serve as your president and I pledge to tell the funeral service story at every opportunity. I look forward to hearing many of your stories and sharing your message across the state. We have the preeminent association in the country because of our members and their involvement. I hope your membership in OFDA offers you the tools you need to tell your story.