Investing in the next generation

The John J. Ferry & Sons Funeral Home has been in the Ferry family since 1890 and a member of OGR since 1955. The business is currently run by 5th generation funeral directors Daniel, 36, and Patrick Ferry, 40. Their father Thomas L. Ferry, III, 71, recently retired as a precaution due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Going back to the founder, John J. Ferry, it has always been our policy to take care of our employees. They are our most valuable asset and a huge part of what keeps our families and customers coming back. They are like part of our extended family. An important part of taking care of your employees, especially new directors, is training – both formal and informal. Formal training includes things such as state and national conferences
whereas informal is more on-the-job training. While both are important pieces in preparing the next generation of funeral directors, we feel it is essential to learn and network with people with experience.

This is something Patrick was exposed to in his first career out of college with a public accounting firm in Hartford, Connecticut. While there, one of the things he really enjoyed was the annual training with people in similar roles. Every year the annual training was with other accountants with like experience who were being groomed for the next role in their career. It was extremely beneficial being with other people in similar positions because you were able to learn and ask questions together versus having to learn on your own. You also had a network of people you could rely on for help in the future. Patrick found this invaluable and wanted to incorporate this experience into the family business.

However, this is not always possible at a small family funeral home where age and experience can vary drastically from director to director. We have been blessed with a diverse group of terrific directors who have a ton of experience and have embraced training new funeral directors. There are a lot of benefits to having a network of new funeral directors who you can lean on outside of the company and state you work in. Thankfully, we
learned about the Order of the Golden Rule’s young professionals (YP) network. This allowed our newest director, Allison McCormick, to meet and learn with other new directors going through similar experiences. Allison came to us right out of school and was by far our youngest director. Her needs and expectations were quite different from the seasoned veterans we had on staff. While they were able to teach her a lot of the practical and hands-on requirements, the YP network offered Allison a chance to learn and grow with other new directors. An added benefit was she was able to meet folks who were not only new directors but also had previous diverse careers. This gave her another perspective on the funeral industry from someone who did not come right out of school into the field.

Another important element of the YP conferences is that participants are able to all travel to one location to focus on their training. (It doesn’t hurt that they tend to travel to nice destinations, either.) Joking aside, being able to get out of the funeral home and focus on training with like-minded peers for a number of days was invaluable for Allison and for all of us. She came back energized with a lot of terrific ideas not just to change how we do things but to improve upon what we were already doing well. As we all know, change in the funeral industry can be deathly slow (no pun intended).

One area where the next generation of funeral directors has really benefitted our firm has been in social media. A YP training session Allison attended focused on utilizing social media to promote our brand and our messaging. This is an area some funeral homes have embraced while many others have not. Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are an important messaging tool for the younger generations and if we want to be relevant to our future customers, we have to utilize these tools as well.

Being a 5th generation family funeral home, we understand the importance of nurturing our employees, especially our next generation of funeral directors. Not only are they in-tune with our future generations of customers, but they can help us improve the services we provide today by bringing a fresh perspective to the way we do things. Best of luck to the latest class of funeral directors!

Pat FerryPat Ferry is a 5th generation Licensed Funeral Director at the John J. Ferry & Sons Funeral Home in Meriden, Connecticut. He is a graduate of the University of Connecticut (‘03) and the McAllister Institute in New York City (‘13). Patrick and his partner Claire have two children, Parker and Ella. Connect with him at [email protected].

This article originally ran in the Fall 2020 issue of The IndependentClick here to read the entire issue.

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