We can’t do this without you: 3 cheers for our suppliers!

While I was attending university many years ago, I had a part-time job at a funeral home right across the street from campus. I was well-positioned in those days as I lived right across the street from the funeral home as well.

Evan J. StrongI remember that about once a month the casket company guy would drop by and he and the manager, Frank Morris, would sit in the lounge, have a cup of coffee and talk. It seems they talked about a lot of things, from how the Maple Leafs and the Red Wings were doing, to their respective families and the latest gossip within the profession.

These “meetings” seemed to go on and on, and usually ended with a “see you next month” and the usual response back “not if I see you first.” As a youngster in the profession, it always amazed me how the manager and the salespeople could talk for hours, and not really say anything. What I came to appreciate was the relationship they had built over many conversations and visits.

Mr. Morris reminded me constantly that our profession was built on relationships, and that we could not serve our families without the suppliers. He called them the “behind-the-scenes guys who make us look good.” He was a true gentleman in our profession, who served families in a gentle and unassuming manner for over 50 years. He was a good man, and I learned a lot from him.

As my career carried on, I came to appreciate the suppliers, these “behind-the-scenes guys.” They were always just a call away, and I remember many times they would drop by with their various products, supplies and a box of Tim Hortons donuts.

I think all of us have been saved by our suppliers many times in our careers when we have forgotten to order a casket, urn or keepsake. We have asked them to deliver on weekends and holidays and have expected them to fix and replace merchandise as if our firm is the only one in the world. They have allowed us to look like heroes to the families we serve, and many times have gotten us out of sticky situations. I think we all have basked in the glow of a family’s appreciation knowing it wasn’t just us who made things work.

We funeral directors just have an expectation our suppliers will always be there, and we know they will! This gives us confidence we can serve our families and meet their needs. It is a nice feeling to have.

Times have changed. In many cases these visits with suppliers have been replaced with websites showing merchandise and supplies, online ordering and Zoom meetings to check in. However, the need for strong relationships hasn’t diminished over time and it is critical that we maintain these connections with our suppliers. We need to take the time to thank our suppliers, to support them and to realize and appreciate that when we serve a family, they have been part of that process.

I encourage all our members to take the time to celebrate our suppliers and create positive working relationships. I know I can’t serve my families without them (and I don’t mind a donut now and then!).

In service,

Evan J. Strong signature

Evan J. Strong
OGR President, 2021-22

This message was originally published in the Fall 2021 issue of The Independent®. Click here to read the entire issue.

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