Since completing my formal education many years ago, I’ve had an aversion to the word “study”. It brings back far too many memories of cramming knowledge from a book into my brain just a few hours before being tested on said knowledge. As if you couldn’t tell, I was certainly never an honors student during any part of my education. In fact, I was pretty satisfied with the C’s and B’s I accumulated, and was just never self-motivated to do much better.
So when I was approached about five years ago in Richmond and asked to consider joining a study group of my peers, my first thought was “No way!” While I love to read and learn more about my profession and myriad of other things in life, I immediately had visions of book reports, being forced to memorize facts and figures, and being tested on what I had absorbed. I also thought there was “way too much on my plate” to join such a group. But I’m one of those easy touches that find it hard to say “no”, so I told peers, Richard and Carey I would join their group, which they had dubbed the “Discovery” group. I’ve made a lot of decisions in my life, but few were any better than becoming associated with my study group members.
While we may be few (about 14) in number, the knowledge I’ve accumulated from these funeral professionals is too vast to put into words. I consider these colleagues to be “the best of the best” in the funeral world. They are progressive, caring, honest, motivated, and dedicated to their craft. Just listening to them talk about successes, failures, and new ideas makes me want to be a better funeral service provider. It’s easy to get burned out or stagnant in our business, but hanging around these fourteen people rejuvenates me in a huge way. Our members come from every area of the country, but our commonality is to make our funeral homes better each and every day.
A wonderful by-product of joining Discovery Group is that these guys (and a gal!) have become some of my very best friends. While we may only get together once or twice a year, the e-mails, texts, and letters we exchange on a regular basis have cemented our loyalty and trust with each other. Sometimes there is “tough love” involved; especially if they find an area of my business they think is not being properly addressed. I appreciate and know I need such constructive criticism, and it makes me a better person AND mortician. I have confided things to these fourteen professionals that I would probably not feel comfortable telling anyone else, so I guess you could say that they’re all pretty good therapists or counselors, too!
Our meetings consist of analyzing numbers and data from our businesses, sharing best practices/critical issues, and trying to figure out where our profession is heading. It helps us all to know we are going through the same challenges and problems, and some of the sage wisdom shared has helped me deal with many a rough patch of highway. And while there is a lengthy amount of time we have to prepare for our meetings (and we actually DID have to do a book report one time!), I always take away a proportional amount of knowledge to the time I put into preparing. Unfortunately, getting so many new ideas in just a three day period is like trying to drink water from an open fire hydrant. But I have come to appreciate our open exchange of knowledge, and (more importantly) have conquered my fear of the words “study” and “group”.