Monday, 27 April 2009

It was painful but it was worth it!

In April I joined the NAFD (Nation Federation Of Funeral Directors) as a supplier. Last Wednesday was the AGM and the first time I was to meet the Chilterns members. I’d been informed that these meetings were generally a chance have a catch up over a laid back beer and curry. In my eyes this was a perfect way to introduce myself to all the local funeral directors that I had not yet met and charm them with my good looks and talent!

I walk into the pub and see 2 men ‘fully suited and booted’ perched at the bar with a couple of pints - Ah ha, I can spot a funeral director a mile off! I smile and ask them if they are here for the NAFD meeting. They respond with a shy mumble! I interpret this as a very confused ‘yes’!

I go on to chirpily introduce myself and my company and explain that I had been invited to join the NAFD as a supplier. I asked their names and they managed to inform me in all of 4 words who they are and where they are from. I tell them that I recalled having spoken to them on the phone in the past – neither of them seemed to remember and then the conversation (if you could call it a conversation) slides into a somewhat uncomfortable silence! Both men seemed to be gazing desperately into their pints as if they were trying to summon a genie to get this strange girl out of their face!!!

I took the shunning on the chin, smiled and caught the eye of the barmaid. I ordered an orange juice and soda but if I was to be honest with you, all I wanted was a pint Guinness followed by a shot of anything from the top shelf!

So with my OJ in hand I smiled at the 2 men, who rapidly look back into their pints desperate for the genie to arrive! I once again I (painfully) tried to make conversation, and like a good English girl, I talked about the beautiful weather we were having. But they clearly did not want to respond. I was sinking and my confidence was taking a serious battering so I did what any girl does to get out an awkward situation ... I get my mobile phone out of my handbag and with an air of ‘professional busy business woman’ I check my emails while praying to the good ‘whoever’ above to make it ring so I can get the hell out this situation!!

3 or 4 minutes later a young funeral director walks through the door, suited and booted with a friendly smile on his face my heart lifts ‘ thank god’, I know who this guy is! We met a few years back. He says hello to the 2 men and chirps on about what a lovely day it is outside. It takes him a few seconds to look at me , I suppose he didn’t really click who I was, or why I was stood smiling at him like an eager puppy! I hold my hand out and say hey I’m Louise from Sentiment we met a few years back... babble babble babble and he sort of looks at me in a confused way, shakes my hand, orders a pint and starts a conversation with the other 2 men.

The 3 men didn’t include me in their conversation so I smiled and included myself... someone had to finally take note that I was there and I wasn’t going to go away!! More funeral directors came through the door and each time I was greeted with the same odd look, quick handshake and swift exit to the bar!! I wasn’t going to give in. Thank god a few guys walked in who I’d worked with in the past, they met me with a friendly warm greeting that filled my drained confidence tank up a few notches! Within minutes I was included in their conversations, and they started link me to funeral directors I had work for in the past. Soon they started to realise that I really do work in their industry and that I am a) not competition and b) actually quite interesting to speak with!

After the meeting the ‘quiet’ funeral directors that I had first encountered left ... it turns out it wasn’t just me they were being awkward with – I think they were just very shy, shocked I was there and I think maybe a bit old school?!

By the end of the night my stomach muscles hurt so much from laughing, and I’d managed to land myself as the party planner for the Christmas party. All in all it was a job well done and I’m actually looking forward to the next AGM in 6 months time.

Thanks to all the lovely funeral directors in the Chilterns area for making me feel so welcome.... ooh and for Peter who paid for my dinner!!!


  1. Another example of your reckless optimism, Louise. It's the key to your present success and eventual prosperity. Very brave. I stand in awe.

  2. ahhh thanks Charles... the thing I realised is that funeral directors are all very stuck in their ways and they all admit it. they stick together like glue and resist change for the ‘greater good of the families’. They feel they are protecting family’s from complications so they stick to what they know to do this. Most are fearful of anything they don’t understand and are not confident when faced with modern technology or new and innovative ideas. They also fear they have to manage these new requests and this is something they can’t face to do – i.e. the thought of a projectors and screen and 25 marching band just rings alarm bells to them because of pure logistics...

    It only takes a few of them to be brave to step out of the box while still keeping the respect of the industry and the others will follow in baby steps. I overheard a funeral director talking about Sentiment and staying how great it is being able to pass on elements of the funeral and knowing that it’s all under control! I was beaming with pride... that’s how I want the funeral industry to see Sentiment –

    The dinner really opened up my eyes and I see that it’s baby steps and assisting the FD’s in their job.. not taking it away from them. Working with them and gaining their trust that is my main objective

  3. Louise
    I am delighted that you stood your ground and didnt run for the door at the first opportunity. Not only are you up against "old School" who are not used to change but you are a WOMAN in a MANS world. Well done, keep on plugging "Sentiment" and the good it will do - it takes a fabulous person to make change happen.