Insightful Business Ideas and Relatable Stories from the Profession we Love

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The Power of Sharing Our Stories

How a Polaroid t-shirt stole everyone’s heart

Our tagline at MyBabbo is Every Story Matters. Every now and then, something unexpected happens in my life and my belief in people, my plan and my path is reaffirmed. I recently travelled to Gaitlanburg, Tennessee to attend the SCCFA Annual Convention. And while I thought the outcome of the conference was to make new business connections, what I came away with was an encounter I will treasure forever and a story that allowed me to make amazing connections with all kinds of people at the convention.

Here is that story.

I arrived in Tennessee on the Saturday night before the start of the conference. On my way from the airport to my hotel, I stopped at a multitude of various Goodwill and second hand stores desperately trying to find a 90s outfit for the themed event the conference was hosting to celebrate its 90th anniversary. I was specifically on the hunt for a Poloroid t-shirt - we are a photo company after all.

After several stops with no luck I was beginning to lose hope. Even Amazon wasn’t going to be able to come through for me. I made one final stop at Walmart for a few items (including a Polaroid camera as a giveaway gift) for the conference before hitting the hotel. And there, in the basket aisle (for said Polaroid camera), was a man wearing the EXACT t-shirt I had been searching for. I practically threw myself at him, ‘Where did you get that t-shirt?!’

In a true showing of Southern hospitality and charm, he literally gave me the t-shirt off his back. And you had better believe I captured the moment with a photo.

I connected with so many people at the conference by sharing this story. Stories connect us and stories, photos and connections are at the heart of the funeral care profession. By encouraging families to share the stories of their loved one, you are helping to form a deeper connection with them. Everyone has a story to tell; they sometimes just need the space or encouragement to share it.

I hope you enjoy this photo. It brings me so much joy. Photos help us tell our stories. Let MyBabbo help you tell yours.

For ideas on how to help your families tell their stories, check out this helpful resource from Coldspring

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The Importance of Tribute Photo Books and How Funeral Directors Can Help Families Create One in 3 Easy Steps

Are you making the experience of the families you support a personal one? Are you leaving them with something they can take with them to capture the life of their lost loved one? Tribute photo books are a way to offer a personal touch that will leave your families with something they can cherish.

Tribute photo books are a timely and meaningful way to honour the life of a loved one’s passing. Providing families with this special keepsake at the time of the funeral is a gesture that will have a lasting impact on the families you serve. MyBabbo is here to help you provide that impact during a family's time of need. You can look at an example of one of our tribute books here.

We know from the funeral homes we serve, that offering tribute photo books to families provides these core benefits:

1. Everyone wants personalization. Photo books allow families to celebrate their loved one’s legacy by sharing their story. We know you are always looking for ways to form deeper connections with the families you serve and offering photo books are a meaningful way to connect more deeply while offering the personalization customers are looking for.

2. Photo books extend your care and compassion after the service. These keepsakes are not tucked away in a drawer or closet. Photo books are kept close by and shared for many days, months and years after the service. And because you gave them this special gift, the gratitude for the peace it gives families comes back to you.

3. You help assist on the grief journey. The sharing and recording of memories and stories helps people on their grief journey by giving them a chance to honour and remember their loved one with something they can touch.

MyBabbo’s tribute photo books are a curated collection of photos, accomplishments and stories of a person’s life. Our photo tribute books offer comfort to those who have suffered loss and a sense of legacy that honours a life lost.

It's this Simple to create a tribute photo book. 3 easy steps:

1. Set up an account with MyBabbo

2. Collect/upload photos and memories of the loved one

3. Upload to your account and let MyBabbo do the rest!

Our tribute photo books can be ready and shipped to you within 2-5 days. We are here to support you through the whole process.

MyBabbo is a team of graphic designers, storytellers, and, above all, caring and compassionate people who partner with funeral homes to create photo books and other personalised products and services for the families they serve.

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Tracy’s Holiday Gift Guide!

When your love language is gifts, there is no more exciting time of the year than Christmas. I love to give gifts that have meaning and show the recipient that I really know them. Here are some of my favourite gifts to give. I hope it will inspire you to give meaningful gifts or just give you some ideas.

1. Breville Espresso Machine For the coffee lover in your house, an espresso machine is a great idea. It takes your morning ritual to the next level. Mirco loves the one I got him. Taking time to have a nice cup of coffee at the office is also a must. This model has a great price point for home or work.

2. David’s Tea is one of my favourite gifts to give people - any time of the year. Tea is warm and comforting and encourages people to take a minute to themselves. We love that they have a gift pack with teas from around the world - just like the theme of our Advent calendars this year!

3. We all know how much Mirco loves to cook and we love his cooking. This year he is getting two Scanpans so he keeps cooking for us!

4. We love to have fun and to make our team laugh so socks with a funny message are one of our favourite gifts. Check out all the fun socks Small-Mart has to offer.

5. Can you ever have enough blankets? One year we gave our Hallmark movie loving team these blankets from Etsy. Klippan wool blankets from Bradshaws are truly beautiful and slightly on the indulgent side.

6. Candles are one of my favourite gifts to give and to receive. These Linnea candles are the absolute best. Can someone please get me one!?

7. Christmastime is for treats and if you know Mirco and I, you know we love a good treat. Chocolate Barr’s is a must for us when buying chocolate. We love Purdys chocolate too. Moss Berry Farm makes the most delicious jams and chutneys. They make a great host gift.

8. This year I bought myself The Light We Carry by Michelle Obama. Books make great gifts!

9. Hillberg and Berk’s Sparkle Ball earring are a perfect holiday gift. These are a goto of mine.

10. For all of my friends in the death care profession, these running shoes from Lululemon will keep you comfortable while you’re on your feet all day.

And, of course, don’t forget our photo books! They are the perfect gifts for the families you serve, especially at this time of year.

I hope this helps you find meaningful gifts for the people left on your list. What are your favourite gifts to give? Leave us a comment!

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Work and Relaxation this Summer

During our childhoods, summer was often full of free time and friends. As adults with full time jobs, summer may have lost that magical feeling. With careers and families, summer can become even busier than the rest of the year, leaving you feeling out of balance. Even without the summer vacations of our childhoods, there are ways you can find a balance between work and relaxation this summer.

Set boundaries with work

This is a rule to live by throughout the year, but especially during the summer. Limiting your work life to certain times and areas will preserve your precious time off. A good place to start is by only working within your scheduled hours. If you work from home, you could contain your work supplies to one area, rather than scattered across your whole living space. Keeping your work within certain parameters will prevent it from spilling into the rest of your life. If you find it impossible to fit your work into certain times or areas, you might need to evaluate the amount of responsibility or number of projects you have. Asking for more support or delegating work might be necessary for you to keep up with your role.

Get more sunshine

Even on a work day, you can still take advantage of the summer weather! If you work from home, try moving your desk to face a window for some extra sunshine. Or, get fresh air by bringing your laptop out to your balcony or porch to work for part of the day. If you work in person, eat lunch or take a coffee break outside. If you want to add in some activity, look for a nearby park or quiet neighborhood for a lunch break stroll.

Plan ahead for time off

Summer is the ideal time of year to take advantage of any PTO or vacation time you have. My best advice? Plan those vacations as early as possible! If you want to head out camping for a long weekend or fly somewhere tropical for a week, put that in the calendar well in advance. It’s easy to put off planning and then find yourself out of time at the end of the summer. Not only does planning early make things less stressful for you, it also benefits your employer and co-workers by giving them time to prepare for your absence.

Make the most of weekends and evenings

Even if you have limited vacation days, there are plenty of summer activities you can fit into a weekend afternoon, or even a weekday evening. Look for activities in your local parks, like outdoor movie showings, concerts, or family events. If you want to keep things simple after a long work day, head to a splash pad or have a picnic dinner. If you’re more of a homebody, you can create relaxing spaces to enjoy in your own backyard. Put up a hammock or invest in some comfy patio furniture so you have an outdoor space to recharge.

By creating an intentional balance this summer, you should be able to relax and make the most of the sunshine while still working your 9-5.

Let us know in the comments how you plan to stay balanced this summer!

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Jen Rayworth, True Leadership In Action

Jen Rayworth is one of the co-owners of Smith’s Funeral Homes.She signed the papers to become a shareholder less than a week after giving birth to her son five years ago. We wanted to talk to Jen about what the idea of leadership means to her and how that idea has evolved over the last couple of years. Primarily, Covid exposed that leaders must be prepared to wear many hats and great leaders must grow and evolve with their teams.

Jen is a role model for great leadership, particularly for women in a field traditionally dominated by men. Her servant leadership is something that has always inspired us. Here is what she has to share on leadership in the funeral care profession.

How did your leadership shift during Covid?

Our key focus became letting our team know we cared about them and that they were our top priority. Without our team members, we have nothing. Truly, the health and safety of our people had to be our #1 priority, and we needed them to trust that we would put their safety first. One of the things we also did mid-pandemic was to send out custom-made thank you cards to everyone along with a small bonus to show them how appreciative we were for their dedication and commitment, and we hope it also showed them that we are here to support them. We try to do more small gestures of appreciation these days (treating them to lunch, special treats, etc.) while trying to foster an open and accommodating environment and atmosphere. I’m proud of the way we’ve evolved after a very difficult few years for everyone.

What kind of leadership is required as we transition out of the pandemic?

I believe it still resides in putting our team first as they are the backbone of our business. People are looking for stability, balance and enjoyment in their lives and their work. They want to feel heard and appreciated. I hope to shift some of my time to focus more on innovation, and envisioning the future landscape of funeral service and how the pandemic has impacted people and our profession as a whole. Many people aren’t the same as they were pre-pandemic. We are dealing with families that seem to be more emotional, interact with more intensity, and have higher expectations - of everything and everyone. That’s a lot of pressure to put on your team when there is already little to no margin for error. What we are looking for as we continue to build our team is resiliency, flexibility and the ability to work together to manage these extreme ups and downs, all of which have certainly intensified since pre-Covid.

How do you leverage your team?

As a leader, I think it is important that we know what each team member’s strengths are and that we nurture those, versus trying to change them or focusing on a weakness (which we all have!). We try to put our team in roles that play to their strengths - we try to do this even within our management team. And when we do this, everyone wins. Team members feel happier and more empowered and in turn, our service delivery gets elevated.

Who has been an influential leader in your life?

I guess the most obvious answer is Don! His leadership style has evolved and changed over the years, and he’s been a great example of this leadership evolution, and continual learning and growing. One of his most consistent traits has been his passion and commitment to serving others and our community. I have worked at Smith’s since I was 16, and have watched his management style progress and transform over time. I think that his life experiences, as well as changes in the profession and the trust he has in us (our staff and our management team) have helped to shape this. His vision for Smith’s, his community involvement, his belief in helping those in need, and how he runs the business philosophically have been very influential to me.

How has becoming a parent changed your leadership?

When I returned to work I gained a clearer understanding of women’s roles and progression (or lack thereof) within the profession (including the barriers we have traditionally faced). I remember that years ago when returning from a maternity leave, the option was to either return to work full time or not at all. There was little flexibility, understanding or acceptance of blending motherhood and funeral service. I’m proud that we have grown from that rigid mindset and have learned that it’s important to make space for family, personal lives and individual situations. These days, we try to work with our colleagues to facilitate a working relationship that benefits both parties - it’s not always easy or perfect, but if you have someone who is good at what they do and believes in our organization, we want to try and accommodate them as best we can. This increased flexibility in our work schedules can certainly be challenging (especially considering the nature of our business and the demands of the consumer), but our priority as management is to hire great people and then figure out how we can make it work for everyone involved.

Are there any unique challenges given you are a female leader?

I think many people make the assumption that I’m a personal assistant to others on our management team, which really just speaks to the long-standing reality that in our profession predominantly men have held the leadership positions. There just hasn’t been enough female representation in these roles within funeral service, but I hope and see that this is slowly changing. It’s helpful to see others with whom you can relate going through the same situations, experiences and challenges that you are facing - and I feel like as a woman, I haven’t had as much opportunity to be mentored by other women who have come before me. Although the profession is changing with more directors being female, my hope is to see some of these women wanting to move into management roles, as we bring unique traits and perspectives to the profession.

What does leadership mean to you?

If I had to pick a word, I would say leadership is action. As leaders, we need to walk the talk. I believe that passion, trust, vulnerability and authenticity are all very important leadership qualities, but your team must see you living each of these things out. It's about service to others, in all facets, even when people are not looking. As leaders we must role model what we want to see in others, even when it’s hard. Becoming comfortable with the uncomfortable is how we will grow and learn.

Do you believe people are drawn to leadership roles in our profession?

I think it’s been hard for businesses (especially in our profession) to find people who want to be leaders, firstly because our schedules are more demanding than many other professions, and as more people have decided they want a clear separation between their work and their lives outside of work. I understand that, but I also believe in ‘life’s work’ and finding deeper meaning and fulfilment from what I do. We can find incredible meaning, worth and inspiration in our workplaces. Those things don't have to exist only outside of work. Part of who I am is what I do. Part of what I do is who I am. This is what makes me so passionate and inspired for what I do and I feel that it makes me a better person.

Jen is an innovative leader in the industry and she is working everyday to lead with action and compassion for her team and the families they serve.

Rapid fire with Jen…

What do you love most about your profession?

We are caring.

What is your proudest moment?

Having a baby and signing paperwork for Smith’s in the same week.

It is 2032, what will we see?

I hope we see a bigger vision for the facility at Smith’s. Modern, fresh, and inviting; not as formal or traditional. That would be a fun project to envision!

If you could educate families on one thing, what would it be?

The value of ritual, ceremony, togetherness and honouring a life. And it doesn’t have to be done in a traditional, homogenous way.

Quote you love?

People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. – Maya Angelou

Leadership is... Passion in action.

What one word describes leadership to you? Leave us a comment!

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Your Answers Lie in Your Leadership

Staff shortages. Supply chain issues. Burn out. There are a lot of challenges facing businesses and business owners right now. At times, some of these challenges may seem insurmountable. But there is good news and that is that you have everything you need to solve these problems through leadership. Being a leader means finding the solution to your problems. Leadership seems to be such a buzz word these days, so what does it mean to lead or have leadership?.

Connect with your why and communicate this vision

One of the main roles of any leader is to cast vision and then translate that vision into reality. To be able to do this, some leaders need to reconnect with their why and get clear on their vision. It is your vision that inspires your team and others to join it. If you are clear on what you want to achieve and can paint that picture clearly and simply, then you will attract the right people to join your team and help you realize your goals.

Tip: Your why should be about making a difference or solving a problem. Leaders don't set out to be leaders, they set out to make a difference. It's never about the role; it's about the goal.

Remember who you are leading

Leadership starts with the simple reminder of who you are leading. For example, in the funeral profession, you are selling a service first and foremost. So, it's your people, your team, that should be your number one client and the most important to you. Your team comes before your clients. Without them you don't have a business. A friend of mine in the profession, Bruno Carchidi, from Tubman Funeral Homes in Ottawa, shared this diagram with me recently when I was on the road and it stuck with me.

The diagram outlines that to lead successfully you need to make sure you are leading in the right direction.

1. Start with your company culture and values

2. Feed this into your team first

3. They will lead and serve families better

4. This, in turn, feeds stakeholders, which in turn feeds the company.

If you are leading the reverse way, you have it backwards. "Great leaders don't create followers, they create more leaders". (Tom Peters)

Tip: Create your own leadership diagram. Start with your why and then identify your team, your clients and your stakeholders.

Be conscious of your script

I have recently listened to many business owners and managers talk about hiring as their biggest issue. They say things like, "I need more staff". When I hear this, I think that a simple shift in their mindset and vocabulary from staff to team sets a very different tone and may help. When you are building a team, everyone feels like they are in this together, which is how it should be. At MyBabbo, many of the great new team members we have hired have been through referrals from our team. Get your team involved in hiring and building your team and it will lighten your load. Not to mention you can build off each other's ideas and create a better plan.

Tip: Offer a fun challenge or promotion to get new resumes or hires that have been referred by your team.

Listen to your team

It is important as a leader to make your team feel heard. In order to do this, you need to be vulnerable to hearing their feedback on your leadership. I recently participated in the Leadership Circle Profile which provided 360-degree feedback from all of my team on how I am doing as a leader. This information was very valuable and our team also felt like they had a voice. If you don't ask, you will never know how you are doing as a leader.

Tip: For some of us just getting back to weekly meetings as a team or 1-1 meetings and asking more probing questions and listening will be a huge help.

Create a culture of learning

Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other. You never arrive as a leader - you should always be learning and growing. If it is our role to build up other leaders within our organizations, then we need to be investing in our team's leadership as well. There is a saying that has stuck with me that says, "Everyone wins when a leader gets better." (Bill Hybel).

There are endless opportunities to attend leadership conferences. I recently attended a women's leadership conference in Miami to connect with other female leaders. For my birthday every year, I gift myself a ticket to attend the global leadership conference. It brings the best leaders in business, faith and politics together in one conference. Check it out here. There are also endless books, podcasts and courses that you can take to grow in your leadership. I love to listen to lots of podcasts and audiobooks on leadership. One of my favourites is Craig Groeschel Leadership podcast or Simon Sinek.

Tip: Make an actionable plan to learn something new. Attend a conference or listen to a podcast - it all adds up to make a difference.

I believe that organizations are only as strong as their leadership. So, as leaders, let's get re-rooted in our why and cast our meaningful vision, take a people-first approach prioritizing listening and communication with our team which will help develop them as leaders and only help to strengthen your business and solve some of your problems.

What are your thoughts/concerns/challenges on leadership? Let’s chat in the comments.

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How to Build Better Relationships Through Social Media – Tell the Story of Who You Are

There is a lot of pressure on businesses today to get their presence out on social media; and for good reason. Having a strong social media presence can translate to stronger relationships with customers, grow your customer base and ultimately increase sales and revenue. Many of you are basically paralyzed wondering where to even start? Or have dabbled with it, but have either minimal posts or are not consistent in your sharing.

Getting started on social media and understanding how to use it is actually easier than you think. Here are some small steps you can take right now:

Use it to build relationships, not make sales

Use social media to connect with your customers on a personal level. This kind of connection will build loyalty and trust and long-term relationships. So, instead of trying to make posts for Instagram and Facebook that sell your product or service, use your accounts to tell people who you are. What does that mean? Keep reading.

Make emotional connections

Use social media to relate to your customers on an emotional level. This is an opportunity to let them get to know you and/or your business. Emotional connections are key to building customer trust. Consider the death care industry. People associate funeral directors with death and fear. Social media can be used to change that perception to one of someone who cares deeply for people. Posts that connect on an emotional level include:

  1. Sharing your personality - fun posts that express who you are/things you like to do. This includes your team! Share the personalities of the people that work with you as well.
  • Team building events - lunches, dinners, parties, etc
  • Rapid fire questions that are fun and allow people to get to know you and your team
  • Team profiles
  • Team birthdays and work anniversaries
  1. Testimonials - people want to read about what other customers think! Ask your past clients for testimonials and post them!

Share your purpose

Social media is an excellent medium to share your purpose with your customers and to lure potential future customers. You can use posts to express the reason you are in business; your purpose. Posts that share your purpose might include:

  1. Images and messages that share your story. Most people don’t start a business to make money. They start businesses because they have a purpose or desire to create something or to help people or to improve something. Share that!
  • Post images or interactions that allow you to express in the caption the story of your business. For example, we began MyBabbo after the death of my husband Mirco’s father. We created a photobook that shared his legacy and everyone wanted one. People value connection and that is at our core. We use photobook posts and pictures to remind people what our story is.
  1. Images and messages that share why you got into your business
  • Use social media to share your why. Find content that resonates with you and expresses to people how it connects to your why.
  1. Quotes that reflect your values

Connect with your community

There is no better platform than social media to allow your business to show your community connection. Tapping into your community connections is such an easy way to get content for your posts. Posts to share your community connections include:

  1. Engaging with your customers
  • Share pictures of meetings with customers. • Share positive or funny messages from clients or customers - you can take screenshots of them or recreate them using design apps like Canva. • Repost anytime a customer tags you in one of their posts.
  1. Engaging with the community in which you live
  • Having a meeting at a local coffee shop? Post it! • Team dinner at a neighborhood restaurant? Post it!
  1. Your community or philanthropic involvement
  • If you are engaged in volunteer work or fundraising efforts, your customers want to know. Share the work you do for others on your social accounts.

Don’t be afraid to get started on social media. Take it one post at a time. And the very best advice I can give you is just to be yourself! If you are funny, be funny. If you are corny, be corny! Let your voice and passion be the star on your accounts. Emphasize your WHY as that is what people are going to connect with. You can do it. Don’t overthink it!

What are your biggest social media fears? Let’s chat in the comments.

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Kelsi Palmer is Rising to the Occasion as the Death Care Industry Evolves

This quote hangs on the wall in Kelsi Palmer’s office. For 100 years, Speers Funeral and Cremation Services in Regina, Saskatchewan had been led by male funeral directors. That changed 13 years ago when Kelsi became their first female funeral director. This is an industry trend as the face of the funeral director is changing. Close to 75% of students enrolled in funeral director programs in Ontario colleges are female. While the profession still predominantly sees men in ownership and leadership positions, a new wave of females are ready to share those roles.

We are grateful to work with and learn from Kelsi. Here are just some of the insights from our conversation with her.

How did you first connect with MyBabbo?

I first met Tracy and MyBabbo at an FSAC (Funeral Services Association of Canada) conference in Regina. I was a new director and when I saw MyBabbo, it grabbed my attention as they offered something that I would want to buy and was relevant to me.

Then, in November 2011, my brother passed away and MyBaboo put together the stationery for the service. Afterwards, Tracy gifted me a photo book filled with memories of my brother Lyndon’s life. This past November, was the 10 year anniversary of his passing and I decided to commemorate the anniversary by purchasing books for all my family members. At first, this caught my family off guard as we hadn’t been a family that did a lot of talking and mourning together so it was emotional. For me, the photo book helped me connect more with Lyndon’s life and was helping me on my grief journey. I wanted this for my family too. I have found that the book opens up conversations and allows people to talk about their feelings. Some of my friends would see the book on my coffee table and it was a gateway to them asking me how I was doing or as a way to talk about him.

In what ways are women making a difference in the profession?

I believe in the future you will continue to see more women entering the profession and growing into leadership positions. What women have to offer is a unique set of soft skills that are part of the care, compassion and creativity needed in funeral service. We seem to have a more natural need to nurture and take care of people. Women also tend to be more creative and are very good at listening and executing on the family's wishes.

How is the profession changing?

The Role of the Funeral Director

The core of what we do hasn’t changed - we are still the experts who walk families through one of the hardest times of their life when they lose a loved one.

We need to listen more to what our families want versus guiding them through how we think the service should look or has traditionally looked in the past. We need to take on more of a problem solving role and that of creative director and help the families create what they want.

Family’s Requests are Increasing and More Personalized

The next generation of our families are making more and different decisions than in the past. They are asking for services that are less traditional and more personalized, that reflect the life of their loved one..

There is more of an emphasis on personalized items like keepsakes, items that tell or share their story versus the more cookie cutter items from the past. For example, we offer and sell a lot more cremation or fingerprint jewellery, video tributes and photo books and we do a lot more webcasting of our services.

Families are more educated about after death care, usually from what they have seen on the internet. They come in with more of an idea of what they want versus just accepting services as they have been in the past.

Families are price savvy and are comparing costs and services to Amazon and other online offerings.

Families want more creativity in honouring their loved one and as such, they want personalized services. These requests place even more demands on the director as they investigate ways to be more creative for their families.

The timing of services has also changed. Families used to come right from the hospital to see us and get the funeral organized. Now, many times they go home for a few days, talk amongst the family, and then come in to share and discuss their vision.

6 Ways Kelsi and Speers Funeral Home are Innovating to Meet the Needs of their Families

Innovative Ways we Connect with Families

Art With Heart.

We recently hosted our first art therapy workshop for children ages 6-12 and it was a huge success! We had a local art therapist facilitate it, along with a few of our staff members assisting. It was so powerful to see these kids connect to one another in their shared experiences and connect with their loved ones through art.

Speaking Grief

This was another successful community event that we will be hosting again. The evening includes the viewing of the documentary Speaking Grief, expert panel discussion and community resources. The event aims to create a conversation about grief and move away from the idea that it’s a problem that needs to be fixed

Innovating ways we Leverage Technology

Virtual pre-planning seminars

We hold monthly in-person pre-planning seminars and we have begun hosting virtual seminars so that people can attend from the comfort and safety of their own home.

AV upgrades

We did a significant audio visual upgrade in 2021 to both our chapel and family centre. My favourite part of the whole project was the framed TV we put in our foyer. On this TV we either rotate art pieces, promote events or have personalized photos for funerals and visitations. This is one of the first things families see when they enter our building and to see their loved one on the screen brings them much comfort. We get so many nice comments on this feature. Plus our staff love going through the art gallery option to pick different pieces to display.

Social media

This is something we have put a lot of focus on over the last year. I feel like social media allows us to connect with our community online. We actually don’t post any obituaries or inspirational quote images. Instead, we try to keep it light, but informative. We show the public that we are just regular people that shovel snow and take their kids to the rink like everybody else. I spoke on the social media panel during last year’s FSAC convention and my advice to funeral homes hesitant to be on social media was to jump in and just have fun with it.

Google Reviews

Something I really want to focus on this year is to increase our 5 star Google reviews. Anytime we receive a nice thank you letter, or positive client family survey, I reach out to them and thank them for their kind words. I then ask if I could share their praise online (our website, Facebook, etc.) and also ask if they would be willing to leave us a Google review. If they agree I will either email or text the direct link to leave the review. I know there are a lot of automated programs that do this, but this is more of a personal touch and another chance to connect with families.

Kelsi truly understands the evolving nature of the death care industry. She is responsive to the changing needs of families and innovates in creative and impactful ways.

What are you doing to innovate? Leave us a comment!

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(Stats were provided from Funeral and Memorial Information Council)

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The importance of workplace culture and what you can do to improve it

We recently had a team member resign from MyBabbo. It hit me hard. I wondered what we could have done better. At their exit interview, I asked the question, “How would you describe the MyBabbo culture?” She responded, “It’s a positive family environment. It is uplifting and inspiring.” As you can imagine this made me tear up with pride. So why was this team member quitting? There were a multitude of reasons but top of the list was family balance. I couldn't debate this as she was aligning with our culture of family first. I know I will keep in touch with this team member and maybe when her family situation changes MyBabbo will welcome her home and back into our work family.

At MyBabbo, we continually try to build a culture that lives out our core values and guiding principles. Sometimes we fail but those failures offer us a chance to reflect and get back on track. One of our most important core values is celebrating people. Appreciation for our team is a key factor in our company's success. Finding suitable candidates to hire and employee retention are critical issues for businesses everywhere right now. A recent study suggests just over 4 in 5 companies will face hiring challenges over the next year citing issues like finding qualified candidates and increased competition in the job market. The culture of your business - the culture your employees actually feel (not just the one written in your business statement) is essential in retaining your most prized asset - your employees.

Forbes magazine identified three reasons why positive workplaces are more productive.

1. A positive work culture encourages happier employees. Happy employees generally don’t leave.

2. Positive work cultures promote collaboration. A sense of team means people know they can rely on one another to solve problems and get the job done - likely faster.

3. A positive workplace promotes creativity. When employees feel like they are an important part of the team, they will be more likely to speak up and share their ideas and fresh perspectives.

Here are five practices to promote a positive work culture.

Everyone should know and feel your company values

We have our company values framed and posted on the wall above our desks at the office. Our values are in our face everyday. They are there to remind us of who we are and the culture we want to create and maintain based on those values. Our team and our customers also know our values; partly because they are often a part of our conversations but also because we regularly act on them. You can also find them on our website. Just reading them over for this blog made me feel good! What are your company values? Are they widely shared? Maybe it’s time to revisit them and ensure they reflect the culture you want to create. Or maybe it’s time to bring them back to the forefront of your practice and see how they positively impact your workplace culture.

Practice what you preach

One of our most important practices for our team is putting family first. Many of our hires are moms who want to be a part of the workforce but also still want to stay home to support their families. We offer flexible hours and remote work to support this important part of our culture. Our business was built on the principle of putting our family first and to this day we live out this commitment to their kids and extended family every day. What specific practices do you have in place that directly connect with your core values? Everyone benefits when the vision and actions are strongly aligned.

Invest in learning & growth opportunities

Growth and learning for everyone in your business is essential. We all need opportunities to learn and to share our learning. As well, proper training is essential for your team to feel supported and be able to execute their roles successfully. At MyBabbo, we invest in both learning about what we do and in our team’s well being. We have invested in courses and books (like those from Marie Forleo and Simon Sinek) and specifically in strengthening each team member through work in MBTI and The Table Group with Patrick Lencioni. We also attend an annual Global Leadership Summit with some of our team. A positive workplace culture requires investment.

Connect with your team

A sense of connectedness is an essential part of a positive work culture. Feeling connected makes everyone feel like they are part of a team. It also keeps important lines of communication open. We like to have weekly manager meetings to ensure our action plans and vision are aligned. We also have an open door policy - any employee can reach out to us directly at any time. It is important to be accessible and to be a listening ear. This policy builds a sense of trust and contributes to employee satisfaction. Team parties, hikes and meals are also fun ways for us to connect. Everyone feels more validated when they feel connected.

Celebrate your employees

Our number one customer is our team. We need to take care of our teams before we even take care of our clients. For our business, we are a concierge service with a high focus on customer service; without our team, a happy team, we do not have a business. We try to share with them specific ways they are making a difference in the work we do. We celebrate our team - their accomplishments, their milestones, their lives - with big and small gestures. Sometimes we drop treats to their homes (usually baked goods) and sometimes we treat them to team parties at fancy places like Langdon Hall. We also like to send messages and notes of appreciation whenever we can. Receiving a pay cheque is not enough validation from employer to employee. Here are 19 ways to show employees you appreciate them.

Spend some time thinking about the culture of your company. Is it the culture you intended to create? We would love to hear your thoughts. Share with us in the comments below. Let’s get the conversation going!

You can read more on the importance of culture here.

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What Kind of Super Bowl Experience Do You Provide Your Clients?

I am a highly competitive person. I have yet to meet a challenge I didn’t want to crush. And the Super Bowl fuels me with all of the competitive energy I thrive on. (I still can’t believe the final minutes of the Chiefs vs. Bills game.) While the big game is important - because well, it is the big game - it is also widely known for the great viewing parties people throw to watch it.

I was thinking about how different a Super Bowl party thrown by my husband Mirco would look compared to one thrown by me. Here is a summary of the parties each of us would throw.

Tracy’s Super Bowl Party

  • Printed invitations go out as soon as the teams are decided.
  • Napkins, balloons, tablecloths all coordinated to match the team we are rooting for.
  • Football themed cupcakes ordered from the local bakery.
  • Meal plan created and executed to reflect the event and ensure there is something for everyone - wings, nachos, chili, pizza, cheese board, veggie tray.
  • Inspirational quotes posted around the tv room.
  • Bar set up with multiple themed drink options.
  • Mini challenge games ready to execute throughout the night.
  • Mirco’s Super Bowl Party

  • Invites guests by quick text the day before the game.
  • Everyone shows up with pizza and beer. Or the same bag of chips and beer.
  • I think we can agree that no matter who threw the party, the guests would have had a good time and will probably all come back next year.  We can think of our party guests like our customers: we want to offer them the best of us and have them come back over and over again. People have a lot of choices these days. It is important that we not get complacent in the service we offer our customers.

    The attention to detail and personalization and the feeling those details create is the biggest difference in a great party and in great service. Today’s customers are looking for an experience and we can provide this experience through many of the tools and products we already have. Customers will remember the experience they had with you.

    What can you do to elevate the experience you provide?

  • Make sure you know your customer. One size does not fit all. Pay attention to what they tell you and adjust your service to their needs.
  • Think about what you have been doing for a long time that might need to be changed up or elevated.
  • Consider outsourcing to other companies to provide the extra touches. (Like MyBabbo!)
  • Get creative!

    Be connected!

    The little details you provide your customers are what will make you stand out. These details will make your customers want to come back to you and recommend you to their friends. Sell the experience of your service or product and be prepared for a lot more people at your party!

    What are your Super Bowl plans? How do you create an experience for your customers? Tell us in the comments!

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    The Importance of Telling Our Stories

    Today is Holocaust Memorial Day; a date chosen by many as it was January 27th, 1945 that Auschwitz concentration camp was liberated. Today is a day of remembrance for the 6 million Jewish and the 11 million other lives lost at the hand of the Nazis.

    In April, 2021, we had the absolute pleasure of meeting Elly Gotz. Elly is a Holocaust survivor, memory keeper and storyteller. On July 15, 1944 Elly’s family was sent to Dachau - a concentration camp in Germany. His family would endure unimaginable suffering until the camp’s liberation on April 29th, 1945.

    We connected with Elly through a funeral director who had heard Elly’s story. He connected us in hopes that we could preserve Elly’s story through one of our photo books. This would become one of the most profound and gratifying experiences in 10 years of storytelling at MyBabbo. We are so proud of the work our legacy creator did in capturing his story. Elly speaks to over 15000 students a year and he felt a photo book with images and key facts would be the best way for students to engage with the material. He also believed his story would be more readily shared this way. Sharing his story and experiences and the lessons from the past is Elly’s main goal.

    Elly's photo book
    Click here to view photo book we created of Elly’s Story here

    Creating Elly’s photo book reinforced the power that photos and stories have to connect us to our history. Remembering our history allows us to reflect and to grow. Elly’s story beautifully captures a life interrupted and how, even after our darkest days, we can emerge to find joy and purpose again.

    The story shared in Elly’s photo book is especially important because it was told by him. What a gift he has given us all by sharing his story in his own words. Creating a photo book to honour the legacy of someone who has passed is something to really cherish. But when a person takes the time to tell their own story, while they are still with us, we have something remarkably special. Imagine if we all took the time to tell our own story and to share that story through our most cherished photos? We too could leave a legacy of sharing our lives and the lessons we learned along the way.

    We asked Elly why he believes sharing his story is so important and this is what he shared.

    1. We need to understand the Holocaust and the pain of the Jews. Six million lives were lost – a third of the world’s Jews, to the Holocaust.

    2. To understand how HATE affects human lives and to learn to give it up. “To hate is like taking poison, and hoping the other will die” Buddha said this 2,700 years ago. Free yourself from hate. First, the hate of people who hurt you in the past. Then, the hatred you may have of others, people you might not even know.

    3. To learn how important it is in life to learn to do something well, to acquire a skill, a profession, to study.

    Elly also shares with students the importance of being kind to immigrants and taking the time to find out who they are. Through this, we will discover our common humanity. Our stories matter. The lessons from our stories matter. We are grateful to Elly for sharing his and for working tirelessly to educate our youth on the importance of love and acceptance over hate and fear.

    What story will you tell?

    Elly Gotz
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    10 Years. 10 Lessons: What We Have Learned From a Decade in Business

    In 2007, I walked away from my corporate job. Cue second guessing and freaking out but also feeling liberated and ready. Ready for what? I wasn’t sure. I only felt in my bones that life had more in store for me.

    In April 2011, I started MyBabbo. A company that has been one of the most challenging, fun, inspiring, and life-giving blessings. Five years later, in 2016, my husband Mirco left his corporate job to join me. Cue second guessing and freaking out. Again. Looking back, I can’t believe the courage (and nerve!) it took for us to do what we did. Our entire livelihood was now reliant on something that began as a hobby of mine.

    The journey of our company has been a gift full of lessons. As a business owner (serving the funeral services profession) here are 10 lessons we have taken away from 10 years at MyBabbo.

    1.  Listen to your clients

    I have been the most successful when I have listened to my clients. When I have listened to what keeps them up at night and then come up with personalized solutions for them. One size does not fit all. Get out there and talk to your clients. This will show them that you really care and let you know how you can add real value to their lives or businesses.

    2.  Know your WHY!

    There have been times over the years when I could feel the essence of my company going off course. During these times I sometimes had trouble making decisions. I wasn’t sure about what our next steps should be. What got me back on track (on one of our yearly business retreats…more on that in another post!) was connecting back to MyBabbo’s purpose; our why. It is essential that you can articulate the WHY of your business. All roads lead back to it; otherwise, you might be off course.

    3.  Hire great people

    I shared this quote with my husband Mirco recently: When you share life, your joys are multiplied and hardships divided. This is absolutely true in business as well. MyBabbo thrives because we have hired phenomenally great people. The rest is trainable. Figure out what you are good at and then hire for the rest. Teamwork makes the dreamwork!

    4. Take risks. But be ok with failing sometimes (But try to fail fast and learn quickly!)

    Business requires the courage to take chances. You win some and you lose some but you will always learn. We can’t let our egos get in the way and stop us from falling down sometimes. You need to allow room (and forgiveness) for failure as this is how we grow and evolve. James Dyson famously failed 5,126 times before getting it right! I have learned you get further ahead by being open to change and trying new things. It’s not always going to work out and that's ok.

    5.  Keep Dreaming

    I have always loved and benefited from dreaming and vision casting. We are always imagining what we can achieve or do next. In the beginning, I dreamed of having a team. Check. I always had a dream of being able to hire my husband and I made it happen. I dreamed of not working from my dining room table and I now have an office on Bloor Street. Remember lesson number four above and keep dreaming!

    6.  Celebrate milestones. Celebrate people

    We all need more celebrations in our lives. Set goals and celebrate the milestones along the way. Celebrate with cupcakes, a toast, a party or just a thoughtful email. And always remember to acknowledge the people that shared in your successes.

    7.  Be a lifelong learner

    We attend a leadership summit every August with the biggest business, political and church leaders in the world. We listen to lot of podcasts, read, attend workshops and invest in being the best version of ourselves we can.

    8.  Mind your mindset

    A lot of life is lived between your ears and in your belief system. Be conscious of what you allow to speak into this space and fill it with positive self-talk and mantras, gratitude, perspective and LOVE! I have benefited in business from what my mom instilled in me from a young age to believe that anything is possible and that everything is figureoutable.

    9.  Mentors matter. Get one. Be one

    I have been blessed with some phenomenal mentors throughout our 10 years of business. There are many smart and successful people out there that want to see you be successful. Leadership can be lonely at times and mentors help with accountability, share wisdom, and can be a much needed sounding board as you navigate your business. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Then pay it forward. When you can be of service to others, don’t hesitate.

    10. Network and share your story

    The more I shared our story, the more doors opened. People love a good story so craft yours and then share, share, share. I still believe word of mouth is the best way to grow a business. People love to support a business with an authentic and original story.

    We are starting our second decade in business in the midst of a pandemic. Still, we wake up every morning with the same passion we were founded on. We are thankful for the meaningful work we get to do each day, for the lessons we have learned and for the great people alongside us. I am excited for the lessons the next decade will reveal.

    And because it was really hard for me to share just 10 (because it really worked for the title!) here are three more…

    11. Think long-game and pace yourself

    Shit Happens. We always underestimate what we can achieve in a lifetime and overestimate what we can accomplish in a day. Expect some highs and some big-time lows. Keep going at your own pace. This is your story. Your climb. Stay fixated on the big picture and roll with the punches that business throws at you.

    12. Measure your value creation

    The only way you will thrive in business is if people will pay for your services. As a creative company that is passionate about our work we cannot lose sight of the fact that people need to see the value we create. Always look for feedback to measure the impact your products and services hold with others.

    13. All the answers you need, you already have

    Our work can leave us burnt out or with little to no margin to be able to connect with our inner selves. Make space for you. It will save you lots of time, energy and money and give you all the clarity you need. Plan for yearly or bi-yearly retreats. They are good for the soul and your bottom line.

    What are the most important business lessons you have learned?

    We want to hear from you in the comments!

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    The Gift of Giving: 6 Unexpected Business Benefits for Your Company

    ‘Only by giving are you able to receive more than you already have.” Jim Rohn.

    I hope you have been following along with our Facebook page or Instagram posts and keeping up with our Advent calendar. Creating this calendar for our customers for the past 6 years has been a labour of love for us. We know it brings our customers (and us) a lot of joy. We also love that our calendar reflects our core values as a company - family, community, and service.

    We love creating products and interactions that get people to stop (ok, slow down), reflect, and connect, which inspires growth and purposeful connections. Our Advent calendar is the physical extension of our company values and we love creating it every year.

    As well as sharing our Advent calendar, we also enjoy surprising our partners with cupcakes (lime green icing, of course). As well as being a delicious treat, our cupcakes remind people to celebrate because life is short and we should enjoy treats more often. It is also a great way for us to celebrate our partnerships and express our gratitude. Small gestures matter!  And let’s not forget Mirco’s homemade meatballs which have also become a partner favorite. Mirco hand makes Mamma Rossetti’s recipe as a way for us to show our care for funeral directors who often are so time starved they don’t even have time to eat! Food is definitely an Italian’s love language. Mine just happens to be gifts.

    We love to use gifts to express ourselves to our partners and to show our appreciation for their business. Giving to the community is always at the heart of how we conduct our business. Together, Mirco and I have helped to raise over $1M for charity. MyBabbo has also allowed us to give back even more through initiatives like our Ivy Mission which focuses on hiring moms and helping them prioritize their families, while earning an income. When funeral homes partner with us, they also know they are partnering with a company that gives...including cupcakes and meatballs sometimes!

    Here are 6 of the many benefits businesses can receive from giving.

    1. Set Yourself Apart

    Most businesses are good at what they do or they wouldn’t still be in business.  Figuring out authentic ways to elevate your business from the rest is a worthwhile endeavour. If you make giving a priority, when a customer chooses you, they also know they are choosing a company that may align with their values. They feel better about their choice simply by contributing to your causes.

    1. Your gestures make you memorable

    Giving a gift to your customers or making charitable donations is one the best ways  to make your company memorable. People will talk about the quality service or  products you provided but they will also talk about how you went above and beyond.  Your personal touches and gifts might even start trending on social media! We are  waiting for our cupcakes to go viral.

    1. Personal touches and the act of giving let your customers ‘see’ you

    The choice of what you give and why you give should be a reflection of the heart of  your business. Through your gifts and donations, your customer will know the  essence and values of your company, and ultimately of you. Gift giving humanizes  the transactional process and let’s your customer know that you see them too.

    1. Gift giving allows you to express your creativity

    The day to day operations of running a business can be a grind. Even though you  may not feel like you have the capacity for it, gift giving can be a great way to spark  creativity and/or allow you to express your creativity. This inevitably carries over into  the rest of your work. It is important for us to remember to have some fun and think  outside of the box sometimes.

    1. Giving is a way is a great way to celebrate your company’s milestones

    Gift giving is a great way to show appreciation to your customers who have helped  you to achieve the milestones of your business. We should always take opportunities  to celebrate our big and small victories and achievements. Small gifts or donations to recognize these accomplishments is an important marker of success. The past year and half has been hard. Let’s find all the reasons we can to celebrate and share in that celebration with our customers and communities.

    1. It makes you feel good!

    Service to others is universally known as a major factor contributing to inner  contentment and happiness. When we give to others we get so much back in return. The smiles, notes of appreciation, and the comfort you can provide through giving is the greatest wealth there is.

    What personal touches are you offering your customers?

    Can your customers feel your essence through your gestures, big or small?

    We’d love to talk about it! Leave us a comment below.

    Read a bit more...on the relationship between giving and the success of our businesses.  

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