In every line of business today profits are largely dependent upon busi¬ness management and not upon haphazard luck, as it has been in a good many years in the past, and business management is dependent upon the records they have upon which they have to base their decisions from day to day.
I have had an opportunity to prepare a little chart of what I feel are the primary records within a cemetery, and these include the following: You have, of course, your sales department, and under that your prospect records and your sales records. You have your lot records with the lots sold, your interments, and indexes to lot owners and you have your accounting department with their component parts of collecting the money, the accounts receivable, the accounts payable and the payroll records.
I want to cover each one of those things with the prospect record be¬cause, after all, that is where your business begins. You can't collect money for selling of lots or you can't sell monuments or tombs or have interments until you have sold a lot, and neither can you sell a lot until you have had a prospect for selling one.
Whether you as a cemetery owner manage the salesmen yourself or whether you have someone else as sales manager that takes care of that. You are interested in knowing what your salesmen are doing, is he developing prospects, and so forth? A very simple prospect record can be taken care of in three parts, - one alphabetic listing of all of the prospects for the purchase of lots, monuments, tombs, or whatever it may be, set up on 5x3 cards and indexed alphabetically, which will contain all of the prospects that the various salesmen have.
Then we have found that a visible record containing two forms in which each salesman's prospects are set up alphabetically - these forms right here. One of these remains in the file (illustrating) as a permanent card and to this is posted each contact, each follow-up date, and so forth. The other form contains exactly the same information except it is the salesman's work card and being invisible equipment, it is possible to use signals on this so when a salesman comes in and says he has to follow this up on such and such a date, a signal is indicated to indicate that date or a day prior. The girls in the office can go to this file and for each salesman she pulls out these orange cards and hands them to the sales¬man and that is a reminder he is supposed to follow a certain prospect on such a date. At the same time there appears on the visible margin a black space to indicate the orange card has been given to the salesman. At the time this is returned, if he hasn't completed his sale the girl posts here the date of next follow up and readjusts the signal.
What are the advantages? You have a complete record of each sales¬man's prospects. You know the cards he has taken out to call on and hasn't reported. There is a space here on which you can mark the various stages, - his first call, the demonstration, the date he brought the man in to look at the lot, and so forth, and you can go to that at any time and have a complete check up on exactly what your salesmen are doing, which I think is a pretty good idea, and in that way you know exactly where your next possible sales may be located.
A salesman develops a prospect. You sell your lot, and the next thing is to keep a record of the lots that you have sold, which calls of course for a lot record and of course there must be a cross index to that.
I have developed a few systems for records as used by the Harrisburg Cemetery, which we feel is the ideal set-up. We realize there are as many different kinds of equipment being used as you might say people selling office equipment, but these people have made use of this possibility. They set up visible equipment, one card for each lot in the cemetery. This is indexed numerically by section and lot number. When the lot is sold, this card is removed from the visible equipment and to this is posted right on the visible margin the name of the lot owner, so this one record com¬bines two purposes. It acts as a complete list of the lots sold or your lot record, as is usually accepted, and it also gives you all of the lots that are yet to be sold.
Of course, you have got to have with this an alphabetical list indexed to lot owners. This is usually taken care of either on vertical cards filed alphabetically, as do the Harrisburg Cemetery Association, or you can make use of Kardex Chainex, which as an index to lot owners is nothing more than reference for that can be typed on three lines of space.
This gives you an amazingly fast, compact, visible record for refer¬ence purposes. Your complete information, of course, is on your lot record card. Then, of course, your index to interred. On this card, as each burial is made in the cemetery they post the date of the burial, name of person, and other information. Of course, the design of the card form will conform with the wishes and demands of the particular ceme¬tery. In this case they just post the date of burial, name and coded information.
They cross index, so this is made on 6x4 vertical cards, and the reason for this 6x4 card in this case was due to the fact they wanted a good deal of information about each of the interred. Where such is not the case, it is easily possible to use your Chainex for this purpose.
Therefore, these three records, - your one lot record card set up by lot number and indexed to lot owners, plus your index to interred should be sufficient information so that you can secure the name of any person that has been buried in your cemetery, the name of any lot owner, a com¬plete list of all lots that have been sold, and also a complete list of all lots that are to be sold.
A lot is sold and of course you want to get your money for it. That is the most important thing. You have to go to the accounting depart¬ment to do that, and you have your accounts receivable, accounts payable, and the payroll. The accounts receivable, of course, collect for your interments, for special care, payments for perpetual care, and various charges of many kinds. A good many of the newer cemeteries are selling lots on a deferred payment basis. I don't know how many of you gentle¬men are doing that but I think quite a few. When you start dealing in deferred payments, you complicate your accounting problem a good deal. However, there are some cemeteries that have made use of an accounting machine which we feel has simplified this a good deal. If Mr. Minear is here, he could probably explain this better than I can, because I believe he is using this set-up.
In this case there are salesmen and the sales office and they are both paid on a commission basis. This requires, of course, that they keep a complete record of the account with the customer after the lot is sold, - the salesmen's commissions and the sales office commission and they do this with one single posting which we have posted of both the cus¬tomer's account, which is maintained, the sales office commission account and a salesman's commission account, and at the same time they posted the salesman payroll statement.
This is usually closed out, and at that time the ledger card is removed from this section and filed in a section in which all are paying commis¬sions to the office. It is maintained in a different section until all the payments are made and the customer's account is closed.
Of course, this is very fine, but there is one drawback to this set-up. That is, when you start dealing in deferred payments there is a little item of getting your money. A lot of people who make a few payments decide, “Well, I don’t know whether we wanted that or not" or "We will wait a couple of months, we have other bills we want to pay and things are a little short. So it is nice to keep an auxiliary record to this and we feel that either Kardex or some of its component parts or various things of that line are the ideal record for keeping this follow up. Through the use of signals it is possible to chart the age of the oldest unpaid balance of each account at all times, which makes the job of finding delinquencies very easy. You have got to know who owes you money before you can go after them to get it. Through the use of signals it has been found that delinquencies have been improved anywhere from 2 to 4 percent, which is not bad.
Of course, in a good many cemeteries that do not use the deferred payment basis, it has been possible to incorporate the ledger card with the lot record. That again is dependent on the number of lot record cards and whether or not the two departments operate close enough together to make this possible.
Going from this into your payroll record, where a machine is used, such as this, where you have your statement, you also have the payroll record kept the same way. Of course, the government has complicated those a good deal with social security, unemployment insurance, and so forth. In this case they take their personnel record card and post that on the machine. However, for the gardeners, office help, where they do not keep this commission statement, they use standard record forms kept in a small book unit for keeping the social security records of other than salesmen, which has been found to work out very satisfactorily.
Now there is one other item that I want to refer to, and that is this: The records of a cemetery are very valuable. They are supposed to be kept permanently, and I am quite sure you all plan to do that unless something might happen which is not foreseen, and which I might say is a fire. There is a little subject of record protection. Your lot records, your inter¬ment records, your accounts receivable, you know are too often entrusted to iron safes or steel vaults with a steel door, which our underwriters will not rate more than half an hour protection against fire. Such a thing just shouldn't exist, when it is so very easy to place all of these records in certified, insulated equipment congruent with the risk in which these records might be forced to be. And you can do this without losing any of the operating efficiency of the record.
There has been a great deal of new equipment developed within the last five or six years in which all such things as Kardex cabinets, filing cabinets, ledger trays, are insulated. Quite often it is figured a steel file cabinet because it is steel won't burn. Unfortunately, the contents of it do, and it is so often the case. That is the one thing I would like to impress upon you, that you gentlemen look into that problem, because I have been in quite a few cemeteries in various places, and there are a lot of them where your interment records and lot records are set in steel files, and they shouldn't be. For one thing you owe it to your lot owners and the people buried there to keep those records for them. A steel file won't do it.
Going back and briefly summarizing, considering your sales depart¬ment with your prospects, your lot record with the simple index of lot owners, and your index to interred, plus your accounting department - an office that is laid out that way, as you can see there (referring to black-board), - your lot record is tied up with your sales record. Your accounts receivable is again tied up with your lots sold. With that set-up I think you might be able to simplify things a good deal as far as maintaining of the records within your office is concerned.
From the publication:
“1940-1941 Cemetery Handbook & Buyers’ Guide”
ACOA 11th Annual Convention & Exposition
Hotel Statler, Buffalo, New York
September 8-11, 1940