This week on WHITEBALLOON INSIGHTS Sarah reflects on how her background in health and social care has shaped the way she works now.
Q: You launched Full Circle Funerals in 2016 and recently celebrated your 5th anniversary. Can you tell us a little bit about how you came to be a funeral director?
I have always worked in health and social care and believe that funerals are important. From my previous work, I knew that I was comfortable holding space with people after bereavement and I really wanted those people to be able to create funerals which would be helpful for them. I wanted to take everything that I had learnt about personalised care and coproducing services and apply that to funerals – and so, Full Circle was “born”.
Q: You have a very holistic approach to your work, emphasizing the importance of a calm, welcoming environment, a personalised service, and giving people the guidance they need in order to make their funeral a positive experience. What has shaped the way you work?
Like everyone, a combination of by personal and professional experiences have shaped how I work now. As a doctor I learnt about health and wellbeing and while supporting people in residential care, I learnt about care planning, the importance of a having a supportive physical environment and the value of personalised care. I learn every day from the families we support and the community organisations and professionals that we work in partnership with.
Q: In November 2021 you were awarded B-Corp accreditation. This is an impressive achievement and reflects the strong ethos of your organisation. Why was it important to you to apply for B-Corp status?
I really believe that business should be a force for good and that together, we can have a positive impact on people and the planet. B Corp are the only accreditation which considers the impact that an organisation has on the people who work there, the community and the environment.
I want to continually improve how we work, and the B Corp framework is a wonderful framework to challenge yourself with. I was also very keen to get funeral directors recognised within the B Corp community – and to highlight that funeral directors are an important part of the community and can be a force for good.
Q: You also won the Good Funeral Awards ‘Green Funeral Director of the Year 2021’ and you personally won ‘Funeral Director of the Year’. Are you seeing an increasing demand for green funerals and what are some of the key things that are changing?
In our experience, people have many things on their mind when they are making funeral arrangements – and we are certainly seeing that more people want to understand the impact of their funeral choices on the environment.
As people are considering the environment more in their day-to-day lives, I believe that we will continue to see more and more people considering the environment.
The next challenge is for us to better understand the environmental impact of different options so that we can be confident about the information that we are giving people.
Q: You are very much a female-led company in what might be seen as a traditionally male-dominated sector. Have you noticed an increase in the number of women entering the profession in recent years?
Yes, I think that the roots of how we support people are in health and social care and this has perhaps encouraged more women to consider it as a career choice. Some people would prefer to be supported by a female funeral director, so I am glad that we are able to provide that service.
Q: At the moment you cover the Leeds area. What is your vision for Full Circle Funerals and are you planning to expand into other areas of the UK?
Full Circle Funerals is, and always will be, a local Yorkshire funeral service. However, we are also able to support people to open Full Circle Funerals Partners services in their local communities. Each Partner is an independent funeral business yet at the same time they belong to a larger funeral franchise network.
This means we can share good practice and ensure that we are collectively working to continually improve the quality of funeral care we provide. The first FCFP service opened in Altrincham last week.
Q: Your book ‘Funerals Your Way’ distils your knowledge and experience into a short, step-by-step, self-help guide. Do you feel there is a shift in attitudes and that people want to be more informed and pro-active in their funeral arrangements and choices?
I think that people have always wanted to be informed and supported to create funerals which are meaningful and helpful to them. Now that we have many more means of communication, live in global communities and are better able to access information, that helped people to find what they need.
In my experience, most people would like to better understand funerals, funeral choices and learn more about what funeral directors do. We now have more and more ways for people to access that information.
Q: And finally, you are in an emotionally demanding profession. What helps you to switch off and relax outside work?
I am really lucky to have amazing colleagues and we work with many local partners, which are also a great source of perspective and support. Outside of work I am a full-time taxi service to two fabulous children and when I can I really enjoy walking, yoga and food – everything except artichokes and capers!