Stepping up the property ladder

By Chris Aylward, Acquisitions & Property Director

So, it is very exciting, I have made my first acquisition as Acquisitions & Property Director for Funeral Partners, our first acquisition in over 12 months and the first in a number of planned acquisitions for 2013. Before I get too carried away, I have really come in at the end of a lengthy process and the acquisition couldn’t have been done without the fantastic support of the likes of John Chester and Claire Billington.

More of them later but first things first, how did we first find out about this excellent business? Well Phillip Greenfield knows a lot of people in the funeral business and as these things normally go he knew someone, who knew someone who knew someone else that might want to sell their funeral business, and that someone was Michael Nodes. Michael’s family had been in the funeral business for six generations since 1828, yes a full 58 years before the first motor car and 74 years before the first powered flight! They started in the premises at Hewer Street, Ladbroke Grove which were built specially for the Nodes business and remain largely unchanged since then. You can still see the stabling for the horses with accommodation for the grooms over the impressive gated entrance and the old hay loft used for storage for the horse bedding. It is a fascinating place and often used in films and TV shows and the occasional music video for a famous English family duo…The Gallagher brothers.

Phillip began the early negotiations with the Nodes business and was keen to buy the business as it is located in North London in an area where we are not very well represented. The branches are in Ladbroke Grove, Harlesden, Cricklewood Broadway and Kensal Rise all serving different types of families. Once there had been an agreement on the main points of an offer, both sides instructed solicitors. Now anyone that has bought or sold a house will know that the process with solicitors can drag on a bit and this was no exception but we got there eventually and once a date had been agreed, actually delayed by a day due to a solicitor’s holiday would you believe, the Funeral Partners team sprang into action. Claire Billington’s team arranged a local hotel for us to meet with the Nodes staff for an evening so that we both had an opportunity to talk about what was going to happen over the first few weeks and get to meet our newest recruits. This also gave us the chance to talk about our Employee Charter, which was well received and helped to explain in detail about the kind of Company we work for. The following day we spent more time with the staff at their own branch and really started to understand how this business works.

Day one arrives, documents are signed, money changes hands and we are now the owners of the business and we need to get down to the serious business of converting this to Funeral Partners. First thing to tackle was to convert a business without a computer in sight, yes seriously, into one that can use FMS. Overseeing all of the day one activities was John Chester who was ably assisted in this task by Marion McGuire who accepted the challenge of helping integrate these four new businesses, based on her experiences. Now we need to speak to the 16 members of the Nodes team plus the casuals and introduce them into Funeral Partners, understand their employment situations, answer their questions and ensure that they are as comfortable as possible. Maureen Groves is used to dealing with big challenges and this one was no exception as Maureen travels round all of the branches to meet with every member of staff. And what about Rob Marshall and his team, as always, those finance guys just get on with it without moaning, bringing on new suppliers, setting up the financial infrastructure, reporting systems, banking, FMS and generally making sure that the new branches can actually trade.

So here we are, a month or so later and the four branches have received a lot of love and attention. We have assessed them for Health and Safety/Fire risk, thank you David Whitworth; we have reviewed their embalming facilities, thank you Richard Van Nes. The teams at James Hawes & Goodchild have done a fantastic supporting role in being ‘buddies’ for the new branches and have really been there for them, great job by Peter King, Funeral Director and his branches.

Was it worth it, most definitely yes! A lot of hard work by a lot of people coming together across the business to work as a team to welcome this new business to Funeral Partners, but I really shouldn’t have expected anything else. Oh and how is it doing, well so far it is achieving budget!

It seems like we have got the taste for acquisitions now! Since the Nodes deal we have bought another business in North London (M Broad & Son), one in the Midlands (Burgess & Harper) and one in the Manchester area (Wythenshawe Funeral Services).

Watch this space as there are quite a few more acquisitions coming to a location near you…