What Does a Sea Monster Have to do with Funeral Service?
Posted January 6, 2016
8 min read
With more than 20 years of experience in the death-care industry, Scott Mindrum has extensive knowledge about the needs of funeral directors and cemetery operators as well as the funeral and burial process. Get to know Scott better—and see how he’s helping industry practitioners deliver true customer-centricity to families—with these 7 questions we asked CRäKN’s Founder, President & CEO.
Q: What is your background?
Scott Mindrum: I used to work for a large accounting firm, Ernst and Young (EY), in their Entrepreneurial Services Group. One of the things I looked at in that position, in addition to financials, taxes, forecasts and projections, was workflow optimization and automation, and controls and leveraging technology. All of those things were taught to me at a young age, and so I’ve carried them with me from that time. From there I did merger & acquisition (M&A) work in various industries.
While doing M&A, I had an assignment in the funeral industry. It was interesting to me and decided to jump in with both feet. After working for one of the corporate funeral home groups, I started a company called MeM or Making Everlasting Memories in 1995 — an online archive service for families that wanted to tell the story of their loved ones to future generations. It was cloud-based technology that let funeral directors for families, or families upload their pictures and stories, and audio and video of their loved ones up to the site.
I ran MeM until three years ago when I sold the company, and that is when I became a Queen City Angel, (a group of experienced investors who provide funding, support, & guidance to early-stage, growth companies). It was there that I caught the ‘virus’ of entrepreneurship again.
I drew on my experience in the funeral industry, and focused on identifying a “pain” that so many funeral homes have, but there isn’t a great solution. I’d been in probably over a thousand funeral homes in my life, across the United States, and I got to know how they manage and operate and account for their business.
I got to know how much work is involved in conducting a funeral. It was always impressive to me that funeral directors were able to juggle all of the things they got to do, and get them all done in a very, very short period of time. In some ways, you can compare it to planning a wedding: you are coordinating services, merchandise, details of where things are going to be, what music is going to play, all of those details. But a funeral director has to do all of that usually less than 72 hours. There’s a lot to do and ensuring it’s seamless to a grieving family is of utmost importance.
Helping funeral service professionals more easily plan, coordinate and record these activities so that they could better serve the family now and in the future became my focus.
Q: For those outside the industry, how do you describe the role of a funeral director?
Scott Mindrum: If I was going to draw a picture of a funeral director, I think a juggler would be a good drawing. Some of the things you could drop, some of the things you better not drop, some of the things if you drop—you’re in a lot of trouble. There’s a lot going on. Even from personal experience, when I lost my father, I saw how funeral directors are busy, busy, busy people.
With that in mind, I knew there was something I could do with my knowledge of technology, my experience in cloud computing, my experience at EY and technology in general. I knew there was something I could bring to the industry that would make a difference, and could save funeral directors time and give them more time to focus on what I think is the most important aspect—and that’s the customer or family experience. That’s a deep passion of mine, and one that I’ve had for a long time. That was the birth of the concept of the business.
Q: And about how long ago was that?
Scott Mindrum: About two years ago, I kicked off exploritories, and spent time doing market research and making sure that nobody had resolved those issues that I saw for more than 15 years in the industry. I was both sad and delighted that they hadn’t been resolved. I received encouragement and support from contacts and people in the industry I had known, and I started to assemble a team and work on it. We spent a lot of time observing and working side by side with funeral directors to build the product. Our goal was to make it so simple to use that if you ever used Facebook or shopped online, you could use the software.
Q: Which leads us to the name, CRäKN. Can you share your process and the meaning behind CRäKN?
Scott Mindrum: Getting back to how I imagine a funeral director, who has to juggle so many things: I figured, if I could give a funeral director more arms—more arms to juggle, it would make them more powerful.
Then I’m half Norwegian and my father was 100 percent Norwegian descent, and so I was attracted to looking at Nordic origins for a memorable name. Keeping in mind what we were trying to achieve, I was attracted to the concept of the Kraken. A Kraken, similar to a large octopus, is a very smart Nordic sea monster.
We’ve created a visual that aligns with the Kraken—this very smart sea monster that allows funeral directors to vanquish inefficiencies. That means we are helping to provide the funeral director with more arms to handle operations, so they can improve the family experience. And so that was the birth of the efficiency monster.
I also looked at: what are the components of customer experience we are improving? I changed the ‘K’ to ‘C’ for customer, and the ‘R’ to reflect relationships, so then we had customer relationships, and the ‘A’ has the Nordic umlaut over it, again, alluding to my father’s heritage, but it also gave balance to the name. The ‘KN’ is reflective of knowledge. Customer relationships and knowledge are what CRäKN helps provide to funeral homes.
Q: Speaking of what CRäKN provides: you talk a lot about improving families’ experiences. What has helped shape your perspective on putting the family first?
Scott Mindrum: Growing up in Cincinnati, Ohio, in high school and college I worked for King’s Island (a local amusement park). One of the things that they taught us at King’s Island was how people came for an escape, and how we always needed to do our best to make the people coming to King’s Island forget about their troubles.
That approach very much soaked into me, and had become my mantra throughout my career. That was the lesson I learned growing up. It was also a principle that I held in MeM. It was very important to always have best-in-class customer service or client success.
Q: It could be argued that customer-centricity is a trend that is gaining momentum in the industry. Have any other trends or challenges caught your eye recently?
Scott Mindrum: There are industry trends and some of them include efficiencies—specifically, trying to eliminate operational silos. Recall that a funeral director has 30 to 50 or more things to do for every service, and that includes putting in customer information and family information in multiple places, so our objective is to try to minimize the number of places that information has to be manually added.
We help to optimize that process, and also minimize the errors—the transposition errors and spelling errors and things like that. We give the funeral director more time to watch the eyes of the family, and see what it is that’s going to delight them in their experience.
Technology in general as well is garnering attention. If you look back 15 years, there weren’t a whole lot of computers in funeral services, and today, there are. The interesting thing is that many funeral homes still feel like if they are using a computer or tablet in front of the family that it isn’t great service. But families are consumers that experience technology everyday. If FedEx drops off a box, you sign a tablet, at the doctor’s office you sign in on a tablet, the doctor records the visit on a computer and you get your test results online. It’s embedded into everyone’s everyday, so in my opinion, we can use technology to serve families better and in fact, they expect it.
Q: Last question: what excites you right now about CRäKN?
Scott Mindrum: When you create something—whether you’re creating a piece of art, or you’re baking something from a great recipe you have—when you see people’s reactions as they experience your creation, that is the payoff.
I’ve had that experience with CRäKN many times. Hearing that our solution is exactly what people are missing is validating. I love when a funeral director gets excited when they see CRäKN for the first time. We have a lot of things that we’re developing to delight funeral homes, and I’m excited about that.
We help funeral professionals save time, prevent duplicate work & reduce errors. Focus on the family, let us focus on helping you. Request a demo today!