Mark Krause, President of Krause Funeral Homes and Cremation Service Inc.
Company address: 9000 W. Capitol Dr., Milwaukee, WI 53222
Industry: Funeral home
Number of employees: 53
Family: Wife, Joan; and daughter, Nicole (junior, UW-Whitewater)
What kinds of funeral services do you offer?
“Krause Funeral Homes offers funeral services that run from the very traditional funerals that most people are familiar with to the celebrations of life that are more upbeat and reflect a person’s life story.”
What was the smartest thing your company did in the past year?
“We opened a new facility in Brookfield that is very unique to the funeral profession. This location has an open floor plan that has an abundance of natural light and a feel that will have you thinking of anything but a traditional funeral home. Our goal was to make the building appealing to women. It has a spa-type feel with a fireplace and large water features and a banquet room with an outdoor patio. Our new building includes spacious visiting rooms, a formal chapel with beautiful stained glass and a state-of-the-art sound and video system so we can show family pictures and videos and even live stream a service for those who cannot attend the event.”
What’s new at your company?
“The most exciting thing we are doing this year is the emphasis of our new celebrant services. Our celebrant services offer an alternative for those families that are not affiliated with a church or simply do not wish to have a traditional funeral service. Our celebrants are specially trained to design a service that is completely personal, incorporating those unique stories, songs and experiences that define an individual.”
Do you plan to hire any additional staff or make any significant capital investments in your company in the next year?
“We are looking to expand our staff this year. Our company is growing not only with our new location but also with the number of families that are selecting us to create their family event and funeral. It is exciting to see families liking that we can create a different type of funeral that embraces the uniqueness of each family. We are also looking to expand again and start building another location in the metro Milwaukee area later this year.”
What will be your company’s main challenges in the next year?
“The most difficult challenge for our company is developing the next idea or concept that will continue to differentiate us from other funeral providers.”
What does innovation in the funeral services industry look like?
“Funeral service innovation almost seems like an oxymoron, but it isn’t! When people think of funerals, they think of tradition, past funeral experiences and often the solemnness or awkwardness that accompanies a death. I believe that my profession is at a critical juncture because so many people don’t know what they desire when it comes to a funeral, but they know what they don’t like. Consumers are looking for something different than a cookie-cutter funeral. In the days of my father and grandfather, funerals were mostly the same, but today the challenge is to make every funeral unique for each family we have the honor of serving. How many times have you heard, ‘When I die, don’t have a funeral. Throw a party.’? People are looking for something more celebratory, uplifting and spiritual. Krause Funeral Homes has made it our mission to create the type of funeral that can be a positive, inspirational experience that includes many of the things everyone embraces at every other family event. A funeral is a family event that has a different focus. That doesn’t mean it has to be focused on the death. I like to think we key in on remembering the life as well as saying goodbye.”
How does Krause Funeral Homes & Cremation Service differentiate itself from other funeral homes?
“I think differentiation has been the key to our success over the years. We were the first to advertise how we do funerals differently. We were the first to educate and actively promote prearranging funerals. We introduced the therapy dog concept to the funeral profession. We were one of the first in the nation to have a motorcycle hearse, live stream funerals, banquet facilities in the funeral home, and the capability to legally serve adult beverages during visiting time. Again, what do people do at every other family event they hold? I feel we are in the family event business that just happens to focus on the end of someone’s life.”
What was the best advice you ever received?
“The best advice I ever received comes from my father, who died this past January. He was president of our company until he retired in 1994. His advice has to do with personal challenges, and it is quite simple and direct. He would say, ‘If it is important, take a day off and figure it out.’ I have often gone back to his saying when I have faced a challenge, and with a little perseverance, diligence and reflection, I have figured it out! I recently read a quote that I think about every day. It reads, ‘If it is important, you will find a way; if it is not, you will find an excuse.'”
What’s the funniest thing that ever happened to you in your career?
“As you can expect, being a funeral director has created a number of interesting situations over the years. One cute story involved Oliver, Krause’s therapy dog who interacted with many of our clients over the years to bring a smile at a difficult time. During one service, a man walked up to Oliver and a Krause staff member and asked if Oliver owned a tie. The man, who was attending his grandparent’s funeral, was getting married in a few days and was wondering if Oliver would be the ring bearer at his wedding. They were going to have him wear a tie and the ring pillow. We thought that was a funny and sweet idea, and Oliver would have done it, except he was already scheduled for another service.”
What do you like to do in your free time?
“In my free time I enjoy hanging out with my family, traveling, walking our new therapy-dog-in-training, Bennie, and scuba diving when I can get to warm water. And I have been playing guitar for over 45 years.”