Gregory B. Levett & Sons Funeral Home Inc. is a family-owned and operated Georgia funeral home with 140 employees, five locations, and a reported $12 million-plus in annual sales. But numbers don’t solely measure their success, rather, the legacy they’ve established and impact made on the lives of employees and families they work with every day.
Sitting at the helm of the company are founders Gregory B. Levett and his wife Betty who transformed the business from a part-time venture to a family-owned and operated empire. With a mission to make it easier for people to have a conversation about death and dying, and change the narrative about how people view the death care industry, all three of their children lead key areas of the business.
“Each of us has our individual niches that make the business great. We’re all also licensed funeral directors and embalmers,” said Deana Levett, the vice president of marketing for the company.
“I went to school for mass media arts and public relations. I’m able to bring that expertise into the funeral industry. My brother Bernard Levett, vice president of operations, is in charge of maintenance and construction and oversees six different buildings and properties; and my brother Lanier Levett, vice president of business operations, is great on the funeral service side. He also owns a funeral home with his wife as well.”
Poor planning, poor results
According to the Levett’s, the average family has to make 150 decisions to prepare for a funeral, yet too many people are unprepared when it comes to the emotional and financial toll on the family. That’s why the Levett’s provide a range of funeral services to support loved ones during and even after a funeral including online planning resources, a full-service cremation facility, a repast space, an intimate chapel that seats up to 300 guests, and free year-round grief counseling—regardless if they’ve served your family or not.
“Grief is just not just about losing someone,” said Deana. “You can grieve relationships when you go through a divorce and you can grieve the loss of a job. It’s so many different things that we go through with the grieving process and a lot of people don’t know that eventually, it trickles down to our families and how we operate in our daily lives. So helping our community in mental health is extremely important to us.”
Introduced to the funeral industry by his father, Gregory Levett credits the company’s success to service and professionalism. “Poor planning, poor result. Good planning, great results. That’s what we offer,” he said.
“But my team is really the foundation of how we’ve been able to grow so much. A lot of times when you take care of your team members, they will take care of you. They’ll become investors in the company as well. You just don’t see that with many funeral homes. Most of our team members are licensed. We encourage continuous education by investing in their development, paying all of their expenses to attend conventions and paying our staff and directors national dues, so they can be active in community programs. We want our staff members to not only join at least one professional organization; we encourage them to become a decision maker within that group. We also have 401(k) match plans that have great insurance. These things make them feel like they are part of our organization. That way we can spend our time working in a community and building in the brand.”
Like many other industries, the death care industry has experienced a huge shift. Cremations are on the rise and it’s no longer because it’s a cheaper alternative to a traditional burial service. “Ten years ago, cremation was about 10%, now we probably get 40% cremation request,” said Gregory.
“Because demand has increased, it’s just as expensive to have a cremation as it is to have a traditional funeral service. Other than cremation, it’s the level of service that people expect. The generation that I was raised in, the baby boomers and those and beyond me, like a full, traditional service. However the millennial group, they want a quick service, no permanent place to be buried because they’re constantly moving around and instead of being present, they like to view the services via live stream or held at places other than a church or funeral home,” he continued.
As the family continues to expand in business, they’re also increasing their reach in professional development with the annual Beyond Dreaming Leadership Conference. From sharing Gregory Levett’s lessons learned in business to providing access to key people needed (e.g., CPA, lawyer, marketing and advertising staff) when starting and scaling a business—the Levetts have no plans of slowing down.