If there’s a will, there’s a way: Welsh funeral directors sees profits grow by 250% after revising its business strategy

A Cardiff-based funeral directors has increased its profits by 250% after revising its business strategy, thanks to knowledge gained through the Help to Grow: Management Course.

Green Willow Funerals is an award-winning social enterprise and one of the largest funeral directors in South Wales. It has been providing compassionate, dignified and respectful funeral services to families and communities across Cardiff, Newport and the Vale of Glamorgan since it was founded in 1997 and ultimately donates 100% of its profits to its owner, Cardiff YMCA (1910) Trust to fund local projects.

Tracey Smith-Atkins joined Green Willow Funerals in June 2022 as CEO. After looking closely at the business’ growth history, she knew changes were needed to help the firm become more efficient and grow.

To support this, Tracey and her General Manager Paul Dowding enrolled in the 12-week Help to Grow: Management Course, which is designed to help business leaders and senior managers increase resilience, innovation, and growth.

The course was delivered by the Cardiff School of Management – a recipient of the Small Business Charter accreditation that recognises institutions that support small business – and gave Tracey and Paul the knowledge needed to develop a new growth strategy and refresh marketing plans.

The business has since completely revamped its marketing strategy by re-evaluating which channels were not providing a return including outdated SEO campaigns. A greater focus was also put on supporting staff, which included more training on the firm’s culture, increasing overall communication amongst the team at all levels and developing succession planning strategies. The firm is also retraining existing staff to do different roles and offering job shadowing to give people insight into what’s involved across the business and find the most suitable role for them to thrive.

The changes to the business’ strategy, marketing plans, and employee training has resulted in profits increasing by 250%. As all profits are donated to charity, this meant that gift aid distributions also benefitted, increasing from £23,000 in 2022 to £115,000 in 2023 (financial year: April-March).

Tracey Smith-Atkins, CEO of Green Willow Funerals, said: “Our founder, John Bettles, used to be Chief Executive of the Cardiff YMCA and Cardiff YMCA Housing Association, so our links to giving back have always been strong. It’s extremely important to us that we continue to drive growth and ensure that we’re supporting our local communities as much as possible, both with the services we provide, and by donating our profits to the Cardiff YMCA (1910) Trust.

“Soon after joining, I realised that many of our strategies were outdated and that we couldn’t rest on our laurels if we wanted to continue being successful. Thanks to the Help to Grow: Management Course, we’ve been able to reassess many of our practices and put in place changes that will drive growth. The course has also enabled me to make a four-year plan to pitch to our shareholders which has helped ensure everyone has the same vision for the business.

“We’re hugely passionate about helping families and local communities, so having a new strategy in place is allowing us to concentrate on what we do best. Whether you’ve just set up your business or it’s more established like ours, it’s never too late to educate yourself on new ways to improve your business and ultimately, grow.”

Michael Hayman MBE, Chair, Small Business Charter, added: “The Help to Grow: Management Course gives business leaders like Tracey and Paul the opportunity to develop skills that can create the conditions for positive change.

“For many established businesses it can be invaluable to take a step back and reassess ways of working, especially if they’ve gone unchanged for years. Each person is assigned a mentor who can help create business plans and give real-time, practical feedback, something our alumni really benefit from. Tracey has been able to implement new strategies within Green Willow Funerals while continuing to deliver a high-quality and sensitive service for customers and the community.”

Business leaders can find out more about Help to Grow: Management and sign up for their nearest course by visiting: www.smallbusinesscharter.org/help-to-grow-management