Randi Goldstein Casey, VP & Funeral Director, Goldsteins' Rosenberg's Raphael-Sacks Funeral Home
Randi Goldstein Casey is Vice President and Funeral Director for Goldsteins' Rosenberg's Raphael-Sacks Funeral Home. Randi spend time speaking with The Industry Leaders to provide golden rules for business owners including family owned businesses in today's economy.
What's your industry?
For those who don't know anything about you or your work, can you provide a bit of background?
I was literally born into the funeral home business. My grandfather and great uncle started Goldsteins’ Funeral Home in the 1940’s. My father, Gabe Goldstein and his brother, Bennett Goldstein grew the business into the largest Jewish funeral home in Pennsylvania. After merging with Rosenberg’s Raphael-Sacks and new generations of licensed funeral directors entered the business we continued to prosper. I started working for Goldsteins’ Rosenberg’s Raphael-Sacks, Inc. as a secretary while I was in college and then I received my funeral director license in 1994.
Currently, we are in our fifth generation and there are eight partners. I thought about doing other things, but it just felt right working in the family business and helping people through very difficult times. Working with family is great and hard in many ways. Each person comes with or develops a set of skills that meets the needs of the business. In addition to planning funerals, I have been in charge of marketing and operations throughout my career.
What does an average day look like for you?
My day varies depending on how many funerals we have or meetings to manage the day-to-day business. I oversee many corporate operations issues at Goldsteins’ Rosenberg’s Raphael-Sacks, as well as meet with families who are planning or pre-planning funerals. I spend a good portion of my day answering questions that people have in reference to funerals, this includes families with funeral planned, people who need information on their pre-arrangement, or even talking to family member whose loved one is near death and they need assistance.
As a family business we do a little bit of everything, so it’s not unusual for me to meet with a family, run a funeral, get on a call with our corporate attorney, and then have a meeting with the Board of Directors.
How do you balance the needs of your business with the needs of your personal life?
Balancing the funeral industry with personal time is not always easy. I try to carve out time for myself where I am not interrupted by work. This is not always achievable considering my profession, but I knew going into the funeral home business that it would not be a 9-5 job. It helps that we have 8 active partners and a team of people who can help a family when a death occurs. Each of us rotates being on-call overnight, but it’s not unusual for me to have to make plans that keep me close to home so I can receive calls or access necessary information. Anyone thinking of this career must accept that fact and not be surprised that you might work evenings, weekends, or overnight. It’s also important to note that it’s extremely rewarding to help people regardless of the time of day.
What's the best advice anyone ever gave you on your journey in business?
Always stand up for yourself.
What's been the hardest part about the path you've taken and how would you advise someone facing a similar situation to overcome it?
Challenges occur in any job --- but certainly here at Goldsteins’ Rosenberg’s Raphael-Sacks we deal with death and dying and that is challenge. One of the hardest is dealing with the loss of a child no matter the age of the child. The death of friend or family member is also a big challenge, but, like a doctor, you have to learn to compartmentalize and get the job done. This does not make it any less sad or difficult, but it’s a part of the job. There are times when you bring work home with you mental and those are the hardest times.
What do you think are the most important qualities for a successful business owner or executive to have?
Listening skills and being able to read people are probably the most important skills in any business. Neither is easy and both come from experience. This applies to both clients and employees. Understanding the tone of a conversation, the needs of the individuals, and putting what you hear into actions. The most important thing about listening is taking action and implemented what you have heard.
What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out as a business owner?
Just realize, as an owner, you are always on call or working no matter what industry.
What are the top three things you think are essential for business success?
Listening: Listening – In the funeral business being a good listener could mean letting someone grieve or tell stories about their loved or it could mean listening to what their expectations are for the funeral service. Knowing when to respond with empathy or professional expertise is all about understanding the needs of the clients and listening carefully to what they are saying. Not just in our industry, but in all business people hear the words, but they aren’t always listening for the meaning. Sometimes they are listening just so they can answer.
Taking advice: There is that old saying that with age comes wisdom. My uncle, Bennett Goldstein, was the patriarch of the family business for many years and he was free with his advice. When I was younger I didn’t always think that his advice always applied to my generation, but as I go through my career I understand more about what he was telling me. I think we often feel that advice is a criticism of how we are doing, when many times is little pieces of wisdom we can see for ourselves.
Utilizing business and personal contacts as resources: The goal of networking in any industry is to build better relationship with people in and out of our industry. Over the years, I have built up relationships with judges, Rabbis, attorneys, landscapers, cemetery staffers, and pre-school teachers to name but a few. You never know when you are going to need assistance or be able to help one of them. I often will reach out to a Rabbi for advice on Jewish law or questions that a family may have for me that I’ve never encountered before.
Do you think someone can be a great business owner without having many years of experience first?
It would depend on the industry. You can pull your experience from different types of businesses. All of the skills you hone are important to being a good leader and manager. Look at all the startup successes for people who knew very little about a product or service and were able to make it successful.
In general, do you think the world is producing better business owners in 2023 than it was fifty years ago?
In general, unfortunately, I think owners today are worse than 50 years ago. In my opinion, owners from 50 years ago had a better work ethic and never shied away from hard work.