Q&A – Joanne Hutsby, Gillotts Funeral Directors

Joanne Hutsby

One thing in life is for sure – we’ll always need funeral services. We spoke to Joanne Hutsby, partner at Nottinghamshire funeral directors Gillotts, to find out more about her business.

What motivates you to do what you do?

Working in the funeral profession is incredibly rewarding – being able to help a family through one of the most difficult times of their life is a huge privilege. I work closely alongside another partner in the business, Anthony Topley, and as we both have strong family connections to Gillotts, seeing it thrive and grow and continue our reputation for excellence and care is also incredibly satisfying.

Anthony and I are not only partners in the business, we are also busy funeral directors, so as well as planning the direction of the business and making changes and improvements, we meet with families every day and hear directly from them how much they appreciate everything we do.

I think of it as a virtuous circle – every business owner wants to constantly improve the experience that their clients have and make sure that the client’s needs are at the heart of everything they do.

The firm underwent a rebrand towards the end of 2015. What was the rationale behind this? Has it had a significant impact on the business? In what ways?

Prior to the rebrand we had four funeral homes with different names and we were planning to both relocate our Kimberley funeral home and open our fifth premises in Selston. We realised that marketing was key to the success of both of these projects and that uniting all of the funeral homes under one name give us a much stronger identity that covered all of our trading areas.

We undertook a lot of advertising and marketing to educate our local communities that we were still the same people and that, other than the name, nothing had changed. The benefits have been significant – we feel that it has helped our potential clients understand who we are and be more aware of us as a business, and it has made our marketing much more effective.

You opened a fifth branch last year. Are there plans to expand further?

Not at the moment, but we never say never!

Do you plan to expand the business in other ways?

In the last few years we’ve started offering more remembrance items, such as jewellery and keepsakes.

The latest of these is fingerprint jewellery – we take a fingerprint from the deceased, which is turned into a pendant or ring with a raised fingerprint. It’s an idea that people either love or hate, but for those who love the idea they bring great comfort.

We will continue to be on the look-out for ideas like this to offer those who would like something tangible to remember their loved one.

What will be the biggest challenges your sector faces this year?

Funeral poverty is an issue for some families, where the deceased has been unable to plan how their funeral costs will be covered and their loved ones do not have the means to pay for a funeral themselves.

To help address this, we have recently introduced a very simple option which uses our Chrysler vehicle rather than the hearse, which can provide families with limited funds with an option for a funeral at a lower cost than the traditional options.

However, there are some people for whom even a very simple funeral is beyond their means and, sadly, more and more people are having to rely on their local council or the hospital to provide what used to be referred to as a “pauper’s funeral”.

We place a lot of emphasis on funeral planning – either talking to us about a funeral plan, or simply giving it some thought to ensure that, when the time comes, their family are not left in difficulty.

You do a lot of charity work. How important is it to you to give back to the local community?

It’s very important – after all, we’re a part of the communities we serve, and local people have been very supportive of our business and the changes that we’ve made over the past 18 months.

When choosing a charity to support, we try and find one which directly benefits the local community, such as our local Community First Responders, who we have recently presented with the £2,000 proceeds of our Christmas Remembrance Appeal.