Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

Business

March 4, 2011

Funeral business stability returns

-- — As he addressed the audience during the third annual Hillenbrand Inc. shareholders meeting Feb. 23, board chairman Ray Hillenbrand announced, “Speaking for the board of directors, I feel very good about the management team and feel very good about what this team has accomplished.” He also stressed that he, along with the other board members (Jim Henderson, Ken Camp, Bill Cernugel, Ed Cloues, Mark DeLuzio, Gus Hillenbrand, Tom Johnson, Joe Loughrey, Eduardo Menascé, Neil Novich and Stuart Taylor), always make decisions based on “what is in the best interest of the shareholders .... I can tell you we live this in every fiber of our board.” Camp, HI president and chief executive officer, pointed out that in 2010, “businesses all around the world began the year still gripped by the uncertainty created by the worst economic downturn in modern times. Even the funeral home industry, including Batesville Casket Co., was negatively affected by the decline in consumer confidence, something we had not previously experienced. “Fortunately, as 2010 progressed, funeral consumers began to return to their family traditions, and we ... began to see stability return.” In addition, the president revealed that the number of deaths slightly declined in 2010. “Better health care, a minimal flu season and improved exercise and nutrition habits resulted in longer lives for much of the populace.” There was also a growth in cremation rates. Batesville Casket Co. “continued to lead the funeral products industry in creativity, launching several uniquely differentiated offerings. These new products help funeral directors provide their client families with more meaningful choices to meet a wide range of funeral needs,” according to the annual report. “Batesville created new ways of helping funeral homes increase their profits in a challenging economy. Most notable was the expansion of the Interactive Connectivity Suite to help funeral homes add new online revenue streams, such as electronic obituaries, digital video tributes and, most recently, a partnership with FTD florists.” In addition, “we completed the acquisition of K-Tron International” in April of last year. The addition of its two business platforms, the process group and the size reduction group, “enables us to pursue new pathways to profitable growth as a component to the stable earnings and cash flow provided by Batesville Casket Co.” Before acquiring K-Tron, “we had one line of business and now we have three. As a result, 75 percent of our revenue is generated by Batesville and 25 percent by K-Tron. We also diversified the source of our earnings and cash flow, not only by industry, but also by geography.” Camp added, “It’s a wonderful company and led by great people .... (and) we can help them” by applying three core competencies: “Strategy management is the foundation for developing an effective plan in any business .... We can help acquired companies sharpen their focus to execute the critical few objectives that provide the greatest competitive leverage and generate the best results. “Lean business practices eliminate waste, improve quality and increase operational efficiencies .... It is also the backbone of our culture of execution. “We manage the leadership development of our high-potential associates through a variety of assignments to broaden their viewpoint and stretch their abilities. This enables us to consistently recruit, develop and retain top talent, while providing a strong pipeline for succession planning.” The CEO also noted, “Our business strategy provides a clear map for future organic growth and prudent acquisitions.” Acquiring K-Tron was a “significant step, and we are even more enthusiastic about ... (it) today than we were on the day of closing. We believe that future generations will look back on this as the successful start of the next 100 years for Hillenbrand Inc.”

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