I hope this memorandum finds you all safe and healthy. Please feel free to share or explain this message to your staff. A lot has happened this week and each state has various laws, regulations and concerns. Thanks to all of you who have communicated with me directly and updated us on what you are seeing and doing. Based on that, I thought I would give you all an update.

On March 14, 2020 Congress passed a new Coronavirus Law requiring Paid Employee Leave. The Senate approved it on March 18th.  Because it is a new law, it will take 15 days to be enacted. It goes into effect on April 2, 2020 and expires December 31, 2020. It is a 90-page document that companies, HR departments and employees are still digesting. There are still a lot of unanswered questions, and it refers to future regulations and agency information that does not currently exist, so please bear with us as we determine how it works.

In general, starting April 2, 2020 for companies with under 500 employees (Pinnacle falls into this):

Emergency Paid Sick Leave
• 2 weeks of paid sick leave for employees
• For all FT (80 hours) and PT workers (based on a formula of work history) who:
° are symptomatic, under advice to quarantine or self-isolate, or
° have to care for a family member who has such an order, or
° care for a child whose school or childcare facility has closed due to COVID-19

Emergency FMLA
• After 10 days, companies will provide partially paid leave (typically 2/3 of pay) while employees are off for the same reasons as stated above
• There are daily limits, annual limits and weekly limits, etc.

In addition the law requires health plans to cover COVID-19 testing at NO CHARGE (if your health plan provider can find a test kit and they deem it necessary). I believe this does not apply to those without health coverage.

Yesterday the NFDA and the Department of Homeland Security named mortuary workers as “critical infrastructure workers” for the vital role we play.  This means we are supposed to have priority access to PPE, be exempt from “shelter-in-place” orders, and, from what I understand, the designation places us in Tier II (of six tiers) should a vaccine become available.

Also, on a personal note, I believe income tax filers (returns are due April 15) have been granted a 90-day extension with no penalties (you do have to file an extension) or interest accrued. Check with your accountant – I’m not a tax advisor.

We all hope everyone stays healthy and does their best to exercise social distancing. Stagger customer flow. Remove tables and chairs to reduce capacity. In addition, wash hands often, provide hand sanitizer, disinfect surfaces more regularly (doorknobs, tables, desks, handrails), eliminate shared food spaces (receptions).  And finally, if the weather is good, open doors and windows for increased ventilation. It was the first day of spring this week!

As always, please call or email me, Shannon or Kristine with questions or concerns.  If we all work together, we will get through this terrible situation. Stay healthy.


Paul Haarer

President & CEO

Pinnacle Funeral Service is proud to announce its recent acquisition of Hartson Funeral Home. The transaction closed on April 10, 2019, and ushered in a new era of financial freedom for the former owners.

The business, which includes a crematory, is located in Hales Corners, Wisconsin, and has been serving the southeastern part of the state since 1989.

Founders Gary and Christine “Missy” Hartson developed their clientele substantially over the past 30 years, and together the company serves more than 500 families annually.

Hartson Funeral Home
Hartson Funeral Home

“We are pleased to be the succession-planning partner for the Hartsons,” Paul Haarer, CEO of Pinnacle, said. “Having been a part of the Wisconsin funeral service landscape for a number of years, we’ve taken notice of the solid business that Gary and Missy have built. They’ve worked very hard and we admire that.”

With this acquisition, Pinnacle strengthens its position in Greater Milwaukee by having acquired a number of high-quality funeral homes in strategic locations in the state.

Pinnacle plans to continue to be active in acquiring funeral homes, giving retiring owners an important alternative to selling their businesses to a publicly traded company.

Haarer explains that there is always going to be a “right fit” component in striking a mutually beneficial agreement. Sometimes the discussions can take time. Owners typically need to decide for themselves if the time is right to detach.

“We favor the kind of arrangement that will allow families to continue to be served with compassion and care by staff already involved in the business and the community,” Haarer said.

“Local, family-owned businesses like Hartson are a great fit for Pinnacle because we support the same type of personalized care. We can offer a custom-tailored succession plan to meet retiring owners’ needs,” he said.

Pinnacle’s strength is in giving owners confidence that their hard work, investment and dedicated staff will continue to set the tone with local customers and families who have turned to them for decades.

“We have no reason to alter the fundamental goodwill and continuity that comes with the business,” Haarer said. “It’s an important part of what gets us talking in the first place.”


To learn more about Pinnacle Funeral Service and explore next steps, we encourage you to browse our website, get to know our team, or contact us in order to set up a free valuation

For 2018, the main story behind Pinnacle’s growth and ongoing success had largely to do with integration of acquisitions and new recruits.

On an acquisition front, Pinnacle closed three acquisitions in the fourth quarter of 2017. “We want to grow, but we also want to be sensitive to all the requirements that a new firm requires. We accomplished this in 2018,” Pinnacle CEO Paul Haarer said.

“Pinnacle is here for the long term. Strategic growth through acquisitions will happen, it just can’t be pushed. It makes more sense to buy the right firm, not just any firm. Growing a great company is a marathon not a sprint,” Haarer added.

This didn’t prevent Haarer from examining attractive acquisitions that could add to his portfolio. In fact, Pinnacle signed an LOI in late 2018, with a closing date set in 2019.

Hiring Smart, Hiring Focused

In addition to the growth, Pinnacle understood they needed an expanded management team. Scouting and selecting especially talented personnel, Haarer recognized areas of the business that could benefit immediately.

“I always knew that our growth strategy would require me to broaden and diversify my team,” Haarer said. “Solid day-to-day operations and processes are important aspects of delivering a high-quality experience for families.”

Haarer took his time in tapping veteran operations specialist Shannon Bischoff, and the fit could not have been better. It also came at the right time, as managerial demands were beginning to multiply.

Bischoff is a highly experienced industry insider with knack a for extracting efficiencies, solving problems big and small, and bringing processes, people and vendor products together in a unified manner. She has the right combination of accounting and field operations experience.

Along with her husband and two young children, Bischoff makes her home in Iowa, so a move to Georgia, where Pinnacle is headquartered, was not in the cards.

“It was most important that we get the right person,” Haarer said, “and she has already made a positive impact.”

He and Bischoff had worked together at Foundation Partners Group, and each had an enduring appreciation of the other’s skills, work ethic and personality. Getting Bischoff to join the company was seen as an impressive coup by many who attended last year’s NFDA Conference in Salt Lake City.

Powerful Partnerships

In other personnel changes that helped Pinnacle’s bottom line, Haarer struck important partnerships with four talented funeral directors in Fort Wayne, IN.

Jarod Steffen, Mark Scheidt, Britton Claghorn and Lucas Glessner became entrepreneurial partners in Pinnacle’s FairHaven brand funeral home.

Again, experience and a determined vision of family-centered funeral care made this a mutually beneficial arrangement. All agreed that returning local care and attention to the Fort Wayne market, which is predominantly serviced by large corporate providers, would strengthen their appeal to families.

Pinnacle Funeral Service Headquarters
In other news, Pinnacle Funeral Services also moved its headquarters from midtown Atlanta to Peachtree Corners.

To learn more about Pinnacle Funeral Service and available opportunities, including enhanced partnerships, valuations, and acquisitions, we invited you to contact us by phone or email.

A Message from the CEO:

We were very pleased to attend one of our industry’s premier conventions in Salt Lake City, Utah last week.

The National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) brought together approximately 1,500 members – along with untold vendors, sponsors and suppliers – for its 137th annual convention.

We connected with many old friends and made some new ones. Several employees who work remotely for Pinnacle got to meet each other in person for the first time as well.

For our part, we noticed a few important themes emerge, which we believe will shape our work over the next several years:

  • Passion for serving others with authenticity and kindness;
  • Personalization in delivering unique and meaningful experiences, products and services to families; and,
  • Progress as technology helps us stay relevant and connected to the digitally savvy generations to come.

Former First Lady Laura Bush headlined the opening-day keynote address to a packed audience. Appropriately, she spoke with candor about the passing of her mother-in-law, Barbara Bush, and also thanked the funeral profession for their assistance after the 9/11 tragedy.

While we’re always conscious of the sensitive nature of our work, our gathering at the Salt Palace reaffirmed just how many good-hearted, dedicated people serve families in the United States and internationally.

We listened with interest to the current CEO of the NFDA, Christine Pepper, who unveiled important information and public service announcements reminding all adults, not just funeral directors, that children need to grieve as well.

Youth & Funerals from The Funeral Service Foundation

However, it was the second-day Remembrance Service that vividly captured the sublime aspects of love and loss, the soaring music of heartbreak and hope, and the spiritual challenges of being human.

We look forward to gathering again next year in Chicago with our colleagues and friends, so that we can make sure we’re continuing to serve families in the ways that truly matter to them.

Warm regards,

Paul Haarer

Privacy and security are more than just buzz words when it comes to being online these days, and it’s not a good idea to be idle about them.

Instead of taking a wait-and-see approach, Pinnacle Funeral Service has acted decisively to help protect users who interact with its funeral home websites.

“Since the beginning of year, we’ve been upgrading the security of all our websites,” Paul Haarer, president and CEO of Pinnacle Funeral Service, said recently. “We want customers to have a seamless and secure experience whether they’re reading an obituary, looking for service details, or filling in an online form to ask a question.”

While secure websites have been a mainstay of banking and e-commerce site for years, privacy concerns having been looming for websites that transfer even minor contact information such as a name and email address.

The new websites Pinnacle has adopted encrypt the information that’s being transferred, which is a fancy way of saying that the message is scrambled and then put back together when it reaches the recipient. As a result, no prying eyes can read what’s being conveyed and act maliciously.

Additionally, Google believes this is the new normal, too. Since July 1, 2018 Google has rolled out a new policy of explicitly stating to users that a website isn’t secure.

A Secure Web is Here to Stay

“In the past, web browsers would show you a small icon of a lock, which is something you may have noticed or not,” Haarer said. “But Google now wants the transfer of all information to be completely secure for the user, and frankly we do too.”

Haarer believes that trust and confidentiality are two of the most important qualities a funeral provider needs to demonstrate, and he’s confident that customers will appreciate the extra level of privacy during their online interactions.

In fact, he’s counting on more and more visitors to engage online with funeral directors and administrative personnel.

Pinnacle Funeral Service is a progressive funeral home acquisition and management company that evaluates potential sales and supports its locations with leading business and marketing practices.

To learn more, contact Paul Haarer at (770) 674-5908 or email him directly at paul@pinnaclefunerals.com.

Finding the right balance of digital and traditional marketing is a source of confusion for many in the funeral business because digital advertising has gotten got so varied and complex.

There are many avenues to consider: search, social, and display as broad categories. But it’s not uncommon for businesses to try Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, blogging, programmatic ad buying, AI and so on.

The platforms themselves also change often and, without a dedicated employee, it’s easy to burn through resources and waste time without getting results.

Moreover, outside vendors tend not to favor the small independents or simply cost too much, and IT people will give advice but it’s not their specialty. Everyone has an opinion about marketing, but when it comes to digital few are willing to recognize that they don’t know what they don’t know.

Somehow Pinnacle Funeral Service, the Atlanta-based acquisition and management company, has managed to wade through this enormous list of complications without getting discouraged.

“Our traditional advertising efforts are pretty much where they’ve always been. Awareness for sure, but also being active in our communities,” says Paul Haarer, CEO of Pinnacle Funeral Services. “The digital side needed to become a focus. It’s almost like our special forces, providing more specific strategy and support.”

Pinnacle doesn’t make it a practice to step in and take local control of the funeral homes’ outreach efforts.

Instead, staffers on the ground are trusted to know what’s happening in each community. They’re then encouraged to come up with ideas and ready their responses when an opportunity for awareness, sponsorship or even a media bargain does come up.

However, Pinnacle recently turned to a more centralized model for their digital work, realizing that one of the best ways to gain efficiency was to pull the digital pieces together and get good at the ones that hold the most promise.

“Being everywhere, trying too many things at once is almost the same as being nowhere. There’s just no impact if you’re taking on too much or not focused on the right areas,” Haarer says. Keep in mind that Haarer has managed digital advertising at an advanced level himself, so he knows how labor intensive it can be.

He insists that measurement is key and that doing things by gut just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Local staff are also encouraged to play a role in email acquisition, updating the CRM database and inviting customers to review the funeral home online. Plus, content that can be created on site is digital-marketing gold when developed and published properly.

“There are some basics that just about anyone can learn, and then there are some practices that require an advanced level of training and experience,” Haarer says. “We think we’ve found the right balance for now. If it changes, we’ll be changing right along with it.”

To learn more about Pinnacle Funeral Service and its operational advantages, contact Paul Haarer by email at paul@pinnaclefunerals.com or browse our website.

Every once in while someone comes along and changes a business in such a way that it seems obvious when looking back on it. That someone is Paul Haarer, President and CEO of Pinnacle Funeral Service in Atlanta.

Haarer takes a down-to-earth, homespun view of the funeral business and primarily connects with independent operators who are leaders in their community.

It’s not an accident, it’s essentially a talent search that reinforces what great companies have done for years: pull out the stops on behalf of their customers,” he said.

According to Haarer, the independent funeral homes often have the right touch with their communities — knowledge, experience and a history of belonging. They’re involved and there’s immense value in being able to tap those intangibles and execute in ways families deeply appreciate.

With Haarer’s leadership, Pinnacle has recognized this niche and cultivated its strengths, whereas large funeral home providers, entities that take a more corporate, top-down approach, often miss out. Independent funeral homes excel in a number of areas and it’s important to recognize this. This is why three large groups chose to join Pinnacle in 2017.

At the same time, as different generations age and require services, there’s growing agreement that the funeral business needs to be nimble and willing to adjust to new ways of doing business and shifts in culture or values.

“Different eras seem to demand different arrangements, and our role isn’t one of judgment. It’s one of accommodation.” Haarer said. “We want to give people a memorable experience that’s meaningful and fitting even as those definitions change over time.

One of the ways Pinnacle has managed this is with stylish, contemporary updates to select funeral homes that make attendees rethink their ideas of space and comfort while grieving.

Pop culture has seared a view into our minds of emotional drama, fear, and darkness,” Haarer offered. “This doesn’t hold true in practice, and we’re introducing choices – actually, customers are asking for changesthat better reflect how we live and think today.”

Managing this way looks quite different, too, Haarer insists. “It’s a conversation that begins and ends with the support of each location, reinforcing what they do best. It’s local, it’s personal. Considerations are weighed against other options and ideas, but in most cases the experts on the ground make the call on behalf of families they’re serving.

For Haarer and his intimate team at Pinnacle, the challenge and success come from finding great people.

Good people supporting good people. Caring people, dedicated people. It’s a self-fulfilling loop that gives Pinnacle members and their customers an undeniable advantage,” Haarer said. “That part of what we do doesn’t require re-inventing. It’s there from the beginning.

To learn more about Pinnacle Funeral Service and its evaluation process, contact Paul Haarer by email at paul@pinnaclefunerals.com or visit our Free Valuation page. 

Pinnacle Funeral Service had an extraordinary year in 2017, and it was a testament to the hard work and dedication of the entire Pinnacle team, its partners and employees.

Together we saw opportunities and strengthened our operations considerably by making a number of key acquisitions for the Pinnacle family of funeral businesses.

In 2017, we added to our portfolio several funeral homes in Wisconsin: Phillip Funeral Homes in West Bend and Slinger, Seefeld and Fox Cities funeral homes in Oshkosh, and Kwiatkowski Funeral Home in Omro, WI. Not to mention, our grand opening of the  Schramka Funeral Home in Brookfield, WI.

Through our diligence, research and a willingness to connect with the owners of these venerable establishments, we developed strong beliefs about the future success of the brands, the locations and the staff.

However, probably the most important acquisition of the year, which capped a very busy second half, was the purchase of Countryside Funeral Homes in the suburbs of Chicago, IL. The acquisition of these four funeral home facilities during the second week of December add substantially to the Pinnacle “Midwest” footprint.

Additionally, Pinnacle has been very active in consolidating and updating our digital marketing operations with an important and trusted vendor in our sector. FrontRunner Professional has proven to be a steady partner in improving the digital side of our business. On the preneed side, we are using Homesteaders Life as our trusted and exclusive pre-arrangement partner. We continue to use the two largest American casket manufactures Batesville and Matthews-Aurora, who have been instrumental in helping us merchandise.

We are being pro-active and aggressive in making sure our brands have the kind of exposure they need to be successful in their local markets. It’s our belief that, by consolidating our digital operations and better tracking our efforts and spending, Pinnacle can add value to the brands, generate more awareness and increase revenues for all our properties and partners.

It’s our goal to be seen as an agent of continuous improvement, to adopt efficient strategies and technologies that add value, and to support our brands and their customers with unparalleled levels of service and attention.

Needless to say, we’re pleased with the many advancements Pinnacle made in 2017. We think 2018 will bear even better results with the facilities, people and processes we have put into place this past year.

We hope everyone in the Pinnacle family of businesses is proud of these developments, and we look forward to sharing more in the coming weeks and months.