A Brief Q&A with CFSA President Greg Beavers

With Tim Murphy, CAE, Chief Executive of the Casket & Funeral Supply Association of America


Greg Beavers is Vice President of Wise Products Company of Honey Grove, TX, a full-service,
full-product line distributor of the mainstays of funeral service; caskets, urns, outer burial
containers, and custom casket panels; with eight warehouses to serve a wide variety of
customers. He is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, having served his country for 9
years. He is married to Rebeka Beavers, and has two children, Levi, 16; and Macy, 13. A young
husband, father, and entrepreneur, Greg is carrying on the legacy of Wise Products Company to
uphold its position as an industry leader for future generations.


T: Greg, did you always know that you were going to be in the family business?

G: In a way, yes, I guess I did. I grew up attending funeral service conferences, conventions, and
trade shows with my family, and watched how they interacted with customers and future
customers, which I found really fascinating and inspiring. But you could say that I found my way
to the business with some interesting and sometimes scary detours along the way.
I graduated high school at age 17, and like most teenagers, I didn’t really know what was next
for me. I always wanted to be a Marine, so I enlisted and began my military career. In 2006, I
got married just before being deployed to Iraq. In fact, my son Levi was born while I was still
over there! When my military duties concluded, I became a welder at Wise Products while
going to Texas A&M – Commerce, where I graduated in 2010. Fast forwarding to now, I currently
serve as Vice President of the company.


T: What are your principal roles as Vice President of Wise Products?

G: I hold leadership roles in some key areas of the business; I manage staff, oversee mergers and
expansions, lead the sales staff, and handle customer relations and product line development
and positioning. So, as you can see, we keep pretty busy down here in Texas!


T: Can you give me a few words or phrases that describe the “secret to success” of
Wise Products Company?

G: Our company is known as a supply partner that employs an honest and up-front approach to
business. All of us are customer-focused and service-centric, and we take great pride in our
reputation of being trustworthy and transparent. The three key areas we focus on are service,
quality, and price. Another way to describe our business practices and philosophy is that we’re
relationship-focused rather than being simply transactional.


T: My friend and funeral service icon, the late Todd Van Beck, used to say, “the
only thing permanent in life is change.” And of course, we see this daily in
funeral service supply. So how does Wise Products evolve and remain relevant
to so many customers amid constant societal change?

G: Convenience has always been a desire of any customer in any business, and we’re no different.
Our customers, as well as their client families, must feel like merchandise selection and product
education is convenient as well. We believe strongly in developing and employing tech-based
platforms for these functions. We will soon be able to show all product lines to our customers
virtually, saving time and money for everyone. And we’ll also provide these tools especially to
smaller, more rural funeral directors, so they are always viewed as competent experts in this

As supply professionals, we must never forget that we are here, doing what we do, so our
funeral director customers can be best-equipped to personalize their merchandise – as well as
services – in a highly-custom fashion. “Personalization” has been the buzz word for a while, but
that doesn’t make it less real or relevant. Technology allows it quickly and affordably, and
families demand it. As suppliers, this has to be a big part of what we do for our customers and
their families.


T: In this era of great change, what advice would you give to fellow supply
professionals to help them best serve their customers?

G: This is a several-pronged question, so I’ll do my best to be as succinct as possible…but keep in
mind, I’m from Texas, and at times we aren’t always so brief!

First off, our preferred modes and methods of disposition are evolving all the time. The
conversation used to be simply, “the cremation rate versus the burial/entombment rate”. It’s
not that easy. We are experiencing a noticeable “green” movement, especially in burial.
Alternatives to fire-based cremation are already on the market. There’s a “human composting”
sector. All of these new things represent new opportunity for funeral service pros and suppliers
alike. The market is changing, and we have to change with the market. If you don’t, you’re a
great candidate for failure.

Amid all this constant change, our funeral home customers must see us as deathcare experts,
because we are. We study all that’s going on in the industry, in North America and abroad. We
are active in our associations, and take advantage of the many networking and learning
opportunities they bring. Along with being an expert, our funeral home customers must always
think of their supplier as a valuable business partner. Again, relationship-based, not
transactional. If we forget this, our customers will realize that maybe their current supplier
might not be the best fit for them.


T: Every business professional faces challenges all the time; that’s a normal day in
business. What challenges have you experienced in your business that has
affected you, and made you a better leader?

G: True. Challenges are all around us. Today, what I am experiencing are things that are not
unique to our industry, but they haven’t come around in a generation or two. Large life
interruptions, like wars, economic recession/depression, and yes, even global health scares –
created less than ideal business conditions. For example, all of us – and I mean ALL of us – are
experiencing supply chain stresses and issues. Steel pricing is at an all-time high, and no one
sees it coming down anytime soon. So, I think these high steel prices are part of the normal
condition now – talk to our manufacturer members, and they’ll tell you all about it!

The transportation side of our business is stressed for a number of reasons. The trucks we use –
mostly box trucks and flatbeds – are rare to find on the new OR used market. Right now, truck
orders are taking 2 years or more to fill. Same with parts. The wait time on parts means I can’t
easily get product to my customers if a truck goes out of service. Assuming that I have all the
trucks and parts we need, enter now the driver shortage. The trucking industry is short about
80,000 to 100,000 drivers. Every business who uses trucks feels that on a daily basis. Oh, and I
almost forgot. Diesel at over five bucks a gallon doesn’t help anyone’s margin!

So, getting back to your question. You asked me what I have learned through all of this that
makes me a better leader. I’d have to say that my team and I learned how to get wildly creative
in coming up with solutions to these challenges. And we did. The bottom line is that our
customers never felt the challenges we were facing, because we were able to overcome them to
maintain the great customer experience they’ve come to depend on.


T: What is the one piece of business advice you were ever given?

G: Always do what’s right; even though that might not necessarily result in the highest margin.


T: What do you know now – from your experience as a supplier – that you wish you
would have known the day you started this journey?

We talked a lot about the change in the profession. As we said so many times, change is the
only constant. Early in my career, I thought of change as a threat – a threat to the way we do
business. Since then, I’ve learned to embrace the chaos that is sometimes around us, because
there’s opportunity hidden in that state of flux. You just have to be smart enough to know how
to identify it. So, the short answer is this – there’s opportunity amidst disorder. I wish I was
that confident with that concept when I started.


T: What are your overall goals and vision for your tenure as CFSA President?

G: As leaders of the association, we always strive to create an environment where the driving
motivation is to educate, enlighten, and learn from fellow members. We’re a relatively small
industry; and because of that, personal and professional networking is what matters. My fellow
members are also my competitors; even so, we also have a sense of “family”. That’s one of the
things that makes CFSA unique. My goal as President is to magnify these key benefits, and bring
members together for meaningful interaction.


T: And finally, Greg, what are some things that people might be surprised to learn
about you?

G: Well, I am an avid hunter, and always have been. I really enjoy watching my kids in their sports
activities. Maybe that’s not so unusual. One thing I think that surprises people is that we have
laying chickens for the freshest eggs. I also raise chickens for the meat, which I process myself. Yeah, that’s a little more unique!


About Wise Products Co.
Wise Products is a 3rd generation family-owned and operated business that was founded in
1968 by Evelyn F. Wise. As most of the funeral homes we serve are also family-owned and
operated, we understand the difficulties and challenges that a family-owned business can face.
This knowledge gives us the ability to provide quality products and tailored customer service


About CFSA

The Casket & Funeral Supply Association of America was founded in 1913 as the Casket Manufacturers Association of America, and today represents companies providing all types of funeral supply products. The Association is headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana.