Originally printed in Southern Funeral Director, May 2023
Ask Foundation Partners Chief Financial Officer Thomas Kominsky what makes his approach to business partnerships different from others in the deathcare industry and he'll tell you: "We buy businesses we want to own versus those that are for sale." With 20 years' experience in corporate and strategic finance and deal making leadership, Kominsky joined Foundation Partners Group in January 2020. Over the past three years he and his team have achieved industry-leading growth. In the following Q&A, Kominsky shares his partnership philosophy and answers some of funeral business owners most frequently asked questions.
What do you mean when you say you buy businesses you want to own?
“Buying what we want to own” means that through our targeted research, we strategically select markets then identify and engage with capable and innovative entrepreneurial owners who share our vision for the future of funeral service. We find that many of the most successful and innovative business owners are not necessarily looking to fully exit their business but instead are seeking to align with partners who can help them scale and innovate. They also recognize that joining a national firm greatly expands the career opportunities available to their team members, which is very appealing to these business owners.
How have the broader market dynamics affected interest in growth through acquisition?
Growth through partnership has always been a part of our Foundation Partners story and we have committed capital to continue our acquisition strategy. While economic cycles create a lot of headline shock, the succession timing of many owners continues unabated. We are committed to serving families through all economic conditions and will continue to expand our partnership efforts, even in the current market conditions.
What happens to family members and other staff after a firm partners with Foundation Partners?
We partner with locally-owned firms because of the strong business reputation they've built in their communities, and this starts with their team members. Many of our firms have family members of previous ownership working at them. They continue to be an asset in the business, and we support their future roles with Foundation Partners. We offer competitive benefits and expansive employment opportunities for team members who are excited to continue serving their communities with the resources of a national firm. Moreover, many members of our national and regional leadership teams began their careers at one of our local firms.
What is Foundation Partners' strategy for the Southeast?
We strive to serve the next generation of families how – and where – they wish to be served. It's no secret that much of the Sun Belt has seen significant population growth in recent years with no end in sight. Foundation Partners is excited to expand in the area by partnering with reputable, local, family-owned businesses throughout the Southeast. Our company is headquartered in Florida, and we are one of the largest operators in the state with more than 40 locations. But we are not limiting ourselves to the Florida market. We continue to expand throughout the Carolinas, Georgia and other states as the population shifts. We recently partnered with J.B. Tallent Funeral Service & Crematory in Charlotte, North Carolina and are excited to continue to expand our presence in this growing part of the country.
How does Foundation Partners Group think about burial vs. cremation?
While we are the largest provider of cremation services in the markets we serve, we have made significant investments in our properties based on each local communities' preferred and expected experience. We recognize that our country is vast, and what is "preferred" in Oregon may not be common practice in Georgia, and vice versa. We have burial-focused and cremation-focused brands throughout our operations. We simply believe in giving families more of what they want, and celebrating every life.
I am sure you often hear "I am very sensitive to the needs and stability of my staff, and do not want them knowing about our conversations"; How do you ensure confidentiality?
Succession planning and partnership conversations are sensitive matters and may span many months or even years. Keeping that trust with owners is paramount throughout the entire process, so we follow the owner's direction as to the timing and nature of communications with staff, vendors and community members.
What if an owner wants to stay active in the business? What options does Foundation Partners offer in this scenario?
While many owners partner with us as part of a retirement succession plan, we have many other owners who want to stay active in the business – but with the resources and capital of a larger organization behind them. Our model allows those operators to continue their life's work in funeral service - without the 24/7 stress of ownership. Also, many former owners have joined the Foundation Partners staff and pursued other roles within the organization, including on our operations and partnership teams. Foundation Partners is a rapidly growing organization that presents a wide range of opportunity for team members who want to build a long career in funeral service.