The family business: When Troy Finch joined in 1989 they had one funeral home - now there are five
The family business
by Edmond Ortiz
When Troy Finch joined in 1989, they had one funeral home — now there are five
“Treat families like you would want them to treat you” is the motto for the Finch family,which has been in the funeral business since the 1950s. Finch Funeral Chapel LLC operates five funeral homes in towns southeast of San Antonio.
Attending Texas State University, too, is a family thing for the Finches. Owner Troy Finch earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1988. His mother, Charlotte (B.S. ’64), and his grandmother both graduated from the university. His daughter, Taylor, is a sophomore business major.
Finch learned the family business — started by his grandfather Barney Finch in 1961 — as he grew, helping wherever he could. His training began with basic things like opening doors and greeting visitors “ever since I was big enough to put on a suit.” The family lived above the funeral home in Nixon before they built a larger home in town.
Families are the backbone of funeral establishments. Of the 1,499 funeral homes operating in Texas, less than 1 percent are owned by large corporations. The rest are family-owned or small family-owned corporations with a few funeral homes under their umbrella.
After graduating from Texas State, Finch earned an associate degree from Commonwealth Institute of Funeral Service in Houston. That’s where he learned the skills to become a licensed mortician and funeral director. There are only two publicly funded colleges in Texas that have mortuary science degrees — San Antonio College and Amarillo College. “In mortuary school, you learn about anatomy, study diseases, the circulatory system,” he explains. “There’s also the business aspect — you have to learn accounting, learn to wait on families, and direct funerals. You have to learn about all the different religions and the way they do things in respect of their religions. There’s many facets to it.”
To be an effective funeral director, you must have a desire to help families through their grief immediately following a loved one’s death, Finch says. Comfortable furniture and color schemes at each location help to comfort grieving visitors. The La Vernia location even boasts an aviary of tiny finches.
“You have to be willing to be on call 24/7. We work days, nights, weekends, and holidays. There’s lots of behind-the-scenes stuff. You have to deal with embalming procedures, and picking up people from accidents,” Finch says.
He will admit that the business of facilitating interment services and burials — a $20 billion-a-year industry — “is not for everyone.” Finch would use his business education to expand the family business and to give back to an industry that has given his family so much. In 1989 when he joined the business with his father, Don, there was one Finch Funeral Home in Nixon. Today, there are five funeral chapels operating in Gonzales, Wilson, DeWitt, and Karnes counties.
Finch met his wife, Janet, at the Commonwealth Institute, where she was studying to be a licensed funeral director. They make their home in La Vernia, where they raised their two children.
A member of the Texas Funeral Directors Association (TFDA), Finch was honored in 2013 as the group’s Funeral Director of the Year. He has also presided over the TFDA’s 52-county South Central Texas region.
In the early 1990s, Finch knew that owning and running a business is tough, and that many ventures will fail in the first years of operation. “I convinced my father, once I came to work for him, to build a funeral home in La Vernia,” he says. “I built it from scratch. There had never been a funeral home there before. I had to get involved in the community and convince them to use us instead of other funeral homes.”
Finch will tell you that the business is a rewarding one, and says that his daughter is considering joining when she completes her education. “You have a really good feeling when you help a family from the very beginning to the very end," he says.