Austin’s managing director speaks of success

Claire Austin of Austin's Funeral Directors

Claire Austin of Austin's Funeral Directors - Credit: Archant

AN ENTERPRISING managing director who has seen a turnover increase of 98 per cent since she took over the family business has said the key to her success has been to offer the best customer service.

Claire Austin, who heads up Austin’s funeral services, is the 10th generation to take on the reigns of the business. The mother-of-two came into the business in 1998 aged 33 as an assistant manager at the Howard Park Crematorium, Stevenage, which her father John Austin built in 1997.

Claire, who worked for the Metropolitan Police as a fingerprint expert for 10 years, said: "My ethos has always been to continue with the family environment, offer the best customer service but at the same time modernise and open the business up so that it is welcoming.

"I have made sure all our locations have an open and elegant frontage which is inviting rather than it looking closed, dark and dull. I wanted to do away with the taboo of funeral directors.”

Under her leadership, the company which was established in 1700 in Graveley now arranges 1,200 funerals across its eight branches every year and also operates Harwood Park Crematorium.

The 47-year-old said she has always enjoyed working with the public and has never been fazed by the nature of the work.

"As a child I was brought up in this environment, I was always aware of what went on but I don’t think I was very business minded, but I learnt on the job."

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The businesswoman, who last year claimed the British Chambers’ Entrepreneur of the Year award and occasionally conducts funerals, said owning her business can be difficult when trying to strike a balance between work and family life.

"When you own your own business it can be difficult to draw the line, but I try my best to not talk about work at home with my husband who also works for the business as a director of the crematorium.

"I make sure that I take three weeks in summer to go away with my children, and that I am there to pick and drop them off to school."

Since taking the leadership lead, Claire has introduced a free little green book which gives customers a full comprehensive guide in arranging a funeral and offers customers a 24/7 availability of a bespoke pre-paid funeral plan.

Looking ahead, Claire said she will continue doing what she does best, which is to ensure the company continues focusing on offering a level of service that sets the independent firm apart from its national competitors.

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