The Hippo


Jul 4, 2020








 What are you really into right now?

I still play hockey twice a week. … I coached a Triple A team for years when my kids were younger. 

Arthur “Buddy” Phaneuf
Funeral owner

By Ryan Lessard

 Explain what your current job is.

Even though I own and operate the state’s largest funeral cremation service, my job is actually very similar to what a business owner would be in any industry. Most of my time is spent working with staff, mentoring some of my younger funeral directors, negotiating with vendors, working with our marketing company, certainly attending funerals and services and, when my time allows, making arrangements with families. But it’s really just doing all the financials and budgeting. 
How long have you worked there?
Since 1989, [and prior to that] summers and during high school and college ... delivering flowers and cleaning up the funeral home and assisting on services. 
How did you get interested in this field?
I actually grew up in a funeral home, one of the funeral homes we own on the West Side of Manchester. After college, the expectation was that I would go to mortuary school and then I would come work for my family and that really wasn’t something that I was interested in, so I ended up going to mortuary school and then decided … to go to graduate school in Washington, D.C., got an MBA and spent about eight years in Washington … working for a large management consulting firm called Deloitte. … Back in 1988, my dad called me and said, I’m getting ready to retire and there’s no other siblings in the business and would you like to come over and come back home and take it over? … Some of it at the time was a little bit of the guilt ... and some of it was my … hope to be able to grow a business. … We were serving about 200 families a year. And we’ve actually grown it now to about 2,500 families to be the largest family-owned funeral home in New England.
What kind of education or training did you need for this?
In New Hampshire, you need a degree from a mortuary school, which is generally a two-year degree, and a one-year apprenticeship. And once you’ve done that you can become a licensed embalmer and sit for exam to become a licensed funeral director. 
How did you find your current job?
[My dad] was at the point of his career when he was getting burnt out and wanted to slow down a retire. … My wife and I thought about it for several months … [and] we decided to come back to New Hampshire. That was 1989.
What’s the best piece of work-related advice anyone’s ever given you?
The best piece of work-related advice — which is going to sound terrible — is, one of the partners that I used to work with at Deloitte, his piece of advice was “Trust no one.” If you think about it, what he really meant was the old Reagan phrase that said “Trust but verify.” Especially if you run a business, you need to do the work and you need to do the due diligence and you can’t just necessarily make assumptions.
What do you wish you’d known at the beginning of your career?
I wish I would have known how challenging it is to manage people. To me, that’s the most difficult part of the job.
What is your typical at-work uniform?
Suit and tie. 
What was the first job you ever had?
The first job I ever had, which I was absolutely horrible at, was working construction for my friend’s dad’s construction company.
— Ryan Lessard  

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