Our Managing Director has been awarded a Long Service Award for serving his local community for 30 years. Michael Liddle, of Neville Funerals, one of the region’s longest standing family owned businesses has received the award in recognition for his dedication to the company over the last three decades.
Michael, who is originally from Essex, joined Neville Funerals in 1989 as a General Manager, before becoming Operations Director responsible for the company’s newly acquired Bedford branch and then Managing Director in 2004. Since then he has played a major role in developing the business which now has eight branches across Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire.
He explains: “I originally wanted to be a joiner/ cabinet maker and when I was just 15 started working for a small Funeral Directors in Colchester who specialised in making their own coffins. I soon realised I was more suited to arranging funerals than woodwork. It is a real privilege to be asked by families to look after their loved ones and I knew this was what I wanted to do. I worked my way through various roles from driver bearer to Funeral Director, gaining my NAFD Diploma in Funeral Directing as well as the British Institute of Embalming (BIE) training to become a qualified embalmer.
“One day I saw an advert in the Funeral Service Times for a General Manager position at Neville Funerals and decided to go for it. I moved to Bedfordshire and worked closely with Peter Aspinall, the Managing Director at the time to grow the company. When I joined there was just three branches in Luton, Ampthill and Shefford. Since then the company has expanded significantly with eight branches, new divisions for Neville Memorials and Neville Flowers, and more than double the number of staff.”
Michael has seen many changes over the years, from the impact of technology to changing attitudes towards death and grief. He said: “The digital age has revolutionised many essential tasks. When I first started everything was hand-written whereas now everything is computerised. Having a printed order of service was considered rare thirty years ago but now it’s pretty standard.
“The real shift has been in people’s expectations and want they want from a funeral service. Death doesn’t have the same taboo it once did and people are discussing their final wishes more openly. Families are much more involved and funerals are now more personalised than they used to be. People want choice, they want to say goodbye in a way that is meaningful to them, not just an off the shelf package. This expansion of services means that the average funeral is now much more involved. It used to take around 30 hours to arrange a funeral but it’s now more than double that.
“Environmental concerns have led to a rise in green funerals with people looking for eco friendly options. Civil ceremonies have also increased significantly as society has become more secular and people don’t want a traditionally religious service.”
Neville Funerals is a fifth-generation family owned business and Michael has worked with two of them. “One of the main benefits of working for a family owned business with such a long heritage is their commitment not just to providing a great service but also to the staff, “added Michael. “It’s a real partnership and they’ve supported me throughout my career. It’s a very close-knit team of highly skilled people who are passionate about what they do. This has resulted in an excellent reputation both within our local community and within the sector as a whole. I still get families now asking if I will handle the funeral of a loved one because they remember the service we gave before, which is a real honour.
“The way we go about our day to day business has undoubtedly changed, however those core elements of delivering exceptional customer service and creating a great working environment are still things that make Neville Funerals such a great company.
“I can’t quite believe where the 30 years have gone but it’s been a fantastic journey and I’m looking forward to continued growth and prosperity with the team.”
Vicky Trumper, Director at Neville Funerals said: “We have built our reputation on trust and recommendation, and it’s the skills and expertise of the people behind the brand that have achieved this. Michael is an integral part of the business and has been instrumental in the growth and success of the company over the last thirty years. His experience is invaluable and I would like to say a huge thank you to him for his support and dedication over the years.”