In 1986, John and Agnes Harris purchased WN Bull Funerals.
John and Agnes Harris, owners of WN Bull Funerals“We made three major changes straight away. We introduced a staff training program on protocols, procedures and communication. This was quite radical at the time – there weren’t any other funeral directors in Sydney who were doing this,” said John Harris.
“Then we introduced a bereavement service which was available to the public, not just our clients but any person who’d experienced the death of a family member or friend. Thirdly, we started offering prepaid funeral services, which was an option that many people appreciated – and still do.
“It was these three things that gave WN Bull a point of difference, especially the staff training which was ongoing and is still very important to the business.”
John and Agnes Harris.
John also took pride in how WN Bull‘s staff presented themselves to families, believing that their outward appearance served as an important reflection of the care and attention to detail they applied to other aspects of their work.
“We were very particular about the responsibility we had of presenting ourselves in the best possible light. And that applied to the way we dressed, our fleet of specially built hearses, how we assisted families – the whole company in fact.”
Reminiscent of the original owners William and Mary Bull, Agnes worked by John’s side, managing WN Bull’s finances and administration. Their son also worked in the business for an eight-year period.
John credits Agnes with modernising the funeral home’s systems and management processes while he was occupied with a more external role.
“I’d like to say that I did the lot, but I didn’t! Nor was I capable of the work that she was doing,” said John Harris.
John believes that one of the most important concepts he brought to WN Bull was the recognition that funeral services are not for the dead, but the living.
“The only thing you can do for the dead is prepare them for burial or cremation in a respectful and dignified way. It’s the families – the survivors – that need our support and assistance.”
Special challenges for WN Bull arise each time the Premier’s Department contacts them with a request that arrangements be made for a State funeral.
“We’ve done a lot of State funerals. It’s a very involved process that requires dealing with protocol departments, fulfilling the family’s expectations while also managing certain governmental requirements,” said John Harris.
“State funerals involve a lot of unique challenges, to be honest, but they’re very memorable.”
After well over two decades at the helm, in 2010 John made the reluctant decision to entrust WN Bull and its time-honoured traditions to a carefully chosen successor.
“We thought it was time for retirement,” he said.
“I wanted to be certain that the new owners would retain WN Bull’s image and principles, recognise the abilities of our General Manager Patsy Healy and the other staff members, and maintain the company’s long-established culture.
“That’s why I chose InvoCare. They’ve been simply wonderful people to deal with and I couldn’t speak too highly of them.”