A.W. Lymn is a large family firm founded in 1907. This isn’t necessarily a good thing. Family businesses can run out of steam and get very complacent. Big businesses can be faceless and impersonal. This is not what you want from a funeral director. But Lymn’s has admirably and triumphantly avoided both these pitfalls, as you will see.
Approaching 110 years since furniture makers Arthur William Lymn and his son Harold Percy Lymn started specialising in making coffins, Lymn’s remains very much a family affair; Arthur’s great-grandson Nigel Lymn Rose is the Group Chief Executive and Nigel’s son Matthew is Managing Director. Nigel’s sister, Jackie, is a director, as is Nigel’s wife, Penny, and Ben Percival, Nigel’s nephew is manager of The Craftsmen in Stone, the company’s monumental masonry division. Other family members are sprinkled throughout the business, and George and Sheila, Nigel and Jackie’s parents, (Sheila is Harold Lymn’s daughter) are still involved and take an interest in the business despite being well past retirement age. All are seriously impressive people.
What we particularly liked though was the feeling that the Lymn family is not just those related by blood or marriage; the feeling of belonging and pride in the service they offer was evident in all of the staff we met. Everyone we encountered was welcoming and friendly, from Lauren, the newest trainee who has been with the company just a few weeks, to Dick, veteran employee of 47 years in the stonemasonry department, and all the other staff quietly getting on with their work but stopping immediately to attend to a visitor – everyone was warm, helpful and attentive. We left feeling confident that this is just normal for Lymn’s people. Standards are impeccably high, but service is the watchword and everyone at Lymn’s is there to serve you.
The importance of the family feeling at Lymn’s is just there, it’s implicit in the thoughtfulness that has gone into details, the willingness to adapt as clients’ needs change, and the determination to get everything right for you through a collective effort. The heritage of the business is something that everyone is rightly proud of, but the Lymn family members aren’t about self importance; you have to really search on their website to find details about them. Their focus is wholly on clients first, and supporting their staff second.
In addition to its impressive and enormous HQ in Robin Hood Street, just a few hundred yards from where the business began in Goosegate, Lymn’s owns 25 branches (with a 26th well on its way to being opened) serving the whole of Nottinghamshire and South Derbyshire, reaching up to Shirebrook in the north, Bingham to the east, Derby to the west and Ruddington and Long Eaton to the south. We have visited every single one. There was refurbishment and renewal work going on at several of the branches we visited and we got the sense of a firm that is looking to enhance its services and invest for the long term. This business is still growing, and looking forwards, but uniquely for a company this size, it retains the personal touch.
A person who has died will usually be brought to, and cared for at, the branch you first contact. (All of the branches are fully equipped with refrigeration facilities.) From there they will go for a short time to the central mortuary in Robin Hood Street – with the exception of those at the most far-flung branches.
At the central mortuary they will be cared for and made ready for their funeral, and then they will go back to their branch so that you can come and visit them. We took especial care to spend all the time we needed in the HQ mortuary, seeing what goes on and talking to the people who work there. To us, it is of the highest importance that people who have died are treated with the greatest kindness and their privacy respected. We would have left and gone home there and then if they weren’t. We can assure you that standards of respect here are very high indeed.
Each branch is run by its own staff, around half of them by two people, the rest by one. Every branch is equipped as a standalone funeral home to a standard many small funeral directors would envy. Each has its own mortuary and chapels of rest. All are furnished to a very high standard, bright and airy, and staff are encouraged to add their own personal touches. There is a common theme, you know you are in a Lymn’s branch by the style and quality, but there will be little differences.
Lymn’s do not employ clones. Sure, everyone has to work the Lymn way. They wear the smart Lymn uniform and all have name badges so you can instantly see who you are talking to. But we met a great range of personalities of all ages and backgrounds, male and female. They all operate in a very empowered way and are encouraged to be themselves. They are very carefully chosen and, once taken on, they seem to stay forever. It’s a bit of a joke in the firm that the Lymn family hate anyone to retire. Staff turnover is very slow – but much more rapid for new entrants. If anyone is not made of the right stuff, they’re soon on their way. It is because the staff are so empowered (they’re not always looking over their shoulder) that levels of personal commitment and service are so high.
This may be a big firm but, if you’re a client, it certainly doesn’t feel like it – and that’s the point. It feels little, it feels local and it feels very personal.
Of the staff we met, we did have some favourites whom we thought outstanding. We won’t say who they are because everyone’s different and you may click better with others. Because Lymn’s staff are all individuals, we suggest that, if you don’t entirely hit it off with the staff in one branch, try another one nearby.
We asked Nigel how he manages to keep standards so high and his staff so focussed and dedicated. A measure of fear? No, he said, a strong sense of belonging. We tested this as we spoke to staff – and it’s absolutely true. The sense of belonging, and of shared values, is extremely strong and everyone knows everyone. Staff are proud of all the firm stands for, too, and even though there is a clear hierarchy, there is also democracy. Everyone supports and helps everyone. Someone said to us, ‘Everybody washes cars here.’ And they do, from top to bottom, even the boss. They have a staff newsletter which contains all feedback from clients, both positive (lots) and ‘Could have done better’ (not a lot, to be honest.) They don’t shirk criticism and all strive to do better and better. There’s no standing still at Lymn’s. You too can read their staff newsletter and weigh up the pros and cons here.
The worst thing anyone who works for Lymn’s can do is not report immediately to head office when something goes wrong. The Lymn way is to acknowledge that, sometimes, slipups happen. When they do, they accentuate the positive and put them right as soon as they can. If the hearse is a little late arriving at your house, you will receive an apology the same day, written and hand-delivered by a Lymn Rose – together with, quite possibly, a deduction from your bill. It’s the customer focus that keeps everyone on their toes here, nothing but the best for every single client, no matter how much they are spending. Every funeral is the best it humanly can be.
Management is very hands-on. On the way to one branch we visited we learned that the staff was dealing with a troubled man whose behavior was challenging. Nigel had got there by the time we arrived and assisted the staff in sorting the problem.
Everyone works seriously hard, and here we’d like to sing the praises of a Lymn’s hero you’ll never meet. His name is Matt, he works at head office, and he is responsible for working out the logistics of each day’s funerals – who goes where, who does what. It’s an unbelievably complex business.
Nigel is keen to preserve the work-life balance of his staff. However, he says, for him and the family there can and must be no such thing. They work as many hours, day or night, as they need. You’ll find the contact details of all family members on their writing paper. A couple of weeks before our first visit, someone had phoned Nigel on a Sunday – just to see if she really could. He has emailed us at two in the morning.
If it’s a traditional funeral you want, nobody does it better. You could describe Lymn’s customer service as Rolls-Royce. This is literally true of the majority of their funeral fleet. Lymn’s have the biggest collection of Rolls-Royces in Europe and, if you’re into cars, they’ve got all sorts from vintage ones to the latest models. Don’t worry, the hearse you want won’t cost you a fortune! And please note: most are silver, not black. If it’s black you want, make sure you make it clear.
If your style is plainer and less showy, they have very nice converted people carriers instead. Or a bright red Routemaster double-decker bus. Or they will source any other alternative hearse for you. In short they will adjust their style and level of formality to yours.
Nothing counts higher at Lymn’s than excellence in customer service. Actually, you could call it an obsession. Nothing matters more than giving you what you want. There is a very strong commitment to training. They have a work experience programme run in conjunction with local schools, and run their own comprehensive four year apprenticeship scheme. Almost all staff members responsible for arranging funerals either have, or are working towards, their Diploma in Funeral Directing.
If you only want a simple funeral, you will still receive 100% focus. They will explore your options with you carefully because they want you to be able to make informed choices in terms of your values and your budget. To this end, they will give you all the time you need. They’ll never try to upsell you, either. That’s banned! In proof of this, we found that a lot of their clients had chosen a simple and relatively inexpensive – but very good looking – ‘Clumber’ coffin. All the coffins offered are fitted and lined by Lymn’s staff, and you can choose the colour of the lining and the style of the handles if you want to.
It may sound odd, but Lymn’s is characterised by what you might call humility and normality. There’s none of the over-formality and self-importance you get at some funeral homes – they level with you. And they are always looking for better ways of getting it right for their clients.
This may be an established and successful business, but no one’s sitting on their laurels. We really liked the people we met. They are all very much members of the community in which their branch is situated, and great care is taken to put the right people in the right places. They’re real professionals and they’re also people like us – and they so clearly love what they do.
One thing we really like is that they send what they call an usher to wherever you are holding your service before you get there so that they can welcome everyone who comes and direct them to their seats. This is very unusual. They will give everyone a card on which they can record their name together with the name of anyone who is unable to come, and whom they are representing. There is space for a message for the family if you want to write one. They’ll give you a complete list after the funeral.
• Embalming – Lymn’s are in favour of embalming because they feel that people who have died look more themselves when they’ve been embalmed. They will explore this with you. If you do not want it, that’s perfectly okay.
• Continuity of Care – At most offices it is almost certain that the person with whom you arrange the funeral will lead the cortege on the day – there will be no stranger who’s taken over. If it can’t be that person, then the funeral director who will be in charge on the day will introduce him/herself well in advance.
• Family Participation – If you want to carry the coffin, they’ll show you how. If you’d like to come in and wash and dress the person who has died, they’ll be there for you. If you’d just like to come in do their hair, that’s absolutely no problem. They believe in empowering you to do what you want and they help you in any way they can.
• Same sex person to wash and dress? – Yes, if you want. No problem. Just ask.
• Ethnic Specialism – They are experienced in many other funeral customs. Every branch has a fully equipped mortuary and washing facilities. All of the chapels of rest have removable religious symbols which can be in situ as appropriate.
• Local Celebrants – Excellent local celebrants to choose from if you do not want a religious minister.
• Home arranged funerals – Will gladly work with you in any way you want if you who wish to care for the person who has died at home: see the Do It All Yourself section of the Good Funeral Guide website.
• Web Site – Exceptionally good. Comprehensive information, well set out and easy to navigate. All prices shown in their downloadable brochure on the right-hand side.
• Client Support – If you want to be put in touch with a bereavement support group they will make that happen for you. After the funeral, call in anytime for a cuppa – they’ll always be pleased to see you.
• Money matters – They will give you a full brochure setting out all the options and prices at the earliest opportunity. If staff come and collect someone who has died at home, the brochure will be left for you in an envelope when they depart. Take your time to consider the options and talk them with other members of your family.
Lymn’s don’t set out to be the cheapest, they set out to do the best they can for you. They are all about giving you a high-value experience – but not at a premium price. Their prices are not the highest in town by any means and, in terms of value for money, we reckon they’re hard to beat. Prices are clearly displayed in all their branches.
Vouchers bought by members of the now-defunct Ilkeston Co-operative will be honoured. Workers at Rolls-Royce and ICCM Members receive a £50 discount.
If money is any sort of a problem, be upfront about it. They will do everything to provide a fitting funeral for what you can afford. Please don’t borrow money from a loan shark. You can negotiate a loan from Lymn’s (no credit check required) and pay it back at a rate you can cope with at a very acceptable rate of interest. The more open you are about your circumstances, the more they can help you, and this is what they want to do.
If you are on benefits they will help you fill in the Social Fund forms and apply for a Funeral Payment. Don’t feel awkward about this, these people are members of your community and they have a genuine commitment to you and yours.
You can put money away for your own funeral in one of two ways. 1) You can buy a conventional funeral plan. 2) You can buy vouchers as and when you can afford them – and you can top them up as prices increase. Better still, you can use them towards the cost of any services provided by Lymn’s or, if you have held them for over six months and use them towards the cost of your funeral, a discount equivalent to 20% of the original cost is allowed. Finally, should you have a financial emergency, you can cash them in at any time, and get back exactly what you put in.
We came away seriously impressed by the energy, commitment and integrity of Lymn’s and by the sheer niceness of the people who work here. Their commitment to choice is your assurance that you will be able to create exactly the funeral you want – and if you don’t know exactly what that is, they will help you to find the way. There’s no set way of doing things here, only your way. Lymn’s is embedded in its community, committed to its wellbeing, and a forc for good – a very classy, affordable funeral director who’ll make you proud you chose them.
Any decisions you take on engaging the services of a funeral director should be based on your views and research. You should not rely solely upon the views and opinions offered by us.
Wednesday 12th August 2015 at 10:29 pm
After the recent death of my Dad in the early hours of the morning of 25/7/15 we contacted Lymn’s at Mansfield Woodhouse and were helped straight away. We were given options of what we would like or wanted to do. Once we had made the decision someone was with us an hour later and kept in touch over the next few days even helping us with the registration of death (as we had no idea what to do) Elaine in the office was a diamond and always very helpful and polite. Then we arranged an appointment to discuss the funeral and a friendly Man called Jonathan came out to us (at our request) and discussed everything with us, gave us choices and advised on everything else we need to know helping us with information whilst listening and understanding what we needed and wanted. Any questions we had after we’re all answered over the phone by the staff and we always felt at ease and in control of everything whilst we felt we had the Lymn arm around our shoulder. The service was lovely and just as we requested and Andy walking in front of my Dads coffin was touching and especially as just like my Dad was a Sheffield Wesnesday Fan. I can not thank them enough for giving us the personal touch whilst knowing they were there for anything we needed or didn’t understand, even after the funeral. They really do put the family feel into everything and we as a family are so pleased we chose Lymn’s.
Thank you so much
Tuesday 3rd December 2013 at 10:38 pm
My wife died on the 22/10/13 we called the ollerton number and people
arrived very quickly , then we had a meeting with david at ollerton
what a great guy he made us feel so relaxed, what was a dark tunnel for us
he made it a better journey he made sure we knew everything and did
a great job for us ,sorting the burying of the ashes etc me and my wife
are londoners and only moved up here a year ago our parents funerals
wasnt half as good as your company , i cannot thank you and your team enough for giving us the best
Thursday 4th April 2013 at 9:10 pm
What a superb review.
Lymns staff are always very welcoming (even to humble suppliers). I am always impressed with their service to families especially considering the size of the firm. The whole logistics of running a large funeral company all to often means the family are not always the most important part of the service.
Many a firm could take a leaf out of their book.
Whats really great about Lymns is you can have exactly what you want, and I really love that.
Thumbs up to them.