Claire Austin, managing director of Austin’s Funeral Directors in Hertfordshire, has won the SIFH (Selected Independent Funeral Homes) 2012 NextGen Professional of the Year award.

Claire, who is the tenth generation of her family to run Austin’s, picked up the award in recognition of her achievements as head of the 300 year old firm.  The judges were particularly impressed by Claire’s strong leadership and vision for the firm’s future which, since she took over as managing director in 2001, has resulted in:

  • – group turnover increasing by 98%
  • – group profit increasing by 485%
  • – 68% of all business coming from recommendation.

Austin’s has eight branches in North and East Herts arranging over 1,200 funerals a year in their funeral homes. It also owns and operates Harwood Park Crematorium and Memorial Gardens in Stevenage.  Claire started her career with the firm as assistant manager at the crematorium before taking over as managing director when her father, John, retired.

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At the award ceremony in Los Cabos, Mexico, one of the judges commented: “I am especially impressed by the tremendous responsibility Claire took on at an early age and the manner with which she identified and executed improvements in virtually every aspect of the firm.”

In addition to her leadership at Austin’s, the judges were struck by Claire’s work within the wider profession and the local community. In 2002 she was invited to join the Executive Committee of the London Association of Funeral Directors, becoming President in 2005. She is an active member of the National Association of Funeral Directors and is also heavily involved in the Austin’s Charitable Fund – which to date has distributed over £73,000 to the local community. Claire is also an active fundraiser for Keech Children’s Hospice.

Speaking on her return from Mexico, Claire, 44, said: “It’s wonderful to be recognised and I was genuinely thrilled to receive this award but as is the case in all personal awards, they can rarely be achieved without the support of a great many people. I would like to thank all 43 members of our staff for the wonderful service they give to Austin’s and bereaved families within our community.”

The award is the third to be won by Austin’s in the past few months; in November the company won Most Successful Medium Business at the Hertfordshire Business Awards and in October Austin’s won the Service Excellence category at the East of England Business Champions Awards.

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