David is the business writer for the Bay of Plenty Times and Rotorua Daily Post.

Media man finds calling in funerals

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Richard Fullard was drawn to the funeral industry through a desire to help people through a tough time. Photo / Tracey Scott
Richard Fullard was drawn to the funeral industry through a desire to help people through a tough time. Photo / Tracey Scott

Being caught in the Christchurch earthquake in 2011 cemented Richard Fullard's desire to make a change in his life.

After spending almost two decades in broadcasting roles around the country, he has now embraced his new role as general manager of Osbornes Funeral Directors in Rotorua, a career he had always been interested in exploring.

"During the earthquake I was seven floors up and my wife Larissa was at home with a newborn baby," he said.

"It was really horrible. But there were some amazing people in Christchurch doing some amazing work. It ignited my need to give back in terms of finding something that ticked those intangible boxes for what I was going to do with the rest of my life."

Born and brought up in Auckland, Mr Fullard spent most of his career in radio. He left school at 17 and did a two year diploma of media studies at Taranaki Polytechnic, then started a radio internship in Taumarunui in 1995.

That began a radio career that saw him shuttle around the country working for Mediaworks Radio/Canwest Radio from 1997. He worked in increasingly responsible roles ranging from music director, drive host and copywriter, to executive producer positions, including managing the daily national talk radio network. The roles included stints in Palmerston North, Rotorua, Queenstown and Thames, before he landed in Christchurch as programme director for Mediaworks Radio in 2009.

The impact of the February 22, 2011 earthquake was devastating, and in April, Mr Fullard and his family were relocated to Auckland, where he oversaw the breakfast show at More FM as executive producer.

"That's when we started thinking about where we really wanted to be."

Previous stints in Rotorua helped them decide it was time to relocate and MediaWorks created a role for him there as an account executive in 2012.

However, relocating to Rotorua also gave Mr Fullard an opportunity to enter the funeral industry.

"When you get older with a young family your priorities change," he said. "It's about finding your place in the world. I'd always wanted to be in the funerals sector, but I'd never really known how to get a foot in the door. "

An opportunity came up to join Osbornes as a funeral director, and he took it, and began learning the ropes of the industry. However, radio came calling again, this time in the form of Mediaworks opposition The Radio Network headhunting him to take the role of sales manager, which included the change to becoming part of the new NZME structure.

Then, in 2015, Keith Osborne invited him back to serve as general manager of the funeral home, which he founded in 1981. Mr Osborne - whose son Sam, a qualified embalmer and trainee funeral director, also joined the company in February - said bringing in younger staff was necessary to remain relevant in a very competitive market.

Mr Osborne said going back to radio had just reinforced for Mr Fullard how passionate he was about the funeral industry, they remained in touch, and he offered him the general manager's role.

"I thought it was time to bring somebody in who was younger, with new ideas who was going to take us forward for the next 35 years," he said. "Richie has a very wide-ranging set of skills that can quite easily transfer across to what we do."

Mr Fullard is sharing the managerial workload with Keith, who is spending more time on the longer term business strategy.

"I'm helping Keith execute his strategy and plans," said Mr Fullard, who plans to eventually do the Wellington-based funeral directors course once he has time.

"The funeral industry is all about relationships and managing people," he said.

"It's what we do day to day with families that's important. I like to think of myself as a people person and fostering relationships with people in a time of need really struck a chord with me. You have a really short time to engage with a family and get their trust and guide them through what is sometimes a horrible process."

Richard Fullard:

* Role: General manager, Osbornes Funeral Home, Rotorua

* Born: Auckland, New Zealand

* Age: 39

* First job: Broadcasting intern

* Recently read: Make Me by Lee Childs

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