David Crocker and Chris Murnane may be in opposition when it comes to business, but they both have a mutual respect for each other.
They are both family men, they both have great senses of humour and they both have genuine, caring personalities.
And in their jobs as funeral directors they need a sincere and caring nature to fulfil their tasks successfully.
But they both admit that being a funeral director is not a job for everyone.
``You need to have empathy. You need to have a caring nature and be interested in the people you are helping ... the people who are going through the most difficult times in their lives,'' Mr Murnane, the managing director of Peter Tobin Funerals, said.
``Funeral directors are only human and you couldn't do your job successfully if you didn't have empathy.
``But, at the other end of the scale, we class ourselves as professionals and we need to take a step back at times. People come to us for assistance and guidance and we are doing a job for them and we need to do that job properly.''
Most funeral directors are on-call 24-hours-a-day, which makes it hard to step away from your job. At Peter Tobin Funerals, Mr Murnane and two others take it in turns to be on call.
This gives him time away from being a funeral director and more time to spend with his wife and children, aged 11 and five.
``Having the children is a real escape from being a funeral director. They both go to school and are involved in different activities. I also like my sport and my wife Paula has gone back to school studying business administration.''
Mr Crocker, who is the manager of Nelson Bros Funeral Services in Ballarat, agrees that empathy is an important quality for a good funeral director.
``You have to have a genuine desire to be there for people when they are at their lowest ebb. You have to be empathetic. You can't pretend to understand what these people are going through, because grief is a very personal thing,'' he said.
``There is a lot of emotion in this job and you have to learn to take a step back. At times you can get deeply involved, but you have to realise that you are there to assist people through a very stressful time ... you are not there to be an emotional crutch. You don't become a harder person (because of your job), but you learn to keep yourself controlled and keep your emotions in check.''
While Mr Crocker is a relative newcomer to the industry, Mr Murnane has been a funeral director for 10 years. But his involvement began many years earlier when he married Paula Tobin, daughter of the late Peter Tobin, who owned Peter Tobin Funerals, and who took over the family business from his father, Noel.
Mr Murnane was originally a nurse and was ``gently persuaded'' to join the family business by his father-in-law.
``My wife Paula had the same love of the business as her father and when he talked me into joining the business, becoming a funeral director seemed like a natural transition from my career as a nurse,'' Mr Murnane said.
It wasn't an immediate transition, though. As a nurse who worked different shifts, Mr Murnane would help his father-in-law on his days off during the week.
Because of his marriage to Paula, his family and friends were not surprised by Mr Murnane becoming a funeral director.
However, it was a different story for Mr Crocker, who joined Nelson Bros only 18 months ago.
``I had wanted to be a funeral director for years. I had been involved in the service industry for a long time and saw the move (to Nelson Bros) as a positive addition to that career,'' Mr Crocker said.
``I feel a sense of personal satisfaction that I can assist people through one of the most traumatic and stressful times of their lives.''
When Mr Crocker announced he was becoming a funeral director many of his friends and relatives were surprised.
``It took a long time for my wife Jeanette to actually bring herself to visit me at work, and of course I copped all the usual jokes like `people must be dying to see you'. Then I heard the usual comment from others: `I couldn't do that job' or `I don't
know how you do it'. I suppose there is always that unknown quantity. Some people have a hang-up about funeral directors... they feel uneasy because of the mystique.
``When I announced I was becoming a funeral director people were either very inquisitive, particularly women, or they shied away from me.''
Mr Murnane believes that public education is the key to overcoming the many myths about the funeral industry and uncovering the mystique of the job. He and other staff at Peter Tobin Funerals hold regular talks at bowling clubs, schools, church groups and hold tours of the Doveton Park Funeral Centre.
``In the past funerals and being a funeral director was a taboo subject and I am a firm believer in public education on the subject. I believe you can't make a good decision if you are not informed," Mr Murnane said.
``Some people never have contact with a funeral director their whole lives and educating about what we do is a way of dispelling any myths that some may have about the industry.''
Mr Murnane said some of the best responses during public talks were from children.
``Children are not scared to ask questions, while adults can be quite tentative,'' he said.
``Generally most people I am introduced to seem very interested in the industry and ask question after question, which is a good thing. The more knowledge people have the better informed decision they can make and, at the same time, we can alleviate the myths.''
The joint managing director of Peter Tobin Funerals also believes there needs to be more stringent controls over the industry.
``In Victoria there is no formal training to become a funeral director. All you need to do is register your business. You need to register to be a hairdresser, you need to register to be a plumber, but there is no formal registration for funeral directors.
And this is a real sore point, because you are looking after the most important person in someone's life and you are looking after the people who are grieving.
``As a funeral director I believe I am a professional person, but there is a problem when you cannot account for and bring into line those
To help keep the industry in check, the Australian Funeral Directors Association has a set of standards which funeral companies must meet
and staff members attend regular courses during the year on the funeral industry.