Home Economic Development Experts volunteer time for struggling businesses

Experts volunteer time for struggling businesses

Robert D’Agostino, former chairman of the Westchester SCORE chapter

With some 40 employees and three locations in Westchester and the Hudson Valley, East Coast Pain Management P.C. was thriving – that is, until its bank said it had no line of credit.

Facing the threat of having to close one of its offices, Gladys Cardenas, owner of the pain management, rehabilitation, physical therapy and chiropractic practice, sought assistance from the counselors at the Westchester County chapter of SCORE. They didn’t disappoint.

Without the counseling provided by SCORE, which stands for the Service Corps of Retired Executives, Cardenas said the practice would have struggled.

“I don’t know that we would have been able to get the necessary financing,” she said. “Our bank deserted us. Now, we’re back on track. They (SCORE) keep you under their wing.”

Gladys Cardenas, owner of East Coast Pain Management, and Richard Geoghean, the practice’s clinical coordinator.

SCORE is a national association that provides counseling services to anyone from business owners to entrepreneurs – and with a catch: the assistance is free.

As a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization sponsored by the U.S. Small Business Administration, SCORE has some 13,000 mentors, all of them former business executives, who volunteer their time and expertise to anyone seeking business advising services.

The Westchester chapter features 58 volunteers and is based at 120 Bloomingdale Ave. in White Plains, where it leases office space at the state Department of Labor building. There, counselors offer clients initial exploratory sessions when they can map out goals, in addition to a 10-session workshop series that is held several times each year. Advising sessions also take place at locations in New Rochelle, Yonkers and Katonah.

Robert D’Agostino, a Westchester volunteer and former chairman of the Westchester SCORE chapter, said the typical client profile has undergone a noticeable shift over the past couple of years. Whereas about 75 percent of those seeking advice up until the recession were people looking to start businesses, now D’Agostino said a bigger percentage of clients are business owners seeking help.

“Not overnight, but we would get an inkling that the profile was changing,” he said. “The new profile starts to develop where now we’re getting more (clients) who are already in business.” He added the average age of clients has shifted from people between the ages of 20 and 40 to those in their 40s, 50s and even 60s.

“Now, not only were they not able to pay their bills but they couldn’t access their lines of credit,” D’Agostino said. “People came in here looking for emergency loans. Not only younger people but experienced businesspeople – lawyers, physicians, MBAs, contractors would come across hard times. They were grasping at what to do.”

At East Coast Pain Management, Richard Geoghean, clinical coordinator of the three practices in Rye Brook, Yorktown Heights and Wappingers Falls, said payments from insurance providers could often arrive a year or more after a patient was treated, a concept he said was difficult to get across to the bankers when the practice was seeking loans.

“They (banks) would have more financial questions for us that we weren’t capable of answering,” Geoghean said. “It was a learning experience for us because we’re not financial people, we’re physicians.”

Geoghean and Cardenas went to the SCORE office in June, when they were paired up with D’Agostino, a former banking executive who worked with the practice and with local banks to secure loans for East Coast Pain Management that have enabled it to keep all three branches up and running.

“Mr. D’Agostino came to the meetings with the banks, (and) he spoke ahead of time with people from the banks,” Cardenas said. “He never stopped working to get us the financing we needed.”


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here