Bankers offer financing advice to business owners

Aries and Alicia Almendral

By Cristina DC Pastor

“It felt like a checklist,” said Alicia Almendral, a family physician who has a private practice in the Bronx. “It’s very helpful.”

Almendral was one of several entrepreneurs who were taking note as Citibank executives gave a presentation on “Setting Up Your Business” at the Philippine Center on Fifth Avenue.

Donald DiMartini, Citibank director for small businesses, addressed proprietors by asking them a series of questions: Do you know your message? Do you keep track of your passion? Have you assembled your “kitchen cabinet”? Do you have a contingency plan? He said those who can answer these questions are more likely to know where they are headed and where they plan to take their business.

“Know your message,” advised DiMartini at the June 26 forum organized by ABS-CBN’s The Filipino Channel. It means the owner should be able to explain his business within minutes, especially to a person who is busy and may not have the time to listen. “It’s called the elevator speech,” he said. “You should be able to talk about your business in 20 seconds or less.”

The “kitchen cabinet” is the Holy Trinity of advisers a business owner should have in his team, he said. They usually include an accountant, who will decide the business model; an attorney, who will provide legal counsel; and a banker, who will make sure you know when “somebody out there is looking to compete with you,” he said.

Passion is what sets the business apart from the others, said DiMartini. “Put your passion and ideas into a business plan. Keep a journal. Those ideas will change, keep track of them,” he said.

Another speaker at the forum was Eileen Thornton, business banking director at Citibank. She discussed financing – how to secure it and how to make sure the owner has access to it. It is not enough that money is flowing into a business, she said. A business owner should be able to understand the cash flow cycle; plans for collection and repayment; lines of credit and should have income projections measurable over a period of time.

“These are keys to success,” she said.

Almendral, who has a cosmetic medical clinic managed by her husband Aries, said she found the discussions “beneficial” to startup entrepreneurs or those just thinking of going into business. Even though she has done many of the suggestions, in her mind she was doing a “checklist” of things she has yet to do.

“The forum made complex business aspects simple and straightforward,” she told The FilAm.

Doris Mutuc, East Coast/Canada representative of ABS-CBN International, said many proprietors and executives in the restaurant and retail businesses, financial services and travel agencies attended the forum. Although many of them are quite successful, she said they also wanted to know why “some businesses are thriving and why some fail.”

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