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FOCs At Work On The Ground: Mon Valley Initiative

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Long-term Relationships with Clients

Successful Financial Opportunity Centers are attuned to the importance of working with clients over the long term. The key here is to make sure that the FOC services are relevant to the client at various stages of life—whether they are unemployed or working. Because FOCs are inherently relationship-based rather than transactional, coaches strive to build a lasting connection where clients feel comfortable returning to the organization as their personal financial goals evolve throughout the years.

FOC Client, Al Bachy, with FOC staffers Samson Murage and Tracey Reaves

FOC Client, Al Bachy, FOC staffers Samson Murage and Tracey Reaves

 

Al Bachy, a trained chef who became dissatisfied in the food industry, was looking for something new. While working for a landscaping company for a year, he learned the various components of the job and was promoted to management positions. When he lost his job, he dreamed of owning his own business yet wasn’t sure about taking the plunge. A new job as a shop helper at a trucking equipment company exposed him to snowplows and dump trucks; and as he learned about purchasing and maintenance, he kept the dream alive. Starting with cutting a few neighbors’ grass on the weekends, he was offered regular contracts. After a few months, he quit his job, bought a truck and eventually hired two full-time and two part-time staff, allowing him to compete for residential and commercial contracts. His business, Al Bachy Landscape, now has 60 customers. He’s 26 years old.

When he walked into the FOC at Mon Valley Initiative and first met with senior workforce development specialist/financial coach Samson Murage, Al had $30,000 in school debt and knew that in order to buy the equipment needed to start his own business, he’d get even further into debt. He needed to prioritize his debt and improve his credit while working on his business plan. He got the support from Samson to make and stick to a plan to pay bills and steadily expand the business, one contract at a time.

Al says, “We talked about the expectations I had for my business. I went from having a rough idea of what I wanted to do, to where I am today. There were lots of bumps along the way. Samson helped me plan and to strategically expand the business.”

Tracey Reaves, director of workforce at MVI, appreciates the work Al has done to get this far. “He stepped out in belief to pursue his business. He had a plan and followed through. I’m really proud of him.” Al agrees that while it’s been difficult, he’s received support at every step of the way. “MVI doesn’t give freebies. They have expectations everyone needs to meet.” His new goals for the business are to buy another truck and continue to expand. His personal financial goals are to be debt-free in 30 years and retire at age 50.

FOC coaches respond to clients’ needs over time, sometimes over several years, as goals are met and new ones identified. Early, urgent needs often include job readiness and credit building. As clients gain employment, money management skills and confidence, they build the resources to manage issues independently, and check in with their coach only as new goals are identified – for example, to pursue homeownership, higher education, the next step on their career ladder or retirement savings. Coaches encourage their clients to stay engaged by inviting them to return as alumni guests to celebrate their success, share their strategies and peer-mentor with current clients; or by offering financial products such as the credit-building LISC Twin Account matching loan. When Al has job openings for his landscaping business, he talks with the MVI team for referrals to good candidates. Building from their experience with Al, MVI has started entrepreneur workshops to offer assistance to the FOC clients who have started micro-businesses.

Al has become a confident business owner who talks with pride and passion about his product and his customers’ satisfaction. “The phone rings every day. My customers are from all walks of life, from a $20 job cutting someone’s grass to $10,000 worth of work. The success scares me; I won’t have a day off for months. But I’m not building someone else’s pocket; I’m building my own. When the customer says, ‘My yard looks like PNC Park’ – that’s the goal.”

Al’s coach, Samson, beams. “Now when he talks, you can see his passion and you can tell he loves it. He’s doing it; he’s living it.”

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