When Anthony Ford considered buying a new in-home care business in Longwood in January of 2019, in addition to the loan to purchase the business, he knew he would need a sizeable line of credit.
“Expenses for in-home nursing or assisted-living care businesses like ours are immediate and about 85% labor, but payments from our clients are almost always delayed,” said Ford. “Because of the delay in payment that is standard in these businesses, I knew it would come with a lot of account receivables that would go to the seller. It would leave me without cashflow for quite some time.”
Ford was looking for a banker who would be responsive and a bank whose policies and procedures accommodated health care businesses like his. His thoughts turned to Bill Zirkelbach, a banker with Seacoast Bank.
“I’d known Bill for years and had always heard good things about him from his clients,” said Ford. “When I needed a new business bank, I thought of him.”
When Ford approached him about the possibility of a loan, the outlook became especially positive with all Zirkelbach was able to offer through Seacoast Bank.
“There were quite a few options with Seacoast,” said Ford. “We looked at SBA, private equity and a home equity line of credit. In that end, the bank’s interest rate on the home equity line of credit was the best of the three, and very competitive compared to other banks.”
Seacoast was able to help Ford open a checking account and provide other account services as well. But, it wasn’t just the products and services that sealed the deal.
“Bill earned my trust,” said Ford. “Everything he promised, he delivered. He became more than just an order-taker, he became my banker. He offered counsel and advice and acted as a sounding board for me in confronting financial obstacles and opportunities for my business.”
Ford named his newly acquired business Partners in Healthcare. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Ford would need all the banking Seacoast and Zirkelbach could offer.
“We’re considered an essential business, we help seniors in-home. We feed them, get them out of bed, help them with personal hygiene, help them take meds and more,” said Ford. “Because the elderly are more vulnerable to COVID-19, our caregivers, mostly CNAs, have to review and self-inspect daily regarding symptoms. Even if they just have a cold, they can’t work without a COVID-19 test to rule it out.”
With several caregivers unavailable due to illness, COVID-19 put a lot of stress on the Partners in Healthcare workforce. It also put a lot of stress on the families of his patients. Most patients’ bills and fees are paid for by their families. With unemployment numbers spiking, many family members were out of work and couldn’t pay.
“When we have patients that are slow to pay, we can’t simply stop providing service,” said Ford. “Our patients wouldn’t survive without the services we provide. We could never leave them without care.”
The pressure from the pandemic put Ford’s business in a tight spot. His cashflow fell behind his labor costs. And if he couldn’t continue to operate, he feared it would be put the wellbeing of his clients in jeopardy. That’s when he saw news of the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program.
“I texted Bill within minutes of learning about the program,” said Ford “There were no SBA guidelines at first, but Seacoast’s SBA team anticipated very well what paperwork we would need.”
When guidelines came out, Seacoast helped Ford adjust his application accordingly.
“Zirkelbach and Seacoast worked 24 hours a day, 7 days a week during the application period. At one point, I was on the phone with him at 8:00 p.m. on a Sunday. Their dedication was supreme,” said Ford. “This was the opposite of my other bank, who said they didn’t have SBA guidelines yet and couldn’t help me.”
Within one week of submitting his application, Ford’s loan had been funded.
“The PPP loan Seacoast helped me obtain was literally a lifeline to my clients,” said Ford. “If Partners in Healthcare wasn’t there to provide service, our clients would have suffered and some likely wouldn’t have survived.”