ROCKY HILL LIFE, November 2016
Helping entrepreneurs succeed
John Fagan enjoys assisting entrepreneurs through SCORE by Mara Dresner Staff Writer,
People meeting John Fagan for the first time often have a SCORE to settle. But that’s a good thing. Fagan is a volunteer mentor with SCORE, formerly known as the Service Corps Of Retired Executives.
His work with SCORE comes after a career of more than three decades in the health care industry. After earning a master’s degree in social work, he volunteered for the U.S. Army in 1967 during the Vietnam War, accepting a direct commission to the Army Medical Service Corps, which included pharmacists and psychologists, among other medical professionals.
His first assignment was in Fort Jackson, S.C., where he worked at a psychiatric clinic before receiving orders to head for Japan.
“I worked at the 249th General Hospital, which was 1,000 beds, and Camp Ojai Hospital, which was 400 beds,” Fagan said.
The 249th had a 50-bed psychiatric unit, but that wasn’t where he usually found himself.
“My main job wasn’t work on the psychiatric unit. My main job was to provide what was [being] the psychiatric consulting liaison for 950 beds,” he said.
After finishing his tour of duty in 1970, he came back to Connecticut.
“When I got out of the military, I was fortunate enough to be hired by the Hartford Hospital psychiatric clinic,” he said.
Fagan was promoted to director of the Social Services Department and in 1983 was named vice president of the hospital. While he was working there, he went back to school, earning an MBA in health care management from the University of Connecticut.
For a number of years, he also had a private practice in West Hartford as a clinical hypnotist. He studied under Dr. Herbert Spiegel, a pioneer in the field at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University.
Fagan said the technique was helpful in everything from helping people quit smoking and losing weight to dealing with phobias and anxiety.
“I was a psychotherapist and that was just another technique I could use in psychotherapy. It’s an excellent clinical technique,” he said.
“Part of the problem is it wasn’t very regimented. There wasn’t any real curriculum on how to teach hypnosis until Spiegel came along and he developed the program at Columbia,” he added.
He retired in 2007 after 32 years at Hartford Hospital. He had two goals in retirement. “I decided I wanted to volunteer and I wanted to play golf. I’m doing both,” he said.
He’s found his niche in SCORE.
“SCORE really attracted me because it was a way of really giving back to the community. Since I had an MBA and I had a lot of business experience in the hospital, it was a natural thing to want to work with businesses and help them get better,” Fagan said.
“With the MBA, I have a really good finance background. That’s a strength of mine, helping people with looking at their financials and managing their financials,” he added.
“A lot of people have the financial data from their company. They can look at the financial data and they’re really not entirely sure how to interpret it and what it means and where their issues might be. We can be very helpful teaching them how to manage their finances and how to interpret what it means and what to be thinking about.”
Fagan regularly meets with people at the Cora J. Belden Library, as well as at locations in Tolland and Manchester.
“John combines a rare skill set of being practical as well as academic. He is strategic in his thinking, yet very pragmatic,” Mark Cutler, SCORE’s district director for Connecticut, said.
“He combines a business background with a senior VP post at Hartford Hospital with an MBA with a clinical psychologist skill set which translates to an excellent listener and a superb mentor to small business.”
Cutler, who previously served as chapter chairman of Greater Hartford SCORE, first met Fagan seven years ago.
“John has expertise in health care and in nonprofit businesses. His specialty in these fields has other SCORE volunteers throughout the area reaching out to him for assistance. John is known as a mentor to our mentors,” he said.
“SCORE volunteers go through an orientation period working with an experienced mentor in the field and John is one of our best resources for that, having trained more than 100 volunteers in his nine years with SCORE,” Cutler added.
“John’s listening skills are truly extraordinary. He never judges and is very sensitive to the needs and personalities of each client. John has volunteered his time to SCORE since 2008 and meets clients, on a recurring basis, in three counseling locations throughout the area including Rocky Hill.
“We feel very lucky to have John on our team. He is not only an exceptional professional, but an extraordinary human being,” he said.
SCORE provides free and confidential advice for entrepreneurs and small businesses and is a nonprofit resource partner with the U.S. Small Business Administration. There are more than 300 SCORE offices across the country offering free business mentoring and low- or no-cost workshops.
SCORE was originally an acronym for Service Corps Of Retired Executives; however, as it began to attract mentors who were still working, it began to go solely by its acronym. Fagan said the lion’s share of what SCORE does is individual counseling.
“Essentially, what we’re doing is helping them take a look at the business, to look at the strengths and the weaknesses of the business, and if they’re having challenges, to look at the bottom line and see how changes can be made to improve,” he said.
The chapter has a number of experts in various areas, such as manufacturing.
“People will refer health care things to me because that’s my background. If they got a doctor to set up a practice, chances are they would send them to me,” Fagan said.
The SCORE mentors work in teams of two or three. While each session is individualized, they see some common issues.
“When people are just starting a business and don’t know a lot, they really have to go through a lot of fundamentals. One of the major things is, should I do an LLC or sole proprietor? What kind of corporation should I form? Basically what I do is talk about what the business is,” Fagan said.
“The other thing I talk about is certain liabilities. If you’re a sole proprietor, you have no legal protection; you can be personally liable. If you form an LLC, the LLC is the mechanism. You can’t be sued personally,” he added.
“Generally, if you’re doing any business where there could be any kind of issue, we recommend an LLC. It gives you the advantage of people not being able to go after your personal assets.”
Another common major issue is finding money and getting loans.
“It really depends upon your assets and your business plan. We really help people put together their business plan so they can go to a bank and get a loan,” he said.
“It’s not uncommon for a bank to say, ‘Go to SCORE and develop a business plan and come back before we give you money,’” Fagan said.
He’s enjoying his work and advising new entrepreneurs.
“[I like] seeing people succeed,” he said. “It’s just like working with a patient, seeing people get better.” RHL
For more information visit greaterhartford.score.org.