ATAX Founder Rafael Alvarez 20 Bucks & a Vision!
(Part of our Dominican Influencer Series)
You think you’re busy? By 2003 Rafael Álvarez was preparing 7,000 personal income tax returns and 150 business tax returns! He then had two locations, and by 2005 was preparing more than 10,000 personal income tax returns and 450 business tax returns. By 2007, Álvarez hired a professional to research the possibility of making ATAX a franchise. The analysis revealed the lack of a nationwide tax preparation franchises owned, managed by or targeting the Hispanic or Latin community, which would give him a potential advantage over the competition.
ATAX founder Rafael Alvarez started ATAX with 20 bucks that his mother gave him!
By the end of 2007, ATAX Accounting and Financial Services was officially established as a franchise offering. Since 2007, ATAX has become one of the fastest-growing franchise companies in the nation. ATAX now has 40 locations across the U.S. The majority of ATAX’s locations are owned by Dominicans, mostly women! Out of 10,000 tax returns now being filed yearly at ATAX, however, only 40% are for Hispanic clients, 30% filed by Dominicans.
Last year, Álvarez received the prestigious International Franchise Association Ronald Harrison Award for accomplishments in diversity and inclusion. The IFA award recognizes organizations and/or individuals who have made significant contributions to minorities in franchising either within their franchise organization or within the franchise community. Álvarez has made his mark on both!
With his busy schedule, does he have time to connect with people back home? “Yes, I just got back from D.R. I was in Punta Cana. I try to get back every two years because I have lots of family still there. Also, I have been approached by Dominicans who are U.S. citizens living and working there about establishing ATAX there. I have some ideas and eventually I would like to have some business there as well.
Taxes are for the U.S., but I am looking into another exciting program that can work there and globally as well. I have partnered with a great company, XERO. I am on their Partner Advisory Council and I am their #1 partner in the U.S. XERO is a New Zealand-based software company that develops cloud-based accounting software for small and medium-sized businesses and we are going to do good things together.
A word that pops up in Álvarez’ conversation often is “drive.” “Drive is an invisible force. Some people have it and some don’t. Even if you are well educated you could be missing that chispa. In D.R. they have the drive. They don’t take things for granted. They know they need to earn it. Nothing is given to you. I have wealthy friends who don’t have it because they didn’t have to work for it. For me, it was the way I was raised. I had to struggle to survive, put food on the table. Drive is KEY. It’s the engine that will make you do what you need to do to get where you need to go. To achieve success.”
He also thinks New York Dominicans are different than those on the island. “We have to be twice as good. In the Dominican Republic it’s OK to just be good. In order for us to excel we have to work harder, do more. I have my roots there, but I learned a lot from what the U.S. has to offer. Apply everything. You learn a lot at conventions, networking, etc.”
Many successful business people often find a helping hand or a mentor on their way up. It may come as a surprise to some that when asked whether he had a mentor, Álvarez said: Anthony Robbins. “I met him many, many years ago. He’s not just teaching a program. You need someone in your corner that tells you not to give up. That kind of mentoring and teaching is what I needed. He’s an excellent person.”
Álvarez has many interests that involve the community. He grew up in Washington Heights when it was pretty rough. “Hey, some of my friends didn’t make it. They ended up in jail. Just a handful were able to survive, and I made it thanks to my parents. They were really serious about my education. I’m still part of the community.” In 2007 Álvarez helped organize the national Dominican Parade in NYC. He also serves on various boards such as the Presbyterian Hospital and the Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance, both based in Washington Heights. Álvarez is indeed the man with the “drive” who has “made it” — and the community continues to watch his rise.
By Clara Galvano Rivera