Entrepreneur Story: Arthur Garcia of Contabi Alliance
- Hosted October 21, 2020
- By Admin
One could say that being an entrepreneur is in Arthur Garcia’s roots. Growing up, the co-founder of Contabi Alliance saw his parents manage a string of small businesses—an ice cream truck, a taco truck, and a Mexican restaurant.
Like many independent small business owners, his parents started new businesses to create economic opportunities for themselves. His dad, who is from Zacatecas, Mexico, worked at a mattress factory and slaughterhouse in the U.S. His mom, who is from the state of Chihuahua, worked in the sugar beets fields in Northern Colorado. To advance to the next level economically, Arthur’s parents took the entrepreneurial path.
As a kid, Arthur didn’t fully appreciate belonging to an entrepreneurial family. He wondered why he had to wash dishes and work the cash register on weekends instead of having fun with his friends.
But he grew to love it. That early taste of running a family-run business taught Arthur to have a sense of ownership in everything he did. “Everything that I did was a reflection of how much I respected the business, but also connected with the business,” says Arthur, who identifies as Mexican American. “So taking that into my careers, in payroll sales with Paychex or whether it was at a software startup like Xero, it was always making sure that I put everything that I had into it because I felt like I owned a piece of it.”
That deeply ingrained sense of ownership has followed Arthur throughout his professional career. For 16 years, Arthur has worked with accounting professionals across the spectrum—those who specialize in individual tax preparation, regional CPA firms, and large, international “Big Four” firms.
Creating Inclusion and Diversity in the Workplace
During his last tenure at an accounting platform startup for small businesses, Arthur wanted to do his part to build brand relationships with accountants. On top of that, he wanted to make sure the company was helping the accounting profession advance by incorporating new technologies. He took it upon himself to collaborate with HR teams, and to make sure to hire diverse talent that mirrors the customer.
He also noticed that while Latinxs start businesses at high rates and have grown more than other groups in the last few decades, they weren’t getting the focus, attention or resources they needed. “I always thought, ‘Well, shouldn’t we be helping the fastest-growing entrepreneurs segment?’” he says. “If we are a small business software, we have to … make sure that we have the right messaging and that there is a connection to that community as well.”
Building a sales team, landing large accounts in different countries, focusing on hiring initiatives to hire more Latinxs led Arthur to discover that there were accounting firms across the Americas, specifically in Mexico, Costa Rica, Argentina, and Venezuela that loved the software. And while there wasn’t a Spanish version nor any support to Spanish-speaking countries, these firms used it regardless.
The Azlo Moment
During company business trips to Mexico and Costa Rica a few years ago, a lightbulb went off in Arthur’s head. He realized there were firms in Latin America that were early adopters and more advanced users of cloud accounting tools than their U.S. counterparts.
However, they weren’t getting the resources, and the support in their own language. “And they’re fine with that because they love [the software],” he says. “But there has to be more. We collectively wanted to make sure that accounting firms had a voice and that they also had access to resources.”
In 2019, Contabi Alliance was born. Contabi Alliance is an international community of Latinx and Latin American leaders in the accounting space. Contabi comes from the word “contabilidad,” the Spanish phrase for accounting, which almost sounds like “accountable.”
Currently 50 members strong, these leaders come from 10 different countries—the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Costa Rica, Colombia, Uruguay, Panama, Venezuela, and Chile. This referral-only network of esteemed professionals share best practices, tech tools, and ways to better integrate technology in their accounting practices. That international approach can help members solve problems and gain insights from accounting professionals in different countries.
Contabi provides its members with content, training, and education, so that they can service their customers, made up of small business owners. There’s also a directory that small businesses can use to find alliance members.
Co-founded by Arthur and two of his former colleagues who come from the tech and finance sectors, they leveraged their access to an international network. In building something they wanted to see exist for themselves and generating interest from their community, they knew they were onto something.
We sat down with Arthur to talk about the importance of diversity and inclusion at the workplace, and what his experience has been like building a multi-national alliance during a pandemic:
On Working on Diversity and Inclusion Practices
During Arthur’s time at a cloud accounting startup, his company co-sponsored events and hosted webinars with some underrepresented groups to help them feel connected and appreciated.
But it wasn’t always an easy path. During his time working on diversity and inclusion practices in the workplace, Arthur sometimes felt he was pushing a rock uphill. “[If you’re a] culturally diverse person in the company looking to address a need in their community … you just have to keep trying and keep pushing,” he says. “Sometimes you just have to ask for forgiveness instead of permission when you do things.”
On Creating Community
To create community, Arthur and his co-founders, Joel Lacayo and Hugo Duran, have folded in the following:
Leaning into social platforms and content. Arthur’s goal is to create a community where members of the Contabi Alliance can create a community. Contabi Alliance has a private group for its members and an app where they can message one another, post events, and comment on posts.
Sharing stories. Contabi Alliance is launching an online Latinos and Latinas in Tech series. It’s an eight-week series featuring Latino and Latina tech leaders in the areas of accounting, tax, and payroll.
“We wanted to spotlight their contributions, for being the champions within [different] organizations,” Arthur says. “We are highlighting their stories, their contributions and their success within their companies.”
This is just the beginning. Contabi plans to roll out stories of all its members.
On the Importance of Accounting
Accounting is important for the health of small businesses. Arthur explains that if an entrepreneur is just looking at money drop into an account, it could spell trouble.
“The reason a small business needs accounting is that they need to understand not just where they are today, but also where they’re going to be in two months and understanding when they run out of money,” he says. “One of the biggest challenges for small businesses is cash flow.”
Garcia points out that how much money you have at any given point is just one piece of the puzzle. You’ll also need to know who owes you money, who you owe money, how much money is going to be coming in, and how much money is going out. Plus, you’ll need to forecast those things out. “I feel confident in knowing that [we’ll] be able to help a small business, not just be reactive, but proactive in terms of what that business is going to need to be successful.”
The Importance of a Bank That Fits Your Needs
One might imagine that someone with an accounting background is particular about where they bank. Arthur learned of Azlo through his wife, who owns her own business consulting company. The traditional bank he had an account with wasn’t working for him. Azlo was simple, and designed features with a tech-savvy customer base in mind. “It provides the ease of use that I was looking for,” Arthur says.
Knowing Your Brand
When an opportunity comes to Contabi Alliance’s way, they ask themselves the following questions: Does it align with their purpose? Does it add value to their members? And does it help educate accountants to increase adoption of the cloud?”
“I think having a strategy and a business plan is another thing that small businesses need and it's tremendously helped us,” Arthur says. “Because what is shiny isn’t always gold.”
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