March 24, 2013
Tom Raffa is a peripatetic sort who sees business opportunities in everything. Then he acts on them.
Restaurants. Wealth management. Human resources. A frozen yogurt shop. Insurance. Nonprofit consulting. Accounting. Executive recruitment. Coffee bars. Raffa is just one of those people who are always on the hunt for investments.
Not everything he has touched has been successful. There was that pension-consulting firm that imploded. His try at online bill paying was a misfire. And, let’s face it, restaurants don’t last forever.
“I have more failures than I have had successes,” he said over dinner recently in Dupont Circle.
But Raffa has built a profitable — if eclectic — empire around accounting and its related businesses, which are hugely important but not exactly the stuff that sizzles cocktail conversation.
What caught my attention was the way he has managed to instill incentives into what is traditionally a dry profession through what I call mission-driven capitalism.
Aside from his coffee and yogurt forays, his palette of accounting-based businesses grosses $40 million a year. Eighty-five percent of that comes from clients that are nonprofits. Those businesses fulfill Raffa’s desire to do more than just fatten the bottom line.
“Making money is third, fourth or fifth on our list,” Raffa said. “It’s the result. It’s not the why. The why for me at Raffa PC is advancing the community.”
Photo: Tom and Kathy Raffa, Astrid Riecken/For The Washington Post