Chamber Spotlight is a feature sponsored by the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce. Today’s Q-and-A is with chamber member Mark Watts, Partner with the CST Group. CST Group is a Certified Public Accounting firm in Reston. CST provides comprehensive accounting, tax, and business advisory services for closely held businesses, medical practices, real estate firms, government contractors, non-profit organizations, as well as for professionals and business owners.
Reston Now: Why did you decide to start your business in Reston?
MW: Reston is one of the most dynamic areas in Northern Virginia. Because of Reston’s close proximity to Washington DC, Tysons Corner, and Dulles Airport, the area is extremely accessible for employees and clients. Metro’s new Silver Line has also made the commute to Reston even easier.
CST is always trying to recruit top talent, so we chose Reston as an alternative to the congested Tysons Corner area. Many of our employees embrace the “live, work, play” lifestyle.
Community impact is an important focus at CST Group, and we’ve really enjoyed having the opportunity to partner with local charities in the area.
RN: What are the challenges and rewards of being a business owner?
MW: As a small business owner there are two critical components to know — your client base and your employees. Those are my two challenges and my two rewards. There’s nothing more rewarding and satisfying than helping a client. We’ve worked with many of our clients for decades and consider them friends and partners.
The biggest challenge is, by far, finding talented people to join our team who want to grow and build a career at the firm. To help overcome this challenge, we’ve developed a very positive company culture. We invest in professional development and help employees grow. We focus on maintaining an engaging environment and compensate our staff competitively. Recently, we moved into a new office building with lots of amenities. We want our employees to have fun, be challenged, and feel supported.
RN: Name something about your business that most people don’t know?
MW: The number of awards CST Group has won over the years is something special that most people wouldn’t know about. Virginia Business magazine and the Washington Business Journal have consistently recognized CST Group as one of Best Places to Work.
CST Group’s partners have also been named to Northern Virginia magazine’s list of Top Financial Professionals for fifth year in a row, and four of our partners were recognized by Washingtonian magazine’s 2014 list of Top Tax Accountants in the DC Metropolitan area.
RN: What is the unique value you provide to your clients?
MW: Customer service is the most important aspect in building a strong client-employee relationship. We’re constantly evaluating the cost and benefit value ratio. We want to ensure that our clients are getting the most out of their time with us, and that we’re exceeding their expectations.
MW: As a business owner, I spend 50 percent of my time carrying out management responsibilities and the other 50 percent as a practicing CPA. It’s challenging to juggle both roles, but I enjoy jumping in whenever possible to help a fellow employee or a client.
RN: How has the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce helped your business grow?
MW: What’s great about the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce is that they have something to offer everyone. Regardless of your industry, role, or years of experience, the chamber has a place for anyone who wants to get involved. A number of our employees have had the opportunity to get involved in the association’s various leadership programs. The Reston Chamber of Commerce serves as a great resource in helping our employees’ strengthen their CPA skills as well as their leadership skills.
RN: What is the quote that best describes your business?
MW: “Always Exceed Expectations.”
RN: What is your advice to someone who is thinking about owning a business?
MW: Be prepared to be flexible. As a business owner, no day looks the same, and you’ve got to be able to adjust to the unexpected. While this may challenge most, I embrace it. I get up in the morning knowing that I’m going to be learning something new.