In a culture which normally honors sports heroes and movie stars, it's not often that an accounting firm is singled out to receive accolades.
But Stitely, Karstetter & Greenfeld, CPAs of Chantilly was recently named "Small Business of the Year" for 2002 by the Herndon Dulles Chamber of Commerce. Some 400 people attended the black-tie awards ceremony, Feb. 1, at the Hyatt Dulles, with SKG receiving the top award.
"We were very excited and happy for our employees because they really contributed to our success," said Paul Karstetter. "We couldn't do it without them."
When he and Frank Stitely began their accounting firm in 1989, they ran it out of their respective homes in Sequoia Farms and Greenbriar. They were the only two employees and they handled taxes for about 50 customers — no businesses, only individuals.
Now they have a third partner, Wayne Greenfeld — 11 employees total — and prepare some 400 corporate and 700 personal tax returns for clients throughout the Washington Metropolitan area. They joined the then Dulles Area Chamber of Commerce, right from the start, and are now one of 750 businesses in the merged Herndon Dulles Chamber.
"The firm of Stitely, Karstetter & Greenfeld, CPAs has been a pivotal company in helping to develop and expand our Chamber," said Chamber President Eileen Curtis. "They provide exceptional service to their clients and are staunch supporters of [our] community efforts."
Greenfeld merged his company with Stitely and Karstetter's, January 2002, and each partner brings a particular type of expertise to the Sullyfield Circle business. Said Karstetter: "Wayne runs the technology division, I'm the tax and financial-planning partner and Frank does a little bit of everything."
What's amazing is that, in a time when most companies are suffering financially and may cut back on employees, SKG is both thriving and expanding. Said Karstetter: "We've grown 30 percent in overall revenues from 2001 to 2002 — which is unusual, when people are starting to do their own tax returns on line."
He attributes the company's success to the fact that it gives its clients the technology, as well as personal service, that they want. SKG also has a quick turnover time — 7-10 days for a tax return — and employees will also meet with the clients to advise them what they can do to become more tax efficient.
The company also prepares financial statements which allow for financial forecasting — vitally important to the success of many businesses. And it's even offering investment opportunities and strategies through its alliance with Legg Mason Wood Walker Inc.
SKG is a certified accounting-software consultant that sells and installs various programs, converts data and provides training and technical support for its customers. It also gives free, half-day presentations on the top accounting programs for small-to-mid-size businesses. Said Karstetter: "We tell them what program is best for their needs."
And each year, SKG tries to find one new way to benefit its clients and make their lives easier. This year — besides doing free, electronic filing — it's providing them a free backup CD containing the hard copy of their federal and state returns, plus all their related documents.
The partners have also received recognition for expertise within their industry, and the company regularly participates in a variety of charitable endeavors in the local community. With the many services that SKG offers, said Karstetter, "Our goal is to be a one-stop shop for our clients so that, whether they need software, financial services, accounting or tax work, we can help them out."
That's why, said Greenfeld, "We're a CPA firm with a twist. My focus is accounting-system implementation — including sales, installation, training and support." He noted that many of SKG's clients are other CPA firms. Said Greenfeld: "We serve as their IT services department."
He's also delighted with the work environment. "We truly care about the employees and their welfare," he said. "I view us as a family. And every Friday morning, we have a meeting sharing the contributions that various employees made toward the company's operation."
As for the Chamber of Commerce award, Stitely was "surprised, honored and very happy. We're involved in the community an awful lot, and we consider this our home area." He said SKG doesn't intimidate its clients; it instead likes to keep in contact with them, throughout the year, to see if they need any other help.
"We're really into tax planning, year 'round, rather than just at tax time," said Stitely. "And for business owners, that's particularly important since their tax liability fluctuates widely from year to year — and this area is small-business heaven."