In the relatively small town of Vienna, Virginia, nestled in the midst of its downtown shopping area, just one block north of Main Street, you will find Georgen Scarborough Associates, a full-service accounting firm that breaks free of the traditional perception of accountants and financial service professionals. With close ties to the community, founding partners Kathy Georgen and DH Scarborough knew exactly where they wanted to open a firm, when they contemplated starting the business.
Kathy explains, “Both DH and I have lived in Vienna since the early 1980s and have been very active in the local community. When it was time to move forward with the business, there was no doubt where we would be located.”
Founded in 2008, Georgen Scarborough Associates was created to give their clients a more focused, personalized service than most accounting firms can provide. Handling all accounting and financial services for individuals and small to mid-sized companies including payroll and bookkeeping, tax preparation, as well as financial statements, reviews and audits, Georgen Scarborough Associates is the community’s accounting firm.
When Kathy and DH, then colleagues at a previous firm, began discussing their potential new venture, they knew they wanted to have a different business model than that which they were currently working under.
“We wanted to start a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) firm that was more person-oriented and ‘client-centric’. We wanted to be able to get closer to the people. Our previous firm had gone through a transition in ownership and the focus changed significantly. One day DH and I were discussing the changes and she asked me if I wanted to go off on our own. Another woman at the firm heard what we were discussing and said, ‘Just give me enough time to grab my purse.’”
Though they were ready to step out on their own, Kathy and DH were still considering when to make the transition when their dissatisfaction with working with the firm under its new management became so unbearable that they both agreed to start their firm in the middle of the height of their business year – tax season.
“We talked about it immensely and the question was whether we could last another tax season or if we could not. The answer was that we could not,” Kathy recalls.
And so, Georgen Scarborough Associates was born. With serendipitous timing, they found the perfect office space, stumbled upon a clearance sale on furniture where they were able to get all of their office needs met, and were able to set up shop within a few weeks.
“When we broke with the firm, we wrote letters to our clients saying that we were no longer with the firm, and asking if they were interested in staying with us. It had a release at the bottom for them to sign so that we could keep their files. After we were in the new office, we sent a postcard to follow-up and the clients flowed over; there were only a handful that didn’t come with us.”
Born and raised in Wausau, Wisconsin, a mid-size town northwest of Green Bay, Kathy was surrounded by a loving family. Kathy’s mother worked at Wausau Insurance, the city’s major employer other than the paper mill, and her father, a military veteran that served in World War II, owned and managed a clothing store for young men. With parents who were known throughout the community, Kathy grew up surrounded by friends and neighbors who knew and loved her.
“I would work with my dad sometimes in his store,” Kathy recalls, “I would do odd jobs or work the register sometimes. Everyone that worked there was so kind and nice and knew me. That’s probably the beginning of me wanting to be surrounded by community and people that work together.”
Suddenly, when Kathy was thirteen years old, her father passed away. After having such a strong role in her life, the loss of her father changed Kathy’s life forever.
“I remember people telling me, after my dad passed, that now I had to be strong for my mother… as if my childhood had ended, at thirteen years of age, and I was going to have to become an adult now and take on things for my mother. This began a rebellion in me that lasted through my teen years.”
That rebellion included Kathy getting into some tame adolescent mischief including the time she was taken to the police station for “stealing” her mother’s car.
“After I got my driver’s license, I wanted to go out with my friends one time. I told my mom that I was going out and she told me that I couldn’t. I remember we argued about it and I said something rude and took the car keys and left. Sure enough, soon after I saw the blue lights flashing behind me as I drove. I looked at my speed and I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong with my driving so when I pulled over I asked the cop, ‘Why did you stop me, I wasn’t speeding or anything,’ he said, ‘No, but your mother reported the car as stolen’, and then he took me down to the station and called my mom.”
After she graduated from high school, Kathy’s mother moved them permanently out to Fairfax, Virginia to be near her own sister, Kathy’s aunt. After having visited every summer for most of her life, Kathy was very familiar with their new home and was excited about the new beginning.
Once settled, Kathy enrolled at George Mason University, with a double major in Spanish and Latin American Studies and the intention of going into Foreign Service.
“In high school I was really influenced by my Spanish teacher and my focus shifted to foreign languages. So when I went to college, I really became enthralled in what was going on in the world.”
After graduating from George Mason, Kathy married her husband Bill Georgen, who, along with her mother, began encouraging Kathy to transition to the field of accounting. At the time, Kathy was working at FDIC as a financial analyst and she began taking accounting courses at night.
Kathy and Bill also began their family during this time, and Kathy stayed home to raise their two children, while still continuing to complete her studies in accounting. The family traveled, living for three years in Germany and for some time in California. Fifteen years later, after raising her kids through their youth and completing her studies, Kathy sat for the CPA exam and passed.
“It was a goal for me to pass the CPA exam the first time. I said, ‘Alright, you’re either going to do this right now or you’re not coming back, because this is just nuts.’ I didn’t have as much stamina as all these young people, but I gave myself a kick in the butt and said, ‘Just do it; just pass the damn thing and you don’t have to come back!’”
Having inherited from her mother a “can do” attitude where if someone told her that she couldn’t do something, then she wouldn’t stop until it was done. Kathy believes in the age-old adage, “If you think you can, then you can”.
From her father, Kathy gets her focus on people and community.
“My dad… the man had no strangers. He talked to anyone. When he got back from WWII he became a bartender before he ran his clothing store. He was very easy-going and easy to talk to.”
Being a part of the community and giving back is very important to Kathy. From a young age, she has always wanted to be involved in the community and to know the many people within it.
“When my father passed away, I distinctly remember the funeral director saying to me, ‘I have to set out a second guest book – the first guest book is already full’. So my goal is to have to have two guest books at my funeral. I want to touch and impact as many people as my dad did.”
Not only does Kathy impact the people around her but she also gives back to the community, individually and through her firm.
“We do a number of both monetary and hour-wise service projects. We donate time and money to the Childhood Cancer Campaign of the Optimist Club of Greater Vienna. We have also done a lot with Alternative House (a half-way house for troubled teens). We try to do monetary giving and service hours to give back; because it just feels good and people see you out there – not just as a company but as a group of individuals.”
Kathy’s advice to young people, “There is a book called, ‘Do what you love and the money will follow’ and I really believe in that. Don’t make money the driving force. Make what you want to do the driving force. If you can get yourself there, happily, then everything else will fall into place.”
Kathy Georgen set out to live her life in service to others, like her father before her. Not looking for fame or celebrity but only wanting to be known in her neck of the woods, Kathy decided what she wanted and didn’t let anyone stand in her way. With a thriving business and a growing impact on her community, Kathy Georgen has already made it meaningful. An atypical CPA with an atypical journey to success, Kathy Georgen is definitely one for the community.