Luck, Perseverance Pay Off for Court-Reporting Entrepeneur
by KRISTEN ARMSTRONG, Staff Writer
|Reaching your career goals isn't always
easy. Court reporter Mario Rodriguez knows this first hand, but over the
years, he's proven that hard work, perseverance and a little good luck
can make your dreams come true.
Rodriguez currently is owner of M.A.R. Reporting Group, the largest independently owned court reporting firm in Northern Virginia.
Its court reporters are the official reporters for Arlington and Loudoun County's Judicial Circuit Court, and some of its other clients include Verizon, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the U.S. Department of the Interior.
Quite an accomplishment for someone who almost had to drop out of court reporting school.
Rodriguez worked three jobs while he attended the Court Reporting Institute of Dallas, but was still having trouble staying afloat financially.
He was ready to quit, until a fortuitous night at 7-Eleven. He used the convenience store's ATM and found on his receipt that he was the instant winner of $10,000.
“Talk about fate!” he said in a recent interview.
With the money, he was able to quit two of his jobs and focus on his stenotyping (shorthand) studies, which he said was like learning another language.
He graduated in 1987, and celebrated his 20th anniversary in the court reporting field in early November.
His early career was a little rocky - one of his employers told him to start looking into jobs other than court reporting - but he eventually found success in freelance work and started M.A.R. Reporting Company in 1994.
In the beginning years of his business, Rodriguez worked by himself out his bedroom. But as he got busier and busier, he realized he couldn't continue on his own, so he incorporated in 1997 and has employed some of the area's best court reporters since.
Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, the M.A.R. Reporting Group has expanded considerably over the past decade.
Rodriguez bought a number of local court reporting firms and now has offices in Leesburg; Washington, D.C.; Baltimore; and Falls Church. The business has gone from a one-man-show to a 26-person staff with about a dozen freelancers.
And the work just keeps pouring in.
“When we first started, we got three or four jobs a week,” Rodriguez said. “Now we have 20 jobs a day.”
Although building his career and his business hasn't been a walk in the park (for many years, Rodriguez worked 70 to 80 hours week - for every hour on the record, it usually takes between two and three hours to transcribe it into a final product), Rodriguez's love for his work has kept him going.
“I love my job,” he said. “We're there to protect the record. Civil liberties are at stake, family fortunes, family businesses. Our job impacts society. It's important what we do.”
Traveling to places like Chile, Germany, Korea and Taiwan, and taking depositions from politicians such as Oliver North and Bill Richardson - basically doing something different every day - have been enjoyable perks as well.
Even though Rodriguez said he enjoys getting to meet powerful politicians, working with the “lowliest poor” is something he is committed to. He currently is the chairman of the Virginia Court Reporters Association Community Services/Pro Bono Committee.
Rodriguez has his hands full managing his business and reporting regularly, but he still has time to play tennis with one of his employees, root for the Nationals and get a little gardening done.
And for now, he's happy with the size and success of his business and just hopes to keep things running smoothly.
“My biggest goal is to continue the business and keep all my people happy,” he said.
Mario Rodriguez, right, was joined by Carol Tayloe, immediate past president of the Virginia Court Reporters Association, during a celebration of the 20th anniversary of M.A.R. Reporting Group.