CPA recruiter pivots into leading others with Mark Goldman

Most things in life turn out differently than we expect them to.

A new technology can turn an industry upside down.

Getting the degree we aspire, only to end up in a dead-end job, gives birth to opportunities elsewhere.

Even if you can’t prevent, much less evade these sudden changes, you can turn them into an advantage.

The key is to have a specific goal so you can always act according to your priorities.

This is an ongoing process in life but if done correctly, you can reap the rewards when it’s time to retire.

In this episode, Mark Goldman shares how to change your career path without prior experience, how to start a business while growing a family, and how to tell when it’s the right time to retire

Listen now.

Show highlights include:

  • The truth behind what makes a good accountant (and why they are so difficult to find for small businesses these days) ([5:07])
  • The only proven way to excel in your career and in business (without sacrificing the happiness of your family) ([10:53])
  • How to spot early warning signs to gradually shift into retirement ([15:47])
  • How committing to a specific plan automatically creates the best opportunities for an effortless retirement ([17:45])

DLP053 - Retiring at the right time with Mark Goldman


Do you want a wealthy retirement without worrying about money? Welcome to “Retire in Texas”, where you will discover how to enjoy your faith, your family, and your freedom in the State of Texas—and, now, here’s your host, financial advisor, author, and all-around good Texan, Darryl Lyons.


Darryl: Hey, this is Darryl Lyons, CEO and co-founder of PAX Financial Group. Thanks for tuning in to Retire in Texas—and as we get started here, I also have to share the legal disclosure. This information is general in nature only. It’s not intended to provide specific tax, investment, or legal advice. Visit PAXFinancialGroup.com.

I also want to let you know that if you text the word “Texas” to the number 74868—that’s “Texas” to 74868—we’ll have a financial advisor connect with you, 15-minute conversation, and they have a heart of a teacher, so if you have any questions, they’d be happy to help you. [01:07].6]

Okay, so let’s get started on the show today. I’ve got Mark Goldman here. Mark has been a friend for a number of years. Mark, thanks for being with me.

Mark: No problem. I’m seriously honored to be here. Thank you.

Darryl: Mark, let’s jump right into it. Are you originally from Texas?

Mark: Yes, actually I’m originally from San Antonio.

Darryl: I see, I didn’t know that.

Mark: Yes.

Darryl: For some reason. See, you don’t have a Texas accent, so for some reason, I thought you were like a Yankee.

Mark: That’s funny because when I call people in the northeast, they say, “You’re from Texas, huh?” Yeah.

Darryl: Everyone’s judging you right now, so yeah, let me hear that again. You’re from San Antonio. What high school?

Mark: Yes, actually, John Jay.

Darryl: Oh, okay. My parents went to John Jay.

Mark: Okay. Actually, I think –

Darryl: We did talk.

Mark: – both went to St. Mary’s as well.

Darryl: We both went to St. Mary’s, yeah.

Mark: Okay. John Jay, then St. Mary’s.

Darryl: Now, John Jay, that could be a rough part of town.

Mark: I guess so.

Darryl: I mean, parts of it. I think of Valley Hi Drive.

Mark: Sure.

Darryl: And then, of course, you’ve got Lackland there, so there’s a lot of military. [02:03].0]

Mark: We’re talking sadly a few decades ago.

Darryl: Oh yeah, yeah.

Mark: So, it may have been a little different. I guess so. I hear that now and I didn’t really perceive that growing up.

Darryl: Yeah, I’d imagine it’s a great community, but the John Jay, I know there’s periods.

Mark: Sure.

Darryl: And just like any school, there were times where it was rough. But I have a friend, not to go sidetracked about John Jay, but I have a friend that taught there and he was really proud of the school. Then you went to St. Mary’s and you and I have the same degree at St. Mary’s.

Mark: Yes.

Darryl: Accounting degree, accounting degree.

Mark: Yes.

Darryl: When you went there, so you went to extra. Was it an extra year to get enough credits for the CPA exam? Is that how that worked then or was it a four-year degree?

Mark: A lot of accountants are going to hate me, but I was very fortunate. I got in just a few years before the 150-hour rule came in, so I was able to get just a regular bachelor’s degree, which, actually, at St. Mary’s at the time, was like 130 hours anyway, but then I was able to sit for the CPA exam without having to have the 150 hour requirement. [03:08].2]

Darryl: Yeah, I don’t like you, because, yes, I did the 130 and then they said, “You’ve got to get 150.” I was like, Ugh, ah, I’m not going to get that.

Mark: Yes.

Darryl: Yes, I’m one of the people that don’t like you. You did the 130, went to St. Mary’s. Now, why from John Jay to St. Mary’s, you wanted to stay local?

Mark: Yes, actually two reasons. First of all, my father was a CPA as well and he had gone to St. Mary’s, and I worked for him at a very early age and so there was just that influence there.

Darryl: Yeah.

Mark: And, secondly, frankly, I met my now wife in high school, and so we started dating in high school then throughout college, so I was not going anywhere. I was staying in San Antonio.

Darryl: Yeah, yeah, that makes sense. And so, going back in time, your dad was an accountant.

Mark: Yes.

Darryl: And your mother?

Mark: My mother started out as a teacher and then spent most of her career as an educational diagnostician, basically helping make sure that special-needs children end up in the right classes with the right services. [04:06].4]

Darryl: Okay, and she did that through the public school system?

Mark: Yes, through the public school system. Yes.

Darryl: Okay. Was that at Jay or…?

Mark: No, my gosh, my mother worked in a few districts.

Darryl: Yeah, probably different districts, right, like Northeast?

Mark: Yeah, a few different ones.

Darryl: So, middle class, is that right?

Mark: I was thinking about this earlier. I would say, I grew up with a plastic spoon in my mouth. It definitely wasn’t a silver spoon, you know?

Darryl: Okay, yeah, that’s good. That’s good. Okay.

Mark: But my parents did whatever it took to take care of us. I know now when talking to my mom that we were definitely on the lower end of middle class. There were some tough times, but there again, I didn’t realize it growing up.

Darryl: Brothers and sisters?

Mark: I have one sister, happens to be an accountant as well. She’s four years younger than I. I joke that she’s the real CPA in the family, because she actually did that for a living and I ended up taking another route, as you know.

Darryl: Yeah, we’ll talk about that in a minute. I guess it’s a great analogy, a plastic spoon. It’s probably better than spork, huh? [05:00].9]

Mark: Oh, there you go.

Darryl: Yeah, so that would define the different classes without–

Mark: I’m going to use that.

Darryl: Yeah, yeah.

Mark: I’m going to use that. That’s good.

Darryl: Okay, watching your father be an accountant, and at that time, people may find this boring, but I find the accounting industry fascinating—and obviously because it’s an accounting kind of nerd. Maybe you’re more of an accounting nerd than me, but I still love the accounting industry—but back then, there was not the technology.

People came, they had to go to the accountant to file a tax return and the accountant processed the tax return very manually. Very busy on the 15th. You probably didn’t see your pops during that time period very often, and I think you probably saw that and then when you go to St. Mary’s, it’s still in that environment. But it was maybe a decade later that TurboTax came around, and it took a while, but it began to really change the industry. Can you speak to that a little bit?

Mark: Oh my gosh.

Darryl: I felt that, too.

Mark: That was not where I thought this interview was going, but, okay.

Darryl: I know, I’m going to cut back to you, but I just… [05:57].4]

Mark: Fair enough. Yes, it did change the industry a lot, and to your point, though, I never thought of accounting as boring because, in the early years, I worked in my father’s firm, and you’re right, I mean, we saw every client in person. I really thought of it more as being a business consultant, because we would get into all aspects of their life, including savings and very basic plans for that. But their family, I got to know them all very well, and so I wasn’t behind a computer all day doing it. In fact, for the basic returns, sometimes we would do them while the person was sitting there, because there again, this was a long time ago. But, yeah, it did change the industry quite a bit.

Darryl: There’s actually a method of my madness because I wanted to differentiate where the industry has gone, because it’s clear to me that you enjoy people and you have a bigger picture when you bump into somebody. It’s not just about a transaction. It’s about a bigger picture as I sat down with you enough. So, you get into this industry, not like your sister to where you’re an accountant, but you actually moved in another direction. But before I go into that, what did you do right after St. Mary’s? [07:08].6]

Mark: Right after St. Mary’s, actually, I continued working in the family firm for a little while, and then I wanted to get out and see the big world, and so I went out looking for a job outside of my family’s business and ended up, frankly, in a job that I really hated. It was doing governmental accounting and it was during the financial crisis before the last one.

Darryl: Yeah, okay.

Mark: Okay, so way back.

Darryl: Yeah, yeah. Which one, right?

Mark: Way back, and honestly, I was doing the same three journal entries over and over and over.

Darryl: Debits, credit, yeah.

Mark: The same three entries. Research it, do it. Research it, do it. Research, do it. And I really hated that and that caused me to go out to a recruiting firm. I looked for a better job and that’s when my career took a turn.

Darryl: Yeah, and you went to a recruiting firm, but did you know the recruiter or did you just look it up? I mean, how did you find a recruiter? [08:04].3]

Mark: Sure, that’s a great question. I was pretty young at the time, and so I didn’t really have a lot of contacts. I got a solicitation, this is dating myself a little bit, but in the mail.

Darryl: I was going to say, yeah, it wasn’t an email. It was in the mail.

Mark: It was in the mail and I didn’t know what recruiters were, but I figured I’d go talk to this guy and see what this was all about. Not the best way to find a recruiter, by the way, but that’s what I did.

Darryl: Yeah, and I’m putting this context. I’m kind of letting the audience know. I’m kind of getting us prepared to talk a little bit more about what you recently did. But the idea of an accountant being an accountant has changed over time where the personalization has really, to a certain degree, been commoditized. For many accountants, and for those listening and you’re trying to find a good accountant, it’s challenging because accountants have to anchor their pricing not too far away from TurboTax, and then, as a result, they realize that that’s a challenging business. The volume is just too taxing. [09:00].8]

What they have done is many of the good accountants have moved up into the small-business market and now are charging retainer fees for small businesses, because it’s a much more efficient business and they can enjoy their lifestyle and not be burned out. The really good accountants are beginning to move away from everyday individual returns, and it’s a challenge.

The reason I say that is because you kind of decided, I’m going to move in a different direction, I don’t like the monotonous. You had foresight, maybe not perfect foresight, but you said, “I don’t like the monotony. I want to be in the people business.” Your first introduction to this different type of people business was recruiting. You bumped into a recruiter and that launched your next career, didn’t it?

Mark: Yes. Yeah, and just to backtrack a little bit, I never found accounting to be monotonous. I really enjoyed helping the business owners, so it wasn’t so much that. I just wanted to, frankly, get out of the family business and go do something different. I ended up in something I really didn’t like. [10:01].0]

Darryl: Okay, yeah, fair enough. Yeah.

Mark: Then that made me go visit the recruiter’s office. The recruiter sent me for one interview. I didn’t get the job, and a few weeks later, they called and basically said, “Hey, we’re looking for a young, cheap CPA that wants to try out recruiting. What do you think?” I joke, I was fully qualified at that point. I was young, cheap, and a CPA.

Darryl: Yeah, yeah, that’s funny.

Mark: I only meet one of those qualifications now, but I was fully qualified at that time and so I thought, Why not? Let’s give it a shot. The starting pay was decent and, at that point, my then girlfriend, we wanted to get married. We’d been dating for a number of years. We wanted to get married and so I figured that was a good way to start my life, if you will.

Darryl: In recruiting?

Mark: In recruiting, yes, a crazy– I will tell you, it was a very difficult first year. Recruiting is a very sales-oriented job, and I was fully qualified with my accounting degree. Not. [11:01].7]

Darryl: Yeah, right. Exactly, yeah.

Mark: I had to learn a lot of things the hard way, but it ended up working out. I literally was on what I call the “loser list” for the first year. My boss was like, We have to get you off this list of bottom performers and, obviously, I was in the industry for 25 years, so it worked out. But that first year was very, very difficult.

Darryl: Your responsibility was trying to find employers or trying to find recruits?

Mark: It’s interesting, it really depends on which way the market swings. We were coming out of a recession. It was the mid-90s or we were on the upswing, so a lot of the time was spent finding employers, yeah.

Darryl: Yeah, so you would have to go and you’re young and you try to convince employers, “Hey, I can find better employees than you, and as a result of me being able to do that, you have to pay a premium.”

Mark: Yes, and I barely have facial here at this point. To your point, I was pretty young and they’re looking at me going, “What could you possibly do for me?” But there again, it worked out through persistence. [11:57].8]

Darryl: I’ve got to tell you, though, I feel you and the fact that I started out trying to convince people to invest and do financial planning and insurance and all kinds of stuff, and no facial hair, and it was a real challenge. But at the same time, I’m very thankful for the people that just– I might not have been the best. They just gave me a chance.

Mark: Sure.

Darryl: And I’m really thankful, and it’s not lost on me that if somebody comes in with very young and they’re trying to hustle and they seem reliable to give them a shot, because I know people did that for me, and I’m sure people did that for you, too.

Mark: Yes, yes. Actually, there is one client. I mentioned 25 years. There was one client that stayed with me all the way, and I met them that first year.

Darryl: No.

Mark: Yes.

Darryl: Wow. You worked for a firm. You were at the bottom of the totem pole for a while, and then you ended up doing well, I guess good enough, but you left.

Mark: Yes. Actually, with any large firm, there are management changes, and then, frankly, I had a wonderful mentor in the beginning and she really believed in me, the manager of that office. She ended up retiring, and through some management changes, I just figured, you know what? It’s time to go out and look elsewhere. [13:03].2]

Darryl: Were you getting paid a salary or were you at commission only prior to that?

Mark: Generally, the way that works is there’s a salary and then there’s incentive pay above it.

Darryl: Now you’re going to have to go out without a salary.

Mark: Yes. To be clear, I went to another recruiting firm later on actually, and then after that, I was a partner and another one, and this was all before I started my company.

Darryl: Okay, so let’s jump into that. Why did you decide to start your company? Was it because of your dad? Did you remember your dad having his own business?

Mark: Yes, he was very entrepreneurial, and actually prior to me starting my own firm, I was a partner in another recruiting firm for about six years, and so I enjoyed that as well, and so I just had this burning desire or burning feeling that I could do it better. Like a lot of entrepreneurs, you like what you see, but you feel like, Gosh, if I could tweak this or tweak that, if I had the freedom to tweak this or tweak that, then perhaps I could do it a little better. I’m not sure if I did or not, but, obviously, it worked out. [14:03].6]

Darryl: When you left the partner, the firm that you were a partner with, tell me about the profile of your family at that time.

Mark: Yeah, that’s a great question. It was just me and my wife at that time, actually. I left and I did something a little different for about three years, sort of took a sabbatical from the industry, and there again, I had the burning desire to get back in. But I will tell you, literally, the month I decided to quit that job, quit the paycheck job and start MGR was the month that we adopted our first child.

Darryl: Oh my gosh.

Mark: And when I came home, I said, “You know, Honey, I really think I want to start a business.” The first reaction was “Now?”

Darryl: Yeah.

Mark: And then, the very next day she said, “You know what? I think now is the perfect time because it should only get better from here and this will give you more freedom.” Little did we know that entrepreneurship doesn’t always give you a lot of freedom of time, but we thought that at the moment, and so she was fully behind me. [15:02].1]

Darryl: Wow. Yeah, that’s tough. Now, you’ve adopted how many kids?

Mark: Two.

Darryl: Two. How old are they now?

Mark: I have one that’s about to be 17, and I have one that is about to be three, so I am literally the guy you look at coming down the street and you’re not sure, “Is that his son or his grandson?”

Darryl: Yeah, that’ll be interesting when they get into school and you become friends with the kids on the sports team or in the UIL.

Mark: Yes.

Darryl: Yeah. Were they domestic?

Mark: Actually, one was international and one was domestic.

Darryl: Okay. Where at? What country?

Mark: China.

Darryl: China, yeah.

Mark: The first time, my wife happens to be Japanese, and it’s funny, actually, people tell us that she looks like us.

Darryl: Yeah, you take it.

Mark: So, it was a natural choice, and then the second one was through the foster-to-adopt system here in Texas.

Darryl: Very cool. Twenty-five years in the recruiting business. MGR is the name of the company.

Mark: Yes.

Darryl: What does that stand for?

Mark: It was Mark Goldman Recruiting. I was never totally pleased with the name, but it worked out. [16:00].8]

Darryl: It did, yeah.

Mark: It worked out.

Darryl: And so, I’m fast forwarding 25 years of life.

Mark: Sure.

Darryl: Then you decided to hand the keys over.

Mark: Yes.

Darryl: What made you do that?

Mark: Many things, honestly. It was I shouldn’t say a difficult decision because it was really clear. It was a long decision. It was a long decision-making process. First of all, Covid happened, and that, for staffing, the first six months were pretty difficult because organizations were putting things on hold and that. But after that, accounting is an essential function, and so it bounced back pretty good. It wasn’t that there were difficulties. It was just temporary.

But, really, I started working from home and I found that I really liked being at home. I found that the team was doing great from home. I found that I did not necessarily like managing a company from home, though. I was missing some of the joy I had—and so, the team is doing great. I’m the only one that isn’t enjoying it as much. [17:01].7]

Coupled with that, I’ve been married 29 years now, and so this was about 27 years of being married at the time. My wife says, “I like having you at home,” and when your wife says that, you need to pay attention, you know? 

Darryl: Yeah, that’s good.

Mark: Then my lease was coming up as well. Just all that together, I thought maybe it’s time. I will say, the financial advisor played a big part in it because we had several discussions about when, what age I would be, and that kind of thing, and it was always “Not now, not now. It’s too early. Not now.” It eventually became “Not now, unless you could sell,” and then we had a target.

Darryl: Yeah, that’s great.

Mark: But that advice was very key.

Darryl: That’s great to hear. You sold, which is really part of your identity just as every entrepreneur’s in that business, but you’re a man of faith and principled. And so I’d imagine that you’re navigating through that well? That’s a question mark. [17:59].7]

Mark: Okay. I was waiting for the pause there. I wasn’t sure. God really put the right people in my path at the right time to go through this decision, because there again, the lease was expiring, and so I found myself in the office, deciding we weren’t going to have an office anymore and cleaning it out myself as the team continued to operate the company. I sponsored an exit-planning event and ended up walking out of that with one of my friends that happens to do business valuations, and there again, God’s timing.

Darryl: Yeah.

Mark: He put us together at that moment. He put the courage in me to ask to do a valuation, and then that individual introduced me to just the perfect broker and that worked out very well, and so really, really God led me down the path.

And, by the way, at the same time, it’s important when you’re ending something to be starting something else. About six months prior, I had started facilitating a group for the Alternative Board here locally, so working with other business owners to help them with their concerns and that kind of thing, sort of like being a strategic advisor for them. [19:10].6]

Darryl: Yeah, yeah.

Mark: And I was thoroughly enjoying that. The individual I’m working with, Don Maranca, said he could use more if I wanted to do it, and so it all came together. I don’t know how else to say it.

Darryl: That is really cool and I love that. As a believer, coincidences, really, that’s really not a part of our language and how God orchestrated all of that for you, and Don is such a good guy.

The Alternative Board, for those that don’t know, it’s a group of individuals that are like-minded entrepreneurs that get together facilitated by you or somebody else in the community. It’s hard to find people who have common problems and the Alternative Board is a great environment that can help facilitate that dialogue. People say, “Yeah, I’ve dealt with that,” “I’m dealing with that,” or “I will deal with that.” It’s just a really good forum, so I’m glad you’re doing that. Do you see yourself doing that just for the next five, 10 years? Is it something that you really enjoy? Not to put you on the spot, but just… [20:07].8]

Mark: No, frankly, probably longer actually.

Darryl: Okay, yeah.

Mark: I’m 52, and so it’s funny, when you sell a company, the word “retire” comes up a lot.

Darryl: Right.

Mark: And I really do think, when I’m in those conversations, people look at me and they’re thinking that I’m much older than I am or something. I’m only 52. But, no, I’m really pivoting or transitioning into something new. I will say that the last several years in the recruiting company, I got to where, when I was having a conversation with an employer, I would want to get into other areas as well.

Darryl: Oh, yeah.

Mark: “I mean, let’s talk about your marketing. Let’s talk about your positioning,” and things like that, which my job was really just to talk about recruiting and so this overall business coaching or business strategy work, really, it allows for that, and so I’m thoroughly enjoying that. I really am.

Darryl: I can see you doing real well there.

Mark: Thank you. [20:55].8]

Darryl: There’s so much to unpack, but it’s a really cool journey that you’ve been on and I’ve been able to see some of it, but the fact that you had an entrepreneurial family that encouraged you to get in the accounting field or supported you, and then become an entrepreneur and then sell a business, and here really young, at 52, being able to pour it into other people’s lives that are business owners.

What I like about what you’re doing is when you pour your wisdom into the lives of a business owner, it impacts not just the business owner but their families and all their employees, and all their employees’ families. It’s very powerful what you’re doing, so I’m excited about that. But we have to wrap up and I do have one final question.

Mark: Okay.

Darryl: What’s your favorite salsa?

Mark: I’m a regular listener to the show, so I knew this was coming up and I’m going to do what a lot of your other guests do. I’m going to double deal. Tada.

Darryl: Yeah, ba-dum-tsh.

Mark: First of all, seriously, my wife, during Covid, started making fresh, really, it’s more of a pico at home, and so, fresh tomatoes.

Darryl: Oh, so good.

Mark: Fresh peppers, fresh onions.

Darryl: So good.

Mark: And she adds some lime in there, so it’s a wonderful fresca kind of salsa. [22:01].9]

Darryl: Ah, love it.

Mark: So, I really love that. Then, commercially-produced or what you can get out in the marketplace, if you’ve ever been to Mamacita’s restaurant –

Darryl: Yeah.

Mark: – they have this unique green cream, cilantro, avocado, salsa. I have no idea what the recipe is, but I’m willing to pay if anyone listening to this knows. I really love that stuff.

Darryl: Don’t you mix it with the red, or no?

Mark: I don’t. 

Darryl: Yeah, okay.

Mark: Oh, no, no, I’m a purist.

Darryl: Yeah, okay, I got you.

Mark: I’m a purist. No, no, no. Seriously, though, by the time the food comes, I’m full, stuffed. I love that stuff.

Darryl: Yeah, I get it. Yeah, salsa and chips and salsa are my vice. Good call. Thanks for having taken time out and coming on the show. I really appreciate it. I was looking forward to this, so thank you, Mark.

Mark: Thank you. I’m honored. Thank you very much.

Darryl: And thank you to everyone who stayed, tuned in to the end, I appreciate it. As a reminder, this is Retire in Texas, and you can text 74868, type in the word “Texas”, and you can speak with an advisor just to chat. No pressure, of course, and they have a heart of a teacher.

I want to remind you, as we’re navigating all these uncertainties in life, that you think different when you think long term. Have a great day. [23:05].2]


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