MARK TRAPPIO, CPA
"My lesson is if you rely on a corporation to look out for you, you’re putting your life in one basket. You’re betting your life that your company is going to look out for you. The day they don’t, then what?"
I love this job. I enjoy getting to talk to so many people that reinforce my belief that hard work and fortitude trump an obstacle every time. My inspiration was renewed after talking with Mark Trappio. Mark is a Philly native residing in Houston, TX. Trapp, as he known to friends, is a CPA specializing in Federal Government Contract Compliance, among other things. Trapp has successfully migrated out of the traditional corporate environment and created his own firm, Jearon Management. His journey is an interesting read.
“All I know is to hustle. I came up out of the White Hall projects in northeast Philly, beating roaches out of my shoes every morning before going to school. Me and my family, my mom and dad, one brother and one sister, made it work. I went to a vocational and technical school in Philly and graduated at 17 and went right into the Air Force. I was in the service four years and during this time I got interested in accounting.”
“By the time I exited the Air Force I had earned a diploma from a correspondence school. I got hired by a company as a bookkeeper, making $3 an hour. I worked there for a year then got set up through my G.I. Bill to go to college full time. That’s where I got my AS and Bachelor’s degrees. After school I was hired on at the DCAA (Defense Contractor Audit Agency) which is the CPA firm for all government contractors.. McDonnell-Douglas, General Dynamics, Norton Systems and United Technologies and all the majors. That work basically launched my career.”
The departure from corporate America to self-employment
Fast forward to 2008 and Mark had grown disenchanted with working in a traditional corporate environment. “I got tired of playing the corporate game and I got myself out of there. The way I tell young kids now is you don’t get out of school and think that you’re going to go to a company and work for 40 years, that’s bullshit, that doesn’t happen, that’s unreal in THESE days. You see it on the news all the time where people are unexpectedly let go and left to fend for themselves. I truly believe that you go to school to get your degree, jump into corporate America and get more knowledge and experience then start diversifying yourself to jump into your own thing eventually. That’s going to HAVE to happen because layoffs and downsizing are just part of doing business anymore; just a part of the culture.
I’ve been building my business, Jearon Management, since 1982. I was working in corporate America and had my own practice at the same time. I’ve built my client base over the last 30 plus years. The company I worked for at the time hired me knowing that I had my own business. In fact, that’s how they met me, while representing a client in a meeting with them. I wasn’t going to stop even though I worked for them. I was able to keep my business separate from my corporate job.
When I left work each day I’d go to my own office and be my own boss. Working at that company, I was never going to be made an executive. I might be the highest paid Black person there but that would be it. A great problem to have unless, like me, you have your sights set on being a V.P.
It wasn’t always easy to maintain a full time job and be a full service CPA to my clients. There are only so many hours in the day and only one of me so.. it was a major grind. I was willing to push myself to build my client base and meet my personal business goal (plus I was young and could take the physical wear and tear of sleepless nights). In the end when it came time to transition out of working in a corporate office I was able to do so comfortably.
My lesson is if you rely on a corporation to look out for you, you’re putting your life in one basket. You’re betting your life that your company is going to look out for you. The day they don’t, then what? You don’t put all your investments in one basket, then why do the same with your career? I feel like if you graduate college and work at one place for 40 years, till the average retirement age, you should own something.