Goldfarb’s approach to building through relationships translated into success for SS&G. In 1987, SS&G’s revenues were $600,000. By 2015, it was among the top 50 largest firms in the country with revenue over $70 million. It employed some 700 people, and had the financial and organizational muscle to buy its way into Columbus, Cincinnati and Chicago.
And then, BDO came knocking. The firm had inquired about the company in 2001, but SS&G wasn’t interested.
“But it’s 2013. They approach us, and you know, things are different,” Goldfarb says. “I’m 61 years old. Gary’s 60, we have a lot of other partners that are in their middle to high 50s and the industry is changing,” he says.
He figured his firm better move with the times or risk getting left behind. So, after a lot of due diligence and a lot of internal discussion, SS&G voted to move forward.
“It’s hard,” Goldfarb says. “I mean it’s your baby. It’s hard for a lot of partners here and employees. But at the end of the day you’ve got to make tough decisions.”
Though the business he built no longer bears his name, the legacy of friendships Goldfarb built through thoughtful consultation — and round after round of golf — persist.
“It goes outside of business,” Littman says. “Our families are friendly. Mark and I run a lot. We play a lot of golf together. We’ve traveled a lot. Our whole lives are intertwined, not just professionally but personally.”
“His best friends are his clients,” Bentlage says. “The one thing about being in the professional services business is you need to immerse yourself into your trade, and your clients generally become your friends. The people that are the best at it, that’s what happens. And that’s the reason why Mark is as good as he is, because many of his clients are also very close friends of his.”
Alan Woll, a childhood friend of Goldfarb’s, recalls the early neighborhood days of Sundays filled with games of football and corned beef sandwiches. Later in life, after Woll co-founded and led Network Polymers as CEO, he would bring Goldfarb on as an accountant, trading football for golf in a business relationship that lasted 23 years, and a friendship that continues today.
“I trust him, and I can’t always say that for accountants or attorneys,” Woll says. “He’s just a hell of a guy.”
Goldfarb has made bold decisions throughout his career that carried risk not just for himself, but for others. Part of that was so he never lived life with regret, because you only go around once.
“If you have a passion for something and you’ve got a fire in your belly, go for it and never look back. Will you be able to look ahead and know all of the obstacles in your path? No. But you have to be ready every day because you never know what’s going to happen. You’ve got to be ready to deal with what comes your way.
“You can’t lose focus of who you are as a person — of who you are as a husband or father or wife, an employer,” he says. “The world is a crazy place. You have to maintain your honesty, integrity, reputation, but go for it.”