Mark Sheehan: working his way

Mark Sheehan CPA, CEO, Living My Way. Photographer: Katrina Solijo.

It took Mark Sheehan, Living My Way CEO, a few decades to find his true calling – now he has no intention of letting it go.

“What the heck would I do if I retire?” says Mark Sheehan CPA, with a laugh. The CEO of Living My Way did retire once – about 15 years ago, after working for the Commonwealth Bank (CBA) for more than two decades. However, that retirement only lasted 20 minutes.

“I’m in my 60s and I dread having my brain fade away,” he explains. “My wife is loving her retirement and she travels to Greece every year, but I want to keep working for another 20 or 30 years if I can.”

Having a role he is truly passionate about adds to Sheehan’s enthusiasm to stay at work. Living My Way is a non-profit organisation that provides administrative, compliance and other services to people with disabilities, assisting them to live the life they wish to live. It lets clients directly employ their own support workers, meaning they can design their own care program and make all necessary decisions.

Related: Is ‘refirement’ the new retirement?

Since being offered this service, many of Living My Way’s clients have gone on to run their own businesses – a situation they never could have imagined when they had others making support decisions for them. 

It is this enormous level of personal satisfaction that draws Sheehan in to work every day. His decades at CBA provided him with a wide range of experience and some memorable moments.

“Early on, the CBA sent me to Papua New Guinea for a year as an adviser,” he says. “They needed Australians to help train the locals in running a banking system. That was quite interesting and, as a result, the CBA put me through university to finish my degree.”
“People have such strong determination to run their own lives no matter what difficulties they face.”

Sydney-raised Sheehan had started out studying geography at Armidale’s University of New England in northern New South Wales, but moved to accounting when he realised topographical maps were not for him. After a year, he took up a job at Arthur Young in Sydney and stuck with the role for 12 months before moving to CBA.

Sheehan’s experience there was as broad as accounting can be, from crunching numbers for Australia’s largest consortium merchant bank, Australian European Finance Corporation, to helping start up CBA’s life insurance and financial advice functions.

Professional Development: CPA Q&A. Access a handpicked selection of resources each month and complete a short monthly assessment to earn CPD hours. Exclusively available to CPA Australia members.

After leaving the bank, Sheehan hardly paused for breath; he found himself helping out in his wife’s optometry business. When this business was bought by OPSM, he went into freelance financial control and teaching work.

While he was teaching, Sheehan came across a student who had become a quadriplegic after a tumour was discovered on his spine. Sheehan tutored this student through an accounting diploma and, along the way, recognised the enormous benefits and satisfaction that come from empowering people with a disability.

For the past decade, Sheehan has been at the helm of the largest service provider to disabled people in New South Wales, steering Living My Way to a strong financial position.
“It’s my life’s work,” says Sheehan. “People have such strong determination to run their own lives no matter what difficulties they face. They’re barristers and consultants and small business people who provide employment. If I was half the person they are, I think I would have achieved enough.”

One piece of advice

“You have got two ears and one mouth – use them in that proportion.”

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December 2016
December 2016

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