Principled Leadership: Edward D “Ted” Jones Jr.

One of the duties of an estate executor involves the accounting and consolidation of the deceased’s financial affairs.  My wife Nancy found hereseilf in that position last month on behalf of her dear 85-year-old aunt.  Together we met with bankers to close accounts and her financial advisor at Edward Jones.  As we entered the advisor’s neighborhood office, in the hallway entrance there, prominently displayed, was a candid picture of Edward D. ‘Ted” Jones Jr. with his horse.  In a second mat opening there were these words:

I am the richest man in America.
I have a wife who loves me in spite of my faults.
I have four dogs. Two love only me. One loves everybody. One loves no one, but still is very loyal and follows me everywhere I go on the farm.
I have a horse I love to ride around the farm, and best of all, she comes to me when I call her.
I have too much to eat and a dry place to sleep.
I enjoy my business.
I love my farm and my home.
I have a few close friends, and money has never been my God.

Those words were written when Jones was questioned why he was not interested in taking Edward Jones public and becoming a multi-millionaire.
I don’t know the year the words were penned but I thought, “how sad that this quality person was taken to the Lord in his mid-60’s in 1990″.
Edward Jones, the firm, was started by Ted’s dad in St. Louis in 1922. Edward Jr. joined the firm in 1948 after serving in World War II. The Edward Jones business model was one-broker offices in rural communities were the competition was primarily the local bank. Today, they remain a partnership where owners of the firm are employees. The firm’s growth plan to move from rural into major metropolitan areas was initially resisted initially by Edward Jr. but their consultant, Peter Drucker, countered with the fact that “competition” validated how different their firm was from most brokers … and that metropolitan offices were actually more profitable.
How’s that working for them today? According to a 2016 J. D. Power Annual US Full Service Investor Satisfaction survey, Edward Jones tied with Fidelity at #2, behind Charles Schwab at #1.
Here’s the real bottom line. Their success begins with their beliefs: that is, small one-broker ( owner ) offices anchored by a founder legacy of personalized customer care. Onboarded new Edward Jones advisors must begin by walking door-to-door. Yes, like vacuum cleaner salesmen. Corporate headquarters has mock front porches for training purposes. I asked the advisor following our meeting if the history/legacy of the father-son beginnings was important in introducing the firm to prospective clients?  “Yes!”, he said. And a more subtle key is that the advisors are attracted to a more meaningful firm and purpose first … and that prospective clients are attracted to that as well. In the words of current Edward Jones current Managing Partner Jim Weddle, “We have to celebrate the history. As Edward Jones gets larger, we have to teach the history because it’s the foundation for our culture.”
Sound familiar? It’s the Johnson & Johnson, Chick-fil-A, Southwest Airlines model. It starts at the top and sustained by a legacy of timeless values and principles!

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