As a business student, you become well-acquainted with the successful CEOs of the world’s largest companies. You catch their names while watching CNBC or read about their careers in national publications, but you never imagine yourself having the opportunity to hear one speak or, better yet, to meet them.
That idea, however, became a reality for me and the members of the professional business fraternity Delta Sigma Pi. On Oct. 4, 2017, Edward Jones Managing Partner Jim Weddle came to the University of Missouri to speak to our organization about his tremendous tenure as the company’s leading figure. To have the opportunity to hear from an executive that oversees 40,000 employees, 18,000 financial advisors and $1 trillion in wealth was an unprecedented event for the numerous students and faculty in attendance.
It was a rainy Wednesday evening, but that did not stop us from dressing in our professional best and making our way to campus. Signs welcomed us and Mr. Weddle the moment we walked through the doors. After making our way past the group of Edward Jones branch employees that had made the commute from their surrounding communities, we walked through the double doors into the lecture hall full of eager students, hushed conversations and rain-soaked shoes.
When our President Allison Dameron and Vice President of Professional Development Josh Hartzell gracefully introduced Mr. Weddle, I was reminded of how hard our organization had to work in order to host this event. With the right amount of networking from a member of our chapter and his father, who had worked with Mr. Weddle, we were able to put ourselves on his schedule (five months in advance).
Mr. Weddle gave off an aura of importance as he stood tall in the middle of the room. All eyes were glued to the managing partner the moment he stepped to the front, probably out of shock and anticipation for what we were about to hear. It was in that moment I thought about the many business courses I’ve taken at Mizzou, ranging from accounting, finance, economics and the likes, and the silence that falls when the professor steps toward the front to commence class. This silence was different.
“Welcome,” began the soft-spoken man.
From the beginning, listening to Mr. Weddle speak was a mesmerizing event. It was evident why this man, out of all businessmen and woman aspiring to great heights, was the one to reach that coveted corner office. Mr. Weddle was the epitome of success, telling us about his own rocky path to the top. In fact, he began his academic career as an aspiring veterinarian, but after an eye-opening internship experience he quickly switched over to business – and he never looked back.
Respectably, Mr. Weddle did not center the conversation on financial success or investing, but rather told us why he fell in love with Edward Jones as an intern in 1976. His experience as a young professional is unique in today’s millennial culture of job exploration and alternating careers, yet his passion for the values of Edward Jones kept him dedicated to the success of the company for over 40 years.
But while listening to Mr. Weddle speak admiringly about his family and fellow Edward Jones employees, one could sense that there are no greater pleasures in his life than the people around him. In fact, he spoke of the personal sacrifices he made when his family and business began to grow. With Mr. Weddle, no accomplishment was earned alone.
However, the ship sometimes experienced rough seas with Mr. Weddle’s hand on the wheel. When the 2008-2009 financial crisis caused widespread panic in the finance and banking industry, he was steadfast in his decision to not let a single employee go. Instead, he diligently instructed the company’s numerous branches to find their own ways of reducing costs without letting anyone go. Nearly 10 years since the crisis, he is able to recall their success and how it created a stronger, nimbler company.
As Mr. Weddle nears the age of 65, the mandatory retirement age for managing partners set by the humble founder Edward D. Jones, he told the crowd that he looks towards the future with ambition. Although he will continue to act as a representative for the company, he is excited to savor more time with his family – and improve his golf game.
Before I had the opportunity to hear Mr. Weddle speak, I had the preconceived notion that a CEO, especially in the financial services industry, had to fit the stereotypical businessperson personified in films like “The Wolf On Wall Street” or “The Big Short.” But unlike those exuberant money managers or Wall Street big shots, Mr. Weddle had a keen understanding that his time at the top will not press on forever. The fact he would take time out of his day – and show no ambition to leave once the event concluded – embodies the humble leader students of all studies aspire to be.
Business & Economics Journalism