Career began: 1982
Home Base: Joplin, Mo.
Civic Affiliations: Freeman Hospital Foundation, Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce and Joplin Humane Society
Back in 1992, over coffee at McDonalds, Edward Jones advisor Jim Goodknight sketched out a contract on the back of a paper napkin that would have him share a portion of his clients with an up-and-comer named Dan Stanley.
The story is the stuff of legend. Since then, 1,865 Goodknight plans -- as they have come to be known -- have been executed, allowing veteran advisors to spin off a portion of their business to those just getting their start.
Whatever became of Dan Stanley? Plenty. A household name in his hometown of Joplin, Mo., Stanley is well known for his tireless commitment to his community on the northern edge of the Ozarks. "Mr. Joplin," he's been called. And his production ranks him in the top 1 percent of the nation's nearly 11,000 Edward Jones advisors. In a fitting move, Stanley has completed three Goodknight plans himself -- including two to his sons.
"I'll never forget Jim sketching out three boxes on the back of that napkin. One box represented his preferred clients, the ones he was going to hold on to because they needed better service. Another box represented the clients I would develop on my own. The box in the middle represented 1,000 accounts we would share for the next year and a half. Jim told me: 'We'll share those commissions 50-50 and those clients will become your clients.' We were together five years and it just changed my life -- and my family's life," says Stanley, 63. "I wish I still had the napkin."
Today, Stanley manages $188 million in assets for just over 700 households. As did his mentor, he has retained his oldest clients with the most complicated situations -- doctors, entrepreneurs and widows, primarily. At one point Stanley had over 100 retirement plans, but he's transferred most of those to his sons, Ryan and Logan. Like their enthusiastic father, they too operate Edward Jones branches in Joplin.
Interacting with clients, Stanley says, is "by far my driver, my satisfier, my fulfiller" -- and it shows. When he shared his clients with his sons, for example, he held on to many clients with lesser portfolios. Why? "I kept a full spectrum of socioeconomic clients. I knew some would be devastated if I transferred them," he says. "They would be deeply hurt so I didn't do it." Not surprisingly, Stanley's office has among the highest "client service excellence" ratings in the Edward Jones network.
Part of what Stanley has created over the years is something he attributes to his parents -- both of whom were huge civic leaders -- and to his Midwestern upbringing.
"I'm so blessed to have had the mom and dad I had. They created in me this concern for other people," says Stanley. "And I think one thing the Midwest has that's somewhat lacking in certain metropolitan hubs -- and Warren Buffett and Sam Walton portray this -- is just common sense. So much of life is common sense and common decency. In this whole financial services meltdown, there's been a lack of that."
Stanley, who once considered becoming a minister, has had a unique career arc. The advisory business, for example, represents his second -- and fifth -- careers. For years, he was a Ford dealer in Joplin, taking over the family business at age 24 when his father died. By 1982, he owned an Oldsmobile dealership that was being unionized. The day after the union election, a friend told him that Edward Jones was hiring a lot of graduates of Westminster College, Stanley's alma mater.
"A light just went off in my head," says Stanley. At the time, he had a small account with Jim Goodknight and Mike Esser, a fraternity brother, was an advisor with the firm. It was Esser who recruited him. "He told me this will be the hardest thing you've ever done, and you've done some pretty hard stuff," Stanley recalls. "Mike Esser was absolutely right. It was the hardest job I ever had."
Edward Jones wouldn't let Stanley stay in Joplin. "You'll only ever be known here as an auto dealer," Edward Jones chief Ted Jones had told him. So Stanley opened the company's first office in Raleigh, N.C. "I didn't know a single person. I went door to door, house to house, office to office, store to store." He was on track to become a regional manager when he left the business in 1985 to buy into a Ford dealership in Colorado. As he puts it: "We bought the dealership at exactly the wrong time, almost to the day."
A year and a half later, he sold that business and returned to Joplin as a business development officer and internal sales manager for a bank. He had kept his securities licenses current and during occasional lunches with Goodknight, the man who was to become his mentor talked about putting together a partnership with Stanley.
Then came the paper napkin.
"He was good enough to come back to Edward Jones. He not only established a profitable business for Jones, he did become a regional leader of one of the oldest regions in the firm," says Esser, now a principal with the firm. "Through all his difficulties, Dan was always still Dan. He still believed that good things would happen to people who worked hard and applied themselves. If there is any more of a humane way to live, I don't know what it is."
Freelance writer Ellen Uzelac is based in Chestertown, Md.; the former West Coast bureau chief and national correspondent for The Baltimore Sun, can be reached at email@example.com.