If there’s a common theme in the telling of Jim Goodknight’s story, it’s one about the power of investment … not just as a career, but in other people.
Goodknight, who graduated from Joplin Junior College in 1963, has had a storied career with Edward Jones, a Fortune 500 company that provides financial services to more than 7 million clients. His affiliation with the company has added up to 52 of its 100 years in business, and originates with his time in the classroom.
“I think when I look back at Joplin Junior College, what I remember most is the good professors I had back then,” he says. “The one that got me firmly on the path to where I am was Harry Gockel.
“He was a great instructor and taught us a lot. The economics class I took from him is what got me interested in the stock market.”
He joined Edward Jones in 1970 at a time when the company had approximately 100 financial advisers companywide. Today, there are nearly 19,000.
“It was pretty slow going at first … it turned out to be a low point in the market,” he says. “But we’ve seen the market multiply by 40 times (in the years since), which is amazing when you think about it.”
Goodknight describes his approach to financial planning as “very conservative,” in that he doesn’t see the stock market as a place to gamble.
“It’s a long-term place to put your money in order to retire or send your kids to college,” he says.
And then there’s the investment in people.
“Over a period of time, my business did quite well and I started to feel overloaded,” he says. “The 80/20 rule seems to work in a lot of industries, so I tried that and shared 80 percent of my accounts with a new financial adviser.”
The experiment worked in three primary ways.
“One, it gave the new financial adviser a head start (in the business),” Goodknight says. “Two, it gave me more control over my time. Three, and most importantly, it gave my clients better service than they were receiving before.”
Today, that mindset – now known as “The Goodknight Plan” – has been adopted companywide by Edward Jones.
“It’s been quite a success in getting (new advisers) over that initial hump,” he says. “It’s not easy to get started in this business. It’s been a good program for Edward Jones and I’m happy to have my name attached to it.”
Don Swanson, ’78, was the earliest beneficiary of Goodknight’s experiment, having been recruited to work for Edward Jones during his senior year of college.
“Jim sat down with me and went through his accounts that needed work and shared the load with me a bit,” says Swanson, who has his own Joplin office and more than 40 years with the company. “Being young and fresh out of college, it was very meaningful to me for him to give me names and a good place to put my effort.
“He’s a generous person and has always treated people right, though I didn’t realize immediately from the get-go how valuable a mentor he was to me.”
“The Goodknight Plan” is one Swanson says he has put into practice himself over the years as he worked with younger financial advisers. Swanson’s son, Michael, recently joined the business and is a beneficiary of the program.
On a similar note, Jim isn’t the only Goodknight in Edward Jones’ roster of advisers. The business has become something of a family affair.
Goodknight’s son, Patrick, took over his father’s office when he retired; a grandson has an office in Fayetteville, Ark., while another recently took a position with the company as an office administrator.
“I have a granddaughter about to graduate from high school and if you ask her what she wants to do after college, she wants to join her daddy’s office … and on weekends be a rodeo barrel racer,” says Goodknight.
Now 80 and enjoying retirement while living on Grand Lake – though he remains a limited partner with the firm – Goodknight and his wife, Susie, have also made it a priority to invest in his alma mater.
In 2006, he was honored with the Outstanding Alumni Award. A monetary gift made by the Goodknights in 2019 was used by the Plaster College of Business to purchase a LightBoard system, which has facilitated the teaching of online classes.
“I’ve known a lot of people who have graduated from Missouri Southern,” he says. “It’s a great institution for Joplin and I believe in it.”