Tips for Building A Business With Your Spouse – and Staying Married
Every week about this time on the show, we bring in your favorite segment, a visit by my wife, Jean Edelman, here on the show. But we've gotten a bunch of requests from folks because as you've noticed, every week I interview people on the show and every week Jean appears on the show. But I've never interviewed Jean and they've often asked, we're getting folks saying, Rick, you should interview your wife on the show. So. Hi, Jean.
Jean Edelman: Hi, Ric.
Ric: So let me give you a little bit of background. Jean and I, of course, jointly founded Edelman Financial Services back in 1986, the company now Edelman Financial Engines. We left the firm last year and we worked together for 35, 40 years in building the company. Jean, you had pretty much every job there was.
Ric: In the business, you were the first everything. First receptionist, first HR, first everything. And so what a lot of folks have said to us over the years is they've seen us at seminars and events and so on. They've said, I could never work with my spouse. And it was natural for me because I grew up in an entrepreneurial household. My mom and dad ran their own small business, and so dinner conversation was always about what's going on in the company. So it was very natural for me to assume I would work with my wife because I grew up in a household where Dad worked with Mom. But that wasn't your background?
Jean: No, we were traditional. Dad went off to work. Mom took care of the kids. Mom eventually got a job, but only when the kids were grown. We were all in high school. So I'm the oldest of four. Yeah.
Ric: And Dad was that real classic, you know, get on the train into the city.
Jean: We lived in Cranbury, New Jersey, and my dad would commute to New York every day, and he worked actually in the Empire State Building.
Ric: So what was it like for you then? When we first started working together, building this tiny little company that grew?
Jean: Well, I think we work well together because you were always the visionary and I was always the detail person, so we never really got in each other's way. You needed something done. I always figured out how to get it done.
Ric: So the way I always phrase it is that I would create the problems and Jean would solve them.
Jean: Yeah, you put it nicely.
Ric: So that's, I think a key element in any relationship really is recognizing each other's strengths and preferences. Where do you want to spend your time and how do you want to do what you're doing and have a lot of respect for each other? I never had to tell Jean how to do it, nor would you tolerate me telling you how to do it.
Jean: I mean, it was natural for me. I was very good at figuring processes. I set up all the systems in the company. I think they still use some of them.
Ric: I'll never forget one of the most memorable occasions we had when we were first raising capital for the first time in 2005. And we're meeting with investment bankers and you can envision what this is like. You've seen this. Remember the movie Working Girl, and she shows up at this meeting with these investment bankers, this massive, huge round table and 30 men sitting around this table with thick books of charts and graphs and legal documents. That's what doing a deal on Wall Street really is like. And we went to a lot of those meetings when we were raising capital back in 2005 for the first time. And it was so funny. We go into this meeting and there are all these suits hanging around. We're sitting there, just Jean and me, and the suits said, Where's your finance department?
Jean: There's just me.
Ric: I just was like, Yeah, you're looking at her.
Jean: I mean, we had seven companies at the peak of our business and I did all the commission work. I did all the banking, all the accounting. Yeah.
Ric: It was just Jean. So people used to joke, why is the company named just after me? And I'm like, No, you got it all wrong. It's Edelman Financial, wasn't named after Ric. It was named after Jean Edelman. And she let me work there. And so it was always a lot of fun doing this and building the company. And as it grew, we kept firing you. We kept moving you to other jobs because I had to have you stop doing this and start doing that as new needs and opportunities came up and you just did whatever it took.
Jean: The fun part in the beginning was because I was the receptionist, so I knew all the clients voices and I knew their kids. And I think that's why our clients stayed with us throughout their process, because it was like a family and we kind of grew up together.
Ric: Well, you were the glue. I mean, they would call to talk to you and didn't want to talk to me. So because you were and remain the heart and soul of the business, but beneath all of it was financial planning and helping others improve their finances. Everybody knows my story because I talk about it often on the show and in seminars and all my books of why I cared about that. But talk about your journey in this, Jean. Why did you care about this? Why was financial planning so important to you?
Jean: It was more the education, because when we were very young, we wanted to buy a house and Ric went to a financial planner because he would only meet with Ric. And that was the first wrong. And then he told us something that was illegal - to lie on our mortgage application. And so we were seeking someone that we thought was going to be wise and have interest in us. And they didn't. I want people to be treated with dignity and respect, and I wanted people to be treated like I wanted to be treated. And so that was like the foundation of our company just doing well for everyone and educating and empowering people.
Ric: And we were just very careful and conscious in our efforts to build a safe environment where people could develop and grow and have meaning in their careers that mattered to their lives.
Jean: And yeah, I mean, people, they were with us and our president was with us for 30 years, you know, people. 20, 25 long careers.
Ric: We had an extremely low turnover rate, less than 5%. Yeah. And in our entire career, no financial adviser ever left to go to another firm. And many firms, the turnover is 25 or 30% a year.
Jean: We gave people the tools they needed. We gave them a very healthy, happy and safe environment to be the best that they could be. And I think that was the key to our success.
Ric: And we ended up being recipients of best places to work awards multiple times from multiple organizations. And it was all very gratifying and we had an awful lot of fun. But financial planning isn't all you're about. You have devoted your life over the past decade to a variety of subjects. One of them, where I'm a big beneficiary in particular is macrobiotic cooking.
Jean: As you can gather from my weekly segments, I am about a whole lot of other things. I just believe that there's so much more to this world. In college, I studied nutrition. It was intuitive to me. But then I guess 15 years ago I was introduced to macrobiotic cooking. So macrobiotics actually dates back to the late 16th century, where an author, Christian William Hugh Flynn's book, The Art of Prolonging Human Life, it's dated 1797, and the principles are a plant-based, grain-based way of eating. But it's more than that. It's understanding a bit of traditional Chinese medicine where there are different seasons. So it's eating seasonal.
Ric: Give me an example of that.
Jean: Okay. So the summertime, all your fruits and berries are just beautiful and fresh. In the fall, we do apples and pears and different fruits. And winter, we do a lot more root vegetables, carrots and parsnips and turnips. And then in the spring, do all of our greens and our kales and our bok choy. And so I have found when you're eating with the seasons, it's creating more balance. We shouldn't be eating ice cream in December because it's cold out and ice cream makes our body cold. We want things that make us warm and feel comfortable. And so it's understanding those principles of what food is and how it affects our bodies. And if we're eating properly and understanding the balance and the seasons, that is helpful. But the other piece to this is I have always been about preventative. Prevent, prevent, prevent. I don't want the arthritis, I don't want the inflammation, I don't want the illness and the disease in my body. And so understanding the seasons and understanding how foods can affect our health is just so important. And I didn't want to go down my family's health path, which is a lot of heart disease and stroke and high blood pressure and arthritis. And you know what? I'm 63 and I don't have any of that. Before I started macrobiotics in my 40s, I had a little arthritis. I don't have any. We shouldn't wake up with aches and pains every day. That's the goal. And so understanding how movement and breath and food can all help us stay in balance as the years go on. And it's so important that you can change your life expectancy by decades. Even if you start it in your 60s, you can add 10 years to your life. And so understanding these principles and how food affects our health is huge.
Ric: And that's why Jean is with us every week and she'll be with us again here next week here on The Truth About Your Future. Thanks, Jean.
Jean Edelman: Thanks, Ric.