2012 Best Companies, large: No. 1 Edward Jones

www.edwardjones.com

This is getting ridiculous. For the fifth time in seven years, Edward Jones is the cream of the best-large-companies-to-work-for crop. (The other two years it finished second.)

Can it be that good?

Ask Neil Draxler, one of Edward Jones’ 12,000 financial advisers across the country (and one of 270 in Colorado), and he’ll tell you he thinks it is indeed that good. Maybe better.

“One of the biggest things is the culture of the company,” he says. “There’s a lot of volunteering and everyone is willing to train anyone else. We’re working together, not against each other.”

The company’s “one financial adviser per office” model also appeals to Draxler. “I love the autonomy,” he says. “I come and go as I please.”

The flip side of the independent nature can be isolation, so the annual “half business, half social” regional meeting can be a good place for Edward Jones employees – and their families – to compare notes. (This year’s meeting was held in Vail in June.) “Each of us has our own office,” Draxler says. “That’s not easy. It’s huge having the family understand what that’s like.” The inclusion of families at these meetings helps accomplish exactly that.

Draxler also serves as a regional leader for the north side of metropolitan Denver. “It’s a volunteer position,” he says. “All of our leadership roles are volunteer positions.” Case in point: Every new employee is assigned a volunteer mentor when he or she starts. Draxler has come full circle in the program: After starting out with his own helpful mentor in 2000, he now is a mentor himself. “I knew I could pick up the phone anytime,” Draxler says of his mentor. “2003 was extremely difficult and challenging. He’d been through tough markets before and he encouraged me to stay the course. Without that guidance and advice, I doubt I would be where I am today.

“Somebody helped me out when I first started,” Draxler says. “I’m just paying it back.”

Likewise, Edward Jones pays back the community in the form of charity events like walkathons and volunteer outings with Habitat for Humanity. Recent recipients include cancer- and domestic abuse-related nonprofits. “Whatever people are interested in that year, we rally around to give back to the community,” Draxler says.

In the end, everything else at Edward Jones stems from the company’s sense of community. “Really, it comes down to the fact that we’re a private partnership,” says Draxler. “If we all share in the work, we all share in the profit. It creates a unique culture when we all know we’re working for the common good.”

2011 Rank: No. 1