Josh Bledsoe: Owning That Small Town Vibe

Growing up in small town America in Washington, Missouri, a city less than 10 square miles with a population hovering around 10,000, Josh Bledsoe came from humble beginnings. Only son of a single mom, Josh had plenty of extended family growing up and sport became something he relied on. He describes his upbringing as “more poor than rich” but with a mother who’s giving nature was unmatched. Never pressured to excel, but personally driven to succeed, Josh started in football at one college, then transferred to Westminster College for basketball and academics. The Division 3 school was the right match, with academics first and then a competitive athletics program that built friendships with buddies he still relies on today. Sports would become an outlet, but not a profession for Josh.

From OLDE Financial to a brief stint at Smith Barney, he started an MBA program at Washington University in St. Louis and was intent of moving to the banking side. An interview with Goldman quashed that idea with the notion he wasn’t smart enough, but Josh was undeterred. He describes not being able to go into banking was a stroke of good luck. He moved to Merrill Lynch soon after, finished his MBA and his business flourished. His aggressiveness in athletics and “natural curiosity about people” enabled him to grow and develop quality relationships with his clients.

He may not have realized that it was this work ethic and demeanor that got him noticed. In 2009, he was tapped to become a member join the prestigious Merrill Lynch Advisory Council. To help with his decision, he was given the number of Michael Sullivan, a key leader in the formation of high net worth business at Merrill, as well as an Advisory member. Sullivan advised Josh that the responsibility in joining the Council might take away from his business, but would end up being one of the best decisions of his life. Never one to shy away from challenge, Josh saw the vision in the opportunity and continued to develop a relationship with an advisor he admired both for his capacity to build a substantial business as well as his personality.

Josh is someone who understands how to connect with people. Connecting and developing a relationship with Sullivan was a pinnacle decision of his career. He senses that Sullivan saw some of himself in him and that’s why they connected. Josh is hardworking and savvy enough to recognize opportunity when it comes knocking, but he also values relationships and never forgets where he came from. He jokes when he says if he forgets, rest assured his best friends from his hometown and college would remind him—he connects with them daily.

With the financial landscape changing, a partnership started to form. Josh says, “I wanted to be part of something special” and had no hesitation about the thought of a new team with Sullivan and a move if that made sense. Not only had this small-town guy hooked up with one of the most successful advisors in the business, but they’d also added another Merrill Lynch heavy, Michael O’Keeffe, the former Chief Investment Officer of Merrill’s Global Wealth Management. After an intense vetting process that took a long time, the trio finally moving to Stifel was big news.

Now 42 years old, a Managing Director and equal partner of his team, Josh says he still finds time to do sports although now, beyond a morning workout, much of it is with his wife, a trainer who teaches Shred 415, and their three young children, ages 7, 6 and 3. It’s important for him to stay grounded, which is how he’s able to connect with the business owners he has as clients. Josh says that some of his “favorite clients are those that came from nothing and built businesses.” He knows that story well. But, perhaps his 7-year-old daughter describes his style best when she told him recently at a game he was coaching, ‘well, you’re strict because there’s no hugging when you’re coaching, but it’s always worth it.’ From a guy who’s driven to succeed, his warm and engaging demeanor with a small-town feel is something you can’t miss when you meet him and goes perfectly with both his team and the firm he’s embraced.