In this episode of Mobile Alabama Business Podcast, I sit down with Solomon Davis. Solomon and I met through Von Larson even though we are both part of Order of Fuse. Every time I see him he has a welcoming smile and positive vibe. Solomon spends a lot of his time giving back to the community now through his involvement with the community in Prichard, Board of Directors for Fuse Project and many other activities. Oh, and he is really tall! He is a really great guy and I can't wait for you to learn more about him, so let's dive right in with Solomon Davis!
Solomon: My name is Solomon Davis, and I'm with Morgan Stanley.
Marcus: Welcome to the podcast, Solomon.
Solomon: Thank you, Marcus. I appreciate it.
Marcus: Yeah, it's really cool. We met through Order of Fuse, and I think we really met through Vaughn. She had a party over at her house-
Marcus: We started talking and went to lunch and I love your story so I'm super excited that you're here, cause I think you have a really good story to tell. So, to get started on that, why don't you tell us where you're from, where you grew up, give us some of the background of Solomon.
Solomon: Okay, great. I'm from Prichard, Alabama, so I grew up in Prichard. My parents actually met in high school, were good friends, did not date or anything in high school but ended up later after college getting together and marrying. Me and my wife have a similar story, we met at high school and after college, we didn't date, but ended up getting married afterwards. Grew up in Prichard, my parents were from Prichard, it's a very, kind of poor area. I mean there's really no other way to put it, just not a ton of resources-
Solomon: Not the cleanest streets and all of those things. So I really remember at a very young age, watching The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and watching all these different shows, and really thinking, man I want a house like that, I want to live like that, I want to experience that. So for me from a very young age I wanted to change my surroundings, I wanted to live differently. And I grew up in a great household, loving household, but we just didn't have a lot. And I remember my mom going years without buying new clothes, and I remember her imparting to me, this is a sacrifice that I'm making so that you can go to private school in elementary, and I remember making those connections, wow they're really having to give up things in order for me to have better. And so I just wanted to always, from the very beginning, I knew I wanted to live a certain way. So, fun childhood, lot of great friends, I played a lot of basketball-
Marcus: Really? As short as you are you played basketball (laughs)?
Solomon: Right (laughs)-
Marcus: For those ... this is audio so you don't know this, but Solomon is six foot seven. I actually had to use a stool to take his picture for the podcast, because I am not six foot seven (laughs). Go ahead.
Solomon: Yeah, they do the same thing at the driver's license place.
Marcus: There you go (laughs).
Solomon: So long story short, I was fourteen, about to go to high school. My mom sat me down and basically told me "Look, we know you wanna go to college, you know you've been messing around in middle school not doing what you're supposed to do. But just be clear that we can't afford to send you to college. So if you want to go to college you gonna have to figure it out, because we can't pay for it." And so I remember leaving that conversation thinking, I absolutely have to figure this out. And so I actually had tons of athletic scholarship offers but I also had tons of academic, I probably had a little over a million dollars in scholarship offers when you added up athletic and academic.
Marcus: That's awesome.
Solomon: Yeah. Naval Academy, Air Force Academy, recruited me, a few different Ivy League schools plus all the SEC. So I remember making a point to make sure I covered it both ways. So if I didn't get it athletically I was gonna get it academically.
Solomon: So I ended up finishing maybe fourth in my class at LeFlore, and then also being student athlete of the year, all of that stuff. So, it was fun.
Marcus: He's an underachiever folks. So if there's one thing I know about Solomon it's definitely that he is not an underachiever. You mentioned private school for elementary school, where was that?
Solomon: Knollwood. Think we were The Knights. So, Knollwood Christian School, then Phillips Prep. So went Phillips Preparatory, then magnet school, you know, LeFlore, then onto University of Alabama.
Marcus: I would imagine that the sacrifice that they made paid off in a very big way.
Solomon: Oh yeah, it was huge.
Marcus: Yeah. You went to Alabama?
Solomon: I did.
Marcus: And played basketball there?
Solomon: Played basketball there.
Marcus: And what did you study?
Solomon: Management information systems with a minor in computer science.
Marcus: He's a computer geek folks. He's a closet computer geek.
Solomon: Absolutely (laughs).
Marcus: I'm sure. I'm waiting for him to whip out the black plastic frame glasses.
Solomon: I have to transform every now and then.
Marcus: Transformers (laughs). So what was that like? I mean cause ... when was that? When were you at-
Solomon: Yeah so that was '98 through '02, so it was kinda crazy man, it was ... so here I am playing basketball, my first semester as a freshman there is mandatory study hall for athletes. Like the first three weeks I'm like out of study hall, it's like don't come here anymore, you're good. Matter of fact, if you come can you help some of the other guys (laughs).
Marcus: That's great.
Solomon: Yeah. And then my senior year my schedule was so hectic they actually had to change practice. So twice a week we had to practice at 5:30 in the morning because of my schedule, because I'm doing internships, I'm working on a big project for the Department of Transportation, I'm writing code. Plus I've got hours upon hours of study, I mean it was ridiculous. So they actually had to change practice for the whole team to accommodate my schedule.
Marcus: Wow. Well we're looking for an intern. You ready to start?
Solomon: I'm ready (laughs).
Marcus: Now, in all seriousness. So I mean you went to college, you were playing basketball at a very high level, why not continue? Maybe I've asked you this before, I apologize if I am, but did you not think about going to the pros, or was there something that caused you to not continue on?
Solomon: Yeah, no, it's called talent (laughs). So it's, there's levels right, and every time you climb the ladder you-
Marcus: It gets to a completely different level-
Solomon: It gets to a different level. So people ask me about the NBA and I jokingly tell them, I'm actually human, I breathe oxygen, I bleed blood. But NBA players don't, they're not from this planet. They're very ... I mean they're just, they have a certain level of genius. It's displayed physically, where we think of genius as just intellectual deal, but they have a physical genius.
Marcus: No there's a third sense, no a sixth sense, right? There's a, I mean definitely like being able to see things before they happen and get to the right place, and stuff like that, that those guys, not just NBA but anybody that's playing professional sports, it's almost like they feel the game in a different way than most people so.
Solomon: And they're physically, literally just physically constructed different. Like if I stand next to LeBron James, he's two inches taller, he's forty pounds heavier, and a million times faster and quicker than me. So just sheer physics doesn't make sense, like he should not be able to move as fast, jump as high, and be as quick as he is.
Marcus: But he is-
Solomon: At his size. But he is.
Marcus: Yeah he is.
Solomon: Right, so that's just a nature thing (laughs).
Marcus: I was listening to that podcast the other day and they were talking about how when, these were a couple old guys my age, they were talking about how when they were growing up there were no football players that were 300 pounds. But now you look at a team and almost everybody is, especially linemen, defensive, offensive players. They're all, if they're not 300 pounds there's no way they're gonna make ... and they're all super fast, their 40 yard dash is ... would make me look like I'm Pokey McPokey, like what just went by? A 300 pound man just hustling down the field. So yeah, I get you.
So you mentioned Morgan Stanley. How did you find yourself in financial services?
Solomon: Good question. So I was kind of summarizing my story a little bit. When I finished school I went and wrote software for an insurance company. Did that for about two and a half years, we had to replace some software that they were leasing from a vendor. 14, 18 hour days, coding in front of computer screen, I just was spent. And I didn't really want to do it anymore, so people told me I should be in sales, former athlete, blah, blah, blah. So I ended up going into pharmaceutical sales, but around that same time I started studying investing, I started kind of dabbling in, I think I read probably 60 investment books in a matter of two months. I've really just poured into it, I notice [Ren 00:08:54] has The Intelligent Investor, that was one of the first ones I read. Started playing around in the markets, investing, and then 2008 happened. Right, it happened, and everybody remembers 2008-
Marcus: Yeah, it was not a fun time for folks in the industry.
Solomon: It was not a fun time, absolutely. So we ... I remember during that time we actually did okay. Like we actually had some success during that time, a lot of people that I was helping, or not technically advising, but just kind of sharing with them my strategies, what I was doing, what was working. I remember them really having a peace during that time, and a calm. They were like, okay, we're okay. And that's the first time I really made the connection that, okay here's a hobby of mine, that I'm actually making money doing, and I'm actually helping people. I'm actually providing a real service. This may be something I should do for a living, this is what everybody's searching for. That thing that they like doing, they can help people and make money, that's the ultimate-
Marcus: That you're super interested in.
Solomon: And you're interested in it, right. So that's when I really kind of made that connection. And so I transitioned to this world.
Marcus: Wow. Now did you get started immediately with Morgan Stanley, or did you kind of-
Solomon: No I actually ... So I did research, this is what we do, we go out and figure out what's the best way to do this. And so a lot of the information I found said, start out on the insurance side, figure out if you like making phone calls, if you like getting hung up on, and getting doors slammed in your face first. And just really figure out if you got what it takes. And so I found that that's probably for me the best way to start, then it was a matter of, well who has the best training. And through my research I found that New York Life provided really sound training, from a just ... show up every day, make this number of calls, learning how to talk to people, blah, blah, blah-
Marcus: I'm having flashbacks, as you're saying it, for those that don't know I spent six months at New York Life, so yeah.
Solomon: So that's what I did. And had a lot of success there, was a million dollar round table producer-
Marcus: Very cool.
Solomon: Got promoted really quickly to being a partner in, responsible for helping grow the office. So I did that for a few years, and then I transitioned-
Marcus: To Morgan Stanley.
Marcus: Yeah. So I mean, okay so you were raised in Prichard, and you are now with Morgan Stanley, dealing with some of the wealthiest people in the world.
Solomon: Yeah (laughs).
Marcus: I mean, do you ever stop and just like, I mean, that is just an incredible transition or, I don't know what the right word there is, but that's just an incredible place to be from where you grew up.
Solomon: Yeah, absolutely.
Marcus: I just, that's just phenomenal.
Solomon: So, it's a, there's these two different worlds, so I learned, I learn everyday, that's one of the things I love about what I do, is I learn from my clients just as much as they learn from me. Because a lot of them are second generation and third generation wealth, so they just have a different view on the world, different perspective, they live a different life, they live in a different America. And so, but then some are self made as well, or not self made but, I don't like that term, but they boot strapped it and made it happen, so you learn a lot from them too-
Marcus: They're first generation rich versus having come from a family that maybe was able to help them a little bit.
Solomon: Exactly. So I learned a lot about life and strategy, and then things from my clients as well. So I'm very appreciative, very appreciative.
Marcus: Well, so what would you say, and man I'm gonna pull on some strings here brother, what would you say to that young man or woman that's in Prichard, that is thinking, man I have got to do something, I wanna get out of this, I wanna start my own business, I have aspirations that I wanna be in a different place in five or ten years, or six months really. I'm sure entrepreneurs do not lend themselves to being patient people-
Marcus: That's why I say that. So what would you say to that person, what bit of wisdom would you impart with them?
Solomon: The biggest thing is, you have to find a story that you can believe in, and typically it's not the one that you already have. And so, just bringing up the fact that you're in Prichard, or you're from Prichard, or this is what you grew up around and this is what your expectations are, you have to get rid of that immediately because if that's what you believe then ultimately that's what the end result is gonna be. The harder you change that story I think a big part of it is reading, so for me I was a big reader growing up. I mean I read a ton, and so I got to see different stories, and I got to hear different stories. And then find somebody that will support your new story, in the form of a mentor or just someone who's been there, done that, or who's walking where you wanna walk. Because they're gonna help give you a new story as well, but that to me at a young age, if you can find that, to me that's huge.
Marcus: Yeah, remembering back to my own story, cause I grew up ... it was not the equivalent of Prichard, in the Washington DC area, but it wasn't a well-to-do area.
Marcus: And shared a town house with five other people, three bedrooms upstairs were all rented by different people and we lived in the basement, where roaches and crickets that made noise at night. And my dad was the manager of a Burger King, but he sacrificed very much for me, and I remember back to that, and it was always, it was a lot of those same things, so it was finding people and not necessarily putting them up on a pedestal but finding people that had a life that was different or that was aspirational. And I'm not talking about the millionaire that lives across town, I'm literally talking about people that I knew, parents of the friends that I had and stuff like that, and just knowing that they were hard workers and that they were getting somewhere in life and that they were providing for their family and their marriage was good and all the things that you would want out of life, and just kind of studying those people.
Solomon: Yeah, absolutely.
Marcus: Just kind of being observant and recognizing, but also just knowing that it was gonna take a lot of hard work to get there.
Marcus: Well you mentioned being a reader, so what are two books that you'd like to mention to the audience that would be helpful to a young entrepreneur or business owner?
Solomon: Oh man, I mean, it's hard to get away from the old classic, Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill. It's hard to get away from that one. I'm reading, I recently read, and this is kinda new, this is different style, but Grant Cardone's TenX.
Solomon: I think that he is so, kinda just gut level, bare bones ... Think and Grow Rich really works on the cerebral side, like really you're just changing your story, mentally changing your story and backing that up with action. And then Grant comes in with the action, and just says, hey look, you just knock the door down, just by sheer force and will you can create your destiny. So you put those two together, I just think-
Solomon: And they're different styles and so, yeah.
Marcus: Well and I was introduced to Grant Cardone by another podcast's guest, Jeff Jones, and when I first heard him there was something that absolutely clicked. I mean he comes across kind of rough, I mean he's definitely rough around the edges. This man is from Louisiana, he's probably got some Cajun in him, no offense to those of you that are Cajun, but he definitely has a different way of speaking. But the man, I've listened or read, TenX, I'm currently listening to If You're Not First, You're Last ... what's the other one? Be Obsessed Or Be Average, Sell or Be Sold, all of those books. And one of the books that he's ... TenX is absolutely fantastic, and the other one is Be Obsessed Or Be Average and Sell or Be Sold. Sell or Be Sold was something that made me realize, hey it's okay to be a sales person. Right?
Marcus: And this world would not move if there were not sales people.
Marcus: And that we need to start scrubbing our minds of this mindset that sales is somehow a bad thing, or something, cause it's not. And I'm not talking about the guy who's being slick and trying to weasel his way into a deal. I'm talking about real consultant style sales. Here's what I can do, this is a smart decision that's an investment not an expense, because you're gonna get these results. You've already said that this is the dollar amount that you make per transaction, if I can do what I'm saying that I can do, which I can, then you're gonna make x, which is more than what you're paying ... That kind of thing.
Marcus: Yeah he's been phenomenal and he's got a really great presence on the audiobook, so if you're interested definitely pick up the audiobooks cause there's some extra nuggets that he throws in there-
Solomon: Oh yeah, I do the audiobooks, I do.
Marcus: That's my, as Kevin Moller would put it, that's my drive time education.
Solomon: Absolutely. And you know it's funny. Being a great sales person, for me, is what kinda clicked for me, it really is an integrity deal.
Solomon: Right? And most people don't understand that, but if I know that I provide a superior service, one that will solve your needs, one that will put you in a a better position to help you provide for your family or make better decisions or whatever, then I have a fundamentally integrity issue where I have to do the right thing. And doing the right thing means that I have to be more convicted than you, I have to be more persistent than you, I have to show up more than you, the client, because if I don't then you're gonna probably make the wrong decision.
Solomon: And that, at the end of the day, fundamentally falls back on me. It falls back on me. It's my, that's my fault.
Marcus: Right. You care enough to convince them to do business with you.
Solomon: Absolutely. And if you're not picking up the phone then you're putting your feelings above what's right for them. Period, point blank.
Marcus: Listen in folks, this is some legit stuff. I know that you are philanthropic and your time, actions, money ... and I know that we're both part of an organization that is tied to Fuse Project, so ... Are you on the board, the Fuse Project?
Solomon: I am.
Marcus: You want to talk just a little bit about that and, I know we've had Grant on but I'd love the, I love what they're doing so please tell us a little bit about Fuse Project.
Solomon: Sure, well our thing is we're investing in the world's most valuable resource, and so that's children. And so our focus is primarily, there's a lot of different ways to help kids. Our focus is on, number one, being an engine to fund a lot of different children's charities. We really like to focus on at-risk kids, and kids who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. We really wanna, we understand that through education and exposure, or the lack thereof, that's how kids grow up and become criminals, which in essence affects all of ours standard of living, so there's some selfishness to it, because we all wanna live in a better city, with lower crime, and we know the way you reduce crime rates is you produce better children. Well these children aren't choosing to be bad people, they're born in bad situations-
Marcus: They just don't know any better.
Solomon: Yeah they don't know any better, right? And so we just wanna affect that, we want to expose them to different things, help them develop a new story, help them get educated and learn how to be productive adults, and so we're gonna support any initiative that falls in line with that, but then we also have our own initiatives where we have direct contact and we have full control of the programs. So it's a bunch of younger people who kinda wanted to do their own thing, versus doing something else, and wanted to have fun doing it. And then also wanted to really inspire our generation to give, and it doesn't have to look like your parents' giving, it can be fun, it can be unconventional-
Marcus: This is the organization folks, that has dragon boat races on Mobile Bay every year.
Marcus: This is the organization that started a group, a quasi networking group, called Order of Fuse, that gets together three times a year to have a fun time. And I was fortunate enough to be allowed on the float for one of the Mardi Gras parades this year to take pictures, and it's just a fun group. I mean, they wanna go big or go home and when they do it, it usually means having a blast.
Marcus: But that's, there's solving some very serious problems as part of that too.
Marcus: It's been a very fortunate thing to be allowed to be part of that group.
What do you like to do in your free time?
Solomon: Free time? I mean family, of course, I have a little girl who's five, and then my son actually plays college basketball, he's 20, he's at the University of Mobile-
Marcus: Wait a second. You just glossed over that, I had no idea. You've got a 20 year old and a five year old-
Solomon: Yes I do (laughs). So him, he's a basketball player, so working out in the gym and just watching film, watching games, going and get shots up and just playing and just ... for a long time we'd play, I would play pretty much in every pick-up game that he played in. Old man [crosstalk 00:23:32]-
Marcus: Till he started dunking on you (laughs).
Solomon: Exactly (laughs). So I've gracefully retired from that-
Marcus: I can imagine (laughs).
Solomon: But yeah, spending time with him, and helping coach and develop him, and then my daughter's five, and so she's a sweetheart, so just hanging with her and yeah.
Marcus: That is so cool.
Solomon: And now I like to swing the golf club when I can, I don't have much time for that, but-
Marcus: Sure. Yeah business, I would imagine, keeps you pretty busy, and you're traveling quite a bit too so ... Well tell people where they can find you.
Solomon: I'm at the RSA tower, you can call me direct-
Marcus: Give the number if you want.
Solomon: Yeah, well 470 1088, that's my direct line. I'm on the web, you just google Solomon Davis, website will pop up, linkedin will pop up. So I'm not hard to find.
Marcus: He's on facebook too.
Solomon: I'm on facebook too.
Solomon: You can catch me speaking around town here and there on different business topics-
Marcus: Yeah, that's good stuff. Anything else you'd like to mention or share?
Solomon: Oh you know, just go get it. Whatever you chasing, whatever you're trying to get, it's there for you. Don't believe the stories that people are telling, don't believe the stories you're telling yourself. If you don't like it, change it.
Marcus: Those inner voices are sometimes the worst.
Solomon: Yeah, they work against you man, like they wanna keep you safe-
Solomon: They wanna keep you from hurt. I say embrace it, it's your responsibility. We're waiting on whatever you have, it's gonna make our lives easier, make it better, bring more fulfillment, so you have a fundamental responsibility to bring it to the market place, because we need it.
Marcus: This podcast was started because we wanted to share all the cool things that people are doing to make Mobile awesome, and it's been a pleasure to get to know you, and I just wanted to say thank you for coming on the podcast, cause I think you're doing some pretty cool things and I know you're giving back quite a bit to the community, and trying to help those that came from similar upbringings as yourself. So, keep it up man.
Solomon: Oh no, thank you. You keep up what you're doing, it's a huge service to the community, it's definitely gonna make us all better, so we appreciate you.
Marcus: Appreciate it.