Founder in Focus: Allan Thomas of Thomas Solutions, Inc.
I’ve long admired my friend Al Thomas, founder and CEO of Thomas Solutions, Inc, and am excited he let me interview him for Remarkable. His company provides subject matter expertise and training support for Special Operations and the Intelligence Community.
After 20 years of active duty service, Al decided it was time to forge his own “command” path through corporate ownership. He had no idea of “how” or “what” that would look like but he was willing to relentlessly learn new skill sets. Al’s appetite for working extremely hard and accepting more risk than most would consider reasonable or practical sets him apart.
Al’s military background instilled a mindset of learning complex tasks and adapting quickly to uncertainty in any situation. As a Special Forces officer, he developed the work ethic and laser-focus needed to transfer to the commercial sector. Seizing new opportunities required Al to humbly begin over again; like a brand-new cadet embarking on a career they know almost nothing about. Al says he accepted the fact he’d need time to learn, develop, and grow in his new profession before he could become successful.
Like most founders, Al received a lot of great advice along the way from friends, mentors, and peers. He says the most foundational piece of advice that stuck can be summarized as “never take advice on how to become a millionaire from someone who isn’t.” You can replace “millionaire” with other professional titles but the point is people claim to know a lot about something when they don’t. This includes founding and running a business. You’ll often find charlatans who try to hide behind fantastic rhetoric and partial truths.
For his part, Al enjoys working with a diverse cadre of corporate-minded individuals, startups, and even large companies that embrace transparency and honesty. He also enjoys mentoring and being mentored to achieve success. However, Al warns would-be entrepreneurs that there are people out there who present very well but who have never done the specific thing they claim to be an expert in. And in his business, that can be downright dangerous. You must really do your homework and due diligence on the advice you are getting and from whom you are taking it.
Yet Al believes most people are intrinsically good. Most are simply providing for their families and giving back in meaningful ways to their communities and the organizations they care about. He believes owning a business gives you the optionality to accomplish those goals. Al’s family immigrated from Trinidad, and he is first-generation American. Al recognizes the enormous challenges in upward mobility for the African American community. But, Al says, “I still believe that achieving the “American Dream” is absolutely attainable and I have always loved all of the opportunities that we have in the USA.”
As an entrepreneur, Al finds inspiration from standing on the shoulders of giants. He admires Frederick Douglass who was able to overcome multiple injustices and go on to own several businesses; and Robert Smith, the self-made billionaire with an incredible personal story. Some of his friends with military backgrounds have been great inspirations as well; Jim George, the namesake of the Hampton Business School, and Bob Kocher, the founder of several successful companies.
Like many entrepreneurs, Al’s business plan has evolved multiple times. His initial ideas had to evolve to meet the needs of his customers. It’s been important to recognize his customer’s ideas and then help them realize those. Thomas Solutions, Inc. stands out because of the consistency and stability they provide in the National Security sector. Al and his team are experts at providing talent to the Special Operations and Intelligence communities. And this means training and recruiting dedicated patriots who provide subject matter expertise backed by decades of experience in very complex and often dangerous environments.
This article first appeared on Remarkable.