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A Discussion with Co-Founder of RD Heritage Group, Robert Davis Talks About New Social Norms Amid COVID-19

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Robert Davis

Robert Davis is a co-founder and partner at RD Heritage Group, a multi-family office partnership in the US and Bahrain that focuses on oil & gas, renewable energy, energy, healthcare, medical devices, pharmaceuticals, artificial intelligence, blockchain, agriculture , and real estate opportunities.  RD Heritage has partners in Bahrain, Indonesia, and the United States, but its headquarters is in Nevada.

Robert was raised in the Detroit area of Michigan.  He graduated third in his class from the University of Michigan and then went on to study medicine at the University of Miami in Florida.  After 10 years as a medical doctor, Dr. Robert Davis chose to move into the area of business investment to have a greater social impact.  This led to the formation of RD Heritage to build partnerships with other global businesses that shared his philosophy of providing impact and social good.

How has your industry been impacted regarding COVID-19?

We have been impacted tremendously because we are investors in med-tech, biotech, and the pharmaceuticals space, as well as the oil and gas: upstream, midstream, and downstream.  Both areas have been affected in a great way.  Obviously, with regards to some of the technologies we have invested in, there has been a big push either from a perspective of treating COVID-19 and one of the companies that we have invested in has a treatment for what kills you with COVID-19, which is acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), so that is pretty exciting, and the other company has a detection system to detect COVID-19 patients, even asymptomatic patients, via a saliva test.  Both of those have been fast-tracked.  Anytime any person loses a life or is infected, one person is too many.  It is a terrible thing.  But having said that, we can be helpful in two areas and we are excited about that.

The negative flip side is we have been crushed in the oil and gas space, but that does present new opportunities from the aspect of acquiring distressed assets, though I think by and large other investors, family offices, and investment groups, a lot of them, like Warren Buffet have been taking a wait-and-see approach, letting things settle down before they decide how they’re going to act or invest.

What keeps you motivated during this time at home?

I work from a home office and I have been doing that for 20 years.  This new normal is normal for me and our team.  But I think seeing the loss of life, especially with patients who have co-morbidities, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, those who are immunosuppressed, or the elderly, particularly those in nursing homes.  Those are the ones who are really hurt by what is going on.  I think our ability to be able to help them with some of the technologies that we have invested in, really keeps me motivated.  That is a big driver for us.  We are fortunate enough to be in a space where we can help people who are being hurt by COVID-19.

Suggestions of good ways others can cope during this time.

Even in these challenging times, there are opportunities that can be pursued.  This is a small window of time that we have.  We are in a race against the clock, and that is the main driving force for coping.  We’re in a really tough situation globally but knowing that there is an opportunity, but different, and that we need to be creative about growing those opportunities, that is the best way to stay positive and stay motivated and just keep pushing forward.  It has been very tough for many of us.  Looking inwards and to my faith has helped me.  I think a good way for people to cope is to pray and believe in the goodness of others and to trust that we will get past this black swan event that no one ever, ever, ever expected.

What does your typical day look like now versus prior to social isolation?

It is a lot of Zoom calls, a lot of getting used to interacting with others by video conference or phone conference, versus getting on a plane and meeting face to face or going to a business lunch or dinner.  It has been quite an adjustment.  It has been tough.  Now that we can see an end in sight, it is helpful.

How does working remotely change how businesses can support their customers?

If anything, it has taught us the value of human contact and human interaction.  I think things that we have taken for granted previously I am going to look at in an entirely different way.  I think of the old axiom:  Work hard for today, but plan for tomorrow.  Now, more than ever, our focus is, what can we do to create and carve out a great future, not only for us but for others that we are looking to help.  If anything, I have doubled down on our efforts in being focused on the directions that we are pursuing.

 How do you and your team stay in constant communication during this time?

I have a home office, so I am used to this.  At RD Heritage we realize the importance of communication Taking from Ray Dalio’s teachings in his book “Principles” – the lines of communication are always kept open between myself and each of our team members.

For business meetings, we do a lot of video conferencing.  Part of my job is to be on the phone a lot and that really has not changed.  If anything, I think I am working harder than before.  It is challenging, but we are dedicated and engaged.  Because I have had a home office for a long time, this is the communication methodology that we have used previously and are used to.  We do a lot of video conferencing.

One of my partners, Hadi Al Alawi, in Bahrain.  In fact, I just spoke to Hadi yesterday.  Hadi is formed one of the largest family offices there in the Gulf.  His brother was Minister of Energy and uncle Minister of Finance in Bahrain.  He and I are used to traveling international, often. Hadi more than me. And there is no international travel right now, probably not until the end of June I am guessing.

How can businesses continue to market themselves during COVID-19?

In the past, I have gone to a family office, investor, and industry-specific conferences.  Now, I am doing a lot of those online.  I have utilized this time to learn and to do things to immerse myself deeper into different experiences that I have not had in the past.  I really look at this time of isolation as also a time of learning and growing.  Is the glass half full or half-empty?  I like to think of it as always half full.  I constantly see opportunities in all situations.

What are some things outside of work that you are doing now to stay busy?

I read a lot.  I work out all the time on my Bow flex Blaze.  I normally go to the gym six days a week, and I am probably getting in better shape at home just out of boredom.  Locally, I have tried to support the struggling small businesses by ordering takeout from different mom-and-pop restaurants and have donated to the Nevada state and national parks.  I am a big film buss and miss movie theaters, so I binge watch Netflix and Amazon Prime, me and everyone else in the country.

 Do you think a work and life balance is important and how difficult is it in these circumstances?

Work/life balance is always important.  What I have found is a time of introspection and prayer and a chance to look inward, to think about the essence and fragility of my life.  Who would have thought that this black swan event would have ever happened?  Zero chance.  If you had given me 100 scenarios, this would not have even been one.  Yet, here we are.

I was going to go snow skiing in Utah the day everything was shut down.  I have deliberately put my skis in my office so I could look at them and not only think about next year but think about the blessings, the things that I took for granted in my everyday life.  Those things are really very special, now.  This cataclysm has given me a chance to ponder the value of every minute of my existence, how special life is, and what a gift this is.

What are some of the lessons you have already learned from having to work remotely and tips you can give to the readers?

Staying focused, work lean, and mean, manage your time, be accountable and transparent, and have the conviction of your faith in both your personal and business outcomes. And remember, the family is the most important, and always comes first.

What is one piece of advice that is getting you through these current times?

Know that I am going to come out on the other side of this pandemic.  That I will be stronger and smarter.  Know that I am going to use this time to learn and grow, to focus on the positives. Have faith in the goodness of humanity and that we are going to pull through the pandemic together.  We are going to find a way forward and become better because of this terrible, horrendous situation.

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