Top Quotes From Under Armour’s Kevin Plank
A Little Something About Life, Meaning, and Success
Kevin Plank is best known as the founder, CEO, and chairman of Under Armour, but he’s also a billionaire philanthropist and businessman. Most biographies start with the money part, and the philanthropy part is an afterthought. Plank’s motivational quotes demonstrate how he became successful, but they also vividly capture his passionate desire to encourage others to make things happen.
Plank is famous for encouraging the pursuit of ideas. “Give it a chance; try to make it happen,” he says. Of course, he doesn’t stop there. He explains what he means further by saying that “you don’t have to go broke, [and] you don’t have to bet everything on it, but you can start one day at a time by taking a chance and seeing if you too can build a great company.”
His success did not come all at once. It only happened over time. It started with a great idea, based on his personal frustration with cotton T-shirts as sportswear. That nugget of an idea grew into the success that he enjoys today.
On Finding the Right Time
Plank famously said that “there’s an entrepreneur right now, scared to death, making excuses, saying, ‘It’s not the right time just yet.’ There’s no such thing as a good time.” He started his business working out of his grandmother’s basement with $40,000 in credit card debt. He was selling T-shirts out of the back of his car. He had lots of ideas, but none of the names for his company seemed to stick. However, by now, you probably can’t imagine any other name for the famous manufacturer of sportswear, footwear, and so much else.
There have been so many great and memorable ideas. Companies. Startups. Leaders. So many of them have just not gone anywhere. They’ve died before they ever had the chance to succeed. Perhaps it’s just bad luck. Onlookers may say that the brands never really got off the ground because it wasn’t the “right time.” Plank would seem to suggest that there’s more to success in business than pure blind luck or any sense of timing. It’s about the power of meaning, being, and doing. It’s about never giving up, refusing to let go, and always striving to help others perform better. “I love being able to give that superpower to anybody,” Plank says.
On Finding Meaning
“Brand is not a product, that’s for sure; it’s not one item,” says Plank. “It’s an idea, it’s a theory, it’s a meaning, it’s how you carry yourself.” He grew. He learned. He gathered a group of people around him who were passionate about their journey and what they had to offer.
“I want people to believe in themselves,” says Plank. “I want intellectual curiosity. I want someone who realizes that they don’t know it all and that they’re dying to learn.” Beyond the growth, learning, change, and personal search for meaning, there’s also the ultimate goal of delivering and knocking everyone’s socks off, literally and figuratively.
“Wipe the tears away, stand up, run your business, find a way,” Plank says. Some days, what you’re facing doesn’t seem fair. Like many of us, Plank has been at certain points in his life when he didn’t have any money. Just at the moment when he felt beyond hope and was dissolving into tears, a long overdue check appeared in the mailbox. The lesson was clear. There are so many forces outside of anyone’s control, but that’s okay.
“I want people to control what they can control,” Plank says. “Leave the pontificating to everyone else. Leave all that negative talk to everyone else.” We can’t win all the time, but if we don’t let the challenges, setbacks, and complete failures knock us off course, we might just make it. That’s what Plank seems to believe, at least. He’s failed before; he’s very clear about that. But those failures never seemed to slow him down, at least not for long. The failures appeared to be the precursor to his next great success. It’s not easy. In fact, sometimes, standing up and focusing on the great impossibilities of life takes courage that we didn’t know we had. “Plant your flag. Make a stand,” says Plank.
“Back your vision by putting your flag in the ground and making it happen.”
Plank doesn’t focus on success as if it’s all about him, though. One of the influential drivers of his brand and story is the people around him and the power of teamwork. “At Under Armour,” he says, “we’ve created a very strong culture, a culture that first and foremost is built on people… And it’s not a one-way ticket either… It also has to be the commitment the company has to the teammate.” Those teammates have been a part of the successes and struggles, and they’ve also laid it all on the line. They took chances, gambled, and sacrificed.
That’s why this quote is inscribed throughout the Under Armour headquarters: “Think like an entrepreneur. Create like an innovator. Perform like a teammate.”
To Sum It Up
Plank sums it all up with the following guiding principles, which are boldly posted on the whiteboard in his office:
- Over-promise and deliver.
- Dictate the tempo.
- Walk with purpose.
In the cadence of life, Plank refuses to allow others to pigeonhole him. For his successes and innovative approach, he has been called one of the most “influential people” in sports and business, as well as a number on the Power List by Adweek. In his article for Inc.com, he wrote, “I’ve always been a hustler.” He doesn’t mean that in a negative way. It’s in the sense that he just kept at it, and he never gave up. He over-promises, delivers, and sets the tempo. More than that, though, he walks with purpose and determination. In the minds of even his greatest critics, he has achieved long-lasting success.
But Plank is ready to quit yet. For him, success is not an excuse to give up, grow old, and die. “I’ve always had a dream of creating a brand that lasted the test of time, a 100-year brand,” he says. “I’ve learned the key to long-term surviving and thriving is a willingness to refine, revise, [and] even reinvent yourself every few years of the journey. And enjoy the journey.” That last part is particularly important. Also, we should figure out ways to “refine, revise, and reinvent” ourselves as though we’re a great book, and the ending has not yet been written.