When you think of sports apparel, there are basically two brands that immediately come to mind: Nike and Under Armour, the latter of which is the brainchild of entrepreneur Kevin Plank. A consummate athlete, Plank played for the Maryland Terrapins football team and was, in his own word, “the sweatiest guy on the football field.” Seeking — but not finding — sports shirts that would keep him dry, he decided to make them himself.
After graduating from college, he began work on what would eventually become the Under Armour brand, which has now grown into an empire. The man had tremendous success as an athlete, business coach, and corporate leader, so it’s no surprise that he’s full of wisdom for the struggling entrepreneur. Here are his five best quotes for finding your brand, driving yourself forward even when you’re lost and want to quit, and succeeding as a business owner
“Brand is not a product that’s for sure; it’s not one item. It’s an idea, it’s a theory, it’s a meaning, it’s how you carry yourself.”
When Plank created Under Armour, he initially just set out to make moisture-wicking clothing for extra-sweaty athletes. He’s since created a brand that’s used by people all over the world, whether they’re working hard in the office, at a desk or on the football field. Under Armour is synonymous with perseverance, hard work, and dedication, and that’s what he means here. It’s about performance apparel, for sure, but beyond that, a brand should have an inspiring, cohesive message. You should live your brand, and it should permeate your marketing message, products, and how you communicate with your customers and staff.
“Leadership is … to make sure you never limit the idea or opportunity.”
Effective leadership — whether literally of staff or figuratively in a market space — requires you to be open to big changes and bigger ideas. Again, while Kevin Plank started Under Armour as a clothing company purely out of a desire for better athletic shirts, he didn’t limit his dream or vision, and now he’s a billionaire with a massive, global line of products.
Never let the short-term or set-backs limit the scope of your vision, and never rest on your laurels. Use success to springboard to even greater heights and you’ll be rewarded in the long term.
“The companies that win are the ones that communicate the best.”
Leadership is also about communicating effectively. Businesses and people who cannot adapt to changing times or who refuse to clearly state their goals are ones that lose the trust of their customers and employees. Be transparent about your choices, be actively involved in communicating with your customers, and constantly reinforce new ways of finding and communicating with your ideal clients.
“Find out if your product can sell. And if it can sell, do it faster and do it better than anyone else.”
You should have confidence in your product or service, and if you do, you should be able to convince other people that what you’re selling is amazing. If you can do that, then pour all of your efforts into finding buyers and markets and sell as much as you can. Aggressively expand, market relentlessly, invest in influencers, and really push as hard as you can.
People who fail in business are those who have a marketable product or service but don’t do everything they can to sell it faster and broader than the competition. Plank was going against Nike, the biggest name in sports, but that didn’t stop him from carving out a piece of their market. If you have something people should buy, then sell it to them.
“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. I started an apparel-manufacturing business in the tech-boom years. I mean, come on. Get out of your garage and go take a chance, and start your business.”
You know your product and you know that it will help make people’s lives better, so why are you wringing your hands? What are you waiting for, a sign from the universe? You might think the worst that can happen is that you fail, but that’s not true – the worst thing that can happen with your business or in your life is that you never try. If you sit around waiting for the perfect time, or for someone to give you permission, you’ll never succeed.
The businesses and entrepreneurs that succeed are the ones who aggressively take calculated chances. As with most things in life, confidence is key and it’s that same confidence that should tell you that there’s never a better time to act than right now. Go make your dreams happen.