In opening a recent interview with Under Armour (NYSE:UAA) founder and CEO Kevin Plank, the commentator described Plank as "next."
As perhaps the most high-profile member of a cohort of younger CEOs, Plank's overwhelming success in starting and growing Under Armour has become the stuff of business lore. Here are a few of Plank's top quotes on a host of subjects including business, entrepreneurship, and leadership.
Kevin Plank on business
Through a mix of timing and hustle, Plank has grown Under Armour into a challenger to Nike's dominance of the sporting apparel market, a once-unthinkable feat. As is the case with most winning businesses, Plank's insight in starting Under Armour came from his interest in serving the unmet needs of his customers and grew from there. Here's how Plank summarized his initial idea for Under Armour and how understanding and serving the needs of athletes everywhere fueled its growth:
In getting Under Armour started, like any business I think, number one, you need a great idea. ... It was a product that we built developed out of athletes' need[s]. ... [W]e started with this simple concept of Under Armour the brand. ... And then we realized, well, this was a warm-weather shirt, so we ended up calling it Under Armour Heat Gear. Well, if we had Under Armour Heat Gear, then we needed a cold-weather shirt. We developed Under Armour Cold Gear because that's what the athletes were seeing throughout the course of the season. So [interest in the product grew] from ... getting athletes to try to wear it ... because they believed in what our product was doing.
However, Plank's recipe for success didn't stop with a fundamentally sound core concept. A major part of Under Armour's rocket-like rise also stems from its highly recognizable brand. Here's how Plank describes his thinking about branding and specifically Under Armour's brand:
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.
This mix of a sound initial concept and brand building has translated into impressive results for Under Armour's shareholders. Even after falling precipitously over the past 12 months, the Baltimore-based company's stock has outperformed the broader market close to tenfold since its IPO. Like many seasoned business leaders, Plank takes a long-term view of his company's performance and understands that the occasional rough patches are a fact of life for a public company's CEO.
The markets are efficient over time. Everybody will say the same thing. ... I've watched our stock go up. I've watched our stock come down, and what I saw the times that our stock did go down it's "How could this happen?" You know, we weren't running a great company.
Kevin Plank quotes on entrepreneurship and leadership
Plank and Under Armour's rise is every bit the quintessential American success story. In fact, echoing other billionaire entrepreneurs such as Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos, Plank founded the company out of his grandmother's basement in Washington, D.C., making him something of a folk hero among many entrepreneurs. Plank attributes much of his company's success to its deeply ingrained culture, which he describes in the following way:
At Under Armour, 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. ... Frankly, if we're doing our job, it defines them at some part.
However, the buck ultimately stops with Plank, as he's the CEO. When asked about his thinking on leadership in a recent interview, Plank described his approach to guiding Under Armour now that it's a multibillion-dollar behemoth thus:
Leadership is ... to make sure you never limit the idea or opportunity. What I find myself doing more often than not is ensuring we have enough runway in front of us, ensuring that we are thinking about things [that are] big enough.
Guiding and growing Under Armour also requires a healthy dose of focus from Plank. To ensure his company remains focused, Plank has developed a unique framework for driving results, one of which I found particularly interesting:
I end every meeting the same way -- this is what I heard, this is what I think, and here's what we're going to do.
Lastly, translating any start-up vision from concept to reality requires copious amounts of sheer force and willpower, particularly from those leading the charge. So it should come as no surprise that Plank takes an especially aggressive approach to work-life balance and productivity. Here's how the Under Armour CEO thinks about seizing the day, every day:
I'm not a big believer in sleep. I believe in energy, I believe in getting out, waking up, attacking the day. And I think that comes through with the culture of our business and our company as well.
At just 44 and with ample room to continue his company's worldwide expansion, Plank is just getting started. In the years to come, Plank's profile as a global business leader should rise. Because of that, expect the steady stream of quotes and interviews from Plank to continue, much to the benefit of investors and Fools everywhere.