What You Can Learn From Under Armour CEO, Kevin Plank

by Brian Link

Picture this: after being a star high school football player, no college generates serious interest in you. What do you do? Walk on to the University of Maryland football team and work your way up to special teams captain. Throughout your collegiate career, though, you become frustrated with your body relentlessly sweating through all of your cotton t-shirts.

Because no solution exists, you go out and generate your own. Synthetic materials typically made in bras become the material of choice for developing a sweat-proof athletic shirt. Because the NFL has ridiculous barriers to entry, extensive apparel contracts and stubborn players, you target open-minded college football players and their naïve equipment managers.

After seeing moderate success, you decide to double your invested $5,000 into $10,000, only to see it all vanish into a demoralizing zero. What do you do? Cry your way back to your mother's house because you're too broke to pay the tolls?

Well, yeah, at first. But then, you find a $4,200 check from Georgia Tech to buy your product, only to ignite the fire within, and forever power your internal, grinding mentality to attack a wealthy, Nike-dominated sports apparel industry. The outcome: you find yourself as the CEO of an innovative, stable and publicly traded company worth about $6 billion in 2013. (Okay, you can come back to reality now!)

Sounds like a Hollywood, Oscar-caliber script, huh? Well, this is the real life story of Kevin Plank, the CEO who has protected his house since the 90s to build the uber-successful, Under Armour.

Through confidently selling a product he believed in, innovative guerrilla marketing tactics, brilliant business decisions and establishing himself as an outstanding leader, Plank has seen his passion unfold in a project that has experienced meteoric growth and tremendous success.

To put things into perspective, he's only 41 years old, has a net worth of over $1 billion, and he's still not satisfied.

Every Millennial needs a role model to extract advice and successful techniques from, whether it's concerning a professional choice or personal pathway to happiness. Look no further, ladies and gents, as Kevin Plank's story has enough valuable content to takeaway from. Here's what y'all can learn from his road less traveled:

Employ a David vs. Goliath Mentality

Kevin Plank embraced a David vs. Goliath mentality. Walking onto a Division-I football program and working his way to being captain was definitely an uphill and unlikely battle, yet, he did it. He did it again by starting a business in an industry dominated by a global oligopoly of Nike, Adidas and Reebok.

He didn't care, though. He kept grinding and pushing. Immerse yourself in the chip on your shoulder. Go after your Goliath.  And never stop grinding and pushing towards your end goal.

Believe in Yourself

A budding company on the rise generally attracts offers from larger companies to be bought out. Under Armour received some massive offers, but Kevin Plank knew what he had and wanted to see his company through, leaving everyone else in the proverbial cloud of dust.

Some of those companies that pursued buying out Under Armour no longer exist today. Plank knew he could build his brand into a powerhouse from the get-go and he made sure it happened. It's cliché, I know, but believe in yourself because without confidence, you're going nowhere with your desired pursuits.

Embrace the Past, but Move Forward

Onwards and upwards, people. Plank's mentality and decision-making process is rooted in his past. From being continuously doubted, to being dirt poor, to hitting rock bottom in his mother's basement post-college, Plank persevered and honed in on what he wanted out of life and ran a marathon with it, making sure to blow past everyone.

Though it was like trudging through mud, Plank moved on from these experiences, thus allowing him to progress forward with a clear mind.

On a brighter note, he instills the tactics and camaraderie of his football playing days into the company culture by enforcing a team-focused mindset and breaking into huddles for meetings, instead of the typical round table discussion.

So, whether positive or negative, take the lessons you learn from your struggles and utilize them to make more effective decisions. They say learn from your mistakes for a reason. Don't fall into the same trap and repeat them.

Smart Marketing Goes a Long Way

We must protect this house. #IWill. Under Armour has aligned their brand with slick marketing campaigns, which has seared their brand into minds of consumers as a gritty sports apparel company that any level athlete can wear to improve performance.

Whether it's personal branding or actual marketing for a business, how you present yourself in a public forum goes a long way, as it will be the impression you make on all spectators. A good marketing campaign generates a vested interest in your doings and actions.

Remember Where You Came From

Under Armour is headquartered in Baltimore, MD. Plank grew up in Maryland and went to college at the University of Maryland.

He continuously partners with his alma mater, sponsoring an entrepreneurship contest called Cupid's Cup (referring to a Valentine's Day business Plank ran at UMD) and supplying the football team with crazy uniforms. Plank also gives back to the state by holding community service initiatives.

Recently, he decided to revamp interest in the Preakness Stakes, the famous Maryland Triple Crown horse race. On top of all this, some of his long time friends are high executives at Under Armour, allowing for cohesive collaboration and an encouraging social atmosphere.

Hold onto those core values that your hometown taught you and give back to the local community to ensure well-being and good vibes surrounding you and/or your business.

Immerse Yourself in Your Passions

Plank has immersed himself into athletics and Under Armour. He's successfully aligned his brand with athletic performance because he was an athlete himself. The company promotes an active lifestyle, not only to its consumers, but also to its employees.

State of the art athletic facilities are a huge asset to the company campus, as they allow for employees to stay fit, promote the company mission and culture, and make onsite product testing accessible.

When you immerse yourself into your actions, then it becomes easier - mentally and physically - to execute your plan of action. You'll go that extra mile because work will not feel like work, but rather, it will exude atmospheric fun and engagement.

Simply put, Kevin Plank knows a thing or two about making it out there in the real world. He's a savvy businessman who loves his business and is always looking for the next move to take it to a new level.

His large-reaching ambitions seem attainable through his work ethic, stellar leadership and barrier-pushing innovation. Keep an eye out for Plank, as he looks to continue to cut into the bigwigs' market shares with ever-improving product lines from Under Armour.

Top Photo Credit: Getty Images