Kevin Plank, the Chief Executive Officer and President of Under Armour (UA), is an entrepreneurial hero that was recently added to the Forbes 400 list. He is also seen on other lists such as Forbes 40 under 40 and America’s 20 most Powerful CEOs 40 and Under. The youngest of five brothers, Plank always had the entrepreneurial spirit and a competitive drive to win. He started shoveling snow at the age of ten and held several jobs throughout his school days. He even had a small annual business, Cupid’s Valentine, which sold roses for Valentine’s Day.
Plank says he put away $17,000 from the rose business, which was used as the start-up money for UA. Plank played football for Maryland, and as recalled by his teammates, he wasn’t the “biggest guy” or the “fastest guy,” but the one who “worked harder than anyone. ” What he learned over the years on the football field is still used by him and has helped make him one of the most successful entrepreneurs today. In all the stories about Planks childhood, schooling, athletic, and professional careers, he is described as an outgoing, people person.
On the Big Five Personality Trait chart, he would be high on extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness and openness to experience. He always wanted to win, was good at motivating his teammates, he got along well with everyone and he was original and daring to take a risk and start up his own business. His internal locus of control probably contributed to him starting his own sports apparel business. Instead of being frustrated and blaming outside forces, he was able to figure out how to make it better and use it to his advantage.
The story of Under Armour begins in Maryland where Plank was a walk-on special-teams football player at the University of Maryland in 1995. He was fed up of having to change shirts often during his games and practice because he would sweat so much, his shirts would weigh him down and feel uncomfortable. During his senior year, he was in his dorm room drawing the first UA shirt. His idea was to combine the snug fit of a Hanes cotton T-shirt and the lightness and fast-drying texture of synthetic, stretchy fabrics used in women’s lingerie or compression shorts. His first batch cost him $480 for seven prototypes from a local tailor.
He had his teammates at the University test out the ingenious “performance apparel” that would wick the sweat from their bodies and make them lighter and faster. With positive feedback, he ordered 500 more shirts from the New York Garment district and gave them to his high school and college teammates and also mailed them to college and professional football player friends from around the country. Player recommendations were very important to the success of his start-up company. He always emphasized that “making yourself look bigger than you were” is important.
Starting in his grandmothers basement, using his $17,000 in savings, running up $40,000 in credit card debt and with great athletes on board he was on course to a successful sports apparel company, which can compete with the likes of Nike and Adidas. Plank noted in 2010: “We went from $17,000 in revenue in 1996 to $110,000 in 1997 to $400,000 to $1. 3 million to $5 million to $20 million, $50million, $115, $205, $285, $405, $606, $725 and this last (third quarter of fiscal 2009) quarter $837 million. It’s one of those only-in-America stories that went from 1 employee to more than 2,700 today. In 2012 the company is worth over $1. 4 billon with over 4,000 employees, and is expected to have revenues of over $1. 8 billion this year. In the beginning Plank served as both CEO and the entire sales force for UA, selling his performance shirts up and down the east coast out of his car, with his head quarters in his grandmothers basement. Today, he has 63% share in UA’s stocks, and his headquarters in Baltimore, MD with international sales throughout North America, Europe and even some parts of Asia. UA has taken over 3% of the athletic apparel market share in 11 years compared to Nikes 7%.
If Plank continues to set high goals for his company, they are bound to be as popular as or even more so than their competitors Nike, Adidas and other athletic apparel companies. As stated earlier, Kevin Plank still uses what he learned on the football team. He runs his company like it’s a team; he is the Captain/Coach and each employee is a team member. The company refers to meetings as “Under Armour Huddles,” which include rules such as: “be prepared to huddle,” “manage the clock,” “know your position,” “run the huddle,” “execute the play” and “respect your teammates. An Under Armour manufacturing manager in Asia explained: “We do not have a front end and a back end, we have offense and defense. We do not have colleagues, we have teammates. We do not have meetings, we have huddles. Everything is related to sports. ” Her statement hits the core of Corporate Under Armour. In many of the articles online, it is clear that Plank is still a humble and regular person. He keeps in touch with his old teammates and friends and is a very personable individual. Plank definitely shows organizational commitment. After graduating college he started this ompany and invested everything he had. He believes his company to be young and uses the analogy that “UA, at 16, is not unlike a 16-year-old. It’s a good kid, but still screws up sometimes. By 21, he reasons, the kid will be more mature. Plank has managed to stay in charge of Under Armour as it went from being a startup to an established company. He believes that what he can get the company to “has been galaxies beyond what anyone else ever dreamed. ” His was the first brand to disrupt an industry in a down economy where many businesses were shutting down.
He is not afraid to explore unorthodox ideas and implement them to make his company more established. Looking at the Trait Model of leadership we can evaluate the characteristics that Kevin Plank displays. First, with Intelligence, knowledge and experience, it is seen that Plank took a problem he had with sweat soaked shirts that weighed him down during football games, came up with a solution and was able to implement it and spread the idea. He also shows dominance and self-confidence because since the day his company started he has worked in almost every position including: research, development, sales, marketing and leading.
Because he knows every detail of his business, he can walk with confidence knowing that his employees look up to him and can go to him with questions and concerns. Also, because he treats his company like a football team, he is knows to always show high energy. He walks to his “huddles” wearing under armour gear (UA Polo, sneakers, etc. ) and talks to his “team” as he was a coach preparing them for a game. In an interview with leadersmag. com, Plank was asked what his management style is. He emphasized that UA is an empowering brand and that like the brand he wants to inspire people. Empowerment is the process of giving employees at all levels the authority to make decisions, be responsible for their outcomes, improve quality and cut costs. ” When Plank hires someone he wants to make sure that they bring in someone innovative, and someone capable of thinking for themselves and come up with better more efficient ways of doing things. In another interview on Inc. com, Plank was asked how he kept his employees motivated. He responded saying, “motivation, passion, and focus have to come from the top. He believes that attitudes are contagious and how he feels about the company is how his employees are going to see it. Also, he talks about the importance of communication, and how employees feel more motivated when they feel needed, appreciated, and valued. He can’t necessarily meet with every single one of his employees, but he still goes out of his way to meet the employees that are going above and beyond. He then strategically places them throughout his company so that their attitudes reflect on the other employees.
From his responses to those interview questions, it is pretty simple to see that he is more of a Relationship-oriented leader. Although he wants innovation in his company, he sees it as important that the employees are taken care of and the moral is always high. The “culture” at the headquarters in Baltimore is very unorthodox. They have it set up on the inside like a little football field almost, where the employees can take breaks and throw around a foot ball, go for a jog, or even lift weights. The 23-year-old Kevin Plank took a problem he had, was innovative, and came up with a solution.
Starting from his dorm room, followed by his grandmother’s basement, he never gave up on his idea and till this day, his views and what he expects from Under Armour are beyond what anyone can imagine or comprehend. Plank is now 40 years old and was recently inducted to the Fortune 400, a lit of the wealthiest people in America. From humble beginnings and a drive to achieve greatness, he has become part of the sport apparel industry and is challenging established companies such as Nike and Adidas. The mission statement for UA is “TO MAKE ALL ATHLETES BETTER THROUGH PASSION, DESIGN AND THE RELENTLESS PURSUIT OF INNOVATION. UA promises us to always come up with bigger and better ideas to improve athletes everywhere. Also, Plank proves himself to be a true entrepreneur. He mentions “There’s an entrepreneur right now, scared to death, making excuses, saying, ‘It’s not the right time just yet. ’ There is no such thing as a good time… Get out of your garage and go take a chance, and start your business. ” That is very inspirational because many times great innovators get stuck with the idea because they are too afraid to take the first step. Kevin Plank can be looked upon as a role model for entrepreneurship and endurance against odds.
He is also a very influential CEO because even after 16 years, UA is still moving up with no intentions of ever selling out or being lame. Works Cited Brown, Abram. “Under Armour Sprints To Higher Sales And Profits, Lifts Full-Year Outlook. ” Forbes 24 July 2012: 45. Print. Dessauer, Carin. “Team Player. For Under Armour CEO and Kensington Native Kevin Plank, It’s Always Been about the Huddle. ” BethesdaMagazine. com Mar. 2009: n. pag. Print. Jones, Gareth R. , and Jennifer M. George. Essentials of Contemporary Management. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2004. Print. Melby, Caleb. Meet The 20 Newcomers To The Forbes 400. ” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 19 Sept. 2012. Web. 13 Nov. 2012. . Roberts, Daniel. “Under Armour Gets Serious. ” Fortune 7 Nov. 2011: 152-62. Print. Subramanian, Ram, and Pradeep Gopalakrishna. “Under Armour. ” Business Case Journal 19. 2 (2012): 62-83. Print. “Under Armour’s Kevin Plank on How to Motivate Employees. ” Interview by Ben Chase. Inc 1 June 2009: n. pag. Web. “An Empowering Brand. An Interview with Kevin A. Plank, President, CEO, and Chairman of the Board, Under Armour, Inc. ” Leaders Aug. -Sept. 2012: 18. Web.
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