Skip to main content

Secondary navigation:

Carroll School of Management

Being Entrepreneurial

Kevin Plank

Founder, Chairman, and CEO, Under Armour

Excerpt from remarks to Boston College’s Chief Executives Club  

June 10, 2015

TAKEAWAY: Being Entrepreneurial

Audience Member:
You clearly have a lot of energy, and I have a feeling that a lot of us in the room are wondering what you had for breakfast or what you did before breakfast, and we want some of that. As an executive coach—

Plank:

I sat next to Karen here at lunch.

Audience Member:

Karen, we’ll have to talk later. Related to the last question—as an executive coach, I’m curious how you tap into everybody’s engagement and their soul and their connection to their passion so that it comes out in whatever they do, because you clearly have that.

Plank:

We had something a few weeks ago called Armour Day. Armour Day, for us—it’s a celebration of our team. Today, again, what started in a row house in Georgetown—myself and my partner, Kip Fulks, who was a lacrosse player at Maryland—today we’re just under 11,000 total employees—teammates, as we call them. It’s like a revival. We had close to 5,000 people at what’s going to be our new headquarters in downtown Baltimore. That energy is something that—you know, it must come through. It’s everything from unveiling the opportunities of where we’ve been, congratulating people, celebrating the victories we’ve had.

Because that’s the thing. In a high-growth company, it’s tiring for everyone. And you’re asking for more, you’re asking for more—like another 20-plus, another 20-plus. You’ve got to think that every spot we have in the company is like a slot in our company. Not unlike a team is that we can’t afford people that aren’t thinking about—you must want to grow in an entrepreneurial company. Is that if you’re not thinking about how you’re going to replace yourself, if you’re not thinking about how you’re going to force and hire people that will be bigger than you and have the ability to take your responsibility and elevate yourself, and as well, along the way, elevating them, you can’t possibly keep up.

That mentality also comes with something that, you know, Under Armour is not for everybody. It’s a hard statement, but it’s just not. You find that out from time to time. It doesn’t mean that the people that—we’ve had some great, successful people come from other companies, and we had other people that it didn’t work out. When you’re coming from a Fortune 20 company that grows at 3% a year, it’s different. Because you think you’re ready for it, but the train’s just moving.

The one thing, in an entrepreneurial company, in a fast company, I’ve said is that I prioritize decision-making over right and wrong. I say that knowingly, that I don’t believe there’s right decisions and wrong decisions. I believe it’s just important that you’re active and make a decision every single day. Then it’s our jobs to either prove and make that decision right or allow it to become wrong. And then, more importantly, if we’re doing it with enough humility, we’re recognizing that we’re going in the wrong direction, so let’s change direction.

I think these sort of attitudes—at Under Armour, as I say—Karen mentioned my whiteboards earlier, but we are a lean-forward company. It says things on our whiteboards which are thematic to us of overpromise and deliver, dictate the tempo, walk with a purpose. That’s the mantra of the company. It’s not because there’s some greedy capitalistic thing or keeping up with the market. It’s because that’s the opportunity that we’ve been given.