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How Under Armour's CEO Turned Them Into a Global Business?

By James Mills, Associate Partner & Mentorship Coach, Lighthouse International

Since its formation in 1996 Under Armour has emerged as a global sports and fitness company that is starting to challenge the established brands of Nike and Adidas generating revenue close to $4 billion in 2015. The company's Founder, CEO & Chairman Kevin Plank started the business using profits from a rose-selling business and now has a personal net worth of more than $2 billion.

In an interview with Suzy Welch he shared five key pieces of advice for anyone who has similar aspirations of building a global business. The great thing is that these pieces of advice can equally be applied to the way we lead in our jobs and with our families.

1. Love Your People

"I firmly believe that people don’t work for companies, they work for people. You have to love the brand. You have to really love it, what it stands for, what the company values, the way it does things. We have that. Our teammates — we never use the word “employee” — love our brand and our products. And then, as an individual, you have to feel loved. So, yes, it sort of starts and ends with love."

2. Give People Ownership

"We have a culture of people who feel like they own the company, whether they have equity or not. When they leave at night, they turn the lights off. Not because it’s a rule, but because they want to. They feel like this is their company. And we’ve got a company that understands that perfection is the enemy of innovation. We have great competitors in our space with much more resources. We can’t be intimidated. I don’t want our people working harder. They have to work smarter. People get that – and it inspires them. They understand that our job is to see around corners and think about what’s next."

3. Make Sure People Are Heard

"[At Under Armour there are] three statements after every conversation or meeting. “This is what I heard.” “This is what I think.” And, “This is what we’re going to do.” I encourage all our managers to use that approach. It’s about making sure people’s voices are heard. Did I hear you? Did I understand your meaning? And then, clarity. My view on your opinion is the following, and therefore my actions will be the following. Everyone must have a voice, and everyone deserves clarity. Those things increase performance, satisfaction, and speed."

4. Celebrate With a Purpose

"We just hosted Armour Day, it’s like our MAC week. We have 14,000 teammates, 6,000 of us in Baltimore. We opened up our warehouse and had an epic rally. Jordan Spieth showed up and gave away a set of clubs to a young fan; Tom Brady and Lindsey Vonn took the stage; the choir from the local Baptist church brought down the house, and we closed the show with Kid Rock. That’s a pretty good party. And it’s a party with a purpose. We’re building corporate citizens here. It’s all part of the excitement about now and the future, and making sure Under Armour is the best place to work in the world, period."

5. Invest In The Best Ideas 

"We make big bets. Sometimes we’ll win, sometimes we trip a little bit. We don’t have all the answers, but we’re going to give it all we’ve got. Like I was telling the team the other day, “I don’t have to be right. I just want to win.” It doesn’t have to be my idea. I just want the best idea. And then the team will bring it to life."

The full interview with Suzy Welch can be read here.

How To Bring This Advice To Life...

It's one thing to read the above advice, it's quite another thing to apply it! These leadership insights are based on the fundamental principles of effectiveness, so they can be applied by us regardless of what are of life we want, principles are universal! So...

Think about what piece of advice you appreciate the most and would like to apply to your current situation and why?...

If the idea of building a global business is one you are working on, then you simply have to check out this article with live footage of Steve Jobs in action with his leadership team!


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