The type of shirts Under Armour made famous (by wicking away moisture from the body and helping to regulate temperature) are now everywhere, but the idea first came to UA founder Kevin Plank when he was a fullback at the University of Maryland in 1996. He was tired of changing the sweat soaked shirts he wore under his football uniform and wondered if there was a better way to make an undergarment. That’s when he noticed the compression shorts he wore at practice stayed cool and dry . . . and the rest is history.
How many times do we complain about something that doesn’t work well and say, “There has got to be a better way.” What we really want is a solution to our problem. People will pay for a solution. If enough people have the same problem and would be willing to pay for a solution, we could be the person with the next big idea (and big bucks). When we pay attention to our problems with an eye towards solving them, listen to others and what they are complaining about, and can think up a better way to do something we will be ahead of others who just take things the way they are or wait for others to make their lives easier and better.
Sometimes a lack of money (or a need to make it) can push us past what we think is possible or what we would be willing to do if we were wealthy. Kevin Plank loaded the trunk of his car with apparel and spent the year driving up and down the East Coast hawking his new line of shirts not getting his first team sale until months later. Now that Plank is a billionaire he says he still feels like he did when he started, like an underdog with something to prove. The company he started in his grandmother’s basement has grown into a six building complex in Baltimore (that was once a Proctor and Gamble factory) but he aptly named the company cafeteria, “Hungry and Humble”.
Then he listened closely to what they told him they also needed (long sleeve shirts and cold weather gear.) The tipping point came when the first people who tried these products loved them so much they started telling others about them and the shirts started selling themselves. Plank insists the secret to his success is to be famous for doing one thing so well you are known as the best. That’s good advice for many of us, be the best at something which we can later leverage into other opportunities.