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At Future Sharks, our goal is to give you useful, actionable insights from some of the brightest minds in business and entrepreneurship. Much of our mission comes from the basic fact that it is often difficult to identify which advice to take to heart, or if the person giving it is a credible source. The subject of this interview, Prüvit CEO Brian Underwood, brings with him a statistic that is an unimpeachable earmark of a proven track record: $1 billion in total sales in just 5 years. We sat down with the 47-year-old Louisville native to learn more about his background and what led to his company’s rapid growth and success.
Future Sharks: When did you first know that entrepreneurship was the path that you wanted to take?
Brian Underwood: It’s certainly something that I’ve always known about myself, even when I was a kid. I was into basketball growing up, so competition always attracted me, and there are a lot of parallels between sports and business. But when I think about the first time I was hit with the realization that entrepreneurship was for me, I’d have to say it was in high school. My coach at the time was a distributor for a direct sales business, and I saw a guy making many-times his standard salary by hustling on the side and it just clicked with me. And I knew that carving my own path was something I wanted for myself. At the time, I didn’t know exactly what form that would take, but I knew that a standard 9 to 5 was definitely not in the cards.
FS: Early in your career, what kind of challenges did you face?
BU: It’s hard to nail down one thing – after 25+ years, I’ve been through it all. Impatience, negative attitude, companies that didn’t take off the way I wanted them to. I’ve experienced all of that. And that isn’t something specific to me. I imagine that many of your readers are nodding their heads right about now, because it happens to everyone who chooses to be an entrepreneur. But that initial failure is not only inevitable, it’s vital. You need to get a bloody nose and a black eye every now and again and see yourself overcome those obstacles if you want to be great.
FS: Obviously we know now that Prüvit has been a massive success, but what inspired you to start it back in 2015?
BU: My co-founders, Terry LaCore and Christopher Harding, and I were first introduced to ketone technology several years ago and were blown away by the potential. We knew that this was a product that would resonate with the customer. So once we found our hero offering, we set out to create the branding, education and culture behind it, and that’s what led us to Prüvit. The name is a spin on “prove it,” which we all agreed was a powerful theme. Want to be a better parent, spouse, friend, etc. You fill in the blank. Then prove it! And almost as much as our products, that core principle has shaped our company.
FS: How important is the culture of a company? And what role has that played in Prüvit’s success?
BU: It’s importance can not be overstated. If you have the best product in the world, but the people within the company aren’t driven, passionate and positive, it’s going to fail. And what we’ve tried to do here is create a culture of like-minded people who push each other to excel. I always say that we should strive to become 1% better every day and that is exactly what our internal team and community does. They’re constantly improving. When it comes to our culture, I couldn’t be prouder, and I know that we wouldn’t be where we are today without it.
FS: As anyone who follows you on social media will see, you’re a big fan of the rhinoceros. Why is that?
BU: A rhino-mentality is something that I tap into daily. If you’re an entrepreneur, you want to be successful, you need to be a “rhino.” Thick-skinned, focused, confident, willing to charge after your goals, and completely unrelenting in your pursuits. Think about it – a rhino can’t charge at two things at the same time. So when you are charging, make sure it’s something worthy of that effort and attack it with full force.
FS: What is the best piece of advice that you’d give to would-be entrepreneurs?
BU: That’s a hard question to answer because we’d be here all day! But I’ll try to boil it down to two things that are vital. The first is patience. Everyone likes to focus on Prüvit today, and I get that. But what they don’t see is the 20 years of trials and tribulations that went into getting here. Sure, the company has had immense success over just 5 years, but I’m 47. A lot of patience went into waiting for the right opportunity and scaling it to what it is now.
And the second is this: become comfortable with failure and adversity, because it’s going to happen a lot. You can’t stop that. Change is in the challenge. What you can do is make sure that when it does happen you don’t let it flatten you. And more importantly, that you learn from it and adjust. Failure, big or small, is a learning opportunity and if you perceive it the right way, you’ll get a little stronger and smarter each time.
FS: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received from a mentor?
BU: When I was younger, one of my mentors was an executive for Proctor and Gamble. As I worked for him, he began to notice that when I was around some of the other, less motivated employees, I would begin to pick up on their bad habits. And thankfully, he pulled me aside and told me that embracing their negativity was impeding my growth and progress. He actually yelled at me to “get out of the gutter!” And that was a crystalizing moment for me – I realized that if I wanted to operate at a higher level, I needed to surround myself with the right people. I’ve carried that with me ever since, and I choose to always be with people who are going to push me to be better.
To learn more about Brian Underwood and his business advice, follow him on Instagram (@BrianUndy) and listen to his podcast “Be You with BU”