As a part of my series about the “How Business Leaders Plan To Rebuild In The Post COVID Economy”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Brian Underwood Founder and CEO of Prüvit.
Brian is a successful entrepreneur with a long history of global innovation and forward thinking. With more than 2 decades of proven business development and coaching, Brian Underwood is widely recognized as a visionary among the most respected entrepreneurs. Brian attended the University of Kentucky, where in his senior year he walked on to the legendary Wildcat basketball team. The team won its 6th national championship that year, which helped fuel Brian’s understanding and passion for working with others as a team to achieve massive goals.
Brian started the mobile media text message marketing company iZigg and profitably accelerated it into the leading text marketing company in the space. Brian launched his next company, Rippln, in 2011 through an aggressive and targeted marketing strategy. Together, with long time friends and business partners Brian released Prüvit in the United States in 2015. Now, through the sheer power of the Prüvit Community, people across the globe have access to exogenous ketones without a deprivation diet and know what better looks like.
Thank you for joining us! Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
My model for entrepreneurship was really my dad, who started his own business and always encouraged me to do the same. I’ve also been involved in athletics since I was a kid and all through college. A lot of the qualities it took to be successful in athletics helped me succeed in business as well — like discipline, sacrifice and competitiveness. In high school, I tried different projects including running classified ads, selling golf balls I collected and more. When I was in college, I started a business reselling telecommunications services, and I met some of my most influential business mentors during that time and they helped me develop a lot of the business skills that I use to this day.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
Early on in my journey, I had a really important learning moment when I wanted to do an event for the business that I was working on. I planned for hundreds of people to show up, rented out a local dinner cruise ship, spent hundreds of dollars printing materials and worked hard on it for months. In the end, only one guest showed up along with my dad and my best friend. Looking back, that was a great lesson for me. Everyone has to start somewhere and that helped teach me perseverance because I realized that I needed to work even harder and build more influence. A lot of people who start a business think that it’s going to be successful right off the bat. Then when it doesn’t immediately happen the way they imagined, it takes a lot of people out of business. It also helped me hone my speaking skills because even in front of that one guest and 200 empty seats, I was nervous. I was glad that I could make those mistakes and fumble over my words in the beginning when the stakes were lower so that I was more practiced when the room was full.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
One book that was a great foundation for me is Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. There are tons of books out there about wealth and growth in business but that book in particular has a lot of wisdom that I use every single day.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
When we started Prüvit, we wanted the name to define the vision and mission. The “it” refers to your goal or dream and to “prove” is to demonstrate that it’s real. We think that’s very empowering and it’s what we wanted to do for people. At the end of the day, life is about challenging yourself to become the best version of yourself.
People frequently start out in business to chase money, but the ones who last the longest are the ones who find some kind of greater purpose during their journey. Money is not going to make you happy. Happiness comes from what you are able to give back to the world. For me, my purpose is to inspire and help people to become the best version of themselves.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
The first thing that always comes to my mind is something that my dad said to me as he dropped me off at school every day: “Be positive and confident in all you do.” I think that’s the number one principle in business, to be constantly moving forward with that faith in yourself. Innovation is another idea that means a lot to me. It’s about bringing new value to people’s lives that they didn’t have before. I think that’s the best way to constantly stretch boundaries and never become complacent.
Can you share a few of the personal and family related challenges you faced during this crisis? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
My dad passed away during this time and that’s been incredibly difficult. We realized how lucky we were to be with him in the hospital in the end because of how many people didn’t have that opportunity. It also highlights those liberties that we sometimes take for granted, such as the ability to honor our loved ones through a funeral or a burial.
Can you share a few of the biggest work related challenges you are facing during this pandemic? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
We’re very fortunate that most of the integral players at Prüvit, aside from manufacturing, are able to work from home. For those who are working parents, the challenges have been finding a quiet work space where you can be functional and get things done.
As for me, we had another family at our house for the first month of the pandemic so we had seven kids, four adults and five dogs all under one roof, and finding a quiet place to take a phone call or focus on a project was definitely a challenge. What I’ve missed the most is being in the presence of others and feeding off their energy. I’m someone who loves working with people face to face and I really miss having the ability to do that.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family and loved ones who were feeling anxious? Can you explain?
There is no such thing as a fearless person in the world, so it’s about how we deal with fear. I think you need to seek the truth and understand that things will not go back to normal after this but there will be a “new normal.” The truth is that a lot of people have died of the virus or been infected or lost their jobs, but also a lot of families have gotten more quality time together than they have in the past decade. There have been a lot of new opportunities created during this time. This has provided us an opportunity to work on ourselves while the world is on pause. We can ask ourselves “how can I get better right now?” I think staying active and continuing to move is a very important part of that.
Obviously we can’t know for certain what the Post-Covid economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the Post-Covid economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the Post-Covid growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the Post-Covid economy?
“Anticipation” is the key, but I think there is going to be massive opportunities once the pandemic ends. There are going to be new businesses emerge that fill the gaps that the pandemic has exposed. Home-based businesses will continue to thrive after this and I expect that the wellness industry as a whole will thrive. This is going to give people an awareness of what they can control and how they can protect themselves in the future by being healthier. I think home fitness will continue to flourish as it has throughout the past few months. I also think that because people are craving social interaction significantly right now, social adventures like family vacations will grow tremendously and people will appreciate those moments even more.
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
For some, it’s not going to affect them at all. For another group of people, I think that they will be far more reluctant about everything. Even well after the pandemic, fear will make them hesitant to travel, get around, hug others and more. Then I think there will be a third group of people like me, who will travel and interact with people even more. I think we’re feeling the loss of all these experiences, and we desperately want to get out and see the world and hug our friends. Especially people who might not have taken these opportunities before all this because they thought they’d always be there. For that group of people, there is a big opportunity now because the world showed us that everything can be taken away from us, so many will want to seize that.
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the Post-Covid economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the Post-Covid Economy?
We’re going to do the same thing that we’re doing now. We’re going to double down on virtual experiences even as people reenter the world, but we’re going to join those with in person experiences as well. We’re going to continue to be a leader in education and human optimization, and we’re going to continue our international expansion.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
A great one from my mom is “this too shall pass.” She said that all the time. Life will always throw tough circumstances at us, but life keeps on moving and those circumstances won’t last forever. My dad used to say “tough times don’t last but tough people do,” which just means that in our minds, we have to keep looking forward.
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