Phil Knight — Shoe Dog
Shoe Dog is a first-person memoir written by Nike co-founder Phil Knight. It was published in 2016.
Shoe Dog primarily recounts the events from 1962, the year Knight traveled around the world as a young man, to 1980, the year Nike went public and Phil Knight became a multimillionaire.
Everything is shared, warts and all, from the foundation through to what became one of the most iconic consumer brands in the world.
WarningThe years in between are comprised of the struggles and challenges Phil Knight faced as he worked to build the company that would ultimately be known worldwide as Nike.
Nike today is one of the strongest brands in the world, but to get there Phil Knight pulled through a few near death experiences and lots of up and downs.
ImportantThe title of the book, “Shoe Dog,” is industry jargon used to describe a footwear enthusiast who has devoted himself wholly to the making, selling, buying, or designing of shoes – a lifestyle that Phil Knight fully embodied.
Shoe Dog is an inspirational story of overcoming challenges to grow a company as fast as possible.
You’ll learn real-world business lessons that only Nike’s founder can teach you. Phil Knight is brutally honest about the extreme difficulties they had to overcome.
Worth around $ 39.2 Billion, Phil Knight is here to teach you some lessons about life and business. Here are the main points I extracted from the book — Shoe Dog.
When working with people, the most successful ways seem to lie at the extreme ends of the spectrum: tell them how to do everything, or don’t tell them anything, except the result you want.
Phil Knight tried to be a very hands-off leader at Nike. He allowed people to solve problems by themselves.
Some of his past employees say he took this strategy too far when he didn’t reply to many of their letters and memos! This made them want to pull their hair out.
ImportantOne important part of Phil Knight’s strategy was also choosing to hire people who were as passionate about running as he was. This made them feel passionate about Nike’s mission.
Phil Knight surrounded himself with great people and gave them freedom. He also let his employees in on big decisions.
When it was decided that Blue Ribbon (Phil Knight’s original company name) would stop selling Japanese shoes and start creating their own, he put it to the staff to help think of a name.
The name ‘Nike’ came to an employee, Jeff Johnson in a dream, and Phil Knight, someone who had travelled to Greece (Nike is the goddess of victory), went with the name.
His relationship with his employees was unusual, in that he both berated and praised rarely, but it worked phenomenally.
Their ability to strategize effectively and work towards the betterment of the company rather than their individual success is what made them effective. Through the tumult of the early years, they were able to develop a culture of relaxed openness and collaboration, similar to the culture which pervades Silicon Valley today.
Despite their eccentricities and physical limitations the company’s management made a formidable team.
WarningThere were no ordinary workers in Blue Ribbon. Instead, they were a bunch of brilliant misfits who formed a great team. All of them believed in Phil Knight and his vision.
The team-building weekend event called ‘’Buttfaces’’, which would be held several times a year by Phil Knight to keep the team strong. Everyone could yell at each other before getting drunk to remember that no one was too important to be mocked.
Just tell people what to do and let them figure out the how. Encourage everyone to be themselves.
Building a brand is not a day thing, but a lifetime of an unending commitment, to do above what you’ve been known for. Unending commitment to evolve, and an unending commitment to beat personal best.
When it was 1962, Phil Knight was shy and a terrible salesperson that was fresh out of business school.
Phil Knight wanted to import Japanese running shoes to the US. He traveled across the Pacific to sell his bold proposition to a room of a Japanese businessman.
Onitsuka eventually agreed to send him 300 pairs of Tiger shoes to be sold on the trunk of Phil Knight’s car over the next several months.
When you keep striving to outdo yourself, you’ll inadvertently outdo the competitions.
ImportantNike was Phil Knight’s calling. Phil was passionate about the power of running and sports. And he believed Nike shoes could help him spread that passion to more people.
Phil Knight made almost no profit from Nike the first several years.
Instead, he reinvested every penny of profit to buy more shoes to sell. He saw a small window of opportunity to make Nike huge and that’s why he wanted to grow as fast as possible.
Growing a business is almost like raising a child.
For the first few years, it takes a back-breaking amount of work, time and energy. But over time it grows bigger and starts giving back to you. And people put in the work because of how meaningful their life feels as a parent.
Building a business into a billion-dollar company is crazy.
WarningAny sane and normal person would find a low-stress job. Phil Knight knew his idea was crazy, but he loved the journey. He compared growing a business to running.
As the company grew, Phil Knight’s wealth and fame ballooned, but he stuck true to his core values of being a hard worker and sports aficionado.
Nike was like a train with no brakes. And it was accelerating faster and faster. Phil Knight’s biggest problem was managing the company’s growth as it was exploding in size.
Phil Knight chronicles his stories of dealing with ruthless bankers, according to whom his lack of equity was an unsustainable risk.
They told him to slow down the growth and set some money aside in case something bad happened like a bad sales year.
But his philosophy was that life is growth. You grow or you die.
WarningPhil Knight didn’t listen to them. He wanted to grow Nike as fast as possible even though it made his life more stressful and difficult.
Phil Knight had to overcome one seemingly impossible challenge after another, to grow Nike into what it is today.
Nike’s competitors found a way to twist government regulations and Phil Knight had to fight for Nike’s survival. For a couple years Phil Knight was fighting for survival against the US government.
As many successful entrepreneurs know, fame and fortune always have obstacles and pitfalls.
ImportantPhil Knight doesn’t regret the challenges, he says that even with all the problems life was a joy. When something isn’t challenging, then it’s not interesting.
Since its origins, Nike has used the same integrity and energy that it has always sought from every employee of Phil Knight whiles a company struggling against setbacks.
Nike’s integrity provided keeping customers loyal through thick and thin.
The first 300 pairs of Onitsuka took over a year to be delivered. When he finally got the shoes, he mailed two pairs to Bill Bowerman, his former running coach at the University of Oregon, hoping to get a sale and a powerful testimonial.
Bill Bowerman didn’t stop at that and instead offered to become his partner and take care of product design.
Having his mentor now as a partner and seeing that he too believed in his idea was one of the things that gave Phil Knight the confidence to create the company exactly as he saw fit – and that’s what made it the honest, hard-working, caring brand we know today.
Phil Knight was also able to develop a bond with athletes, by relating to them with his passion for sport.
Steve Prefontaine was Blue Ribbon’s star athlete, holding records in every distance track event from the 2,000 meters all the way to 10,000 meters. He, and many other athletes, were fitting in perfectly with the relaxed yet fiercely competitive culture.
Phil Knight considered all of them to be like sons, brothers, and altogether family.
ImportantOver the years Phil Knight built strong relationships with many such athletes across a variety of sports by attending their games, helping them when they needed it, and relating to them in a way nobody else could.
Get someone, who can be your mentor or your partner and will believe in you and bring valuable skills.
Phil Knight recalls an event in 2005 where LeBron James pulled him aside and gifted him a Rolex watch from 1972, the year the company was born, as a sign of gratitude for taking a chance on him.
Phil Knight knew that starting a business was risky. The risk was unavoidable. So instead he made it his mission to charge at the risk head-on.
As an entrepreneur you should know that the business world is like a warfare.
ImportantPhil Knight think it is a war without bullet, so you should approach every business deal, or negotiate as if you’re going into a war.
You measure yourself by the people who measure themselves by you.
In essence, you’re only as big as your competition, as those who work tirelessly to follow your trail.
A growth mindset will help you be confident and brave because it means failure isn’t personal.
It’s not “you” that fails, it’s just your approach. When you learn and change your approach, then you can be successful.
He cautions entrepreneurs to be aware of the uphill climb they face, which is now steeper than ever, as the entrepreneurial spirit in America continues to decline.
WarningAccording to Phil Knight, free enterprise continues to face obstacles. It has always been this way and always will be so, but that does not mean one should give up.
When you fail, you gain valuable wisdom that will help you succeed in the future.
He makes it a point to credit luck as playing a big role in his success, but noting that the harder one works, the luckier one will be.
You only get a few chances to start something crazy, so go for broke when you’re young.
Phil Knight had a goal, he started, and he hasn’t dropped the ball since. Sure he planned, strategized and thought about how to achieve it, but this never interfered with taking action.
This book — Shoe Dog — is highly recommended for all entrepreneurs and everyone who’s striving to build something of a lasting value.
It really is more like reading an exciting story than a business book.
WarningHis motivation to write the book is an attempt to verbalize his thoughts in the hope that some young man or woman, somewhere, going through the same trials or ordeals might be inspired or comforted.
The storytelling is very good, and I found this a book that was hard to put down.
ImportantEveryone should read Shoe Dog, especially those that feel they are alone with business and personal challenges. A few lightbulb moments. Motivating, revealing and inspiring.
I felt sad finishing Shoe Dog like I didn’t want the story to end.
I guess that tells you how I feel about this book, which has such a spirit of daring and adventure inside it. And I won’t look at Nike shoes the same way again.
Shoe Dog is an awesome memoir. It’s well written, with a captivating story and lots of lessons learned.
Read a copy, and you will never remain again!
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