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Book Review: 3 Things Everyone Can Learn from Nike Founder Phil Knight’s Book, Shoe Dog
By Tom Murray | Managing Director, Agency
One of my favorite books I’ve read this year so far was Shoe Dog, by Phil Knight. The story goes back in time all the way to the early 1960s when Phil Knight started selling not Nike shoes, but Tiger shoes. It is an excellent read about the trials and tribulations of entrepreneurs who have their eyes laser focused on success, no matter what it takes to get there. There is something for everyone to learn in this fun, eye-opening read, but here are the three main things that I took away from the book.
1) No Idea is Too Crazy
In 1962, Phil Knight had the following epiphany moment and said: “Let everyone else call your idea crazy . . . just keep going. Don’t stop. Don’t even think about stopping until you get there, and don’t give much thought to where ‘there’ is. Whatever comes, just don’t stop.”
Phil’s was a big-time runner in Oregon and when he was doing his MBA at Stanford, he had an idea to sell Japanese shoes. His business plan was a success in class, but no one thought it was actually a good idea to go through with. Phil decided to follow his dream and traveled to Japan, found a supplier and started selling shoes in the US. We all know what Nike is today, but back in the 1960’s, there were many times where people told him to stop (including his dad who didn’t believe in him and the banks, who that were lending him massive amounts of money). Phil just kept going, telling himself the entire time to not stop.
2) Surround Yourself With Those That Share Your Values
The founding crew of Nike was quite the motley crew. His first partner was his old running coach from college. The other first employees and salespeople tended to be runners or accountants, which was exactly what Phil was. Phil was a runner at heart, typically running six miles a day to blow off steam. He also was a CPA before founding Nike, and found that you could trust accountants to be smart. He surrounded himself with similar people who shared the same values and ideals. The original team he assembled were extremely loyal, with many of them traveling across the country to open up warehouses, or some that did not cashing checks since the company had money problems early on. Without the supporting cast, the Nike we know today would look much different, if it were even to still exist.
3) Luck is Important
Phil said: “Luck plays a big role. Yes, I’d like to publicly acknowledge the power of luck. Athletes get lucky, poets get lucky, businesses get lucky. Hard work is critical, a good team is essential, brains and determination are invaluable, but luck may decide the outcome.”
If you decide to read the book, you’ll see many instances where Phil got incredibly lucky to have made it through. With every situation he got into, it was tough to see the way out (though . For example, they often time had to cash everything out in order to pay their bills multiple times. Or there was the time his competitors lobbied the US government to levy a 25 million dollar fine and when it looked like there was no way out, he was able to sweet talk his way out and settled for a much lower fine.
Shoe Dog was a quick and interesting read about one of the largest companies in the world. I highly recommend it!