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About the Shoe Dog by Phil Knight
Title: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike
Author: Phil Knight
Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir, Business, Entrepreneurship
Publication Date: April, 2016
Pages: 386, Paperback
If you are anything like me, which I am willing to bet you might be, you probably know more about Nike, the household brand name for sports footwear and apparel, than you know about its co-founder, Phil Knight.
But this is by design, especially by Phil himself. Reading his memoir, Shoe Dog, I understood this so well. For him, his co-founder and the key employees who played quite a vital role in building Nike, it was more about creating something. It was about the act of building a product that resonated with their personalities and beliefs.
For Phil, and he mentions this, it was about ensuring he left a legacy. It was never about the money. Although it’s nice to have it. And to build a multi-billion company that changes your financial life forever. It was an appreciated perk. It changed them. But underneath it all, it was always about building SOMETHING.
And that SOMETHING was Nike, Inc.
As an entrepreneur, this is an invaluable book to have on your bookshelf.
Summary of Shoe Dog by Phil Knight
The founding story of Nike, originally known as Blue Ribbon Sports, is not as rosy as its $46B revenue line item (for 2022), would lead you to believe. While they had the demand, supply was quite an issue. The company never seemed to satisfy the market demand. And the cash flow problems made it impossible to meet their market demand. There’s a reason Cash is King, and Blue Ribbon didn’t seem to have enough. Always extending its credit line just to increase its order volume for every shipment. This was so bad that it was kicked out of 2 banks!
It’s not just the cash flow problems. From fighting off competitors to a nasty business relationship break with its major Japanese supplier Onitsuka Tiger that ended in a nasty court battle. To battling it off in court with the US customs in a legal battle that would have seen the company shut its operations for good. But with every challenge, Phil and the team at Nike fought on.
One of the key lessons I learned from all this was the need to believe in your business and what you are trying to build. Second, the importance of surrounding yourself with people, mostly employees who share the same beliefs and dreams. Employees who are willing to go to battle with you to fight for what you’re building. In fact, it was one of the team members who came up with the name Nike when they were looking to rebrand from Blue Ribbon Sports. The name came to him in his sleep—Nike, the Greek mythology goddess representing victory. While Phil wasn’t really into the name, he hoped it’d grow on him. And most importantly, the need to be truthful. In the court battles that Nike fought, it was the team’s belief in always telling the truth no matter what that saved them.
My Thoughts About the Book
Shoe Dog was quite a bliss to read. It’s one of those books that captures your attention right from the start. Not forgetting the short paragraphs and simple English. Honestly, I enjoyed reading, especially since I was reading it during my recovery period. So I’d always be lying on a bed with minimal movements with hands propped up holding the book.
The book’s chapters, except for the Forward and the last chapter, which are so aptly named Dawn and Night, are based on years. These run from 1962 when Phil wrote a paper for his entrepreneurship class with the idea of selling Japanese shoes in America to 1980 when the company went public.
Still, there’s nothing much to learn about business strategy and whatnot. If you are an entrepreneur and looking for that kind of information, you’d better look for other reads, like The Lean Start-up and Profit First, among others. However, if you are looking for a raw and honest account of building a business, then Shoe Dog by Phil Knight is an excellent read.
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My ★ Rating 5/5
Goodreads ★ Rating 4.47 (as of January 2024)