“The best book I read last year was Shoe Dog, by Nike’s Phil Knight. Phil is a very wise, intelligent and competitive fellow who is also a gifted storyteller.”
NO MAJOR SPOILERS
In 1962, a ‘shy, rail-thin’ young college graduate from Oregon went backpacking around the world with a friend. Mesmerized by Hawaii, they decided to stay there for sometime and got jobs selling encyclopaedias. And the young man realized that he hated selling them and was no good at it.
From there to becoming the founder and CEO of what is now a multi billion dollar company, Nike, is the story that Phil Knight recounts in these pages.
Armed with a university education and a ‘crazy idea’ for entrepreneurship that originated from his own passion for running and his desire to experience the high of an athlete just before the finishing line, he started off by convincing a Japanese company to let him sell their shoes in America.
Having to borrow money to source the shoe samples from Japan from his father and stock them in the basement of his house did not dampen his enthusiasm. That was his first step on a journey that saw him stake everything he had in the firm belief that his idea was good. His father, though incredibly skeptical, funded him and his mother boosted his confidence by becoming one of his earliest customers.
From learning the basics of doing business with the Japanese to recruiting others with the same passion for shoes as him, setting up his office next to a noisy pub to facing cash flow problems that had him wondering if he would have anything at all left, he countered everything with the sheer determination that drove him and the unstinting support of his quirky but driven team.
That doing business in America had so many bottlenecks came as a startling revelation. Conservative bankers reluctant to fund risky enterprises and customs laws that allowed competitors to take unfair advantage were just the tip of the iceberg in Knight’s struggle to stay afloat.
His persistence even in the face of the threat of losing everything, including his family home, is admirable.
He candidly recounts the not so positive aspects of himself and his business right alongside reminiscing about moving from importing shoes to having his own brand of shoes, the innumerable innovations made, the celebrity sports endorsements and the origin of the swoosh that is a part of his now world famous logo.
Recounting the struggle and the sacrifices made by those closest to him so he could give everything into building Nike, he shares the exhilaration of realising that this was not just a business anymore. It had evolved into something that created, contributed and made people happy and satisfied. It was contributing to helping people live more fully.
And ultimately it proved to him that no matter how crazy his idea may have seemed, he was right to have unwavering faith in it.
It is engagingly written, balancing between being inspiring and telling the absolute truth about following a dream, candid and real.
Added 26th June 2020