Shoe Dog : Book review

Book: Shoe Dog
Author: Phil Knight
Genre: Autobiography / Memoir

‘Riveting’, ‘Inspiring’, ‘Unputdownable’, ‘Absolute Page Turner’ — Take any of these adjectives and put it with the book ‘Shoe Dog’ & it’ll still be perfect. The story flows easily & is so realistic that it feels like a story next door.

The book is the memoir of Nike founder — Phil Knight. It starts in 1962, when Phil embarks on his journey, literally & figuratively as well. The book ends in 1980 when Nike raised its IPO.

Without any sugarcoating & pampering of facts & events, Phil goes on to tell a tale of how he created a company from scratch & now that company is the leader in its business. He doesn’t glamorize starting a company & being an entrepreneur, as other business tycoons & founders & mentors tend to do. He has put simple facts on the table.

He doesn’t create his “godlike” image and we can see that he has flaws like each one of us. Whether it’s stealing a confidential folder of a business partner or his deep contempt for Adidas, it’s all there, without tweaking facts. This brutal honesty by Phil Knight makes the story much more fabulous.

He shows, why it is important to have the right people around us to grow our business, how sheer willpower will help us overcome difficult situations, what should be the psyche of a budding entrepreneur in the face of critical challenges, and much more. It’s a complete guide on the struggles of creating & running a business & company.

As a matter of fact, Phil did not do any innovation himself. All the new products were developed by his partner Mr. Bowerman or external scientists. He couldn’t even sell encyclopedias before starting with Blue Ribbon (Nike’s old name). But what he had bought to the table was absolute willpower to go on irrespective of what happens. Did he face problems that would bend the backbone of the company? 100s of time. Did he surrender? Absolutely not. That was his core strength & he leveraged that. He followed this strategy by his running coach & business partner Mr. Bowerman — ‘Set a fast pace for first two laps, run the third as hard as you can, then triple your speed on fourth. Sounds impossible but it has Zen-like energy. It works every single time’

Phil Knight

The name ‘Nike’ was suggested by his partner ‘Johnson’. They had given a contract for this new brand of shoes to an external manufacturer in Japan. Till the day of production, the name & logo was not fixed. On the night of the last day, Johnson had a dream of the shoe’s name being Nike. He pitched that idea to Phil but Phil didn’t like it. At the last moment, as he had no other better alternative, he faxed ‘NIKE’ to manufacturers. Even the famous ‘swoosh’ logo of Nike is designed by a college student for $35. When the sales rep asked what does this logo mean, Phil answered, it looks like the sound of someone passing by real fast. That’s it, that is the logo and brand name of Nike.

Phil often says, Nike has this Oregonian spirit. Oregon State is famous for its ‘Oregonian trail’. The migrant settlers moved to the west in the 19th century & the legend about that migration is — ‘Cowards never started & weak died along the way. That leaves us, ladies & gentlemen. Us’.

It’s very incredible to see Nike growing through their problems. They have seen all the problems like usual businesses see. Backstabbing partners, problems with banks, a lawsuit by the government, finding office locations, delayed overseas deliveries, irritatingly long lead times, and many more. In the end, Nike weaved its path through all these challenges.

In the afterword's section of the book, we stumble on yet another piece of incredulous sincerity of Phil Knight. To write this book, he had taken classes & went to college and sat with young teenagers to learn how to write. Efforts at this age to write a perfect book, show us what kind of man Phil Knight is.

The icing on the cake is when he ends the book by saying- “God, how I wish, I could relive the whole thing.”

A read worth its time.

-@Inky Blinder



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