Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of NIKEby Phil Knight Published 26 Apr 2016
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In this candid and riveting memoir, for the first time ever, Nike founder and CEO Phil Knight shares the inside story of the company’s early days as an intrepid start-up and its evolution into one of the world’s most iconic, game-changing, and profitable brands.
In 1962, fresh out of business school, Phil Knight borrowed $50 from his father and created a company with a simple mission: import high-quality, low-cost athletic shoes from Japan. Selling the shoes from the trunk of his lime green Plymouth Valiant, Knight grossed $8,000 his first year. Today, Nike’s annual sales top $30 billion. In an age of startups, Nike is the ne plus ultra of all startups, and the swoosh has become a revolutionary, globe-spanning icon, one of the most ubiquitous and recognizable symbols in the world today.
But Knight, the man behind the swoosh, has always remained a mystery. Now, for the first time, in a memoir that is candid, humble, gutsy, and wry, he tells his story, beginning with his crossroads moment. At 24, after backpacking around the world, he decided to take the unconventional path, to start his own business—a business that would be dynamic, different.
Knight details the many risks and daunting setbacks that stood between him and his dream—along with his early triumphs. Above all, he recalls the formative relationships with his first partners and employees, a ragtag group of misfits and seekers who became a tight-knit band of brothers. Together, harnessing the transcendent power of a shared mission, and a deep belief in the spirit of sport, they built a brand that changed everything.
"Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of NIKE" Reviews
Shoe Dog could have been titled, "Buck Naked", because of the way Phil "Buck" Knight bares his soul in this fine memoir. I'm grateful to Knight for putting it all down in black and white. My 12 years with Nike started toward the end of the timeframe of this memoir, and so a lot of what Knight chronicles in Shoe Dog was the core of the Nike creation myth, revealed piecemeal to most of us in the late 70's and early 80's... usually in the form of humorous anecdotes shared over a cocktail or three. It's just wonderful to read this very personal account and especially to have so many unexpected revelations about Knight's state of mind during those seminal moments in Nike's early history. During my tenure at Nike, Knight was a shy, almost bashful, and sometimes quixotic, character who came across as extremely bright, introspective, and prone to occasional, intractable reluctance. I get it now. Of the dozens of CEO's I've met over these 30+ years in the sneaker business he is the only one I could even begin to describe as a seeker... his deep introspection is a quality I've always admired. More so now that I have read about the depth and breadth of what I can only call, his quest. Frankly, I'm astonished. I could never imagine him publicly sharing so much of himself as he does in Shoe Dog. Something else I always admired was his gift for hiring talented, dedicated people and giving them plenty of rope. He was always tolerant of failure, but intolerant of stagnation. These qualities certainly come across in this fine book. Remarkable man. Remarkable history. Remarkable book.
I’m not sure when I became aware of Nike – maybe sometime around the millennium? Certainly not before that. I was therefore astounded to learn that the company had been founded in the early 1970’s, with the aim of producing and selling sports shoes. In fact, the co-founder (and major driving force), Phil Knight, was a runner in college and his driving goal was to produce top class running shoes. We first catch up with Phil, a native of Oregon, in the late 60’s when he’d already secured an MBA at Stanford and had decided to travel the world. Off he went on his voyage of discovery – and what a journey it was. In listening to an audio version of this book I was pretty much captivated from the very start. This wasn’t at all the book I’d anticipated it to be - it was much more literary than the account I’d expected. The descriptions of time and place and people and events transported me directly there. I was stood beside him, drinking it all in.
When visiting Japan Phil came across the Tiger brand of running shoes and he decided to set up a business importing the shoes and selling them in America. His his old college running coach, Bill Bowerman, became a trusted adviser and then a partner. Along side this, Knight also took up a job in an accounting firm, eventually gaining a full accounting accreditation. In fact, these early days were a real struggle for his infant business, there were many challenges to overcome and it often seemed inevitable that the enterprise would fail. The author comes across as a bit of a romantic – he really wanted to produce the perfect shoe and worked tirelessly with Bowerman and his Japanese supplier to evolve their offering – but also as a workaholic, super-ambitious businessman not prepared to let any challenge stop him.
Eventually, however, the challenges of working with his supplier did wear him down and as it became inevitable that he’d lose the ability to import their shoes he decided to start producing his own. So was the company that became Nike born. The details of his struggles are compelling as are his descriptions of the people he met along the way. At one point he describes a tough looking businessman he’s just met thus: light seemed to bounce off him differently. No, rather light didn’t bounce off him - he absorbed it like a black hole.
Nike started to grow steadily, but Phil was in the habit of spending every last cent the company could raise on producing more stock. He knew this was a dangerous strategy but he was convinced it was the only way to ensure growth. He operated very close to the edge – in fact sometimes way over the edge - but still he continued to do things his way. It brought him perilously close to ruin, but (as we know) the business survived and went on to become the leviathan it is today. If it was fiction it’d be a great story, but as non-fiction it comprises a tale of almost unbelievable tenacity in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds.
The account of his business adventures is wound up at the point the company is floated (at the same time as Apple) in 1980, by which point Nike had attained a 50% market share in the American athletic shoe market. The final section of the book comprises Knight’s reflections on his life and updates on the key figures featured in the book.
What I like most about this book is the way the story is told. The author gives much credit for his successes to others – people he worked with through the years – and he explains not just what he did but also his motivations for taking the actions he did. Sometimes these seemed counterintuitive, and he acknowledges this, but he took them all the same. He is humble and self-deprecating in his portrayal of himself throughout. I grew to like him a lot. I can’t recall when I’ve enjoyed a memoir as much – maybe I never have. It was a joy and an inspiration to spend time with Phil Knight and to learn his story.
NB: I was running in the early 70's when the leading brand of shoe in the UK seemed to be New Balance (the shoes I wore). I then played many other sports (soccer, tennis, badminton) again never wearing Nike but trying out Puma and Addidas amongst others. Later I ran again, this time buying Asics, Mizuno, Brooks and Hoka. Just as as was despairing of the fact that I'd never bought a pair of Nike shoes I spotted my current golf shoes in the garage - yes, you've guessed.
دوستانِ گرانقدر، این کتاب، خاطراتِ <فیل نایت> مالکِ شرکت بزرگِ "نایکی" میباشد و به بهترین شکلِ ممکن نشان داده است که چگونه از کجا به کجا رسیده است و همچون دونده ای تیزپا از منطقهٔ پورتلند، این مسیرِ پیشرفت را طی کرده است... نمیتوان کتاب را چکیده کرد، امّا به انتخاب بخشی از نوشته هایِ کتاب را در زیر برایتان مینویسم که مربوط میشود به دورانی که او در دانشگاه درس میخوانده است و خاطراتش از شخصی به نامِ <بیل بُوِرمن> که تأثیر بسیار زیادی در پیشرفتِ او داشته است و از مربی تبدیل به شریکِ کاری برایِ او میشود و شرکتِ "روبانِ آبی" را تأسیس میکنند و نزدیک به هفت سال بعد تبدیل به شرکتِ "نایکی" میشود
سالِ دومِ دانشگاه بودم و برنامه هایم کاملاً مرا از پا انداخته بود. صبح ها کلاسهایِ دانشگاه و عصرها تمرین و ورزش و تمامِ شب تکالیفم را انجام میدادم... یکروز که از این میترسیدم که نکند دچارِ سرماخوردگی شوم، جلویِ دربِ اتاقِ کارِ <بُورمن> ایستادم تا به او بگویم که بعد از ظهرِ آن روز را نمیتوانم تمرین کنم.. بُورمن گفت: آهااا.. که اینطور... مربیِ این تیم کیه!؟ ... گفتم: شما هستی... بُورمن گفت: پس به عنوانِ مربی بهت میگم که امروز باید سرِ تمرین حاضر باشی... ضمناً امروز رکوردگیری داریم
نزدیک بود اشک از چشمانم جاری شود، امّا جلویِ خودم را گرفتم.. تمامِ احساساتم را خرجِ دویدن کردم و یکی از بهترین رکوردهایِ سال را ثبت کردم
وقتی از زمین بیرون می آمدم، با اخم نگاهی به بُورمن انداختم و در دلم به او گفتم: حالا راضی شدی حرامزاده؟!؟... نگاهی به من انداخت و کرنومترش را چک کرد و باز نگاهی به من کرد و سرش را به نشانهٔ تأیید تکان داد
او مرا آزمایش کرده بود.. مرا درهم شکسته بود و دوباره مرا سرهم کرده بود، دقیقاً کاری که با کفش ها میکرد... من از پسِ آن کار برآمده بودم.. از آن روز به بعد من واقعاً یکی از "مردانِ اورگن" او بودم (منظور انتخاب شدن در ایالت اورگن یا همان اورگون بوده است) ... از آن روز به بعد من یک ببر بودم
بلافاصله از بُورمن در موردِ مسابقه جواب گرفتم.. نوشته بود که هفتهٔ آینده برای برگزاری مسابقاتِ داخل سالنِ اورگون، به پورتلند می آید و مرا برای صرفِ ناهار به هتلی که محلِ جایگیریِ اعضایِ تیم بود، دعوت کرده بود
بیست و پنجم ژانویهٔ سال 1964... هنگامی که پیشخدمتِ هتل، ما را به سمتِ میزِ ناهار راهنمایی میکرد، استرس بسیار زیادی داشتم.. به یاد دارم که بُورمن همبرگر سفارش داد و من با صدایی که از تهِ چاه در می آمد (تته پته کنان)، گفتم: دوتاش کنید
چند دقیقه ای حال و احوال کردیم و برای بُورمن از جاهایی که از دور دنیا سفر کرده بودم، تعریف کردم و او نسبت به آن زمان که در ایتالیا بودم، علاقهٔ ویژه ای نشان داد.. با آنکه در زمان جنگ جهانی، ممکن بود در ایتالیا کشته شود، بازهم از آن دوره به نیکی یاد میکرد
بالاخره رفت سرِ اصلِ مطلب و گفت: آن کفش هایِ ژاپنی خیلی خوب هستش. چطوره من هم وارد اون معامله بشم؟
نگاهی بهش کردم و گفتم: معامله؟؟ مدتی زمان برد تا آنچه بُورمن گفته بود را هضم کنم و بفهمم.. اون نمیخواست فقط ده الی دوازده تا کفش برایِ اعضایِ تیمش خریداری کنه! بلکه قصد شراکت با من را داشت!؟ اگر خدا هم از درونِ گردبادی به من پیشنهادِ شراکت میداد، به همان اندازه تعجب میکردم
تته پته کنان، در حالی که زبانم بند آمده بود، به او گفتم: بله
امیدوارم از خواندنِ این کتاب لذت ببرید
<پیروز باشید و ایرانی>
JUST DO IT. Those words are the life story of Phil Knight. To every athlete, entrepreneur, mother, father, and dreamer his greatest legacy will be a life well played. More valuable than his pledge of giving back to society $100,000,000 a year, Phil 'Found His Greatness' in life by inspiring us all to play harder, dig deeper and never quit. Thank you, Phil.
This book is well worth every hard-won word, shared and earned over 50+ years of grueling competition. More than once the story looked like impending failure. Most would have given up. Perhaps Phil's greatest advice, and example, are the words he shared on his book tour in Portland where he told us all, "The only time you must not fail is the last time you try."
Pick your heroes with the greatest of care. Phil Knight, your name shall stand beyond your lifetime in our generation's Pantheon of Heroes for never failing to try.
I think Shoe Dog by Phil Knight is the best memoir I’ve ever read by a business person.
I consumed it in a day last week. It’s about the origin story of Nike, which started out as Blue Ribbon Sports.
Unlike so many memoirs, it’s not an equally balanced arc through Knight’s life. It’s not an ego gratifying display of his awesomeness, heavily weighted in the success of the company and all the amazing things that went on around that. Instead, it’s a deep focus on the beginning years of Nike especially around the first decade. It quickly gets to 1964 and the equal partnership between Bill Bowerman and Knight. But then it takes it’s time, year by year (each chapter is titled with the year number only) through the first decade of the company.
It’s an incredible story. I didn’t realize that for the first five years of the company, Knight had to work full-time – mostly at Price Waterhouse and then Coopers & Lybrand as an accountant – because the company didn’t have any resources to support him and his new family. He used nights, weekends, and in all the gaps in between to get Nike (the Blue Ribbon Sports) up and running. Year one revenue – in 1964 – was $8,000. Year two revenue – with one full time employee (not Knight) was $20,000. Year 41 revenue (2015) was $30.6 billion with a net income of $3.3 billion.
Knight covers all of it in detail. The ups and the downs. The many downs. The moments where he felt like he could lose it all, which seemed to happen at least once a year. His personal struggles as a leader and a manager. The people that drove him fucking crazy at the beginning, but were ultimately indispensable to the company. His momentary conflicts about whether or not the struggle was worth it. The breakthroughs – mostly understood in hindsight – when he realized they had gotten to another level.
The thread of financing the company, especially through the first decade, was just incredible. His only real source of financing was tradition banks (who sucked) and partners (playing the float). The company had literally no equity available to it, but was growing at a rate that would put most of today’s VC-backed startups to shame. He made it work and how he did it was awesome.
It’s incredible to get inside of a man now worth over $25 billion and the founder of one of the most iconic brands on the planet at the very beginning of his story. If you are a founder, this is a must read.
"I’d tell men and women in their midtwenties not to settle for a job or a profession or even a career. Seek a calling. Even if you don’t know what that means, seek it. If you’re following your calling, the fatigue will be easier to bear, the disappointments will be fuel, the highs will be like nothing you’ve ever felt."
All I wanted to Hear !