Shoe Dog – Phil Knight

I was killing time in an airport bookstore recently whilst waiting for a long haul flight, when I stumbled over a book titled “Shoe Dog”, a memoir by the creator of the Nike empire, Phil Knight.

Thinking I may read a few pages and then fall asleep, I was amazed that 8 hours later I’d nearly finished it and was totally enthralled by the story of a guy who in 1962 at the age of 23 whilst back packing around the world, sent a simple letter to his father – “Dear Dad: Urgent, Please wire fifty dollars right away to Onitsuka Corp of Kobe”, and this fifty dollars launched a company with a mission to import high-quality, low cost running shoes from Japan.

Selling shoes from the boot of his car, Knight grossed $8,000 in the first year, 1963, and today Nike’s annual sales tops $30 billion and it’s swoosh is more than just a logo.

To me, this book isn’t just about money and how a successful business was built, it’s much more about the people who formed it, the relationships they had with each other, their belief in a dream and their success’s and failures along the way. An example of how Knights writing style contains a high degree of humour and humility, is when he was about to hire a new staff member who was down in his luck, he noted that ‘ the guy was just a dead dog off being a country and western song!’

Michael Spence, Nobel Prize – winning economist sums the book up well; ‘A
touching, highly entertaining adventure odyssey, with much to teach about
innovation and creativity. Phil Knight takes us back to the Big Bang of the swoosh, recalls how he first begged and borrowed from reluctant banks, how he assembled a crew of eccentric and brilliant misfits, how they all worked together to build something unique and paradigm-changing. An inspiration for everyone with an unconventional dream’”

And Bill Gates writes – ‘A refreshingly honest reminder of what the path to business success really looks like. It’s a messy, perilous, and chaotic journey riddled with mistakes, endless struggles and sacrifices …. Knight opens up in a way few CEO’s are willing to do. He’s incredibly tough on himself and his failings, and amazingly honest about the accidental nature of his company’s success…..It’s an amazing tale. It’s real.’

As tempting as it is to go deeper into this book, I really recommend you buy it, read it and pass it onto someone close to you who has a dream, as the basis to Knights success is just as relevant today as it was nearly 60 years ago.

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