Bookreview - "Shoe Dog" by Phil Knight
Jessy The is a tax consultant turned entrepreneur, whose passion is to strengthen your business by providing business and website consultancy.
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What? autobiography, branding, start-ups
+ Inspiring: It might come as a revelation to you, but Nike has been successful against all odds possible (really ALL odds!);
+ Pleasant: Some autobiographies can be quite self-serving and boring but Phil Knight is a good story-teller. He gives an insight into the Japanese business culture, his eccentric and often funny team-members;
+ Educational: If you want to learn to how to overcome obstacles when building your business, this is a must-read for you;
- Size: the book is a pleasant read, but quite comprehensive (over 400 pages).
What are the most important lessons on life and business, and everything in between, in this book?
#1 If the shoe doesn’t fit, try on another one
Not necessarily “Just Do It” but “Find A Way” is the motto that caused Knight to keep perservering to make Nike a success. During the days of humble beginnings - when his family, the national bank, a big Japanese distribution company were ‘against’ Blue Ribbon (the predecessor of Nike) - Knight never gave up. He kept trying to find a new way. This mentality combined with his competitive personality, Nike became the successful brand it is today. It’s kind of fitting in this context that “Nike” is a Greek goddess that personified victory. The same goes for the logo of the “swoosh”, representing the sound you make when you’re passing somebody.
#2 Be obsessed with improvement
Besides thinking outside of the box with design, it is the obsession of improvement that eventually will determine whether your product (or service) becomes a success or not. The book shows many cases of Knight’s team members obsession with improvement. For example the use of codfish-skin to make lighter shoes. But also, the production of soles inspired by the profile of a waffle-maker.
#3 Believing equals selling
In his twenties Knight was a shy person. Consequently, he had a hard time selling things like encyclopedias or stocks. Selling shoes however, didn’t feel like selling to Knight. He believed in running. He believed that his shoes would help people run better. He believed in Nike.
#4 Work with people who can do stuff you cannot
The name “Nike” was not invented by Knight but by one of his most enthusiastic salesman, Johnson. When names had to be created, the best Knight came up with was “Dimension Six”. Knight’s creative, obsessive and passionate team of people (his ‘geniuses’ as he calls them in this interview) have been a crucial part of Nike’s rise in the beginning.
#5 Know your client from the inside out
It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that Knight was a fervent runner. The advantages of actually being a runner meant he knew what runners needed. Also, as the company grew bigger and bigger, he started hiring former athletes and runners as salesmen. After all, who else could advice people best about running shoes than runners themselves?
More about Knight
Watch the video here to see Knight answer the question, about what kept him going through all his adversaries during the start of Nike.