I was super excited to read this one, and it lived up the hype. Phil Knight is the founder of Nike. He was CEO for 40 years and remains chairman of the board to this day. He released his memoir carrying the title Shoe Dog earlier this year. The memoir starts in 1962 when Phil had just graduated business school and didn’t know what to do with his life. He decided to travel the world, and thereafter decided to take a chance on importing shoes from Japan (the first sample order funded by a $50 loan from his father). The book details the rise of the company until they went public in 1980, at which point Phil Knight was worth $178 million (his net worth today is closer to $25 billion, but I digress). He closes with a chapter he wrote recently reflecting back on the wild journey of Nike.
What I enjoyed about this story the most was the humble beginning, and how naturally he grew the company. This was before the age of venture capitalism and angel investors. Any lending had to come from the bank, which you find out was very reluctant to lend money to a fledgling shoe company. They continually maxed out their credit and were on the verge of going out of business nearly every month until the day they went public. Often times when bills were due they had to clean out the cash registers at their retail locations just to scrape up enough cash to stay alive.
That being said, they had a lot of fun figuring out how to run a business and staying true to what they wanted the Nike brand to mean. Which is of course summed up with one word, winning. All the folklore you hear is in there as well, like where the swoosh came from, using a waffle iron to make soles, etc. He only breezes over allegations of sweat shops and child labor that occurred in the 90’s. Obviously it’s a little ironic that I’m writing a positive review about a man and company that was potentially engaging in irresponsible manufacturing practices. However, many people don’t realize that today Nike is actually one of the major forces in trying to improve the lives of factory workers all over the world. Does not justify the past, but at least they recognized their mistakes and are working to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
All in all, this book is a great read and I highly recommend it to anyone with an entrepreneurial spirit! Available on amazon here.
Written by Kyle Barrett, Founder & CEO of Bighorn
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