Entrepreneurship Lessons for Everyone from Shoe Dog
Unique, refreshing, surprising, adventurous, suspenseful are some of the words that describe Nike’s journey from early 1960s to present day. From words ( Blue Ribbon Sports of Portland, Oregon ) that just blurted out of Phil Knight’s mouth to going public in the 80s to becoming a billion dollar entity, Nike is not just a brand, it’s a lifestyle.
Shoe Dog is a journey of a man, Phil ‘Buck’ Knight, who had a crazy idea of traveling around the world, importing shoes from Japan at the time when America and Japan were at war, starting a shoe company that could revolutionize shoe designs & the culture and brining in like-minded enthusiasts who could drive the company to its ultimate destination.
Phil Knight’s - Shoe Dog describes Spontaneity, wisdom, awkwardness, struggle, fear, excitement, threats, hope, and victories in the most interesting fashion and how a business strives through tough times when you’re willing to learn and give your heart out.
“Beating the competition is relatively easy. Beating yourself is a never ending commitment.”
- Nothing is Crazy if you know What you are doing
Phil Knight aka Buck had a crazy idea about traveling the world and importing Japanese shoes to America. A crazy idea that made sense only to 20-something Buck who had no prior business experience but only an idea he had fallen in love with.
After meeting executives at Onitsuka and becoming the distributor, Phil signed an order of few thousand Tiger shoes. Though he didn’t have the money to pay for the order, Phil had belief that everything would fall in place. Back in America, he quickly got his former running coach to be his business partner and started the distribution of Tigers in the states.
What started as a one-man shoe importing company became a billion dollar global brand only because he had faith in himself .
“The cowards never started, the weak died along the way — that leaves us, ladies and gentlemen. Us.”
- Meet like-minded people
Each and every member of the Blue Ribbon during its early days were in some way connected to “Running”. Either they were former runners or sprinters in high school or they took up sports in college which made them like-minded. Nike’s first employee Jeff Johnson, Coach Bill Bowerman, Bob Woodell, Dellinger, John Bork, Jim Gorman, CH Wong and many others had one thing in common: Sports which made them the best choice to work for a shoe company. Their enthusiasm, dedication, and passion made Nike a people’s preferred choice and along with it, they brought a change in sports culture around this world.
- Lead from the Front
Lead by example is what defines a true leader and Phil Knight was exactly that person. He was a man passionate about running, shoes and brining his crazy idea to life. He was a leader in every aspect, be it decision making, trusting his instincts, taking high-stake risks, willing to fail, respecting his employees and at the same time making sure he had faith in his idea.
- Learn & Grow
Phil Knight was a sucker for growth. As Nike was expanding and becoming bigger every passing year, Phil along with his employees would take up challenging tasks of expanding operations, designing new shoes, opening up factories, bringing in new athletes to try Nikes and doubling shoes sale every year. Nike had passionate employees who were looking for much more than a 9 to 5. They were driven by purpose, innovation and learnings.
In Phil’s own words:
“Life is Growth. You grow or you die”.
- Hard Work, Challenges & Luck go hand-in-hand
At times Phil was caught up in huge messes that would have ended things for Nike but the man was on a mission. His belief of making Nike cross all verticals of success never diminished.
Then came a time when his partnership with Onitsuka collapsed when Onitsuka decided to end ties with Nike filing a lawsuit against Onitsuka. What followed it was the daunting task of finding new factories that would make shoes for them and even a bigger challenge of designing their own shoe but Nike managed to pull it off.
After a few years, Nike’s competitors Converse & Keds tricked US government that Nike wasn’t paying enough custom duties on its shoes. Believing them, US Customs Service sent a white envelope to Phil Knight which had a bill of $25 million (custom duties dating back three years). That was the time when Phil was in an apocalyptic fight with the mighty US government for almost 2 years. But then again, Phil Knight was unstoppable and turned the tables.
“When you see only problems, you’re not seeing clearly.”
Undoubtedly “Shoe Dog” teaches us a lot more than what is mentioned above but all we need to do is trust ourselves, have faith in our ideas, and not let anything stop us from achieving it. After all:
“How can I leave my mark on the world, I thought, unless I get out there first and see it?” – Shoe Dog