I just finished the most amazing book I have ever read. The book is a memoir written by an ultimate Shoe Dog, a wannabe athlete from Oregon that had a crazy idea that worked out and changed sports forever, I am talking about the co-founder of Nike, Phil Knight. The story is a rollercoaster of emotions, and an incredible raw lesson of entrepreneurship at the same time, the great storytelling ability of Phil transports you to those days where Nike was not even called Nike and the headquarters had broken windows. He even transports you to his worldwide trip where he found himself and the very first opportunity for Nike.
The story starts giving a background of how his life was after finishing Stanford and introspection of how he felt and thought at that time. He mentions key attributes about his personality, he wanted to leave a mark on the world, he wanted to win. The story then skips to the years he traveled the world, found answers to many of his questions, and then focuses on the pre-IPO years of NIKE, from which most of the time the company was called Blue Ribbon. Then, Phil tells some highlights after the IPO such as the sweatshop crisis, the death of his son, and a funny anecdote while watching The Bucket List.
It would be difficult to summarize every situation in this 386-page book, so I will focus on my favorite parts.
I loved how he turned a Business Idea into a crazy idea and then into a reality, his real dream was to be a great athlete, but someway somehow there was always someone better than him on the track. By being an athlete and a business buff, he merged his two passions into what is now one of the most popular brands on Earth. His final project in Stanford was a presentation of how Japanese cameras overtook German cameras and how the same might happen in the shoe industry, he got a good grade in that project but nobody really cared about his presentation.
Let everyone else call your idea crazy… just keep going. Don’t stop. Don’t even think about stopping until you get there, and don’t give much thought to where “there” is. Whatever comes, just don’t stop.
I felt personally connected to the story when he started planning his trip around the world. During his trip, he went to Hawaii (And stood there more than planned), Tokyo, Kobe, Hong Kong, Philippines, Bangkok, Vietnam, Calcutta, the Himalayas, Bombay, Kenya, Cairo, Athens, Jerusalem, Istanbul, Rome, Florence, Milan, Venice, Paris, East, and West Berlin, Munich, Vienna, London, and then back to Oregon. I will have to later blog about my travel plans when I go to study to Prague next semester, but I totally loved his idea of going to all those amazing cities and learn and live their cultures. Personally, I would have added a tour to Spain to his trip but all of his trips gave him an amazing experience.
As his company starts growing exponentially, so did the Japanese company (Onitsuka) that was supplying him with shoes to sell. Onitsuka now required a partner that had headquarters on the East and West Coast of the United States, so the employee number 1 of Nike, Jeff Johnson was asked to open a new headquarters division in the East Coast in a short time and succeed, leaving out of the competition some Marlboro model that wanted to sell shoes leveraging from Blue Ribbon’s effort. But then as Blue Ribbon doubled sales year after year, the Japanese firm realized that there were a lot of opportunities and wanted to expand its business in America and buy Blue Ribbon. It was until that threat that Phil decided to build a brand of its own, Nike was born (and so did a war with Onitsuka).
But Nike’s name was not decided until the very end. A plant in Mexico was just waiting for the brand’s name to start building the very first Nike’s. (Yes, the very first Nike’s were manufactured in Mexico.) Employee number one, Jeff Johnson, had to save the day one more time, he came up with the name asleep, in his dreams, and justified it by expressing that Nike was the goddess of victory. As for the Swoosh, that was some $35 job of a student of Phil while he gave classes in Oregon State. The Swoosh came out of the motion idea and nobody on the board was completely confident about it.
-The hell’s a Swoosh?
-It’s the sound of someone going past you.
There is one crazy financial anecdote I liked a lot. Nike had almost no equity, but a huge Cash Flow, necessary to keep growing at the pace they were doing. Bank of California someday decided to abruptly freeze Nike’s account thinking that it was a fraud. By that time Nike borrowed 1 million USD from the Bank, and 1 million USD from Nissho Iwai, a Japanese trading company, to operate. They had one plant operating and imported many shoes from Japanese factories. To pay suppliers and partners, Phil asked Nissho for another million USD to pay the debt in the bank, to which Nissho said that they had to revise Nike’s book records. Numbers looked good, Nike always opted to pay Nissho first, and when they were being audited, Tom Sumeragi, the representative of the account in Nissho had to confess that he kept Nike’s notes apart to give them more time to pay. Finally, Sumeragi’s boss decided to help them out, paying their debt with the Bank of California at the same time that he canceled a business opportunity to the Bank of California.
There was one more financial crisis that affected Nike, competitors managed to sue Nike according to an ancient law of American Selling Price, urging that Nike should pay $25 million in compensation, the solving of that issue was not that dramatic, a settlement for $9 million was achieved. But by that time Nike made 70 million on sales and was about to become public, the same week that Apple did actually. Much of those sales coming from signing artists and athletes into wearing Nike’s. Business kept improving and Phil finally stepped out of the business after 52 years of working on it.
I don’t have a conclusion on this book. Phil Knight’s experience was simply awesome, he never stopped until his company was selling more than Adidas, and he found joy in what we worked and believed in. I would totally recommend anyone to read this book, it is very worth it and enjoyable.
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