Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

Very few people write about how world class like Nike started. This book started from when Phil was a kid and ended when Nike won a key lawsuit.

Phil is a very interesting person. He would buy a one way ticket to Hawaii, surf and work there for a year, then go to Japan for fun. At this point I cannot imagine this almost hippie like man would become the founder of a billion dollar company, but looking back I can see how those characteristics helped.

He loves running so he had no difficulty coming up with ideas, because there is only one idea that he will do and there is only one he will succeed in. His coach came up with shoe designs and he went to Japan first to buy shoes from some “tiger” company. He had 0 money at that time so his coach invested 50% and the rest came from his family. He would actually make an order of 50k dollars in Japan and then fly back to find the money. Going back to his hippie-like life after college, he definitely is the kind of person that does things that he believe is correct before thinking about it.

This is a time before the internet, so his business grow simply by going to the track events and talk to potential customers. Because the shoes are so good, it worked. He had a hard time keep money flowing because he is always expanding so fast. But when he gets into trouble, he will always try every way to find a way out. When one bank refuse to lend them money, he will talk to a hundred other banks. People trusted HIM more than his company.

There were two main turning points. One is when he decided to break up with “Tiger” because they are always shipping things late. He contacted other factories to make shoes for them without letting Tiger know. He also got into some legal issues with Tiger about the right to distribute things. His cousin trusted him so much that he became the lawyer of Nike. He would even steal documents from the representative’s bag to win the court case, because he believes that Tiger has been cheating on them as well. Just imagine that the CEO of a billion dollar company trying to find the right document inside some Japanese’s bag while he went to the bathroom. It’s crazy. It sounds almost like a movie.

He also spent some time talking about how he met his wife. He was teaching at a college for a living (the shoe selling business is still a side business at that time). His wife was his student. Lol. This kind of thing would NOT happen in today’s colleges. He asked her out while he was still teaching the course. Lol.

This book is very interesting to read. You can imagine a Phil Knight alive right before you. His biggest innovation was the idea that everyone should wear running shoes. Running shoes is NOT just for runners. It should be everyone’s. It should be what people wear on weekends on the street. This idea is revolutionary. Because I grew up wearing running shoes daily although I sucked at sports, I just thought this is what people do. I have no idea that it was Phil and Nike who PERSUADED the general public that running shoes is cool to wear. People used to wear shoes we now think as “formal shoes”.

Reading this book is like travelling back to the 60s. You’ll see America and Japan 20 years after WWII and you’ll see how a multi-billion dollar company come into shape.