Book Buzz: Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

What if you took a “crazy idea” and made it one of the most successful brands the world has ever known? What if you had no idea how to do something but surrounded yourself with the right people to reach that dream? This is what Phil Knight did as he took a love for running shoes and created one of the most recognizable brands in the world.

In his autobiography Shoe Dog, Nike founder Phil Knight weaves an inspiring tale of what began as a “crazy idea” for a class at Stanford and developed into a worldwide apparel bonanza. This compelling story of a young man with a passion to change the status quo and do what he loves is simply inspiring. In this book, Knight weaves his journey of how he turned a $50 loan from his father into a company with annual sales topping $30 billion. The reader is inspired to learn how Knight achieved the improbable, building a wildly successful company from scratch out of his parents’ garage in Portland, Oregon.

The three essential themes Knight outlines in this book can serve as guideposts and inspiration to all types of business leaders:

  • Begin with a passion-filled idea
  • Build the right team
  • Fuel success with grit

A Passion-filled Idea:
Knight had a simple company mission: Import high-quality, low-cost running shoes and sell to runners in the global marketplace. Phil Knight ran track for the University of Oregon, and running had always been his passion. This “crazy idea” was a perfect combination of business and his passion. It was what got him going in the morning. Ask yourself, “What do I have a passion for, and how can I apply that to my business every day?” 

The Right Team: 
To put legs under a passion-filled idea, Knight surrounded himself with a team of talent. He relied upon many decisions made by his partner and track coach Bill Bowerman, and also a compilation of marketing misfits who became united with a purpose of birthing the swoosh as an icon. Putting the right people in the right places was an ongoing challenge. Knight describes how he made hard personnel changes when a team member’s skills could be better utilized in another position, even if reluctant relocation was required. (This sounds like something to which we all can relate!) Change is often met with resistance, and it is certainly not the easy path, but having key talent in the right roles keeps your business firing on all cylinders. 

Possibly the most admirable attribute about Phil Knight has always been his drive to see quality shoes on the feet of worldwide athletes. For example, in the first five years of business, he visited manufacturing facilities in Japan nine times to make sure the shoes were being made properly and that his relationships with companies over there were solid. Setbacks were a common thread in his story, as his tale includes multiple lawsuits, bankers that suddenly refused support of his little shoe company, and doubters who questioned the potential of his ideas and innovation. The roller coaster of risks and rewards was also peppered with stories of narrow escapes, yet through it all, his passionate vision and talented team fueled his success. As a business leader, there will always be people who doubt your ideas, your innovation, and your passion. However, with grit and teamwork like Knight’s, you can envision your long-term success and keep pressing toward the goal.

So what is this book’s takeaway for your business? Consider these questions:

  • Am I fulfilling a business need rooted in my passion?  If I’m not, how can I incorporate my passion in my work?
  • Have I made the tough decisions I need to ensure that I have the RIGHT people on my team?  Is there someone that I have tried to train, but is still a drain on my business?  Am I making the hard decisions to get the RIGHT people in the RIGHT positions?
  • How do I perform when the times get challenging? Do I find comfort in the easy path, or do I push through toward the goal? Am I a leader with GRIT, and do I foster an environment where gritty leaders thrive?

Are you considering the possibilities, but don't know where to start?  Please call me for coffee, and together we will set a few next steps.  No charge – and the coffee is on me! When it comes to the teamwork piece, that is our expertise at Innovative Outsourcing, and I'd be happy to steer you in the right direction.

Thumbs Up! 

I absolutely recommend this book for your and your managers. It is an easy read that tells a captivating story about guy with a dream. His memoir is humble, intriguing, and surprisingly funny. 

How Long? 

Allow about 10 hours to read this book. Because this is easy and inspirational, make the most of your commute time by listening to the Audible version.

Read This Book! 

After reading this book, you will be motivated to grow your business through passion, great teams, and grit.