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Shoe Dog – Phil Knight [Book Review]

Phil Knight, the original shoe dog, who built Nike writes his memoir in the book titled Shoe Dog. The book covers his journey of building one of the most iconic brands of the 20th century. An accountant by profession, an athlete at heart, Phil’s journey begins with travel across the world and visit Japan to start a shoe import business. 

Phil’s memoir is a testament of how passionate people with a touch of crazy went and created something the world recognised and loved. Phil partnered with his coach, Bowerman, who helped innovate new shoes. In Johnson and in Woodell, Blue Ribbon (Nike’s parent company) had employees obsessed with athletes and athletics. These people and their passion had huge impact on Nike’s growth.

Nike did a fantastic job by focusing early on brand building. In the initial years, the sales were driven by word of mouth. This was followed by limited investments in ads. They focused on tying up with coaches, athletes, tennis players, NBA players and other athletes. At the core, Nike’s brand was about rewarding, recognising athletes and athletics.

On the people side, Phil hired and partnered with people genuinely interested in athletics or obsessed with shoes. In doing so he created a team that withered storms capable of washing off the entire business. Like the times when their only supplier in Japan threatened to break exclusivity with Blue Ribbon, or when the US government fined Nike $25 Mn in import duties based on an archaic law, or when their old supplier sued them for breach of contract. It was the people Phil had hired, the team he brought together who saw the dark days through. 

On the whole, the book was a delightful read. It was in the last few pages of the book that Phil mentioned Agassi and Michael Johnson. The mere mention of the two athletes reminded me of their books – Open by Andre Agassi and Gold Rush by Johnson. In the book Gold Rush, Johnson writes in detail of his Nike partnership and how he wore golden spikes with a black/red swoosh in the 1996 olympics. It was during reading about these two athletes that I reminisce the time I read the other two books. ‘Open’ by Agassi being my personal favourite. 

It is also in the last few pages of the book that Phil writes about the role of luck. The impact of being in the right place at the right time on his success. The book has such nuggets of wisdom every few pages.

And, thus it is:

4/5 stars to Shoe Dog.


PS: I laughed so hard after reading this 👇

Phil Knight - Nike - Shoe Dog
Posted in POV

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