Nike is one of the iconic American brands known around the world. It’s up there, if not above, brands like Levi’s, Harley-Davidson, and even Apple. It’s story, especially the early days, was one that should teach lessons to anyone starting or running a company which is why Nike’s founder, Chairman and former CEO Phil Knight wrote the book ‘Shoe Dog’ in the first place.
Whether you like Nike or not, you have to respect the business that Knight and a handful of others have been able to build. It’s important to note that this is a book about the early days of Nike. While Knight does touch on some of the athletes and crisis in later years, this book is predominantly about the early days before Nike even existed.
Knight is very candid about the existential crisis that he and the rest of the Nike team went through seemingly on a yearly basis. It reads at times as a classic example of ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’. Borrowing here to pay someone there. Going from this bank to that bank and at one point even lobbying Oregon senators for help.
Knight has several pieces of advice sprinkled throughout the book too. From management (‘Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results’) to entrepreneurship (‘The cowards never started and the weak died along the way’) to life in general (‘Life is growth. Your grow or you die’).
It’s ironic that one of the best business books of 2016 is a tale of globalization. The idea of globalization is currently under attack as nationalist views move into the great halls of power in the West.
It would be naive to not know the story of Nike though. It’s a story of innovation, perseverance, negotiation, execution and passion. Things that should be taught at every college and high school in the West.
It’s a solid read and probably a required one. It’s not often that people of Knight’s level offer up such candid insight into the begins of a global brand. With all that’s going on politically and economically, it’s a story worth knowing.