Shoe Dog — Lessons to be learnt

Image source:

Shoe Dog is the story of NIKE by its co-founder and chairman Phil Night and it is a great inspirational book to anyone who wants to leave a mark in this world before he/she dies. I was mesmerized by the way of story telling, it kept me going until i read the last few lines.

I have quoted some of the lines from the book which i see as lessons to be learnt by every man and woman specially wantrepreneurs and entrepreneurs:

It starts like this.

I had an aching sense that our time is short, shorter than we ever know, short as a morning run, and I wanted mine to be meaningful.
I wanted to leave a mark on the world.

This shows how ambitious Phil Night was and if every human being start thinking like this, we can make wonders. How many of us live to leave a mark? Do we really think the purpose of life?

I wanted to win.
Simply didn’t want to lose.

He says he was desperate to win reason behind it is just because he didn’t want to lose.

The secret of happiness, I’d always suspected, the essence of beauty or truth, or all we ever need to know of either, lay somewhere in that moment when the ball is in midair, when both boxers sense the approach of the bell, when the runners near the finish line and the crowd rises as one.

You need that passion to search for the happiness in life, then you will start enjoying the every small moments which can bring you happiness in your life.

Maybe the only answer, I thought, was to find some prodigious, improbable dream that seemed worthy, that seemed fun, that seemed a good fit, and chase it with an athlete’s single-minded dedication and purpose.

Its your dream which takes you to find the the answer to the purpose of life.

Like it or not, life is a game.

We all know any game is not predictable, you can either win or lose but you will keep going if you really have the passion for the game and eagerness to win. In other words fear of losing.

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.

If you think what you have in mind is right, if you have done the background work needed and if your gut feeling says you are in the right track. Just start on it. Lot of super ideas were initially rejected was considered crazy but they turned to be revolutionary later on. So was the NIKE.

When I broached the subject with my father, when I worked up the nerve to speak to him about my Crazy Idea, I made sure it was in the early evening. That was always the best time with Dad. He was relaxed then, well fed, stretched out in his vinyl recliner in the TV nook.

Regardless of whether its your father or boss or any investor make sure they are in the right mood to listen to what you are going to say.

Being a runner, I knew something about running shoes.

Its always better to start on something what you know.

Being a business buff, I knew that Japanese cameras had made deep cuts into the camera market, which had once been dominated by Germans. Thus, I argued in my paper that Japanese running shoes might do the same thing.

Do your homework before leaping in, do a study about the market come up with the answers to the problems you are going to solve. Before some one asks you a question you should ask it to yourself and be prepared.

I’d spent weeks and weeks on that paper. I’d moved into the library, devoured everything I could find about importing and exporting, about starting a company.

Take your time starting a business, it is not that simple, need lot of preparation and hard work.

Through the rest of my time at Stanford, through every morning run and right up to that moment in the TV nook, I’d pondered going to Japan, finding a shoe company, pitching them my Crazy Idea, in the hopes that they’d have a more enthusiastic reaction than my classmates, that they’d want to partner with a shy, pale, rail-thin kid from sleepy Oregon.

Day and night you have to live with you dream it has to become your breath, let it be a crazy idea always think about how you can make it work. Dream about it.

How can I leave my mark on the world, I thought, unless I get out there first and see it?
Before setting out on my own personal life voyage, I thought, let me first understand the greater voyage of humankind. Let me explore the grandest temples and churches and shrines, the holiest rivers and mountaintops. Let me feel the presence of . . . God?

You need to explore whats around if you are to leave a mark on the world. you should know the history.

Before I died, became too old or consumed with everyday minutiae, I wanted to visit the planet’s most beautiful and wondrous places.

When you are young, when you are single, when you do not have much commitments it is the ideal time to explore the world.

I was aware that twenty-six of twenty- seven new companies failed, and my father was aware, too, and the idea of taking on such a colossal risk went against everything he stood for.

You need to take the risk if you need to succeed, first get to know the risk its always better to know the devil so you will know how to deal with it.

I spent weeks reading, planning, preparing for my trip.

Preparation is the basic, be it a business or an interview or a trip around the world. Prepare! Prepare ! Prepare!

If my shyness made me bad at selling encyclopedias, my nature made me despise it. I wasn’t built for heavy doses of rejection. I’d known this about myself since high school, freshman year, when I got cut from the baseball team.

Its vital to know your personality type, it will lead you to identify certain things which you need to change or improve or get someone else to do it for you. No single person will be perfect but knowing what you are good at and what are your week points will definitely lead you to victory. If you fail to know your weakness and strengths before your opponent does you will be in trouble.

She urged me to try something else. “Like what?” I groaned into my pillow. “How about track?” she said. “Track?” I said. “You can run fast, Buck.” “I can?” I said, sitting up. So I went out for track. And I found that I could run. And no one could take that away.

Always you need someone who knows you better to be with you! It can be your mother, father, a friend, or spouse you should find that person to be along with you.

I wasn’t a smooth talker. I wasn’t any kind of talker. Still, I knew numbers, and I knew the product: Dreyfus Funds. More, I knew how to speak the truth. People seemed to like that.

Knowing what you are good at is important while knowing what you are lacking.

Luckily my father knew people in Tokyo, including a group of American guys working at United Press International.

Always build the network, end of the day it the people whom you know are going to help you first when you need.

I told them I was thinking of heading down there, meeting the Onitsuka people face to face. In that case, the ex-GIs said, you’d better learn a few things about doing business with the Japanese.

Ask for opinion from others who knows the subject better or who has experience but make your own decisions.

You might leave a man’s office thinking you’ve blown it, when in fact he’s ready to do a deal. You might leave thinking you’ve closed a deal, when in fact you’ve just been rejected. You never know.

Let it be a job interview or a business meeting, you need to learn the art of interpreting the meaning of the negotiator. Some times it may seem like a YES to you but they really meant a NO

Four months after the big meeting at Onitsuka, after I’d connected with those executives, and won them over, or so I thought — and still the shoes hadn’t arrived. I fired off a letter.

Followup is very important in any business.

He stretched out in his vinyl recliner and suggested I first go have a chat with his old friend Don Frisbee.

Specially when you have no clue its always better to get advise from a wise man or woman.

Everyone, but everyone, changes jobs at least three times. So if you go to work for an investment firm now, you’ll eventually leave, and then at your next job you’ll have to start all over. If you go work for some big company, son, same deal. No, what you want to do, while you’re young, is get your CPA. That, along with your MBA, will put a solid floor under your earnings. Then, when you change jobs, which you will, trust me, at least you’ll maintain your salary level. You won’t go backward.

This is a very good piece of advice any fresher could get.

Then I sent two pairs to my old track coach at Oregon, Bill Bowerman. I did so without a second thought, since it was Bowerman who’d first made me think, really think, about what people put on their feet.

Know where you will get positive feedback on your idea, pitch it there first.

At last he came to the point. “Those Japanese shoes,” he said. “They’re pretty good. How about letting me in on the deal?” I looked at him. In? Deal? It took me a moment to absorb and understand what he was saying. He didn’t merely want to buy a dozen Tigers for his team, he wanted to become — my partner?

You’ll never know, your business partner might be the person sitting next to you! or may be your best friend! or someone in your family or someone from your school. Be open!

So I shouldn’t have been too surprised by my mother’s next move when my father accused me of jackassing around. Casually she opened her purse and took out seven dollars. “I’d like to purchase one pair of Limber Ups, please,” she said, loud enough for him to hear.

For some it will be the father for some others it will be your mother who will be the first motivation factor who encourage you to kick start.

My Sales Strategy was simple, and I thought rather brilliant. After being rejected by a couple of sporting goods stores (“Kid, what this world does not need is another track shoe!”), I drove all over the Pacific Northwest, to various track meets. Between races I’d chat up the coaches, the runners, the fans, and show them my wares.

If one door closes, try another. There is always a way out.

Most people who came to the house had found me through word of mouth.

Word of moth is a powerful marketing tool most of us fail to realize the importance, you can create real leads through word of moth specially when you are small. Only thing you need to do is make your customers feel happy, and make them feel that you help them solve their problem, result will follow.

My “business” was two months old and I was embroiled in a legal battle?

You don’t have to be a billion dollar business to face threats, get involved in legal battles. Always expect the unexpected, don’t get settled.

I looked down. I certainly wasn’t dressed like myself. I was wearing a new suit, a proper charcoal gray, and toting a small suitcase.

Make sure when you go to an interview or a business meeting you are dressed up properly. Investing on your grooming will never going to be a waste. Most people fail to think about this.

In the side pocket was a new book: How to Do Business with the Japanese.

Different people from different part of the world have different attitudes, way of communication, and negotiation. Knowing their culture, history, and rituals are always going to help you close deals with success. These small things can bring big change in making decisions. Some basic things like how they greet each other, how to say thank you.

I could not bear the thought of losing.

Its not only you even Phil Night was feeling the fear of losing. So don’t be disappointed.

As I pressed the button for the top floor I noticed that my hand was white as bone.

Again it can happen to anyone, it happened to Phil Night :)

Another fitful night. I got up several times, went to the window, watched the ships bobbing on Kobe’s dark purple bay.

Every human being goes through it, only thing is we see only the success not the struggle and nervousness they have gone through in different situations.

Besides not writing back, I never phoned, never visited, never invited him to Oregon. I also never missed an opportunity to tell him the unvarnished truth. In one of my rare replies to his letters I put it flatly: “Though our growth has been good, I owe First National Bank of Oregon $11,000. . . . Cash flow is negative.

Chose your own management style. You don’t have to micromanage. Tell what needs to be done not how.

As ever, the accountant in me saw the risk, the entrepreneur saw the possibility.

You might be wearing different hats, but when it comes to entrepreneurship you should not forget to wear the hat of an entrepreneur when making decisions.

To have cash balances sitting around doing nothing made no sense to me.

Only an entrepreneur can think like this.

Given all these problems, given Blue Ribbon’s cloudy future, I decided that I’d better get a real job, something safe to fall back on when everything went bust.

You can think of temporary alternate sources of income to support your business when you are on your own for finance.

Again and again I learned that lack of equity was a leading cause of failure.

“Assets — Liabilities = Equity” should be the manthra or basic equation running in your mind.

Sadly, he was discovering, as I had, that no matter how well you got along in person with the team at Onitsuka, things were different once you were back on your side of the Pacific.

You cant always rely on the conclusions made in the board rooms, they can change soon after you leave. There are lot of other factors influence the final decisions.

Then one last plea for encouraging words, which I never sent. I didn’t have time for encouraging words. Besides, it wasn’t my style.
Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.
One lesson I took from all my home-schooling about heroes was that they didn’t say much. None was a blabbermouth. None micromanaged.

Again its about the Management style.

Each new customer got his or her own index card, and each index card contained that customer’s personal information, shoe size, and shoe preferences.

Customer information is vital for decision making. Keeping track of the customer information in an organized way will allow you to make data driven decisions.

AT T HE STA RT of summer I decided my parents’ basement was no longer big enough to serve as the headquarters of Blue Ribbon.

You don’t need a big office space to start your business, you can even start in the garage or basement but at some point in time you have to make the call when to move out.

But my hope was that when I failed, if I failed, I’d fail quickly, so I’d have enough time, enough years, to implement all the hard-won lessons. I wasn’t much for setting goals, but this goal kept flashing through my mind every day, until it became my internal chant: Fail fast.
A N D THEN HE threatened to quit.

Even your best employee or the one you think is loyal to you can quit tomorrow, be prepared. Find-out the reason behind, it can be some external pressure.

That one German company (Adidas.)had dominated the shoe market for a couple of decades, and they possessed all the arrogance of unchallenged dominance. Of course it’s possible that they weren’t arrogant at all, that to motivate myself I needed to see them as a monster.
Once again, in my quixotic effort to overtake a superior opponent, I had Bowerman as my coach. Once again he was doing everything he could to put me in position to win.

No matter how small you are, or with whom you are competing with, keep fighting and make sure to have the right people with you who will help you in your battle.

I wanted what everyone wants. To be me, full-time.
But it wasn’t possible. Blue Ribbon simply couldn’t support me. Though the company was on track to double sales for a fifth straight year, it still couldn’t justify a salary for its cofounder. So I decided to compromise, find a different day job, one that would pay my bills but require fewer hours, leaving me more time for my passion.

A typical startup example, when to start getting paid, i like the way he tries to justify his salary as a co-founder.

The only job I could think of that fit this criterion was teaching. I applied to Portland State University, and got a job as an assistant professor, at seven hundred dollars a month.

This is again a wise decision, he wanted to get a job to pay his bills but he has chosen teaching because you have the flexibility and you can focus on your startup as well while teaching.

The next day I returned to the United States, and one of the first things I did after landing was put fifty dollars in an envelope and airmail it to Fujimoto. On the card I wrote: “For a new bicycle, my friend.”

Helping without expectation will payoff in long run.

That night I told Penny that if Blue Ribbon failed we’d lose the house.
She put a hand on her stomach and sat down. This was the kind of insecurity he’d always vowed to avoid. Okay, she kept saying, okaaaay.
With so much at stake, she felt compelled to keep working for Blue Ribbon, right through her pregnancy. She would sacrifice everything to Blue Ribbon, even her deeply held goal of graduating from college.

Having a life partner who could cope-up with the struggles in your startup journey is nothing more than luck and your are gifted.

There was an all-comers road race in Portland that summer, and Penny and I invited a group of people to the house afterward, for a cocktail party. I made sure to invite Grelle, then waited for just the right moment. When everyone was rested, a couple of beers to the good, I asked Grelle for a word in private. I took him into my den and made my pitch short and sweet.

Human factor plays a big role in business, even though it seems useless sometimes you need to throw out parties or invite for dinner or go out for a lunch if you need to get things done. It may not look straight forward but its the reality.

By the middle of 1970 I was around 190,an all-time high.Somehow, I’d gotten out of the running habit.
I didn’t want to be the fat, flabby, sedentary head of a running-shoe company.
I trained hard that summer. I got into the habit of running six miles every night after work. In no time I was back in shape, my weight down to 160.

Being a role model in your trade is important specially in sports and fitness related business , moreover best advise is there is no excuse for not exercising or being fit. If you have a will there is always a way to find time.

“Yes, it’s going to be rough. I won’t lie to you. We’re definitely going to war, people. But we know the terrain. We know our way around Japan now. And that’s one reason I feel in my heart this is a war we can win. And if we win it, when we win it, I see great things for us on the other side of victory. We are still alive, people. We are still. Alive.”

No matter what deep trouble you are in as a leader you have to give confidence to the people around you motivate them.

And at Blue Ribbon, of course, we were preparing to put our money where our emotions were. We understood that Pre couldn’t switch shoes right before the trials. He was used to his Adidas. But in time, we were certain, he’d be a Nike athlete, and perhaps the paradigmatic Nike athlete.

You should have the common sense to understand the reality and wise brains to decide where to put your money. You might not see the returns in the short run but if you are good enough you can foresee the future.

We’d known for some time that athlete endorsements were important. If we were going to compete with Adidas — not to mention Puma and Gola, and Diadora and Head, and Wilson and Spalding, and Karhu and Etonic and New Balance and all the other brands popping up.

There is nothing better marketing than one of your customer promoting your product being a celebrity as a brand ambassador of course is a bonus always.

Hayes and I spent days role-playing, polishing our arguments and counterarguments, anticipating what objections Strasser might raise.

Let it be a negotiation with a business partner, or an important employee. Do your homework think about the scenarios what might arise during the discussions and don’t forget to rehearse.

Clearly the Buttfaces liked the culture I’d created. I trusted them, wholly, and didn’t look over their shoulders, and that bred a powerful two-way loyalty. My management style wouldn’t have worked for people who wanted to be guided, every step, but this group found it liberating, empowering. I let them be, let them do, let them make their own mistakes, because that’s how I’d always liked people to treat me.

A real leader has their own style of building a culture people love.

A product, I thought,speaks for itself, or it doesn’t. In the end, it’s only quality that counts. I couldn’t imagine that any ad campaign would ever prove me wrong or change my mind.
Can you say definitively that people are buying Nikes because of your ad? Can you show it to me in black-and-white numbers?

There is no better way to put it. One point to note is he didn’t completely ignore advertisement but emphasized more on quality of the product.

Finally piece of advice from Phil Night to young man or woman who are in mid twenties:

I’d tell them to hit pause, think long and hard about how they want to spend their time, and with whom they want to spend it for the next forty years. I’d tell men and women in their mid twenties not to settle for a job or a profession or even a career. Seek a calling. Even if you don’t know what that means, seek it. If you’re following your calling, the fatigue will be easier to bear, the disappointments will be fuel, the highs will be like nothing you’ve ever felt.
I’d like to warn the best of them, the iconoclasts, the innovators, the rebels, that they will always have a bull’s-eye on their backs. The better they get, the bigger the bull’s-eye. It’s not one man’s opinion; it’s a law of nature.