“Life is growth. You grow or you die.” ― Phil Knight
Years after Phil Knight’s Shoe Dog was released in 2016, I recently came across a copy in great condition. I first thought it wouldn’t be worth my while reading given the time that lapsed, but then I remembered the latest books are hardly the most relevant (although they’re often assumed to be). Shoe Dog did not disappoint!
In 1962, fresh out of business school, Phil Knight borrowed $50 from his father and launched a company with a simple mission: import high-quality, low-cost athletic shoes from Japan. Selling the shoes from the boot of his Plymouth, Knight grossed $8000 that first year, 1963. Today, Nike’s annual sales top $30 billion, and its swoosh is more than a logo.
But Knight, the man behind the swoosh, has always been a mystery. Now, in a memoir that’s surprising, humble, unfiltered, funny and beautifully crafted, he tells his story at last. He recalls the foundational relationships that formed the heart and soul of Nike, and how together they created a brand, and a culture, that changed everything.
Phil Knight’s book is the funniest memoir I’ve read! Mostly because it’s filled with corporate jokes, that were way too relatable. Despite the humour, there’s also many lessons you can learn from this autobiography.
Knight talks about how he started Nike, which surprisingly is not pronounced like “Bike”. Knight also talks about his and Nike’s wins, challenges, legal battles and moments of madness.
Shoe Dog’s chapters are split into landmark years in Phil Knight’s life regarding Nike. This made it even more interesting and manageable to read when you have a busy schedule! This way, you can see how Nike grew over the years and overcame challenges that were important for its success to this day.
My favourite story is the one about how Nike won their legal battle against Onitsuka. Nike and Onitsuka went from partners to competitors and like many other real-life examples, it didn’t happen smoothly. Onitsuka sued Nike for breach of contract after word got out that Knight was doing more than just selling Onitsuka’s shoes. The case turned at court after testimonies both parties were given but shows that honesty is key!
While reading Shoe Dog, I was reminded how important it is to have patience. Knight’s fights with Onitsuka shows how delays (some of which are out of your hands) can impact your business negatively, but you can still persevere and grow your brand. His gratitude and sense of community with his partners were good lessons showing it’s a must to treat your employees well while allowing them to be themselves.
The book is definitely a must-read for any entrepreneur or anyone with a “big crazy idea” that gives them sleepless nights!
“The best book I read last year. Phil is … a gifted storyteller.” – Warren Buffett
“Shoe Dog is a very well-written book that answers all the burning questions you may have about Nike, including how the ubiquitous swoosh logo came to be.” – Alan Atkinson’s Book Review
Buy your own copy!
New: Loot – R155 paperback here
Second-Hand: Lotus Bookstore – R89 paperback here (check out for discounts too!)