How did Nike begin, how did they translate an idea into a business and what challenges did they have to overcome? Shoe Dog offers valuable insights by taking us back to Nike’s startup days, giving us a rare glimpse of how its founder Phil Knight and his team struggled against seemingly-impossible odds and crushing setbacks to build the Nike we know today.
This is not a how-to book with strategy recommendations or tips. Instead, Phil—who’s known to be a shy man of few words—shares his personal journey with vivid details and refreshing honesty. His memoirs began in 1962 when he was a fresh graduate and ended in 1980 when Nike went public.
In this Shoe Dog summary, we’ll highlight some of milestones and takeaways we gleaned from the book. We strongly that you get the book Shoe Dog for an engaging and inspiring read that gives you deep insights into the thoughts, feelings and challenges encountered by Phil and the Nike founding team. You can also get an overview of the key milestones and developments with our complete book summary bundle.
Many business books suggest that to build a successful business, you need a winning team, great leadership, a grand vision, and a robust strategy which you systematically roll out. Phil’s memoirs show that that this was totally not the case with Nike.
Shoe Dog: A Memoir of Nike & Phil Knight’s Journey
• Nike started out as “Blue Ribbon“, a distributor of the Tiger brand of track shoes from Japan; Nike was born out of sheer necessity when they were played out by their supplier Onistsuka.
• There was no grand vision nor mega strategy; Nike’s journey was a chaotic jumble of ups and downs, a constant race against time, and years of doing whatever was needed to survive. They were kicked out by their bank twice, faced endless supply and logistics issues, lawsuits and underhanded measures by rivals, and had to constantly find creative ways to overcome the challenges and simply stay afloat. Phil even had to go back to a full-time accounting job just to pay the bills.
• The founding team was a mix of misfits held together by their Oregonian origins, complementary strengths, passion and grit. The people who shaped Nike’s early days included coaching legend Bowerman who was always tinkering with shoes, Johnson with an obsessive love for running, accounting wizard Hayes who was also grossly overweight, legal counsel Strasser who disliked lawyers, and wheelchair-bound-ex-trackstar Woodell with a knack for organization and solving problems. Phil himself was no model leader—he was hands-off, awkward with communications and made countless mistakes along the way.
Phil’s colorful and humorous memoir brings the people and events to life, showing us what business is truly about. In his own words, “It seems wrong to throw all those hectic days and sleepless nights, all those magnificent triumphs and desperate struggles, under that bland, generic banner: business. What we were doing felt so much more.”
This book was written after Phil had retired as Nike’s CEO after 40 years in the business. He wanted to:
• Remind young entrepreneurs never to give up, as even a giant like Nike had to endure years of struggle and sacrifice to succeed; and
• Urge all of us to dig deep and find what we truly want to do, and to seek our calling no matter what.
This is a beautifully-written book packed with insights and inspiration—a must-read for any Nike fan, entrepreneur or those seeking their purpose in life. Do get the book here or get our full 16-page summary & infographic for the highlights of the Nike Story.
Get inspired by Nike’s startup journey!