Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike Review

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My rating: 4 Stars

Shoe Dog Review:

This book is a memoirs of Phil Knight who is founder of Blue Ribbon company, which will later became Nike Inc. Book is written in such way that you won’t get direct tips on how to to certain things; but rather you will have to make conclusions from stories which goes through different chapters. If you already have experience in business – than you will not have difficulties understanding this book.

I will post here a list of things that I’ve concluded and learned from this book reading it:

  1. Traveling and Getting Experience
    Phil’s story begins with his idea of creating a company, but he first wanted to visit many places in the world and get experience before starting his business. I see that this helped him a lot with getting to know different cultures and peoples before he decided to start business with them.
  2. Being Involved in Industry
    If you are looking to start a business, it’s best to already been involved in that industry. Phil was a runner, that’s why he was able to create his business and make it a success.
  3. Selling the Right Product
    You need to understand what is your products and what are you selling. That’s the best way to start creating a business that will last long-term. Phil started selling shoes which he used and know that will work. You can’t expect to succeed by selling anything to anyone – you need to choose the right product in which you believe in, and will personally use yourself as well, and sell it to customers.
  4. Finding the Right Partners
    As for any business you can’t done everything by yourself, you’ll eventually will need to partner up with others and have employees if you want to scale your business – and of course, you want to scale your business. Phil was lucky that he was able to partner up and employ many great people, which stayed with the company for a long time. I have to say that many of them was able to keep the company going forward in rough times, when even Phil though that everything will collapse and they will go out of business.
  5. Problems and Rejections
    This is something that is unavoidable not just in business, but in life as well. You will need to learn if you already don’t know how to handle this situations. You must work on find ways to resolve small and big bumps on the road, they can’t be avoided.
  6. Motivating Partners and Employees
    This comes down to allow and motivate your workers and partners to think with their own heads. Not saying everybody what they need to do, and how they should do it – but rather allowing them to find solutions by themselves and present it to you. Phil was doing this, because often others was figuring out solutions that he will never figure out by himself.
  7. Start Small
    Don’t over-complicate things when starting out. Many great companies started small and envolve by time. You can’t get everything at the beginning.
  8. Franchising Your Business
    I’ve learned from this book when it comes to franchising your business – it’s best to look for a locations that already have customers base related to your product. You don’t want to expand into areas where are little to none persons interested in buying your product no matter how good it is. That’s why you need to do your research before.
  9. Negotiations
    It’s important to be a good negotiator when it comes to making your business successful. You need to negotiate with your partners, employees, suppliers and everybody who comes along. If you’re lacking this skill – than it’s best to employ someone who posses this skill.
  10. Plan B
    You need to create Plan B for just about anything in your work. I learned this for Phil’s experience with Onitsuka and when they wanted to cancel their contracts and doesn’t wanted to supply them with shoes anymore. Luckily Phil and his coworkers was able to find solution to this. But you can see that it’s important to not rely on only one supplier in your business – because you never know when they will turn you back and can mess up your business.
  11. Be Innovative
    Innovation has bring a lot of success to Nike, which you will learn from this book how they come up with new ideas for shoes. Innovation it’s very important in business, you don’t have to create ground breaking new products that didn’t existed till now – all you have to do is to use existing solutions and look for a ways to improve them. That’s why being involved in industry it’s important – you already have some experience and acknowledgments what is not working quite well and needs to be improved.
  12. Business and Financial Planning
    This one I’ve learned mostly from mistakes that Phil and other has been making over the years, especially in first years of business – they lack proper business and financial planning. They were growing too fast, but even though they had a lot of sales in numbers, they were struggling to pay everything on time and still make a profit. They had a low cash balance most of the time in first years. And I concluded that it’s important to have this things sorted out, because lack of cash will kill your business eventually. They were lucky many times because they were working with people who wanted them to succeed, but this will not apply to majority of business.
  13. Passion and Determination
    This is what make Nike what it is today. Phil is the founder, but he wouldn’t succeed by himself, that’s for sure. Everybody was passionate and determined to make this company successful – and they did just that. So many obstacles they had to overcome over the years, and they overcome majority of them. This should be one of the top priorities when it comes to creating and starting a business – if you don’t love it, don’t waste time and money starting it.
  14. Honesty, Integrity and Respect
    It’s important to have all of this habits if you want to succeed the right way. You need to treat everyone well, from your partners, employees, suppliers and everyone who is involved in your business. Don’t expect to last long if you don’t appreciate those with who you work with.

I don’t know what else to add here. The book is solid material for everyone interested in business, entrepreneurship, because you can learn a lot from this book. If you need something to motivate you, than this book will be great reading material for you. This book helped me to think about business in some new ways, and start focusing more on creating good partnerships.

If you’re looking for a book with step by step on how to create successful brand and company – you might want to avoid this book, because it’s not written in that sort of way. You won’t be able to find in this book exact tips on what works well, and what doesn’t.

If you like, you can read my other reviews of Entrepreneurship & Small Business Books

If you like, you can read my other reviews of Biography & History Books

Also, check out my Best Business Books List

Shoe Dog Summary:


It was one of my final classes, a seminar on entrepreneurship. I’d written a research paper about shoes, and the paper had evolved from a run-of-the-mill assignment to an all-out obsession. Being a runner, I knew something about running shoes. 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. The idea interested me, then inspired me, then captivated me. It seemed so obvious, so simple, so potentially huge.


My father invited all the neighbors over for coffee and cake and a special viewing of “Buck’s slides.” Dutifully, I stood at the slide projector, savoring the darkness, listlessly clicking the advance button and describing the pyramids, the Temple of Nike, but I wasn’t there. I was at the pyramids, I was at the Temple of Nike. I was wondering about my shoes.


The notice arrived right around Christmas, so I must have driven down to the waterfront warehouse the first week of 1964. I don’t recall exactly. I know it was early morning. I can see myself getting there before the clerks unlocked the doors. I handed them the notice and they went into the back and returned with a large box covered in Japanese writing.


I wrote him back and offered him a post as a “commissioned salesman.” Meaning I’d give him $1.75 for each pair of running shoes he sold, two bucks for each pair of spikes. I was just beginning to put together a crew of part-time sales reps, and that was the standard rate I was offering.


As I neared the end of my contract with Onitsuka, I checked the mail every day, hoping for a letter that would say they wanted to renew. Or that they didn’t. There would be relief in knowing ­either way. Of course I was also hoping for a letter from Sarah, saying she’d changed her mind. And as always I was braced for a letter from my bank, telling me my business was no longer welcome.


The forgiveness Johnson showed me, the overall good nature he demonstrated, filled me with gratitude, and a new fondness for the man. And perhaps a deeper loyalty. I regretted my treatment of him. All those unanswered letters. There are team players, I thought, and then there are team players, and then there’s Johnson.


I was putting in six days a week at Price Waterhouse, spending early mornings and late nights and all weekends and vacations at Blue Ribbon. No friends, no exercise, no social life—and wholly content. My life was out of balance, sure, but I didn’t care. In fact, I wanted even more imbalance. Or a different kind of imbalance.


Suddenly, a whole new cast of characters was wandering in and out of the office. Rising sales enabled me to hire more and more reps. Most were ex-runners, and eccentrics, as only ex-runners can be. But when it came to selling they were all business. Because they were inspired by what we were trying to do, and because they worked solely on commission (two dollars a pair), they were burning up the roads, hitting every high school and college track meet within a thousand-mile radius, and their extraordinary efforts were boosting our numbers even more.


I had to fly to Japan again, and this time two weeks before Christmas. I didn’t like leaving Penny alone with Matthew, especially around the holidays, but it couldn’t be avoided. I needed to sign a new deal with Onitsuka. Or not. Kitami was keeping me in suspense. He wouldn’t tell me his thoughts about renewing me until I arrived.


“Guess who’s coming to dinner,” Woodell said. He wheeled into my office and handed me the telex. Kitami had accepted my invitation. He was coming to Portland to spend a few days. Then he was going to make a wider tour of the United States, for reasons he declined to share. “Visiting other potential distributors,” I said to Woodell. He nodded.


Everything depended on Chicago. Our every thought, our every conversation at the start of 1972, began and ended with Chicago, because Chicago was the site of the National Sporting Goods Association Show.


Like his coach, Pre just wasn’t himself after the 1972 Olympics. He was haunted and enraged by the terrorist attacks. And by his performance. He felt he’d let everyone down. He’d finished fourth.


I sat in the federal courthouse in downtown Portland, at a little wooden table, alongside Strasser and Cousin Houser, staring at the high ceiling. I tried to take deep breaths. I tried not to look to my left, at the opposing table, at the five raptor-eyed lawyers representing Onitsuka and four other distributors, all of whom wanted to see me ruined.


Pay Nissho first. This was my morning chant, my nightly prayer, my number one priority. And it was my daily instruction to the man who played the Sundance Kid to my Butch Cassidy—Hayes. Be- fore paying back the bank, I said, before paying back anyone . . . pay Nissho.


There was no victory party. There was no victory dance. There wasn’t even a quick victory jig in the halls. There wasn’t time. We still didn’t have a bank, and every company needs a bank. Hayes made a list of banks with the most deposits in Oregon. They were all much smaller than First National or Bank of California, but oh well. Beggars, choosers, etc.


Now that we’d gotten past our bank crisis, now that I was reasonably sure of not going to jail, I could go back to asking the deep questions. What are we trying to build here? What kind of company do we want to be? Like most companies, we had role models. Sony, for instance. Sony was the Apple of its day. Profitable, innovative, efficient—and it treated its workers well. When pressed, I often said I wanted to be like Sony. At root, however, I still aimed and hoped for something bigger, and vaguer.


His name was M. Frank Rudy, he was a former aerospace engineer, and he was a true original. One look at him told you he was a nutty professor, though it wasn’t until years later that I learned the full extent of his nuttiness. (He kept a meticulous diary of his sex life and bowel movements.) He had a business partner, Bob Bogert, another brainiac, and they had a Crazy Idea, and together they were going to pitch us—that’s the sum total of what I knew that morning in March 1977 as we settled around the conference table. I wasn’t even sure how these guys reached us, or how they’d arranged this meeting.


Strasser was our five-star general, and I was ready to follow him into any fray, any fusillade. In our fight with Onitsuka his outrage had comforted and sustained me, and his mind had been a formidable weapon. In this new fight with the Feds he was doubly outraged. Good, I thought. He stomped around the offices like a pissed-off Viking, and his stomps were music to my ears.


He occupied a teeny office at the Treasury Depart- ment, a space about the size of my mother’s linen closet. There was barely room for his government-issued gunmetal-gray desk, let alone the matching chair for infrequent visitors.


We all gathered in the conference room and Chang gave us his bio. He was born in Shanghai, and raised in opulence. His grandfather was the third-largest soy sauce manufacturer in northern China, and his father had been the third-highest-­ranking member of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. When Chang was a teenager, however, the revolution came. The Changs fled to the United States, to Los Angeles, where Chang attended Hollywood High. He often thought he’d go back, and his parents did also. They kept in close touch with friends and family in China, and his mother remained extremely close with Soong Ching-ling, the godmother of the revolution.


We love going to the movies. We always have. But tonight we have a dilemma. We’ve seen all the violent movies, which Penny likes best, so we’re going to have to venture outside our comfort zone, try something different. A comedy, maybe.


I’ve spent a fair portion of my life in debt. As a young entrepreneur I became distressingly familiar with that feeling of going to sleep each night, waking up each day, owing many people a sum far greater than I could repay. Nothing, however, has made me feel quite so indebted as the writing of this book.

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Product details

  • File Size: 1189 KB
  • Print Length: 401 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; Reprint edition (April 26, 2016)
  • Publication Date: April 26, 2016
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0176M1A44
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Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike
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