25 Dec 2019
Shoe Dog is a shockingly candid subjective interpretation of Nike's path to dominance in the world of athletic gear. My personal conclusion after reading the book: in order to become a successful entrepreneur of the kind of Phil Knight in a bloody red ocean like athletic apparel (previously dominated by players like Adidas, Puma, Converse, etc.), you need to have just a few ingredients straight. You need to be smart (Stanford MBA), have an A-team (consisting of former lawyers and accountants), be aggressive and assertive (not shy away from engaging into business-espionage and suing your former business-partners), be born in the right place (Oregon was big in track sports), be born into the right family (in which your father must be capable to sponsor your expensive education, trips around the world and give seed money to jump-start your business; and your mother is a relative of a US senator), be passionate about your field (Phil Knight was normally putting in 4-mile runs every evening), be lucky to have a creative genius in your network (Bowerman, a stellar olympic running coach contributed key design features to early Nike shoes). Even once you have all of the above secured, there still will be a few defining moments in which the survival of your business is a matter of pure luck (like when the financing company or the US government can end your existence based on a mere judgement call), so a wagon of luck is yet another key ingredient without which Nike does not become Nike.
This book stirred a few important thoughts in my head: how many almost-Nikes were there - the companies that had all but one ingredient, which is why they fell down and we've never heard of them. Another important thought: is it worth it - to be Phil Knight, a person that saw his company growing from a basement-based startup to the world-dominating company, and yet was living through lengthy law suits that could end his success or have his very house taken away? Does this tremendous level of stress worth it? I recommend this book to everyone who's thinking about starting their own business! A few fun facts: 1. Phil was selling encyclopedias door-to-door in Hawaii after he graduated from Stanford MBA 2. Phil worked in PwC as an accountant when he started his business, Blue Ribbon 3. Both the name Nike and the legendary logo ("the swoosh") did not strike it with Phil Knight originally - he wasn't sure if liked either at first 4. At the end of the book Phil compares his success to that of Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, admitting that each of the other guys achieved 5-6 times Phil's fortune