One of my favorite books is “Shoe Dog“. It is the book written by Phil Knight, creator of Nike. It is undoubtedly a truly inspiring, addictive and authentic book. The book explains, in first person, the story of the creator of one of the most recognized brands in the world, Nike. The story begins in 1962, when Knight finished his MBA (Master in Business Administration) at Stanford University, after studying Journalism in his native Portland. At that moment, he faces a small existential crisis (I suppose like many people who have attended higher education) and he does not know very well where to direct his professional career. So, he decides to spend a year going around the world, starting in Hawaii, continuing throughout Asia (Japan, China, Indonesia …), Africa and the main countries of Europe. In fact, Phil highlights, that the place he liked the most was Greece, especially the Parthenon and from there he got the name of Nike, goddess of victory.
In 1964 he began importing Tiger brand sports shoes from Japan into the United States. Buck (that was his nickname for his intimate contacts) was passionate about athletics. The initial name of the company was Blue Ribbon, and he suddenly invented it when he was in Japan negotiating the importation of these products. In fact, the first 5 years he only sold Tiger brand products. It should also be noted that Phil was employed as a financial consultant and as a university professor because the company could not afford to pay him a salary. And it was not until the 7th year of the company that they launched the Nike brand, first only in the field of shoes for American football and later, athletic shoes, other sports and also sportswear. During the initial 16 years of the company, they suffered all kinds of difficulties. Above all, financial problems to cover the temporary space between the purchase of the product in Japan until it’s sold in the United States. In fact, on more than one occasion they were on the verge of closing the company due to the impossibility of paying their suppliers or also due to 2 serious legal disputes with their Japanese supplier and with the North American customs department. And Phil always kept his idea “always keep moving forward“, that is, always forward, never stop.
And this is what he did in the face of each of the numerous difficulties that he went through. It is the main lesson that I take away from the book. No strategic plans, no extraordinary ideas… Just get ahead and never stop. Phil went from a very tough start to going public in 1980, valuing Phil’s stake in Nike at $ 178 million. Today his wealth exceeds 50,000 million dollars and gives more than 100 million annually to charitable causes. He emphasizes that “business is not just business; and if business ever ends up being just business, it will end up being very bad.” In the end, he says that one of the best ways to be successful and make your fortune is to just keep going, keep fighting when others drop out.
It reminds me of the famous quote by Martin Luther King that Knight was surely inspired to do his great work: “If you can’t fly, then run, if you can’t run, then walk, if you can’t walk, then crawl; but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward“.