A memoir by the creator of Nike – Phil Knight

 Fresh out of business school, Phil Knight borrowed fifty dollars from his father and launched a company with one simple mission: import high-quality, low-cost running shoes from Japan.

From the first annual sales of $ 8.000 in 1963 to the current sales exceeding $ 30 billion, the story told by Phil Knight in his recent book (“Shoe dog”) is full with details, events, memories and also with cues on how he managed to reach this result.


Some business highlights from the book:

  • Growth was the mantra of the company from day Every dollar available was used to order shoes to sell, even dollars not yet cashed in. “Grow or die”. This has been key to establish the brand (which initially was “Blue Ribbon”).
  • Innovation has always been high on the From the very start this has applied to both outside producers and to own factories. Direct result was an extended range of products to fulfill all customers’ needs.
  • Diversification came quite naturally, but not through a planned The first diversification was into everyday shoes, the second one into clothes.
  • They cared only about the market, very little about The key was to have great shoes which would sell by themselves on the market and do it quickly.
  • The establishment of block orders from retailers’ chains was vital to guarantee revenues and lower the financial

Not everything worked smoothly:

  • Extreme push on growth created severe strains on the cash position, which at some point really threatened the very life of the
  • Knight wanted to have at all costs a sizeable inventory to be able to satisfy the growing demand and not leave customers Though very positive on the commercial side, this created logistic problems which took a while to manage.
  • New shoes models were not all properly tested before lunch and some were They have been nonetheless wise to take the shoes back and reimburse the customer, so retaining their loyalty.


Some points on management and culture:

  • Knight actually created a family, a company which grew on a dream, an idea, not on a As in a family parents decide together, in Nike the initial core team of 5-6 people jointly took the main decisions.
  • Knight wanted to win and so permeated the company But winning for him was not making money, it was instead creating something, contributing: “it’s never just business”.
  • Though not very good at speeches, at a critical point when they seriously risked to disappear, Knight delivered a deeply inspired speech to the entire company which set the basis for a stunning


Some phrases to take away with us:

  • “There is no finish line”. This was the slogan of Nike ad in Beating the competition can be more or less easy; beating yourself is a never ending commitment.
  • “We were more than just a brand, we were a statement”. This has always been Knight’s philosophy from the very first pair of shoes he sold and he embedded this value into the culture of the
  • “You are remembered for the rules you break”. As an avid reader of war books, Knight had this sentence by Mc. Arthur always in mind. In fact this does not mean he behaved unfairly, just that he stretched the usual business practices.
  • “There are worse things than ambition”. This was what their financing partner said when he discovered that Knight “hid” the purchase of a Even at outset, with his initial Japanese partner, he boasted to have a company able to distribute their products when in fact he had nothing.