Posts Tagged ‘Steve Prefontaine’

Over the winter break I actually had time to read some books and one of them was Phil Knight’s book “Shoe Dog” about how he started Nike.

Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike

Overall, this was a damn good book.  “A+”.  One of the best books on business I have ever read.

Maybe it was because I ran track and field for so many years, but I couldn’t put this book down.

Just to give some background information, Phil Knight ran track at Oregon under the world-famous Bill Bowerman.  He was only a marginal runner during College, but after graduation he tried to jump into the shoe business by importing cheaper Japanese running shoes.

This was only 20 years after WWII and Japan was emerging as a cheap manufacturing base, similar to China today.

Phil had a couple of things going for him.

A) His family was moderately wealthy. He tries to downplay it, but after College he had a couple years without any real employment and he also spent time traveling around the world

B) He was close with coach Bowerman.  This is big. This would be like starting your own football sneaker and your best friend is Belichick.  It is serious name recognition and Bowerman also assisted in designing the shoes.

Eventually Phil started working some financial jobs during the day and then working on his sneaker side-business at night.  He would hire some sales reps and they would import sneakers from Japan and sell them at track meets and sneaker stores.

Sales would start to grow and after some disagreements and backstabbing from their production team in Japan, Phil decided to start his own brand and formed “Nike”.

What’s amazing is how close Phil came to going bankrupt.  There was numerous lawsuits, employees quitting, production problems in Japan etc.  It really took over a decade to finally have a good production team in place before sales started to roll in.

Nike was not an overnight success by any means.

When he really started to hit his stride is when they started sponsoring athletes.  First it was Nastase the tennis player and then they picked up Steve Prefontaine.

If you aren’t familiar with Prefontaine, he is probably the most famous American distance runner in history.  He had a rock star quality about him and set many American records before he died in a car crash prematurely.

At this point, Nike was doing millions of dollars in sales and they eventually went public, making Phil worth over $100 million almost immediately.

Overall, this is a really good book.  Phil describes in detail the difficulty in taking a small company, increasing sales and then going public.

I also like how Phil bended the rules.  Whether it was stealing secret plans from a Japanese business man’s brief case or lying to the banks about having an east coast production team.

Business is war and Phil proves it.

This book is an A+

-John Andre

 

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