I usually don’t like autobiographies from businessmen. They always let me down. I start the book expecting to learn more about overcoming challenges, creating a big company and the personality of such great founders, but in the end, the author just wants to set the record straight on some still controversial issue about him or his company, or simply shift the blame for that horrible deal he made ten years ago. Shoe Dog, however, blew me away. I have to say it´s one of the best business memoirs I have read so far.
Phil Knight, founder of Nike, tells his story since he was a teenager until Nike went big and did it’s IPO. Phil is candid, he tells you the pitfalls and obstacles he had to face and how he managed to grow and overcome the problems of creating a company. Always with a simple, superb, concise and very humble writing style. The book is short, easy to read and you just can’t put it down.
Since I am also founder of a company, albeit I am still in my early stages, I want to point a couple of specifics I really enjoyed reading in Shoe Dog:
- Every business, specially a new one, will face obstacles. Huge obstacles. It´s sounds very obvious, but many people get scared, or quit, or panic or I don´t know what. Every entrepreneur got to know that obstacles and challenges are a given when creating a company from scratch. Through his own anecdotes, Phil teaches you to fight hard, step up your game, and play it like a man.
- Enterprises don´t get big from scratch. Here’s where Phil´s humbleness comes to play. By reading about his first employees, or the first time he got a shipment of Onitsuka Tiger snickers from Japan, or how the Swoosh was created, you learn everybody starts somewhere. There are no miracles. Start from the bottom and work everyday.
Shoe Dog ranks top-notch. I dare say it is a must read for every entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur myself, I know how business books can be out of touch with reality. I constantly read about the passion you must have every day, or how maintain steady cash flow. Truth is, the everyday life of an entrepreneur is a bit more complex and it is full of headaches. Our daily life is about negotiating with banks to give you more cash, trying to get rid of old inventory or struggling to get some government authorization that will keep the business afloat. Phil get’s that, he is honest about it and very straightforward. Nike almost ended when their exclusivity of Tigers was suddenly given to a competitor, or when banks didn´t want Phil’s business anymore, or when the government fined them for US$ 25 million. That´s how it is. In the end, some people make it and some don´t. Phil did, and decided to humbly share his acquired-along-the-way pearls with us. Thanks Phil.