By Jared Tilley | Senior Investment Analyst at NAOS Asset Management
In the 2016 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholder Letter, Warren Buffett described Shoe Dog as “The best book I read last year ” and even with this glowing recommendation, the book did not disappoint as Phil Knight, the founder of Nike, takes you on a detailed and insightful journey into the creation of one of the most iconic sports brand.
At Stanford, Knight was a middle-distance runner but with an entrepreneurial mind having wrote a thesis titled "Can Japanese Sports Shoes Do to German Sports Shoes What Japanese Cameras Did to German Cameras?". Post Stanford, Knight embarks on an around the world trip, stopping in Japan to sign a distribution arrangement with Tiger running shoes, now known as Asics.
From 1963, Blue Ribbon as it was first called, follows the typical path of a start-up in which sales don’t seem to be a problem with Knight and the misfit team doubling revenue year in year out. A lack of capital, increased competition from Adidas and Puma plus a failing relationship with Tiger provides number of situations where the business could have failed.
While there are a few lucky breaks, Knight does not spare any detail as his formidable, candid and relentless approach pushes the business and the team.
A few of my favourite quotes from the book are below but they don’t do the book any justice, hence it’s well worth the read.
- I asked myself: What if there were a way, without being an athlete, to feel what athletes feel? To play all the time instead of working? Or else to enjoy work so much that is becomes essentially the same thing.
- I wanted to leave a mark on the world. I wanted to win. No, that’s not right. I simply didn’t want to lose.
- In 1962 I told myself: let everyone else call your idea crazy…. Just keep going. Don’t Stop. Don’t even think about stopping until you get there, and don’t give much thought to where “there” is. Whatever comes, just don’t stop.
- Hard work is critical, a good team is essential, brains and determination are invaluable, but luck may decide the outcome.
Link to book
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