The Fortune Book Club Book Review: Shoe Dog
Title: Shoe Dog
Author: Phil Knight
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
Publication date: 3 May 2018
Armed with a vision and $50 borrowed from his faster, Phil Knight launched a company that overtime would become one of the leading sports brands in the world. Shoe Dog is the recollection of the ups and downs of Nike as the company tried to find its feet in the sports industry. Told by the founder himself, Knight recounts the relationships and camaraderie that created not just a brand, but a community around running.
Chronicling the origination and growth of Nike from 1962 to 1980, Phil Knight has created a marvel of business literature. Shoe Dog is entertaining, inspiring and educational, checking all the boxes for a great read. Suitable for both those just starting out and those well established in business, Shoe Dog could be the best book you read all year.
Unlike other tales of success, the book doesn’t sugarcoat or skim over the hardship of business. Rather than worrying about ego or image, Knight tells it as it is and it’s this honesty that really brings the book into its own. After all, it’s the trials and tribulations of Nike’s history from importing product and competing on shoe design to personnel issues and volatile finances, that makes the story of one of the world’s biggest companies so fascinating.
Moreover even though it’s not written as a guide for starting a business, it is hard not to pick up on tips and life lessons while reading. The whole business landscape is covered, with examples of negotiations, leadership, recruitment, finance, branding, crisis management and more, all highlighted in the book.
Furthermore, the refreshing perspective of wholeheartedly following an idea to the ends of the earth, is awe inspiring. It demonstrates that with enough passion and determination, it truly is possible to stumble through by trusting your instinct, following your feet and learning on the job.
In addition, the structure of Shoe Dog is well thought out and key to understanding the history of the company. Chapters are titled as years (e.g. 1962) and each chapter highlights the achievements, perils and growth of the company in that year. This chronology really helps in understanding the timeline of the company such as when key members joined/left or when key products were introduced.
However, although the timeline is mostly consistent, in places it is uncertain due to a lack of corroborating evidence from Knight’s diaries or the accounts of other key Nike staff. However, this causes no detriment to the outcome of the memoir and it’s a feat in itself that the book can be so detailed having been written years later.
In actuality, it is very hard to fault the book. It’s easy to read and accessible by all, with any business terms well explained and easily understood. And although a degree of descriptive writing is employed, this only makes the recount more engaging and vivid.
Overall Shoe Dog is a gripping and entertaining read that demonstrates the real ups and downs of starting and growing a business both emotionally and financially. Well written, insightful and highly praised, Phil Knight has produced one of the best business memoirs to date – 5/5.
- The Book of Five Rings – Miyamoto Musashi
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