Shoe Dog by Phil Knight
Shoe Dog is a very well-written memoir, up there with recent examples like Open by Andre Agassi. It’s not surprising then that both share the same ghost writer, J.R. Moehringer, who manages to make both men seem reflective and honest despite detailing sometimes-less-than-ideal behavior. In Knight’s case, his crippling shyness manifests itself as an aloof executive from the very early days of his company. And he’s both forthright and contrite about not spending enough time with his family, especially his two sons, growing up.
While Nike is today a worldwide brand and Knight a billionaire many times over, building the company was not an overnight success. It started out as the west coast distributor for Japanese running shoes and then turned into Nike 8 years later. Meanwhile Knight was working as a CPA, as a college professor, and various other jobs alongside running the growing company. Cash was a constant struggle despite regular growth; he needed to front the money for orders before they were booked and was often at the mercy of bankers.
Knight completely glosses over the years since the company went public in 1980, which is probably the topic for a second, equally-long memoir. But a glaring omission is his failure to adequately address the controversies over Nike operating sweatshops overseas. Knight barely touches upon the subject and his tone in doing so—unusual for the rest of the book—is defensive and dismissive. I suspect his editor pressured him to put something about it in the book, and the result is very half-baked.
That criticism aside, overall this was a fantastic book: well-written, frank, and covering an interesting man and founder. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in founding businesses.