Phil Knight | Appreciate Dedicated Staff 1967

Returning back from Japan with a 3 year contract of Onitsuka, Knight procrastinated in his communicating to Johnson that Nike needed an eastcoast store. Sometimes procrastination is difficult to avoid, Phil kept procrastinating giving Johnson the news that Johnson had to move to the East Coast. So much so that Knight hired a new store manager in Santa Monica to replace Johnson without telling him. When Johnson phoned Knight, however, Johnson accepted because of his lack of confidence. The next day however, he asked for a stake in the company or a profit participation and a raise. Via letter; Johnson threatened to quit with a two part ultimatum, one was to make Johnson a full partner in Blue Ribbon and two was to raise his salary to $600 per month + 1/3rd of all profits beyond the first 6000 pairs of shoes sold or he walks.

Just when Knight has begun to appreciate Johnson’s loyalty as a team player, he is forced into a meeting with his salesman father Owen’s office who was bent upon getting his son a stake in the company. The negotiations end with a fifty dollar raise for Johnson. Despite all this, this is where Knight has begun to appreciate Johnson truly, having recognized the fact that it is near impossible to find someone ready to uproot their life and open up a new office in a new location in such a short time.

This is also the turning point where Blue Ribbon actually begins to expand into a company. Hires are made one after the other on the recommendations of Bowerman, new offices are moved into both by Knight and Johnson. It is plain that the failure that Knight had always seen forthcoming and prayed for to come early is held at bay for now. The growth of the company seems positive and inevitable. Woodel was a man of Oregon, whom Knight hired under the recommendation of Bowerman. Woodel was a track athlete who had been injured when a float fell on top of him while moving it with a team of 20 guys.

There is a legal face-off with Adidas over the name of a new shoe, which only serves to highlight that Blue Ribbon is now beginning to affect the big leagues. Although it is early days, the competitive mindset of Blue Ribbon is evident when they name their new show Cortez after Adidas made them back off the name Aztec because the latter was going to use it (Cortez defeated the Aztecs).

Knight’s relationship with Bowerman is also further developed in 1967. Bowerman’s book, a thin volume on jogging, goes viral and changes people’s outlook on running, almost making it seem ‘cool’. Knight is pleased at first, hoping it would add to the company’s success, but when he actually gets down to read it, he finds that Bowerman has clearly stated that running is not about shoes or branded apparel – one can use any kind for running.

This hits Knight badly for the purpose of his business, of course, but also on a personal level as even now Knight is looking for approval from Bowerman. That urge hasn’t gone away, and is the same since his school days. It also reflects on Bowerman’s character that running is something that is above business or profit for him.

Although the chapter is covered in references to the company making-do with less than best facilities – like cracked windows that let in the cold or the noises of the pub that start from four everyday – beyond all of that, the beginnings of big success are evident. From a single basement in Knight’s parents’ home to multiple employees and offices, the company is growing fast and quickly. Even though Blue Ribbon was successfully doubling revenue year on year, it still could not support it’s co-founder Phil Knight after 5 years of operation. But Phil did not enjoy PWC enough and that work was too time consuming so he found a low key job as an assistant professor at Portland State. Phil decided he would focus on his shoe business which was as far as anyone was concerned “jackass-ing around.” Even the equity problem at the bank is staved off by meeting revenue expectations.

As an assistant professor, Phil knew that accounting is about balancing these equations. He met Penny Parks in his accounting class. In fact she turned out to be the best student so Phil hired Penny as a bookkeeper. Knight asked her out on a date and they hit it off and were mattirf within a year.

shoe-dog-by-phil-knightThe above notes are based on ShoeDog by Phil Knight – Founder of NIKE INC.nike

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