Phil Knight was anxious about the ending of the one-year contract with Tiger and waiting for an alert to either renew the contract or end it. By the end of 1966, Phil had sealed a three-year contract over the head of a better placed, richer competitor. The journey between how this is made possible is a lesson not only for entrepreneurship, but in life itself.
1966 was the point in time when the author actually starts realizing the importance of Johnson. Divorced, broke and hurting from an accident, Johnson managed to reach levels of sales that Knight himself believes to be impossible. Having made a deal with Johnson that after reaching a certain number of sales Knight would allow him to open up the first retail store, Johnson is ecstatic and puts in all efforts to make it the place for runners to be.
1966 was an important landmark not just in Phil’s journey but perhaps also the history of running. Running for fun or just to keep fit wasn’t common back then, and runners were often made fun of. In the middle of all this, Johnson opens up a place that looked great, but also has essential books on running, some from Johnson’s own personal library and souvenirs for the more dedicated customers. It becomes a place for runners to find solace, to find more of their own.
Although Knight does not like to offer encouragement or reply to Johnson’s letters too often, preferring to leave him to his own devices, he is faced with no choice when he learns that a major competitor is angling for exclusive rights for selling Tiger shoes in America. Plotting overnight with Jackson at his apartment, Knight visits Japan to find that everything has changed – from the man in charge to the conference room furniture.
The difference between the last time and this time is evident to Phil – there is more confidence, more poise and much more ease in handling the negotiations. He successfully bluffs his way into making sure he is awarded the contract, but now faces the problem of actually having to erect an East Coast office and paying for a large shipment.
Though always a risk taker, Phil is firmly in the territory of risks. There is no going back from this point. Aware of the possibility of failure, Knight has grown way past his days of fear of rejection and only hopes that if he has to fail, he fails at the earliest so that he may use his lessons from this failed venture in the next. The change from a sheltered, rejection averse boy to a man who can find positivity in the face of complete failure is stunning and is a lesson that inspires the reader. Phil does not fear failure anymore, but welcomes it with open arms, and this attitude ends up winning him a great deal against a competitor who won’t even be aware what hit him.
The above notes are based on ShoeDog by Phil Knight – Founder of NIKE INC.