You need to be in the right place at the right time. Being exposed to many ideas, variables, and potential inputs for accidental discoveries is better than living in a risk averse environment. In High School, Jobs took an electronics class which would have been less likely in most other cities in the US or Canada. Steve Jobs was fortunate to be raised in Silicon Valley, and because of that location it is less of a mystery as to why Jobs is who he was. Defense contracts in Silicon Valley during the 1950s shaped the history of the valley, military investment was used to build cameras to fly over the USSR, for example. Military companies were on the cutting edge, and made living in Silicon Valley interesting. In the 1930s, Dave Packard moved into Silicon Valley, and his garage was the core of the creation of Hewlett Packard. In the 1960s, HP had 9,000 employees, and it was where all engineers wanted to work. Jobs was ambitious enough at a young age to phone Dave Packard and ask for some parts. That’s how he got a summer job there. Moore’s Law emerged in Silicon Valley, Intel was able to develop the first micro processor. Financial backing was made easier to acquire where rich New Yorker’s retired to…By having the chip technology that could be cost measured for projections, Jobs and Gates would use this metric to revolutionize the technological world.
1962 – Synopsis | Travel the World to Get Insights & Chase Dreams
Phil Knight, aged 24, traveled across the world to chase his Stanford MBA dream of creating a shoe importing business. Now a days, air travel is accepted as part of pop culture, with bucket lists, gap years and travel vlogging becoming the norm. But back in the 1960s, ninety per cent of Americans had never boarded a plane. Most Americans had not travelled more than 100 miles from their home.
Phil or Bucky, as his dad used to call him, felt hesitant to ask his father for money to support a plan to travel the world from Hawaii, Berlin, London, Paris to Tokyo, Cairo, Athens while also exploring his business venture idea in Japan. Phil knew before going into the chat exactly why his father would reject the travel plan. Phil Knight’s dad ran a local Portland-based publisher and was a former lawyer with a poverty stricken upbringing. He was someone whose aim in life was to achieve respectability, and more importantly, to be seen as respectable by the society around him. Respectability demands a stable career, a beautiful wife and obedient children – children who don’t randomly have the urge to travel around the world. However, Phil’s request plays on his father’s youthful regret of not travelling much, and he gets his way immediately.
Knight decides to enlist a friend for the journey, his Stanford buddy Carter was excitedly on board with the global adventure. They had an amazing ‘beach-drenched’ time in Honolulu, where the itinerary goes out of whack because they fall in love with the place so much that they decide to rent a place and find jobs. From selling encyclopedias to securities, Phil finds he is uncomfortable being a salesman, and even more uncomfortable with rejection. Eventually, he moves on in his travels alone, as Carter chooses to stay behind for a girl he found. The journey Knight is on is one of self-discovery, to find out what interests him – and perhaps denotes something we all can relate to at one point of time or the other.
He describes his travels through various countries, elaborating on the ones he enjoyed the most while the rest are clipped to a couple of sentences. Knight searches for spiritualism everywhere he goes – as if he is seeking out a power higher than himself to give him directions. He does find the teachings of various cultures, but nothing moves him as he expected it to. Greece and its architecture, however, leaves a lasting mark on him. Athena the goddess of victory “Nike” is of particular interest. It might be historical revisionism but that name might come up later…..
Phil Knight creates his first business pitch in Kobe. Japan at the HQ of Tiger Shoes, Onitsuka Co. He was warned by two American ex-occupation military guys about how Japanese negotiating is completely different than the typical aggressive American manner. So Phil practices what he will say and how he will deal with his proposed pitch of the “Crazy Shoe Idea.” In the meeting, which featured top Tiger Shoe brass, Knight ends up speaking from a safe space – channeling the speech he gave at his entrepreneurship presentation at Stanford, something he had studied really hard for (‘58-’62) and which had been then the basis of his “Crazy Shoe Idea.” The basic pitch can be captured in the title of his small business class paper: “Can Japanese Sports Shoes Do to German Sports Shoes What Japanese Cameras Did to German Cameras?”
Knight was pleased with how the meeting went. The Onitsuka team seemed intrigued with his US distribution strategy which was peppered with quantitative insights, market sizing and a vision for getting Tiger ensconced into the US mainstream. When they asked what the name of his company was, Knight replied with “Blue Ribbon”. His pitch also hit a nerve as the Japanese management were seeing Yen ($) signs via the US track. Without knowing the outcome of the meeting (as Japanese are stereotypically hard to read), Phil had his father wire fifty bucks to Onitsuka so that they could send over shoe samples they talked about in the meeting.
When Phil arrives home, looking bohemian and travel worn, the first thing he asks his dad is if the shoes have arrived. This part of the ShoeDog story is interesting not just because there is a very beautiful description of every country he visited, but because the reader can see the author’s passion for shoes developing in successive stages – from nothing in Honolulu to noticing the shoes of even beggars and statues. Great minds connect desperate events to create innovation; Knight was already on his way to greatness.
The above synopsis is based on notes from ShoeDog by Phil Knight.
1963 – Synopsis | Accounting is a very useful skill
Phil Knight’s family dynamic has changed upon his return; he finds that something has changed in him – it is not just his scruffy beard and castaway attire that causes his mother to thoughtfully call him ‘worldly’; there is a fundamental change in his spirit. Buddhism had captured him; be one with the path.
Having been betrayed by someone he thought was a business associate and having lost fifty dollars borrowed from his father for the purpose of getting a specific pair of shoes shipped, he comes to the realization that he is actually drifting in life without a sense of purpose. He brings this up with his father, who encourages him to talk to a friend of his, Mr. Frisbee.
Mr. Frisbee had officially ‘made it’ in life – he was an alumnus of Harvard Business School and had quickly risen to become the CEO of a New York State Exchange Company. This makes quite an impression on Phil. In a meeting with Frisbee, Knight hears a useful philosophy of working, saying that everyone typically changes three jobs before they hit upon the right one.
Now, if you are not adequately educated, your career and earning scale might go down as you progress from job to job instead of going up. Therefore to secure a solid financial return, it is necessary to do two things – get a CPA to strengthen the MBA Phil already had.
This though poses a problem for Phil because he hadn’t studied accounting as a major and didn’t have the necessary hours to qualify. He therefore enrolled at Portland State for three accounting classes. Portland State is a far cry from something like Harvard (something that both Phil and his father realize), but Knight finishes his nine hours and starts working at the accounting firm Lybrand, Ross Bros. and Montgomery. It is one of the Big Eight National firms, but the offices in Portland are quite small. Knight takes this positively, reflecting that this would give him a chance to learn the language of business.
Phil quickly discovers the downside of a small branch at L.R.Bros & M. There is no one to take up the slack when the workload increases, which means that everyone is logging in long hours, not leaving much opportunity for the learning process. However Knight admires the CEO, Al Reser, who happens to be a mere three years older than Phil.
The best example of how important work is at this firm is reflected when Phil is refused a holiday on the day after President Kennedy’s assassination. Of course, the upside to all this is that Phil is earning well. So he buys a car for himself. His life has finally taken a definite direction, and he seems set in his profession too. However, the chapter closes with him often wondering if his travels around the world in ’62 were the peak of his life, and there is nothing better to look forward to…..
The above synopsis is based on notes from ShoeDog by Phil Knight – Founder of NIKE INC.
1964 – Synopsis | Finding Bill Bowerman & the Importance of Rejection
Growing up equipped Knight to deal with rejection, both in professional and personal life, something that was severely lacking in him before. His mother (Lota Hatfield Knight) is an interesting character, who may, as per first impressions, seem meek, but had many layers to her. She was a confident woman who did not hesitate to support her son in front of anyone, whether it was her husband or the outside world. She did not speak much, but proved herself through her actions.
Another important figure in Phil’s life is Bill Bowerman. He was a taskmaster during Phil’s University of Oregon stint. Bowerman was frugal with praise and known for churning out successful athletes. Phil yearned for his approval, but knew that it was not something that he’d get much of. Having finally received his shipment of shoes from Japan, Phil Knight sent over two of the pairs to Bowerman, expecting him to praise the shoes. Bowerman asked to meet Phil over a deal to buy more shoes and it goes even better than expected – Bowerman wants to be a partner in this business. He calls Phil over to meet his lawyer, which causes him some trepidation, but the discussion is brief and settles any fears Phil had.
The Tiger shoe import business booms, and Phil feels immensely content and happy with his success. However a wrinkle pops up when a competing US distributor on the East Coast sends a letter to Blue Ribbon demanding they stop selling Tiger shoes. Unable to take rejection, Knights falls back into old habits, but eventually decides to fight back and makes a visit to Japan. Phil’s character essentially changes – instead of allowing rejection to simply make him miserable, he lets it propel him into success. He flies to Japan and successfully gets rights to sell the shoes for another area in his thirteen states.
In 1964, Knight also falls in love after meeting a girl while climbing Mount Fuji. It is a whirlwind romance, and they part without any plans of meeting up. One day, however, Sarah lands up at his doorstep and it is here that the love affair actually begins. The family is charmed by Sarah, and the author falls head over heels for her. Eventually, Sarah cools off and this causes heartache to the author, but brings up a very essential relationship to the forefront – Phil’s relationship with his sister Jeanne which till now has not been talked about. She supports him and speaks the first words of comfort that actually reach him, and goes on to become the first employee of his company since she had read all of Phil and Sarah loveletters to eachother, she would manage the mail room at Blue Ribbon.
The above notes are based on ShoeDog by Phil Knight – Founder of NIKE INC.
1965 – Synopsis | Banks are Risk Averse & The PwC Experience
All along, Phil Knight believed that growth was possible for Blue Ribbon, his company importing Tiger shoes from Japan. His bank, however, had a different idea. A conservative banking institution, they did not believe in risk and were only concerned with maintaining equity in case of failure. This is key commentary on the difficulties faced by entrepreneurs back in the day. Entrepreneurs have various funding options, but back then even inter-state financing from banks wasn’t possible. Venture capitalists were a far cry, and investment in startups wasn’t an established subculture. There wasn’t much encouragement given to a new idea.
Phil Knight renews acquaintances with an old classmate he had met on the tracks one day, Jeff Johnson. Johnson reveres the sport of running like no other, and looks upon it as something almost divine. Although enthusiastic and energetic, Johnson is perhaps too much so. Beginning with working part time for Knight, Johnson ends up becoming the first full time employee of the company through sheer doggedness, quitting his day job for it. Johnson is relentless in his communication – Phil starts getting overwhelmed with Johnson writing two to three letters everyday.
With the bank continuously bearing down on him for maintaining equity and having to wheedle for a loan everytime he needs to order a shipment, Knight applies for the position of an accountant and gets recruited by Price Waterhouse. This becomes a stepping stone for him as he meets the next big influence in his life – Delbert J. Heyes, the leader of his team. Heyes makes Phil look at numbers in a way that makes him feel like an artist. Moreover, this job allows Knight to intricately study how and why different kinds of companies go under, and how the ones that survive flourish. Cash is king in all cases; accounting and cash. Phil starts taking notes for the purpose of his own company.
Phil also begins drinking a lot, courtesy the company of Mr. Hayes and the Reserves. With a full day ahead of him, he begins to handle his job, the Reserves training as well as his company all at once. With so much alcohol in his system, it becomes difficult to handle but Knight rallies on. Bowerman, on the other hand, rises up to help the company while Knight is so engaged. Having received a grand reception in Japan upon visiting the shoe factory offices, Bowerman gets excited about new possibilities and works on endless new shoe modifications for adapting Tiger’s Japanese products specifically for the American feet. Knight also picks up life lessons from Bowerman in ’65 about making the most of twenty four hours in a day. Apart from shoe design and his coaching, at a time Bowerman had multiple projects going on; for instance, trying to make the perfect energy drink for track racers. Bowerman was effectively inventing Gatorade. On top of that, Bowerman managed a family life as well as reveals that he is writing a book.
The above notes are based on ShoeDog by Phil Knight – Founder of NIKE INC.
1966 – Synopsis | Bluff When You Have to & Failure is Okay
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 East coast operation. 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 Knight actually starts realizing the importance of Johnson. Divorced, broke and car hurting from an accident, Johnson managed to reach levels of sales that Knight himself believed 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 Knight does this by lying that he had an East Coast office where Tiger could ship their shoes. Phil faces the problem of actually having to erect an East Coast office and paying for a large shipment by biding his time.
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 point 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. 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 them.
The above notes are based on ShoeDog by Phil Knight – Founder of NIKE INC.
1967 – Synopsis | Appreciate Dedicated Staff
Returning back from Japan with a 3 year contract of Onitsuka, Knight procrastinated in his communicating to Johnson that Blue Ribbon needed an East Coast store because Phil wanted someone else to do that job. 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 on 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 is a special hire out of Oregon, whom Knight hired under the recommendation of Bowerman. Woodel was a track athlete but was wheelchair bound after he was 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 shoe Cortez after Adidas made them back off the name Aztec because Adidas 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.
Even with 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 Phil’s father was concerned “still 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 married within a year.
The above notes are based on ShoeDog by Phil Knight – Founder of NIKE INC.
1968 – A synopsis
This chapter begins with Phil Knight deliberating about leaving his long-hours job at Price Waterhouse to be able to devote more time to Blue Ribbon. However, financially, it wasn’t possible to just work at Blue Ribbon. So he accepted the assistant professor at Portland State University, which allows him to earn income as well as have more time for his company. His senior at Price Waterhouse and his father both are baffled at his decision to quit his job.
This is where the story of how he meets his future wife begins. She is a student who looks different than everyone else and diverts his attention by sitting in the first row. A Julie Christie look-a-like, Penelope Parks never participates in class discussions (which the author makes lively by using the Socratic method), but ends up surprising the author by getting the topmost grades in her assignments.
He eventually asks her if she would be interested in doing accounting work for his company, and she acquiesces. She soon becomes indispensable, both from a professional as well as a friend. Phil one day finds that she has kept all her salary cheques uncashed in her drawer, and this is what perhaps gives him the courage to ask her out on a date. They go to the zoo where he tells her more about himself, his travels around the world and his dream for his company. She is suitably impressed as she has only dated ‘boys’ who are interested in sports and cars.
They go on a couple more dates, and become more comfortable with each other. They end up meeting each other’s parents, and discover that their homes are as different as possible. Phil’s parents are polite but insist on knowing more about her. Parks’ home, in contrast, is rowdy and in disorder. Phil eventually connects with Penelope’s mother, who begins to like him.
With things going smoothly at the office and at home and Penelope spending increasingly more time with him, he asks her mother permission to take her away for a weekend with him. She refuses the first time, but Phil uses his negotiation skills to get her to agree the second time round.
The trip is successful, he proposes since having a relationship with a student wouldn’t bode well long-term, and ends with the couple very matter-of-factly deciding about their upcoming marriage.
This chapter also deals with Knight’s observations on Japan and its culture. He openly admires their way of doing things, their shyness and his growing camaraderie with Kitami, who invites him to his department’s annual picnic.
An important incident here that highlights the author’s character is his sending fifty dollars to a man in Japan named Fugimoto who lost his home and bicycle in a typhoon. Phil has just met and conversed with this man once, yet considered it important enough to help him out. The man replies saying he can’t accept the money as per the instructions of his superiors, but cleverly adds a postscript saying that if Phil instead sends the money to his home address, he will be able to take it. So that’s what Phil does so. Fugimoto would later become Knight’s spy against Onitsuka.
The above notes are based on ShoeDog by Phil Knight – Founder of NIKE INC.
1969 – A Synopsis
Now that the company is running in a stable manner with regards to steady sales, attention is drawn to other important factors like advertising, athletic endorsements etc. Knight recruits a broke art student for painting advertisements when he realizes how behind they are in that field.
Mention is also made to the historic moment when two athletes, John Carlos and Tommy Smith, raised a protest at the Olympics as a protest. Knight mentions that Bowerman naturally supported them, because he would support all runners. This adds to the facet of Bowerman’s personality revealed before – of putting running before everything. Not only is it above business (he never mentions his company in the bestselling jogging book), but it is also above his beliefs, whether racial or otherwise, at the time. He supports his runners simply because they are that.
Knight’s naiveté is also shown in this chapter when he openly puts in the mail to all his employees saying he has his own spy working on Kitami. He is also revealed to be a difficult person to live with, absentminded, a bad driver, not neat and spoiled in the sense that he is unable to take care of himself. His wife lovingly puts up with all of it. However, when she gets pregnant and they buy a house and Knight makes it clear that the house will be taken away if the company goes under, a major development in her character is reflected.
Knight also mistakenly takes a harder than necessary stance with an employee who is overburdened with work and wants a raise and is starting to detest Knight’s offhand management style. Woodell helps patch this trouble over by staying with the employee for a few days and effectively bonding with him.
Penny has always been shown as a diligent person who becomes indispensable to the office, but now, she works harder than ever before even when she is pregnant. Her fear of not having stability drives her more than anything else. She fills out uncertain and badly drawn orders, keeping up sales numbers through her days of morning sickness and weight gain. She is a stellar character who rises up to the challenges of Knight’s life.
The relationship between Woodell and Knight also develops. This is the first time that Knight speaks of someone with such fond remembrance that one can detect a yearning of nostalgia for times spent with Woodell. Woodell is an inspiration and much more self-reliant than most able-bodied men. He abhors pity and is dedicated to his work. He quickly becomes a very important part of the Knights’ lives, both professionally and personally.
Knight also reaches another key point in his life – he becomes a father. He is both scared but mostly wondrous at the feeling of having created his own child with his wife when he first holds his son Matthew. He is ecstatic, and the first thought that comes into his mind is to find his father and tell him the news.
The above notes are based on ShoeDog by Phil Knight – Founder of NIKE INC.
1970 – A Synopsis
This is the point when Knight faces many challenges, including one in his personal life. The gamut of challenges starts with a meeting for contract renewal in Japan that goes well but leaves him in doubt nevertheless. He secures 3 more years of Tiger shoes with distribution rights but simultaneously, orders start coming in with even worse delays – earlier, they used to be merely late, now they are the wrong models as well the wrong sizes. Customers start getting frustrated in large numbers. Of course, the Blue Ribbon staff understands that Onitsuka Tiger are likely first fulfilling their demand in Japan and then sending the leftovers to America.
Next, Knight gets told by his banker that there will be no money given to him any longer, and to return the money he already owes, he must fulfill strict sales quotas set by the bank. Here, for the first time, Japan offers to send the shipment on time – just when the bank has backed out. Knight comes up with the idea of a small public offering to capture the tide of companies that put the work tech or electronic in their name in order to rid the stock craze of the Nifty Fifty era.
He names the offering the “Sport Tech Company” but when this public offering disastrously fails, however, it leaves Knight’s confidence in his life’s work shattered. He is left questioning himself. Although he blames various things for it (Vietnam, the depression) he is ultimately racked with humiliation at having thought too much of something that clearly was not. Still struggling, Knight struggles to find money so badly that he accepts the last life savings of Woodell’s parents.
To continue the downward spiral, Knight also loses the physical agility which he was so proud of. Having gained weight, he could no longer run the way he used to. It all comes down to one humiliating moment when Knight cannot keep up with Grelle in a private run. But this serves as a springboard, and Knight begins to shed the extra kilos.
He trains hard, comes back and beats Grelle in a running bet. This is perhaps the beginning of better days, because Knight finds out about Japanese trading companies, who like to extend lines of credit to fledgling companies. This provides Knight an option after the bank debacle. But he is careful, and takes time to decide.
He discovers some disturbing news – his doubts in the meeting in Japan were correct, it is evident that Kitami is shopping for another US dealer to distribute the Tiger shoes products. This is when he makes the strategic decision of inviting Kitami to his country and his home.
There is a subtle link between the physical fitness of Knight and his ability to keep his company running. This is perhaps because in the past chapters he has always used running as something to soothe him, or calm him down, or even blow off steam – he has gone on a run before big deals or before big decisions, often feeling better afterwards. His lack of physical fitness came as a realization to him at a particularly low point professionally. But once he overcomes that and goes back to his previous weight and is able to proudly run again, even bigger problems than before seem easier to resolve.
The above notes are based on ShoeDog by Phil Knight – Founder of NIKE INC.
1971 – A Synopsis
This chapter is whirlwind of ups and down, and reveals the character of the mysterious Mr. Kitami at length. While the Knights make his and his assistant’s American visit as hospitable as possible in order to help re-centre their relationship since Knight was told that Tiger was looking for alternative suppliers in the US, Kitami appears to be intentionally over react during a meeting at the bank by outright demanding that the bank “give Blue Ribbon more money to support its operations” and then storms out of the meeting. Knight is shocked, but catches the smug expression on Kitami’s face as they exit the bank, understanding that Kitami is trying to sabotage this deal in more ways than one.
Phil’s position was clear: Blue Ribbon could increase sales if they had more shoes and would have more shoes if the bank could lend more money, and the bank would lend more money if Onitsuka’s contract with Blue Ribbon was greater than 3 years and if the terms of service for delivering the shoes were tightened up. Blue Ribbon could seek funding from a trading company such as Nissho but Kitami said that they would send money first then take over second.
- Onitsuka was only manufacturing 1/4 of their own shoes and subcontracting the other 3/4st to cheaper suppliers;
- Kitami was worried that Nissho would find out which cheap suppliers were involved and then go around Onitsuka to produce the product and put Onitsuka out of business;
Kitami continues this irritable behaviour at the new offices, refusing to acknowledge the steady double growth as a good thing, demanding more. Here is where a side of Knight previously unseen is revealed. On continuously hearing that their growth should be triple through reference to a folder, Knight becomes curious and pilfers through a folder from Kitani’s briefcase while he is in the toilet. Shocked at himself, he confides in Woodell, who is shocked as well, but wants to analyze the contents nevertheless. The folder showed 18 US manufacturers and Kitami was interviewing half of them on this trip to replace Blue Ribbon. This was the ultimate betrayal. The next day, Woodell and Knight slid the folder back into Kitami’s briefcase when he wasn’t looking.
Here it is evident that although both men have a good conscience, when it comes to their business, there are some lines that they wouldn’t mind crossing.
Kitami’s unforgivable behaviour continues when he leaves Penny alone to fix a flat tyre on the highway, himself just sitting in the car. Things continue to go downhill at a get-together at the Bowermans’, where Mrs. Bowerman has allowed alcohol when she generally doesn’t. Tensions are already high due to the war, and Mr. Bowerman gets really tipsy and makes his anti-Japanese sentiment known. The weird night ends with Kitami playing songs on a guitar, making everyone fall into silence.
For the first time, Bowerman’s goofy side is shown. He is always the quiet, resilient and diligent person in the background, but at this get-together, he does not mind being the verbose centre of attention. Perhaps it was this effect of alcohol that made Mrs. Bowerman forbid any alcohol in the house.
Kitami goes off on a two week trip and then returns to Portland where he proposes that Onitsuka would like to buying out Blue Ribbon (51% ownership stake) or otherwise Onitsuka would have to seek out superior distributors. Knight is forced to come up with a strategy to save his company. He stalls his decision and Kitami leaves without a problem.
Then First National decided to stop supporting Blue Ribbon just around this time. The perfect storm was brewing. So Knight got a deal with a small bank in California. But he turned back to the Japanese trading company (Nissho) which was looking for huge upside ventures like Blue Ribbon. Nissho was willing to take a second position to Blue Ribbon on their existing loans which would have quelled their bank needs. And to top it off, Nissho had been rejected by Onitsuka and so Nissho was embarrassed and wanted to work with Blue Ribbon. They were offering them access to a whole host of Japanese manufacturers to work with. The only problem being that Blue Ribbon’s contract with Onitsuka forbade importing any other track and field shoes…but the wheels were turning and Phil Knight was introduced to a shoe factory producer in Mexico that was called Canada and he was impressed to the point where he made an order of 3,000 pairs of soccer shoes which were not track shoes. This didn’t violate the terms but it broke the spirit of the contract with Onitsuka. The factory owner wanted to know the name of Knight’s brand, he said he’d get back to them on an answer soon.
Phil calls up Carolyn Davidson who had done some ad work and asks her to create a new logo that would set King’s company apart from Onitsuka and Adidas. She came back 2 weeks later with various lightning bolts and other motion like icons. Knight singled out 5 and gave her a few more days to refine. It looked like a wing and invoiced Knight $35 USD. Knight picked the one that looked the best although he wasn’t happy with it.
One of the most historic moments of the story also falls within this chapter – the naming of the brand as Nike. Woodell wanted Falcon, on of the other staff wanted Bangle and Knight wanted Dimension 6. All terrible. After thinking of various names that the employees could not agree on, Jeff Johnson phoned Woodell to explain that he had a dream, the Greek goddess “Nike”. The name Nike was decided on in desperation. Nike was like Xerox, Kodak. He thought about the victory in World War 2. and so is a symbol resembling a swoosh of air. Knight sent the message that the product is called Nike.
After trying out various factories, including the factory Canada which sucked, Knight finds a dream factory that manufactures shoes to his satisfaction; a Nippon factor that build Firestone tires. Although he finds a few faults, overall, the quality control and the manufacturing speed are above reproach. He ends up naming the rest of the models in a fit of exuberance, and feels victorious afterwards. That feeling of victory is similar to how he felt when his son was born – the words ‘we made this’ are common in both situations.
Knight had spent 3 weeks in Japan finding manufacturers. And knew that Onitsuka would hear about his visit so he invited Penny over for the last week to make a visit to Kobe. Onituka and Kitami all got together. Fugimoto the spy was also invited.
Knight also recalls that Bowerman was interested in innovation in the soles of these shoes in preparation for the 1972 Olympics. He was looking at waffle irons in a new way and believed that they could be the basis of a new rubber sole. Turns out he was inventing the future.
This chapter is important not only because of the beginning of the evolving of the company as it is popularly known, but also delving into aspects of personality of the characters previously unexplored.
The above notes are based on ShoeDog by Phil Knight – Founder of NIKE INC.
1972 – A Synopsis
This chapter focuses on how the company starts shaping its own unique identity. Till now, Knight and his people have been working hard, yes, but they have always been controlled by someone else; by Onitsuka Tigers and by Kitami the vendor contact that effectively bossed Knight and Blue Ribbon around. The key was that they would need at least a few months of Onitsuka inventory to keep the cashflow coming in order to support the Nike venture, so Knight needed to be super quiet and hope that Kitami didn’t read local papers. Although Japan’s support was important in the initial stages, this chapter shows how the company has grown strong enough to throw away the shackles and follow their own path, somewhat deviously. After all, the Onitsuka contract stipulated that Blue Ribbon could only import track shoes from Onitsuka factories and with the Tiger brand.
At a trade show early in the year, shoes salesmen showed some interest even though the dream manufacturer’s shoes were flawed, some of the paint was too shiny. The orange Nike’s stacked up beside the Onitsuka Tigers perplexed Knight’s team as well: Johnson, Woodell in particular. One of the customers was asking “what the hell is a Nike?” Knight explained, “it’s the Greek goddess of victory”. And what is this logo?” Knight – “it’s a Swoosh.” Customer – “What’s a swoosh?” Knight – “It’s the sound of someone running past you!” They loved it and bought pairs. Johnson couldn’t believe the excitement and asked one sales rep why he was buying inventory, he said “because Blue Ribbon has never bullshitted us in the past, and we’ve been doing business for years.”
Kitami flew over to Portland in a rush and demanded to understand what had gone on at the trade show. He confronted Knight asking what was the deal with the orange boxes and the “Nik-e” pronouncing Nee-kay. Knight explained that it was a sideline he had developed in case Onitsuka did as threatened and yanked the rug from under Blue Ribbon. Kitami was on his heels, how many Nike’s did you order? Who manufactured them? Knight answered. Knight fibbed that the Nike’s were not in stores….Kitami finally wanted to know when Phil would sign his papers and sell Blue Ribbon to Onitsuka…clueless.
Kitami stormed off to one of the Blue Ribbon shoe stores and found boxes upon boxes of Nike shoes stacked in the back. Thus follows a meeting where both sides threaten each other with lawsuits, and their business connection is terminated. Knight, in this chapter, shows the true qualities of a leader. Till now, although effective, there hasn’t been much evidence of Knight encouraging people, as he prefers not to be the hands-on type of leader. In the meeting after this incident, however, Knight single-handedly converts the defeat and pessimism in everyone’s body language to hope and an eagerness for success. The story after this almost feels destined for success.
The rest of the chapter deals with Nike and how it gets itself into the endorsement business. It begins with the National Sporting Goods Association Show, where despite having mediocre product the company manages to exceed all of their collective order expectations. In disbelief, when asked why they were ordering the product at all, the salesmen confess that they know that this company always tells the truth. Although bewildered that such a simple thing could be behind this success, the answer sticks with Knight.
The company also meets with good success at the Olympic field and track trials, where they get athletes to wear their apparel and their shoes. They eventually end up signing a deal for ten thousand dollars with Ilie ‘Nasty’ Nastase the tennis pro for $10,000.
To top it all off, the University of Oregon Ducks unexpectedly win, and they do so wearing Nike waffles. Knight is ecstatic because it is a double whammy – his team is winning while wearing his product.
In this chapter, Knight also consciously or subconsciously reveals that this is the turning point from which there is no return. Till before this, Knight’s mindset has always been that if the business fails, it had better fail fast, because then he can get out young. But here, after witnessing the legendary win of Prefontaine and the emerging of the Ducks as winner, it is clear that Knight loves sports so much they are a part of who he is as a person, and he will never be truly able to turn back.
Knight gives Prefontaine a job as a promoter for Nike. Prefontaine was the identity of Nike and vice versa. Phil loved Prefontaine and had Hollister support Pre’s.
Finally, Bowerman reveals another facet of this character, which comes as a big surprise. After a shocking disaster where eleven Israeli athletes are kidnapped and killed, Bowerman is irrevocably shaken, and resigns from coaching a few days after. This is the first time Bowerman is shown in a defeatist stance. But he continued to develop the waffle shoe design. Johnson also worked on the Pre-Montreal.
Overall, the tone of the chapter is promising, and everything is going good for Knight. It seems there is nowhere to go but up.
The above notes are based on ShoeDog by Phil Knight – Founder of NIKE INC.
1973 – A Synopsis
Problems have started cropping up – and not just for Knight. Pre, the star of the last chapter, finishes fourth in the Olympic finals. His financial condition also takes a turn for the worse because Olympic athletes weren’t allowed to collect endorsement money. Knight eventually decides to hire him and use him to spread the word about Nike.
Pre’s personality takes up a lot of the chapter. He is the sort of person people automatically become intimidated by when he walks into a room. The ice eventually breaks over a meal when everyone realizes how Pre is just like them.
Knight takes another important managerial decision – he gets Woodell and Johnson to switch cities. This is difficult because both of them have settled well in the cities they already are in, but Knight convinces them to do it. And he calls them butt heads in the process.
One of the most painful moments yet are chronicled in this chapter. The shoe market was changing, there was massive demand now for running shoes from Adidas to Puma etc but insufficient supply and Blue Ribbon was now less financially stable. Knight meets with his debenture holders after posting a loss of ($50K), and trying to answer their questions is very difficult for him. Staring up at him are working class faces who put their faith in him, and then and there, Knight decides that he will never take his company public – if facing a few debenture holders could make him feel so bad, what would thousand of shareholders do for him? He placates the debenture holders by telling them that he would keep the conversion rate the same for all the five years (when originally it was supposed to increase each year).
A suit is filed against the company in Japan, and they sue back with the help of Knight’s cousin, Houser. Houser is tenacious and competitive, and plays well in front of a judge or a jury. Knight feels drained because of the depositions he has to go through, where various questions are asked of him just to somehow get him to accept breaking the contract. His father provides him valuable support during this time, both familial and legal. Having such a focused thing to concentrate on gives his father a mission too.
A new law graduate, Rob Strasser, is added to the legal team, and he and Knight hit it off. They bond over work, over sports and over having similar fathers. Strasser also fully believes in the company’s cause.
Meanwhile, Penny is about to have another child. Knight is worried about supporting two children financially. However, after the child is safely delivered, Knight’s mind returns to his business, and Penny can feel it. Although Knight realizes that what he did wasn’t something he should have done, he doesn’t stop himself. Neither does Penny. It is amply clear that she understands him and his state of mind completely.
Knight starts a completely new system where distributors commit to support the Blue Ribbon supply with advance commitments which would give strength to Nike’s capital raising ability. This picks up pace with the shoe suppliers for solving the problem of demand and supply. Specifically, he asks for bulk non refundable orders six months in advance. Although he faces resistance in the beginning, by the end of it, the stores who aren’t included beg to be let in.
The above notes are based on ShoeDog by Phil Knight – Founder of NIKE INC.
1974 – A Synopsis
This chapter is a finger-biting account of the entire trial. It is described so well that the tension is palpable. Everything that could have gone splendidly right goes wrong in one way or another. Knight’s nerves are on edge after the countless question in the deposition, and he makes the mistake of not being well rested or well fed before coming to court. He breaks under pressure, often becoming incoherent.
Other witnesses don’t do too well either. Bowerman refuses to prepare for his testimony because of his deep disdain for the Japanese business and ends up getting intimidated on the stand, and Woodell gets so nervous he starts giggling while spelling his name for the judge. After the judge passes a gag order forbidding both sides to talk about the trial, the very next day, Johnson speaks to a salesperson who turns up in the court with the defense team. Overall, the case looks like a wreck. But amidst all of this chaos, Knight manages to convey the unstoppable belief that he has in his cousin – and it seems the cousin is the only one who does not in some way contribute to the worsening of the case.
The judge himself is a character whose different sides are revealed throughout the chapter. Increasingly dramatic and at first appearing very stern, it is later revealed that under all the dramatic announcements, he is a logical person who is simply making the most of a case that he doesn’t particularly like. His judgment finds in favor of Blue Ribbon simply because he finds that side most truthful – and it is shown how the judge is a very astute observer because he notices things like Kitami getting a translator but that Kitami would correct his translator in perfect English whenever he made a mistake in translation: an obvious ploy to pretend to not speak English well that went wrong.
This chapter is extremely well worded – throughout the proceedings, it seems that Knight and his company will lose, but when the point of ruling actually comes about, there isn’t incredulous surprise at them winning. The feeling of joy afterwards is very well captured, and Knight especially gets carried away with the feeling of victory.
They also needed money for a new factory since there was a weak supply line for the Nike brands. Hiding the fact that they took a large portion of the Nissho financing to pay for a new factory was a risky move. At any rate, Johnson helped Phil out and took on the role of running the factory on the East coasts in Exeter, New Hampshire.
The other side however does not render the cheque immediately as per their settlement agreement. Another great victory is Jimmy Connors surprisingly winning the Wimbeldon and the US Open, both in Nikes.
Another important part of the chapter is Knight trying to recruit Strasser. Till now, Knight has never actually prepared a speech or arguments to try to hire someone. But he knows how valuable Strasser can be – and knows that Strasser too would love to work with Blue Ribbon. Eventually, Strasser’s only problem turns out to be getting his father’s permission – something Knight hasn’t prepared for. But that works out for the best and Strasser becomes the company’s first in-house counsel. It is clear that this is the bedrock of a relationship that is going to last for a long time..or is it? The number of similarities in their personal lives is already quite great, and now they are beginning a professional relationship too. As we see Bowerman becoming less and less focused, Strasser’s involvement simultaneously grows along side them.
The above notes are based on ShoeDog by Phil Knight – Founder of NIKE INC.
1975 – A Synopsis
This is where all the financial problems come to a head – there comes a point when the company is unable to pay Nissho, the salary cheques of the employees bounce, the bank refuses to associate with them anymore, an FBI investigation is prompted by the bank, angry creditors fly down to demand their money, all the while when the person from Nissho who was dealing with Blue Ribbon – the friendly Sumeragi – is replaced by a higher-up, Ito. He is so cold that Knight starts referring to him as the Ice Man.
Through all the troubles that emerge, the characters of three people come out through and through – Ito, Knight and Giampietro, the man Knight had hired for managing the shoe factory.
Giampietro gets the company out of a huge fix in a very unconventional manner. When the cheques bounce and the angry employees swarm around Johnson, Giampietro drives around to the owner of a local box company, demanding a loan of five thousand dollars. It is a mark of Giampietro’s personality that he actually gets the loan. He then hands out crisp notes to the employees, staving off one disaster.
The entire bank situation gets out of hand with the FBI potentially getting involved because of the missed pay cheques. Knight informs Nissho of the situation, preferring to be truthful. He also asks for a further loan of a million dollars to hold everybody else off. Ito demands to see the books before he makes a decision. This is a warning sign because Knight used the money from Nissho to build the Exeter factory – and Nissho had no idea about it. Knight spends a sleepless night, only to see that Ito handles it way better than Knight could ever have imagined.
Ito comes out as a sterling character who believes in Knight. Single handedly, after knowing the exact circumstances, he visits the bank and shuts up their threats forever. He pays off the remaining debt and tells the bank that they can stop hoping to get business with Nissho from now. Knight is delighted and relieved in equal measures.
Several creditors were arriving $100K owed here and there. The creditors are handled in an almost funny way – it would be hilarious if it weren’t so desperate – as Knight assigns a person to each creditor to make sure that they don’t bump into each other inside the building. A third person manages the movements and warns the handlers about the creditors. Knight jumps in and talks to the disgruntled creditors and manages to save the day for the time being.
The chapter ends on a positive note, a much more positive place than could have been expected with the way the financial state of things were. It is clear that Nissho is in with Blue Ribbon for the long haul. It becomes apparent again, that like at the time of the courtroom troubles, it is truth and straightforwardness that saved Knight and his company this time too. Nissho buys out the bank (remember that in the US, there hundreds of banks to choose from) and that the Bank of California was to no longer be involved with Blue Ribbon.
Penny, once again, displays her faith in Blue Ribbon and gives Knight a positive assessment to rely on in times of intense stress.
Part two, 1975 – A Synopsis
This is a very short, very sad chapter. Everything up to this point has been a description of Knight’s struggles with his identity (at first), and then the troubles of getting his business set up. Much of the other parts of Knight’s life – like, death, which everyone deals with – has not come in a large enough form for it to have affected him majorly. This chapter shows how the major characters deal with such a crisis.
The chapter begins quite happily – Blue Ribbon has come out of all the trouble, but they still lack a bank. After trying a number of them, they end up finally getting a bank who is ready to take them on – the First State Bank of Oregon, in Milwaukie. Knight is finally relieved and gets a good night’s sleep after weeks.
The Memorial Day weekend is coming up, and Penny wants to get away, and so does Knight. But as has been shown before, Knight loves to mix business with pleasure – and so he proposes going to Pre’s weekend meet, where he has invited a mix of some of the best runners in the world. The weekend promises to be fun and exciting.
Seeing Pre running inspires Knight, as usual. There is something different this time – Pre is not at his best, and everyone can see it, yet he puts in all he has in the last two hundred yards and wins. Knight recalls Pre’s famous saying, ‘Somebody may beat me – but they’re going to have to bleed to do it’, and vows to apply it in his professional life.
After the Knights drive back home after a good day, Phil receives a call just before dawn Ed Campbell over at the Bank of California (who Nike had just left), telling him that Pre is dead. Phil is shocked and can’t believe it, and tries to confirm the story. It is indeed true – Pre died in a car accident the night before. He was travelling home when he hit a bolder flipped out of the car and the car landed on him. Prefontaine was 24 years old.
Pre’s death is heartbreaking particularly because he was so young. Knight compares it to his age – when he was twenty four, he had hardly lived life. Pre was already world famous and had so much to do. Bowerman is particularly broken down about Pre’s death, having been his coach through tough times, and having also survived the attack on Israelis at the time of the Olympics. Bowerman gives a beautiful eulogy, but look completely spent thereafter. Having been an unstoppable force, it looks like Bowerman is finally slowing down, and this may be a hit from which he may never recover.
Pre was a beloved athlete, and people start leaving gifts at the place he died – flowers, letters, notes, even Nikes. Knight and the rest of Blue Ribbon decide that they will collect everything and build a shrine for Pre, because he deserves that. They have no idea how they will be able to collect the money for this sort of a thing, but Woodell and Knight agree that as long as they are in business, they will somehow find the money for things that matter the most.
The above notes are based on ShoeDog by Phil Knight – Founder of NIKE INC.
1976 – A Synopsis
Going public is the question that is raised multiple times, and is rejected everytime. It is not just because Knight is afraid of becoming answerable to shareholders – it is because it will change the entire culture of the company. Bowerman finally snaps. First, he refuses to give a personal guarantee on a loan for the company, and then asks Knight to buy his share at a reduced price. Knight pleads with him to stay on and retain a small percentage. Later, Bowerman calls a meeting and tries to pick a fight where there is no basis for one. It is clear – he isn’t happy, and he doesn’t feel involved.
Nike, meanwhile, brings about a new revolution by changing the color of their most popular pair of shoes to blue, so that they go well with jeans. Till now, no shoes company had been able to massively breakthrough into the everyday wear market, and almost overnight Nike cracked the code.
For solving the factory problem, Knight selects Gorman and takes him to Taiwan with him to give him a refresher course of Asia. Here, Knight fulfills one of his earliest wishes – he goes and lives in a suite he could not afford at the time of his student world tour. This shows how far he has come from then. People also appreciate Nike at the trials, and Knight overhears a statement that says Nike is really beating Adidas.
Nike gets a huge victory when at the Olympic trials, most unexpectedly, the three men wearing Nikes all end up crossing the victory line first. Flushed with success, they hope for a Nike Olympic winner, knowing that this is the most legitimate way for a shoe company to show that it is truly in the game. However, as the competitor’s shoes are shown on television, it is revealed that Frank Shorter is actually wearing Tigers for the ’76 Olympic marathon. This is the defining moment when Knight realizes how invested he is in his Nikes – he is not making Nikes, the Nikes are making him.
This chapter very candidly shares the kind of work culture Nike had at the time. Their annual retreat is called Buttface – and even though they are posting millions in sales there is nothing formal or corporate about this retreat. Ideas are discussed and dismissed in raucous voices, peppered with appropriate insults. It doesn’t matter who comes up with the idea, there is no hierarchy, counter-budgets are proposed, distribution is re-considered, all in a congenial relaxed creative hotel bar. No one is out of reach of the insults, including Knight himself. Knight feels brotherly love and loyalty for his entire team and knows that they will face the world together.
Meanwhile, Knight’s family life is suffering as he is spending less and less time with his friends. He ruefully admits that this is not a problem he can solve with the help of his friends and his team. He questions his parenting style – which is also his leadership style, i.e. not being hands on – and wonders if it is wrong or right. As a parent, one of his boys is perpetually frustrated with him because he doesn’t have enough time for the family; while the other boy adores him no matter what.
The above notes are based on ShoeDog by Phil Knight – Founder of NIKE INC.
1977 – A Synopsis
Nike is now moving forward in two aspects – innovation and advertising. Both of these are giving it the kind of momentum that has begun to scare the big players like Adidas and Converse. Knight meets Rudy and Bogert, who bring with them the crazy sounding idea of using air bubbles in shoes soles. While skeptical at first, Knight thinks the idea has potential when he tries it out. On the other hand, Bowerman comes up with an idea that ends up causing injuries to people. Though the people do not lash back, Bowerman becomes dejected. Knight tries to console him, but what actually works in the end is his competitive spirit – when he comes to know the new air sole idea.
Knight starts focusing on college teams and getting them to wear Nikes. Strasser proves more invaluable than ever, because he shows himself to be a great negotiator. For the third time in this story, honesty is what leads them to what they want.
Nike becomes popular not only because of sportsmen wearing their shoes, but because of the relentless efforts of one of the guys on the team handing out Nikes to anyone and everyone on Hollywood. Appearance in a couple of very famous shows ensures that those models sell out like hot cakes.
Knight still is skeptical of the reach of advertising, although he loves the new campaign.
The question of going public comes up again, and this time Knight cannot evade it. He realizes that it is inevitable, and so puts it to a vote. The answer is inconclusive. While still going through this mental upheaval, Knight gets a letter from the Customs Service saying his company owes them twenty five million dollars.
This is the result of lobbying from competitor companies and the use of an archaic law which stipulates that any importer of nylon shoes must pay a tariff of 20% of any US competitor’s shoe price. So these US competitors made a small run of shoes and set the rack rate to an insane price. The law was retroactive as well so $25M needed to be coughed up. Knight decides he has no other option than to hit back with all he has got because it is financially impossible to pay such a sum, and then continue to pay at this rate.
Knight’s frustration and anger are highlighted like never before. Earlier, he has been in tough situations but he is never portrayed as particularly aggressive. In this situation, he ends up mashing his phone to a pulp thrice.
Meanwhile, with sales climbing, the Knights decide to buy a new home. Although emotional about leaving the one in which their kids grew up in, they decide they need more space, and they can definitely afford it. Knight’s struggle with fatherhood continues. He begins to rectify his lack of presence by being available for all weekend games and sports that his kids participate in. He soon realizes that Matthew isn’t really interested in sports. Unfortunately, this effect rubs off on Travis as well, who is actually quite talented.
Knight feels let down by his kids, because sports are such an integral part of his life. It isn’t just that he mentions Nike as his third child, it is also that he has seen life through sports metaphors, and has climbed out of the most difficult times in his life by simply going for a run.
The above notes are based on ShoeDog by Phil Knight – Founder of NIKE INC.
1978 – A Synopsis
Strasser is once again ready to defend Nike against injustice, but both Strasser and Knight are aware of the fact that he can’t on the US Government alone – they would need help. Enter Werschkul. Werschkul is an eccentric but extremely intelligent person whose job is to move to Washington DC and help sort the case out. Though starting out very well, Werschkul eventually loses his mental balance working over the project, and Knight decides he himself will have to head to Washington.
Nike suffers through a major failure. The Tailwind is released – the new shoe with twelve new innovations including air in the soles! It gets sold out faster than any other model, but soon there are serious complaints and the company has to issue a recall and refunds. This hits everyone hard, particularly Strasser. The overall mood at the company seems pessimistic, even as they try to console themselves. The only person who seems to have achieved something positive out of this entire episode is Bowerman – he seems to have come out of his slump at this news.
Knight also decides to start a line of apparel because that would give Nike more respectability and diversification. Till now, Knight has made sound choices about his staff and their positions. This is when he makes a major mistake for the first time – he hires Nelson as head of the apparel department, and realizes later how unfashionable Nelson is. It is too late to make a change, however.
Nike moves out into new offices, and Knight notices the fact that his team looks eccentric and underdressed at best and ridiculous at worst. He institutes a dress code, which is met by rebellion. Sticking to his guns, he starts religiously fining anyone who doesn’t follow the letter as well as the spirit of the dress code.
Eventually, as Nelson comes out with a disastrous result (as was expected), though horrific, the situation is so hilarious that it breaks the tension for everyone involved, including Knight. Knight then puts Woodell in charge of the apparel line, and competent as ever, Woodell churns out a brilliant result.
Knight also reflects on the fact that he is steadily approaching burnout at a time when he is facing one of the biggest problems facing his company. He sits in his office – in his new chair that his designer has fashioned like a baseball mitt – and instead of appreciating himself and his team for having come thus far, can only see the problems looming in the distance.
Knight’s faith in Woodell has always been a salient point of the story, but is outright stated in this chapter when Knight wonders if he should just make Woodell do every job including his own, since he does everything so well. Knight is not looking forward to going to Washington but realizes it is something important, and deserves the best he can do. He also thinks that maybe the only way out of a potential burnout situation is to work harder.
The above notes are based on ShoeDog by Phil Knight – Founder of NIKE INC.
1979 – A Synopsis
Finally in Washington, Knight tries to logically argue with the Customs official, but there is nothing which seems to move him – flattery, appeals, the American spirit, the truth, nothing. Knight has support from the treasury department, but he simply waves it off saying the Treasury department’s memo isn’t binding on Customs.
Knight now realizes what a difficult time Wershckul was having. Knight keeps on commuting to Washington, meeting with important people and trying his best to get ahead of the situation. Finally, it seems a good opportunity is at hand when they secure a meeting with Senator Hatfield. They spend a considerable time going over every possible argument and every possible counter argument. Knight is extremely worried about the meeting, and is so nervous that he gets extremely sweat before the meeting. His chief worry is that if they are not able to convince him, they may not get another chance.
Finally, when they meet the senator, he needs no convincing – he directly tells them he knows of their situation, and what can he do to help? Both of them clash on this and can’t decide, because they aren’t ready with an answer – they didn’t expect the Senator to already be on their side. Knight says they will get back to him soon.
The efforts finally pay off and the bureaucrat is under increased pressure to stop pressurizing Nike to pay. Knight derives a certain satisfaction at getting back at the bureaucrat (whom he refers to as a bureau-kraken).
Nike does a tremendous job at the new retail space they open in Portland. There are long lines and people want to try out everything that is available. There is so much pressure that even Knight helps out. He realizes why it is so important to carry on, no matter what – this is what the company is, and he has to keep fighting to keep it this way. The Nike office also shifts again, this time to a huge forty six thousand square foot building, complete with a steam room, a library, a gym and endless conference rooms. Knight consciously leaves behind the baseball mitt chair. He, however, does not feel a sense of victory as he should, seeing his team shifting into bigger offices. He is still worried about all of it being taken away any day now, and with that worry over his head, is unable to enjoy what should have normally been a great win.
The problems that the company was facing in Japan begin to narrow down in Taiwan as well. Knight knows that it is inevitable that he will have to move to China. He reaches out to David Chang, who is supposedly the best expert on the country. Chang presses all the wrong buttons at the company. He makes a fat joke after meeting Hayes, Strasser and Jim Manns, the new CFO; and mistakenly assumes Woodell is temporarily in his wheelchair and asks him when he is getting out of it. Knight optimistically tells him that there is nowhere to go now but up with Chang. 1 Billion Chinese = 2 billion shoes.
The above notes are based on ShoeDog by Phil Knight – Founder of NIKE INC.
1980 – A Synopsis
Two things happen in this chapter that changed the course of history – Nike entering China, and going public.
Knight and his company are told that things are done differently in China – they have to be issued an invitation to be able to go to the country and start talking about business. So they send a very lengthy formal request on Cheng’s advice, and hope for the best. Fortunately, they get a positive reply.
Knight is really keyed up about this and wants to do everything right. He makes himself and his entire team who is going to go with him read up on China, its traditions, customs etc. He also decides to stop in Japan before going to China, to give everyone else a chance to acclimatize themselves to Asia. The meetings go really well, although they find that the factories and the shoe market in China is underdeveloped.
They solve the Customs problem once and for all by playing by the same rule that is being forced on them – they manufacture a very cheap shoe, so customs calculations would have to be based on that. Secondly, they start a TV commercial sympathetically telling the story of a hardworking Oregon company who is forced to fight with the big bad government. This gains traction among the public.
As a masterstroke, they file a suit against the government. Finally, the bureaucrat gives in. However, Knight is in no mood for a quick settlement. He refuses to pay a single penny. Over time, he is convinced by everyone around his that this is the best course of action to take, and settles for 9 million. There is a moment as he signs the cheque when he reflects how far he has come from times when he could not pay a million dollars in debt without fear of the cheque bouncing.
Knight’s primary problem with going public is the lack of control, and so when he is told that there is a way to go public without losing control, he is all for it. His team agrees. They work on the process – hiring a law firm, preparing a prospectus, meeting with various important people on Wall Street, debating about the price. It is the latter which causes much argument. The law firm is not ready to take the price above twenty one a share, and Knight is determined to have it at twenty two. He believes they are worth that much, and there is another company called Apple that is going public at the same time, at that price too.
After everything is settled, instead of feeling an overwhelming feeling of victory, Knight is surprised that he feels regret – he wishes he could do it all over again. Throughout the going public process, he has been thinking of defining moments that have led his company to where it is right now. There is a strong sense of nostalgia.
He wakes up and overnight he is worth $178 million, but he doesn’t feel any different.
The above notes are based on ShoeDog by Phil Knight – Founder of NIKE INC.
Night – A Synopsis
The epilogue is set in 2007 and explains how far everyone involved in Nike has come till now. It shows the efforts Nike has made worldwide to make lives of people better, how the company has become even better when hit with problem like the sweatshop controversy, and how it is continuing to grow in the present. His hometown has honored him in a myriad ways, by naming buildings after him and Bowerman.
The epilogue deals with some very heartbreaking deaths. The first of these is the death of Knight’s son, Matthew, who dies in a diving accident after a life of running away trying to find himself. Knight still wonders if his being around more would have helped Matthew be a different person.
Bowerman dies after going back to the same place he was most nostalgic about. Knight recalls every memory with him, of running for him, that meeting that started the company, and how he was the creative genius behind so much of the company’s success.
Knight also reveals that he shares a very good rapport with all the athletes that endorse Nike, and how they have been there for each other in hard times.
Although Knight has since retired as CEO, his mind is still looking for new things to do. He feels restless, burrowing into his childhood memories and thinking of his family. The idea of writing a memoir pops up in his head because he believes that the story of Nike hasn’t been told properly. Additionally, it might inspire or help a new entrepreneur who may also learn from the mistakes Knight made. It is important to find a calling in life and never settle for a career or job. It is important to be persistent, but it is just as important to know when to quit and move on to the next thing.
He often wonders about doing it all over again – what he would change, what he wouldn’t do. Knight also candidly admits his failings. As they became rich after the public offer, the money affected both him and Penny in embarrassing ways. Penny took to going around with thousands of dollars in her purse and Phil started wearing sunglasses everywhere. However, when the initial silliness wore off, they return to normal. Now they make it a point to give away a lot to charity and want to leave most of their money after they die.
Knight contemplates on his favorite moments from the entire journey, and thinks of what all he would need to write his memoir. He remembers all those letters from Johnson that he could never keep up with, he thinks of the slides he had after he came back from travelling the world.
Seeing the movie The Bucket List also puts him in deep thought about his own bucket list. Having discovered nothing substantial that he could begin on immediately, he feels a little restless, but as soon as he chances upon the idea of writing a memoir and working towards it, he feels at peace again.
The above notes are based on ShoeDog by Phil Knight – Founder of NIKE INC.
Reading the Walmart Patent, it seems like this is something that can and should be contested. The diagrams a literally what bees do + bluetooth and UAV prior art. What is the patent really? Seems unfair and worth attacking as a legal expert should (I am not one by the way).
Can you patent a docking station? Not sure. We know that China has a problem as the bubble bee population is in a state of collapse. Full grown adult Chinese citizens are pollinating flowers manually……so drone bees is a market.
This is the HoneyDrone (trademark)
Walter Isaacson – Ben Franklin
The following is an analysis and synopsis of Ben Franklin by Walter Isaacson.
Chapter 1 | Benjamin Franklin and the Invention Of America
Benjamin Franklins’ life is an interesting one, and the first chapter explores the depths of his character in the outset of that life. Significant emphasis is placed on the fact that Franklin’s was not a linear but rather a multi-layered character, who carried facets from his different experiences in life, all in a single, complex yet amusing entity.
Basically, Benjamin Franklin was a polymath.
Benjamin Franklin is introduced keeping in context with his autobiographical work, as a cheeky young man with the guise for humility, arriving in Philadelphia to develop his own personality. As the story progresses, the tone changes to that of an old man, writing his life’s story in retrospection and with the aim of passing it down to posterity. Therefore, this work spans a full circle where you will come to know the person of Benjamin Franklin rather intimately.
Benjamin Franklin’s character is a rather endearing one- despite being a statesman; he was approachable, accessible and even relatable. Benjamin Franklin adopts a conversational and witty tone to write his autobiography, which helps you to see him not as someone on a pedestal but as someone from among the masses, contemporary even.
Apart from his admirable personality, Benjamin Franklin was also a man well versed in the arts and sciences. An intellectual man, we will see that he turns out to be a successful scientist and innovator with some important inventions to his name. He also had proficiency in the language, writing, and management- skills he honed to become an efficient diplomat, writer, and business strategist. His intellectual inclinations made him a philosopher; a pragmatic one at that.
Franklin came from the American middle class and despite his ascent in the world, he did not forget his roots. This gives an earthiness to his humour that comes through in his writing; writing that appeals to the masses. His belief in the power of the middle class as the force that will drive a new nation to prosperity reflects in his policies and the many measures he took to empower them. He prized civil harmony and undertook several civic- improvement programmes as he sought to give more power to the people who formed the essence of a democracy.
This work is a careful study of Franklin’s character that also turns out to a study in the changing paradigms of American society itself. He has admirers as well as critics, based on the time context he is viewed in. Some praise his materialistic approach to life while others decry his lack of vision for an exalted existence. The romantics vilify him while the entrepreneurs glorify him. This book, however, insists that lessons that are to be drawn from Benjamin Franklin’s life are far more complex than this binary. When reading this book, try to engage with Franklin’s character with a clean slate and not view his motivations that translated into actions as the maxims he swore by in life, because people are definitely more complex than that.
Chapter 2 | Pilgrim’s Progress
The opening of the second chapter familiarises us with Benjamin Franklin’s lineage. The aim of this approach is to educate a biographer about a personality by examining his family history. We come up close and personal with the character of Benjamin Franklin’s great-grandfather, grandfather and father, all of who possessed a strain of dissent and intellectual proficiency, which trickled down to his generation.
A rather descriptive account of the family tree informs us that his family had always lived in Ecton, Northampshire, and operated the smith’s business. Further elucidation details his father’s brothers’ lives and their peculiar qualities. From this section, we also find that the Franklin’s family practiced Protestantism in a time and land when it was looked down upon and even persecuted.
Considerable space has been dedicated to the character of Josiah Franklin, Benjamin Franklin’s father, perhaps as a result of the profound impact that he had on the latter’s life. An original piece from the autobiographical manuscript has been included in the book where Franklin talks at length about the inspiring spirit of his father’s character. A critical analysis at this point reveals that the idealistic description may be motivated by a desire to evoke respect from his son for his grandfather, to whom this account is addressed.
The rest of the chapter focuses on Benjamin Franklin’s childhood. His inquisitive and inventive streak was apparent even in his early years. Another trait that would become dominant later on in his life, that of leadership and organisational abilities, was also conspicuous even in his fun and games. He continues recounting his early years from the time Benjamin joined his father’s business. Since his heart was not in it, he could not sustain interest. However, his inquisitiveness made sure that he had a valuable take-away even from a task he found drab.
Further, we also come to know about Franklin’s other great interest, reading. He indulged in a variety of books, which is exemplary of the author’s voracious appetite for knowledge. The Netflix of the 18th century was in these books which had great influence on him, and he acquired many skills because of them.
Owing to his penchant for reading, his father sought to set him up in a printing press. He was employed in his brother’s press at twelve; to work as an apprentice. He also developed a knack for prose during this period. His new interest soon translated into an interest in debate and argumentation. To nurture it, he would spar with a friend of similar temperament, John Collins. Despite the clarity of thought, Franklin fell short in arguing his side, for want of better writing skills. His father helped him hone his skills by pointing out his mistakes. He then adopted a sophisticated method of memorising words and ideas that he would like to use in his writing. His moment of validation came when he wrote an opinion piece for his brother’s paper, and it found great acclaim among the latter’s friends who contributed to the paper.
Now, we come to know that this was a time when political correctness was observed rather strictly, and its violation could make one liable for punishment. Kind of like 21st century North America! Something similar happened with Benjamin’s brother, who was imprisoned for running a piece in his paper The New-England Courant that was unacceptable to the Assembly, the governing authority. Benjamin decided to write with the pseudonym Silence Dogood a middle aged widow; when Benjamin’s brother learned about the ruse; James was upset. Following this incident, Benjamin had to take over the printing press. However, this carved a new rift between the brothers, which only deepened with their clash of ideas, and attitudes. Therefore, the story will now take you on a journey with Benjamin Franklin as he parts ways with his to find with own; he left his job without telling anybody.
Chapter 3 | Journeyman
Benjamin Franklin appreciated rationality, as a virtue greatly. He was both an ardent practitioner in his life as well an observer of rationality in others life. You will find frequent examples drawn of this characteristic of his from his early apprenticeship days.
Franklin was a practicing vegetarian, as he saw the futility in the expenditure of time and money dedicated to lavish food. However, on his trip to New York, when he could rationalise eating fish to himself by reasoning that if they can eat each other, why should not he indulge himself. Franklin’s adroitness at rationality made him an important figure of the European Enlightenment when the virtue was hailed. We find that man’s ability to rationalise what he finds convenient, was of specific fascination to Franklin.
Continuing from the last chapter, we find ourselves back at Franklin’s runaway journey when his friend, John Collins arranged for him to board a ship to New York so that he would start a new life there. He met the sole printer there, but he sent him off to Philadelphia to work for his son. When he could not find work there either, he was introduced to his employer-to-be, Samuel Keimer. He was just seventeen years old at this time. Therefore, you can comprehend that Benjamin Franklin was a man of strong mind and heart, who was ready to brave unexplored territory in order to carve a niche for him.
He developed a good rapport with Keimer as they both found common interest in Socratic argumentation. Benjamin’s magnetic persona also helped him win friends in a new place, people who were of a similar temperament and taught him lessons that he carried with him for life.
Franklin’s writing skills, which he had been honing seriously, found wide acclaim by accident and a worthwhile patron in Governor Keith. However, his promises turned out to be empty, and Franklin learned about the folly of blind faith. From the trajectory of a few friendships and relationships that Franklin formed in these years and which fell apart for one reason or another, it can be concluded that Franklin’s charm could easily attract friends, patrons, and admirers, but keeping them was an art he still had to master.
During his time as a printer, Franklin indulged his philosophical interest and wrote a dissertation concerning free will and the idea of God. This early work of his was a rather shoddy attempt at philosophical writing. However, his position can be defended by the immaturity of his years. Through this writing attempt, it becomes clear that he was not a religious bigot and in fact was pen to scrutinising all elements of religion. He opted for a brand of religion that was pragmatic and where the pursuit of salvation was achieved through good deeds.
Franklin’s obsession with rationality and leading a meaningful life urged him to write a ‘Plan for Future Conduct’ to guide his endeavours. This lists of pragmatic rules sought to make him more of a likeable and productive person in life.
On his voyage back to America from London, he made keen observations about human behaviour that instilled in him a greater appreciation for society. He also honed his scientific acumen in this period and armed with his pragmatic rules for a successful life, Benjamin Franklin was ready to set up a new life in America.
Chapter 4 | Printer
In the fourth chapter, we delve deeper into Benjamin Franklin’s character. In the vast repository of talents he possessed, a flair for salesmanship is also featured. However, when life threw a curveball at him, and he could not make much of it, he fell back on what he knew best, the print business.
Franklin had honed his talents so much as to become indispensable for people around him. For instance, we are told that his employer, Keimer had to beg him to return after the previous fallout because only he could produce the finesse Keimer’s work demanded. Inevitably, his talents could not be tamed for long, and he set out again to make his own niche by opening up a print shop.
Franklin carefully created an image for himself and his business The Pennsylvania Gazette. He did not consider it merely as a career. Rather, it became a way of life for him. Despite reaching the pinnacle of his career as the President, he continued to identify himself as a printer. This goes on to display the dedication and respect he developed for his work.
After going through all the chapters till now, we can confidently say that Franklin was an intellectually inclined man who constructed opportunities to indulge his love for debate and thinking. An important outcome of this was the Junto / The Leather Apron Club, a group of talented young men whom Franklin employed to encourage his cause. His conversational style can be analyzed as disarming, engaging and effective, which helped him carve a successful public persona for himself as a man of intellect.
Early beginnings of Franklin’s interest in civic life can be observed at this stage itself as he used the platform of the Junto not only to discuss but also promote plans for civic development. Therefore, this can be identified as the nascent stage of Franklin’s journey as a celebrated statesman.
Franklin undertook ventures like the Busy Body Essays and Pennsylvania Gazette, through which he established credibility for his career as a publicist. Having risen in his public life, he then directed towards his attention towards private life. Many prospects fell through, mainly for want of suitable dowry until Franklin “chanced” upon Deborah Read. She did not come with a dowry, but as Franklin would later realize, made a better partner for him with her frugality and practicality.
Benjamin’s personal life, much like his public one, was not devoid of scandal, the most uproarious one being his allegedly illegitimate son, William. Even though his descent is a matter of vibrant debate to this day, Franklin never denied his paternity.
From instances of his writing, we can read that Franklin had formulated a concrete idea of what a perfect woman should be like: frugal and industrious. This notion was a dominant theme in his works, which can be seen as sexist from a modern lens. However, despite his primitive ideas about women, he did not limit his advice to only them. He called out men too, on their extravagance and wasteful ways. Therefore, we can conclude that he had struck an unusual balance between primitive and modern ideas in his writings…arguably.
Lucky for Benjamin, Deborah turned out to be an embodiment of traits he deemed virtuous for a wife. Therefore, they formed a companionship where Deborah became his partner both in the household and at work. From a detailed account of the personal dynamic between the duo, it can be inferred that despite some of his rather bigoted views extolling docility, obedience, and servitude for married women, he did appreciate the rebellious and assertive nature of his wife. Theirs’ was not a love that manifested overtly in grand gestures but can be found in subtle ones, like in the letters that Franklin wrote to his wife which are mentioned in the chapter.
Almost as if out of force of habit, Franklin outgrew Deborah. He had developed a character trait of not following through with relationships and followed suit in this marriage. Their personalities and interests came to contradict each others’, and Franklin stayed away from her for a major part of their marriage.
Apart from his marriage, another relationship that would have a profound impact on Benjamin was with his son, Francis. Adorably called Franky, Franklin doted on him and was proud of how curious he was. However, as we see, this turned into a bitter memory for him as he passed away at the tender age of four from smallpox. This made Benjamin a life- long advocate of inoculation and also translated into poignant works that he wrote in his memory.
Moving on, we return to the theme of spirituality in Franklin’s life. At this stage in his life, Franklin seems to have held his views against the wastefulness and dogmatism of organized religion. He continued to be tolerant of other faiths and sects. Benjamin’s brand of religion, as he mentioned in his writings, preached the importance of closeness with God but with pragmatism and devoid of dogma. The developing clarity of his ideas can be gauged by the superior quality of his later work, titled ‘Articles of Belief and Acts of Religion,’ when compared with his earliest attempt of ‘Dissertation on Liberty and Necessity.’
Benjamin Franklin had made it a mission in life to lead it as virtuously as humanly possible. In fact, he made a mechanical process out of this by making himself a list of virtues to abide by. A scrutiny of this list reveals that it was made rather conveniently to help him succeed in life by keeping his efforts on the right track but not chastising him too much. Therefore, it was not constructed with an abstract aim, such as that of spiritual salvation but a more fathomable, practical one.
Benjamin’s religious ideas would attract admirers and critics alike and result in the outstanding success of his Poor Richard series. He became an American icon of the Enlightenment movement of Europe as he worshiped all notions that the movement promulgated: reason, logic, and tolerance as opposed to dogmatism and bigotry.
In conclusion, it can be inferred that by this time, Benjamin had formulated a solid religious identity that was very different from those prevalent in his times. He used his wit, charm, and audacity to promote these ideas through his writings, following the Junto principle of revealing personal ideas through indirection.
Chapter 5 | Public Citizen
By this chapter, we have learned that Benjamin Franklin’s religious ideas were inclined towards pragmatism, tolerance, and appreciation of a civic sense in man because he equated ‘goodness with godliness.’ An extension of this idea can be seen in the manifestation of several organizations for the public good that operated under Benjamin’s watch.
These institutions- hospitals, libraries, fire brigades, were built and supported by an American community that extolled the values of individualism and communitarianism in the same breath. The existence of this paradox was enabled by Franklin’s fervent reinforcement of the idea that a keen civic sense is necessary for the development of the individual as well as the community he was part of.
During the wave of Great Awakening, Franklin encountered a number of personalities that preached strains of faith different from him, similar as him or those that simply amused him. We see that by defending or admonishing them, Franklin wove together his financial interests with his personal zeal for civic pursuits.
As Franklin continued expressing his dissident views through his newspaper, it gained popularity for its anti-establishment and rational sentiment. However, he competed with another prominent newspaper of the time, American Weekly Mercury run by Andrew Bradford. The recollection of sparks between them reveals that Franklin was a prudent businessman who chose his battles wisely and even worked in tandem with rivals when it benefitted him.
Further, as we look into the development of Franklin’s character, we come to evaluate his views about women. Even though not as sexist as the gentry in his day and maybe to an extent modern, Franklin still reared some regressive ideas about the education of women. This dichotomy is exemplified in the case of his daughter Sally, for whom he arranged a proper education in academic subjects, but the emphasis was always laid upon practical subjects that would make her an agreeable homemaker.
Writing to his friends and prospective suitors about his daughters, he would exalt her capacities as a smart and industrious person, but with an undertone that appreciated the usefulness of these traits in making her a good housewife. The duality in his attitude towards woman also comes forth in his writings. On the one hand, he writes the extremely sexist, almost degrading piece about why older women make better mistresses than young ones and on the other hand, pens the ‘Speech of Polly Baker’, which is an excellent critique of the hypocrisy of society towards a woman’s sexual liberty.
Franklin continued his mission of spreading pragmatic knowledge and power of reason among people by the establishment of organizations like the American Philosophical Society and the more radical Pennsylvania Militia. The success of these institutions reinforced in him the belief that a union of people with common interests was capable of ruling itself and creating a productive society.
This realization and his success in a social and professional capacity would prompt him to retire from the printing business and focus on the other callings in his life; his love for science and penchant for politics.
Chapter 6 | Scientist and Inventor
Benjamin Franklin’s most well-known achievements apart from the field of politics are in science. As we have noted earlier, he had inherited inquisitiveness and nurtured it with voracious reading and meaningful inquiry whenever possible. That enabled him in making significant scientific innovations from as early as in his 20s. His retirement from the printing business afforded him the luxury of time to pursue his curiosities.
Since a young age, Franklin had been experimental and had tried to employ new- found information in everyday tasks to produce something new. The kite and key experiment that catapulted his name into the ranks of Newton and Watson and Cricks was a result of this very enthusiasm to see science in action.
Interestingly, despite being a shrewd businessman, Franklin pursued science purely for pleasure. We come to this conclusion from the evidence that he declined patents and did not necessarily seek utility in his experiments as long as they were able to amuse him.
Practical use of the procedures, even though a secondary goal, did feature as a requisite in his experiments and led to the development of a new design of a stove that produced lesser smoke. The first catheter in America was also a product of this habit.
A detailed study of the process that led to the famous ‘lightning is electricity’ experiment reveals the meticulous method that Franklin observed; relentless endeavor, curiosity, improvisation and keen observation. Despite this, his lack of interest in scientific laws and limitation of his sphere of interest to experimentation leads us to the conclusion that he was not a systematic scientist but more of a whimsical experimenter.
His scientific progress drew equal amounts of applause and admonition. On the one hand, the religious community condemned his innovations as ‘ungodly’; on the other hand, the scientific community went gaga over him and showered him with honorary doctorates. This dichotomy was settled in the succeeding generations when the scientific worth of his work was unanimously established.
Benjamin Franklin’s lack of a formal education in theoretical mathematics or physics can be pegged as the reason why he cannot be considered a scientist of the same merit as Galileo or Newton. However, when we weigh the theoretical importance of his seminal works, we can establish unequivocally that his findings formed the bedrock of some the most basic scientific principles that were later sophisticated by scientists and put to practical use. A prominent example of this can be his discovery of the absorptive nature of black and white color.
We can, therefore, conclude that Franklin was a stellar example of the Age of Enlightenment. He possessed a robust curiosity and the will to experiment to quench his curiosity. He proved to the world that ‘philosophical amusements,’ as scientific experiments if pursued with vigor, have the capability of putting a man in control of even nature’s agents. This notion reinforced the idea of belief in man’s inherent intellectual ability, which was the basic theme of the Age of Enlightenment.
Chapter 7 | Politician
In this chapter, we explore the characteristics that helped Benjamin Franklin become one of the most successful political leaders to have graced our past. First off, we discuss the humanitarian sentiment that he nurtured, and that drew him to the public service sphere.
Franklin believed that a successful civic society is possible only with the active participation of its citizens. He also laid emphasis on the values of pragmatism and tolerance in conducting state affairs. That was the driving principle behind his effort for a non- sectarian educational institution (which resulted in the present day University of Pennsylvania) and a public and private funded hospital.
Benjamin’s ingenuity gave birth to the matching grant, a system of joint government and private funding that is prevalent in America to this day. Although not a libertarian in the present sense of the term, he did believe in the limited control of the government in civic affairs.
Additionally, he favored a government that would strike a right balance between public and private collaborations to produce maximum benefit for the people. However, his beliefs were not binary. Through letters that he sent to friends discussing his political philosophy, we find that he was skeptical of going overboard with public welfare, lest it should lead to complacency and laziness among masses.
However, these were more of questions than assertions. The composition of his political philosophy can be broken down into some basic elements: resistance to establishment, tolerance and non- sectarianism, freedom of social mobility and exaltation of the middle class as the savior of society. He believed in an egalitarian and democratic governance, which was also inclusive of new talent and not just a select elite.
He cannot be called a conservative really, but his ideas were not entirely free of the prevalent currents of thought. For instance, his stance against slavery was not based on the immorality of the act but its economic impracticality. However, he was soon to re-evaluate his position and become a fervent abolitionist.
Benjamin began a formal political career by being elected to the Philadelphia Assembly. He continued his public welfare schemes after assuming office. Federalism, as a system of governance, also saw the light of day under his leadership at the Albany conference. He actively began nurturing his non-parochial view for the American society, where the colonies could unite into a nation.
A look into the amorous relations that Franklin forged out of his marriage was always short of overt passion and often tinged with a paternalistic attitude that he adopted towards the paramour. On the professional front, he was more conducive to risks as he functioned as a pragmatic negotiator in times of crisis for the colonial government, be it with the Indians or the Crown on the question of proprietors.
Therefore, we see that this period can be viewed as the formative stage in Franklin’s political career. Benjamin Franklin enunciated his ideas of non-sectarianism and practical governance rather clearly but was yet to become a formidable political force.
Chapter 8 | Troubled Waters
Owing to his skills as a negotiator and overall prudent politician, Franklin was sent as an envoy to England to appeal the colonies’ case. This chapter explores his life and experiences in a society far removed from the one he was used to.
Firstly, on the personal front, he befriended and sustained romantic relations with a couple of women, including Polly Stevenson, who would prove to be a lifelong friend to him. As earlier, he projected an avuncular, along with amorous, attitude towards her. He was impressed by her intellectual inclinations, and somewhere tried to find a substitute in her, for Deborah’s lack of these qualities.
London appeared to him as an interesting paradox- disease-ridden and dirty on the one hand, vibrant and cosmopolitan on the other. We see that the intellectual community burgeoned here in privileged spheres such as the Royal Society and in common coffeehouses as well. His interaction in these circles helped him forge some useful friendships with the likes of Dr. John Fothergill, Dr. John Pringle, and William Strahan. These associations would help him immensely in achieving his political goals in London.
Since England’s political scenario was unchartered territory for him, we see that his old tricks failed to gain him progress. He had come to England to appeal against the Penns and privileges of the Proprietors at large. He believed that the American people under the British Crown should have the same rights as those in England. However, he soon made a rude realization that people in Britain did not think so and the Proprietors claim had support in the British courts.
He would go on to reason with the Penns directly but would act distinctly out of character. He would lose his calm and often make far-fetched claims that were not entirely correct. He failed to reach an end with his negotiations but decided not to leave England until he had achieved some ground. This is a classic example of Franklin’s resilience as a diplomat. It would take a while before Franklin would regain composure in his correspondence with the Proprietors and use his old pragmatism to win a compromise. Even though the victory was partial, it was definitely a step ahead.
Franklin can be seen as an interesting character based on his beliefs and demands. He was a professed British royalist, yet his demands against Proprietary privileges in colonies was not in consonance with English beliefs. He theorized that the British saw colonies as resource centers that could be exploited to benefit the mother country. He argued against this and concluded that if Britain treated its colonial subjects with the same regard as its natural citizens, then the colonies would never rebel.
After a 5-year stint at London, Franklin finally decided to leave for home. He had wrapped up his job fairly well, though not as expected. Following a sentimental and emotion-laden farewell with his ‘surrogate family’ of Polly Stevenson and her mother, he finally returned to America and continued his scientific pursuits.
Chapter 9 | Home Leave
After returning to America, Franklin resumed his role as a postmaster. We have explored so far that he entertained a keen interest in travel. Luckily for him, his job allowed him just to do that. Despite his fervent attempts, he could not get his wife to accompany him. This can be attributed to her beliefs against venturing too far from home. It can be said that they both asserted their independence in their own way.
He toured the colonies several times and was familiar with the internal politics in a way that put him in a conducive position to bargain for their rights when the time came. First, such opportunity arose on the question of the Paxton boys, that threatened the outbreak of a religious and social civil war. Franklin came out in vehement opposition of the anti-Indian sentiment and published several pamphlets decrying the brutality. He came in direct confrontation with them and was able to pacify them enough not to unleash the same horror in his town.
We see that his hard line stance to bring the Paxton boys to justice was diametrically opposed to that of the Governor, John Penn, who wanted a negotiation for political benefit. This resurfaced the old antagonism between Franklin and the Penns. As a result, we find that Franklin grew increasingly cynical in his discourse on politics as its unjust arbitrariness dawned upon him. He rallied for a colonial rather than proprietary government, with renewed vigor. As a staunch Royalist, he wanted Pennsylvania to come under the direct Crown rule.
However, he faced much opposition for his views. There were two main reasons for this: the frontiersmen’s preference of a Proprietary government and the Penn family’s reputation as formidable political opponents that was known of, even in England. That did not, nevertheless, dampen Franklin’s resolve and he started a petition campaign against the government. Amid fervent opposition that sought to drag his name through the dirt, he continued his crusade. Therefore, the election season of 1764 was an important year in America’s history of free expression, as it saw its uglier, unrestrained facet.
The elections resulted in a vote in the Assembly to send Franklin back to represent his cause in England. Franklin was more than willing to take up the task for the following reasons: he missed his stint in London, he felt confined in Philadelphia politics, and he had bigger plans for an American union that would require representation in the Parliament. The latter would become important amid news of the Crown planning to levy taxes on colonies. He thought it would be fair to extend citizenship to colonies if they were to be taxed.
He received a hearty farewell as people pinned hope to his efforts. Franklin, on a personal level, did not know what to expect from the trip. We come to this conclusion by his conflicting testimony to his friends, as he told some that he would return in a few months, while some had the knowledge that he did not plan to return at all.
Chapter 10 | Agent Provocateur
On his return to London, the first thing Franklin reconciled with was his ‘surrogate family’ of the Stevensons. He reconnected with Polly and continued sending her letters that portrayed avuncular affection and intellectual flirtation. He also got back with his friends and resumed appearing in their circles. Another important relationship he formed at this time was with his illegitimate grandson, Temple, whom he took under his wing and provided with education.
We will see that Franklin pursued his missions in England relentlessly. In fact, he had his blinders on so tightly that he would not return to America despite the news of his wife’s deteriorating health and would continue his futile fight for 10 years up to the eve of the Revolution. Owing to his political beliefs and allegiances, he had to perform a balancing act between being a royalist who advocated for an imperial rule over the colonies and establishing himself as an American patriot in the face of lack of sympathy from the colonial government.
Franklin found the political atmosphere of England rather bizarre and his old, trusted tricks failed to work there. One of the biggest miscalculations on his part occurred after the passing of the Stamp Act of 1765. It was a tax imposed by the Crown on the colonies, a fact that the populace resented. Franklin took a pragmatic stance and advised that the people cooperate with the new law. However, he misjudged the attitude of the people who were willing to take up arms against the act. A conflict between the colonies’ and Crown’s interests caught Franklin in the crosshairs, who was villainized as an Imperial sympathizer.
While violence brewed back home, Franklin adopted a moderate stance owing to his love for Britain. Moreover, he was more of a smooth negotiator than a revolutionary by nature. However, his goal of making Pennsylvania an imperial colony now seemed far unrealistic than ever. To salvage his tarnished image as a supporter of the Stamp Act, he began a letter writing campaign where he categorically criticized the act and denied ever supporting it.
His moment of redemption came when he was able to present his case directly to the Parliament in 1766. He was able to put forth the social and emotional turmoil of the colonial population in strong and clear words. Therefore, an excellent performance there earned him his reputation back home.
Another political upheaval came with the passing of the Townshend Act. Franklin’s miscalculation this time was two-levelled; drawing a distinction between internal and external taxes, which was actually not respected in the colonies and adopting a position of moderation. He finally gave up a moderate stance when the British government thwarted his aspiration of Pennsylvania ever being free from the Proprietary rule.
Franklin took to writing critical articles against the government and its discriminatory Acts. However, his attack was still focussed on the Parliament rather than the Crown. Therefore, by the end of this turbulent phase, the inconvenience of Franklin’s paradox as a royalist and an American patriot resurfaced.
Chapter 11 | Rebel
When Franklin faced repeated failures in the political arena, he decided to forsake it for a while. He left in the pursuit of another passion he indulged in with great joy – traveling. He also resumed his scientific inquiries while vacationing around England as he found a subject of interest in the developments of the industrial revolution.
We see from accounts of this voyage that Benjamin’s burgeoning patriotic sentiment often came in conflict with his instilled allegiance as a royalist. For instance, he argued against British sanctions on the colonies by pleading that they would never threaten the British competition. Yet, on his tour of the industries, he wrote detailed descriptions of the manufacturing process in the hope of helping indigenous industries.
At 65, when Franklin found leisure from his professional duties, he took to writing his autobiography. Even though the professed aim of this project was to familiarize his son William with his ancestry and Franklin’s journey from obscurity to prominence, it does not seem to be that limited. Analyzing the writing style which details the processes of his achievements in the way of writing that maintained scope for corrections and additions, reveals that Franklin intended this work for mass consumption. By the time Franklin concluded his voyage of London, he had completed bout 4 chapters of what would turn out to be a lengthy autobiography.
On a personal front, we see that he found paternal affection for another young woman called Kitty, the daughter of his friends, the Shipleys. He would maintain a loving and healthy relationship with her for the rest of his life. At this point, he was also reminded of his grandson Benjamin Franklin Bache, whom he had never met.
Franklin often deemed his ‘surrogate’ relations more highly than he did his real ones. An instance of this can be observed in his behavior towards Benny, his real grandson whom he advised his wife against spoiling and his godson Billy, Polly’s son, whom he talked of very highly. 1774 turned out to be an especially trying time for him as he had begun estranging from his son William and then received the new of wife’s passing away in his absence.
While these developments underscored his life, Benjamin continued his scientific endeavors. Always better at pragmatic experimentation that theorizing, he made initiations into some important scientific themes that would serve as blueprints for subsequent generations of scientists. He, for example, continued his experiments with oil and water that would be a precedent for determining molecular size many years later. The cause of colds, lead poisoning, and saltiness of the ocean are just some of the many phenomena he unearthed in this period.
This was a time when his social philosophy was ripening, and even though it would be many years before he would declare himself an abolitionist, he had begun propounding liberal ideas. On the political front, he gained immense success by dislodging Hillsborough and receiving a land grant in Ohio. Unwittingly, he stirred up radical sentiment in the American colonies when his exchanges with an acquaintance were made public, which portrayed his fervent support for the colonies’ independence.
By 1775, Franklin was ready to leave London. His attempts at any compromise between the colonies and Britain had faded. Therefore, it turned out to be an emotionally challenging voyage for him as he sailed back to a warring America.
Chapter 12 | Independence
Agitations had broken out between British and American contingents, as Franklin sailed towards America in 1775. By the time he reached Philadelphia, the Second Congress was convened, and he was included as a member. The looming question was whether to fight the war for independence or of the assertion of American rights while remaining under British rule. This was a precarious position to be in for Franklin, who was torn between his sentiments as a royalist and an American patriot. He, therefore, chose to keep quiet while the other senators debated on the theme of independence.
He finally broke his silence during a meeting with Joseph Galloway and William Franklin and declared his stance in favor of complete independence for America. This decision was motivated by the several betrayals, personal slights and disappointments he had incurred by the British. It also exemplified the virtues he envisioned to build the ideal American society upon – appreciation of merit, a powerful middle class, liberty, tolerance, frugality, industriousness and respect for the merchant class.
Amidst certain dichotomy where some ministers sought a compromise with the Crown and others had radical ideas of rebellion, Franklin made his position clear by publishing a letter to his friend William Strahan in London. The language was terse and accusing, and its aim was to make public his ideas of America’s future. Even though the letter was not really sent and further correspondences between the friends were mellow and looked for conciliation, the letter did have its desired effect.
As an ardent supporter of an American union, he conceptualized the Articles of Confederation and the Perpetual Union. The kind of federation Franklin proposed was much ahead of its times as it meant the division of powers and a single-chamber Congress to ensure the security of rights and general welfare.
With his experience, managerial skills and visionary character, Franklin became a pillar in the American edifice against Britain. He was an obvious choice to head planning committees that drafted systems for the smooth transition of America into an independent state. Franklin often produced interesting amalgamations of his sharp wit and his political convictions, such as the rattlesnake flag with the motto of ‘Don’t Tread On Me,’ which symbolized American vigor and magnanimity.
When his plans at negotiation were once again thwarted in London following a meeting Lord Richard Howe, Franklin was sent on a secret diplomatic mission to France in order to cajole its alliance. By this time, Franklin’s age had begun to catch up with him, and he accepted the proposal rather reluctantly. He did not keep very well and lacked in vigor and energy.
Yet, he was ambitious about the potential of this trip for America’s diplomatic goals. For his company, he had in tow both his grandsons, Temple and Benny. He hoped that the tour could be a good experiential exercise for both of them and they would prove to be a comforting company to his old soul. Therefore, with a mission in sight, the old Benjamin Franklin set sail for France.
Chapter 13 | Courtier
After an uncomfortable voyage that took a toll on the aged Franklin, he finally touched the French coast. He tried to maintain a low profile at the small towns he visited so that he could test the receptiveness of the French Court for American ministers before initiating anything. However, as we have seen earlier, Franklin had become one of the most famous Americans in Europe through his scientific discoveries and achievements as a politician. Therefore, he was received grandly and was immediately a fixture at social gatherings.
Franklin sought to leverage his fame to further his political interests. France’s long history of hostility with England would make it a perfect ally, only if Franklin could persuade them. France received Franklin with open arms, and he returned the adoration by exalting French civility in his writings. He soon made himself at home thereby setting up a court of sorts.
He made a new set of friends who pampered him and was met by new colleagues, whose conflicting views made his work interesting.
Since American opposition had significantly increased and was buttressed by vigorous diplomatic activity, England deployed a sophisticated espionage system in order to gather information on American movements. Franklin was made wary of this threat as soon as he began operations in France. He even was confronted with the presence of a certain Edward Bancroft who functioned as a spy for the British for a long time before being found.
Franklin had a rather naive response to this matter saying that an honest man had nothing to fear, but it can be fathomed that such a statement was possible only because the spy’s information was unable to do any serious damage.
Franklin soon found a reluctant ally in Comte de Vergennes, the French Foreign Minister, who shared his dislike for England and faith in the new nation. He also liked Franklin on a personal level due to his bourgeois sensibilities that Vergennes appreciated. Franklin, for his part, found a perfect blend of idealism and realism to appease the French minister. He professed a calculated balance- of- power calculus to portray the feasibility of a Franco- American alliance. On the other hand, he exalted American values and sought to establish faith in it by presenting it as an asylum in the face of tyranny. He also began recruitments for the American army while still in France, and was able to secure the loyalty of men who would prove pivotal in the Revolution.
The French soon agreed to an alliance but awaited Spanish acceptance as the two had made a pact to act in concert. Meanwhile, Britain initiated secret negotiations with the Americans to avoid further confrontation. Franklin, with keen diplomatic acumen, pitted the French against the English by leaking information. France, therefore, agreed to co-operate without Spanish support and treaties of friendship and alliance were signed.
Thus, the course of the Revolution was finalized and also of the world’s balance of power, even though it was not realized at that stage.
Chapter 14 | Bon Vivant
After securing a French alliance for the American cause, Franklin was in a much secure position as a diplomat. During this time, he made several acquaintances that would leave a lasting impact on him. One of them was John Adams, who joined as an American commissioner. His equation with Franklin can be seen as a rollercoaster, where the two went through a series of emotions ranging from resentment, to amusement to finally, admiration. They had contradictory personalities but found common ground in their Puritanical beliefs.
Another important acquaintance Franklin made was the famous French philosopher, Voltaire. This match, interestingly, was designed by an enthusiastic public imagination that saw them as fated to meet. Their meetings caused a frenzy of fans and were profusely written about. Franklin’s association with the French intelligentsia and literati prompted him to join a lodge where his ideas against absolutism found popular acclaim.
True to his character, he forged some lasting and meaningful relationships with the opposite sex in Paris. These relationships were amorous but limited to the intellectual and spiritual level. Franklin’s societal stature made him instantly attractive to aristocratic women who sought ways to make his acquaintance. These affairs, often sexually charged though not fully consummated, fed a flurry of scandalous stories.
He got into emotionally serious relationships, one with a Madame Brillon and the other with Madame Helvétius. However, his reluctance to commit kept him from going through with either. These tumultuous relations had the effect of distancing these women from him, but on Franklin, it was quite the opposite: he felt young again, at least in spirit.
Therefore, we see that while Franklin attended to a lively social life in France, he unknowingly began distancing his real family. His correspondences with his daughter were often didactic and disapproving and were received with replies that reflected disappointment and dejection. He was much softer with his grandchildren although instructive just the same.
Over time, his frequency of correspondence with them also declined, and its direct impact on Benny was that he drew in himself and became rather reserved. A change of company would see a breakout of his rebellious streak, which was received with an admonition by Franklin. For Temple, Franklin was incessantly trying to play matchmaker by hitching him to one of the Brillon daughters. However, Temple’s descent proved to be a roadblock, and while things could have been worked out, Temple had already embarked on his way to becoming a philanderer.
Apart from social obligations, Franklin also found time to pursue his scientific endeavors. However, this time they were tinged with humor and were for the sake of amusement, like his study on the causes and cures of farts. He rejuvenated his admiration for chess and was known to play until the wee hours of the morning. He believed that chess was a good exercise for the brain and taught one foresight and circumspection.
We, therefore, observe that Franklin’s character had evolved much and was now true to his age. Just like an old man with leisure, he was indulging in his interests and cultivating a healthy social life. He also kept his political beliefs to himself until asked for or as he deemed them necessary to share.
Chapter 15 | Peacemaker
During his time in France, Franklin had done everything to make himself a favorite at the French Court as well as the social circles. As a result of this, the French themselves lobbied for him in 1778 to be sent as minister plenipotentiary, and he was guaranteed the job. This result also upset a few that did not believe that Franklin’s candidature befits the bill, like John Adams and Arthur Lee. However, they had no choice but to find a middle ground and work with Franklin.
He came across several interesting characters during his stint as the American ambassador. One of them was John Paul Jones, an adventurous and rogue lad picked to head the American fleet in case of a British invasion. Jones was a reckless man who acted on whims, but this also gave him immense courage that Franklin believed would be necessary for such an expedition.
He was also an incorrigible flirt, which landed him in a series of scandals. Franklin adopted several methods to tame Jones, often sending him didactic letters that instructed him to use restraint in his dealings. When Jones proved his mettle in a naval battle against the British, Franklin developed more admiration for him and would even go on to defend him in disputes.
America needed financial resources to aid the Revolution, and it became rather desperate by 1780. Franklin, therefore, had to act as a representative of this desperation to the French. He made personal pleas, invoked idealism and national interest to get the French to loosen their purse strings. He could not get them to agree to the sum he demanded, though he did secure a substantial amount. Despite this victory, a fervent opposition against him that brewed back home disheartened Franklin. His adversaries pegged him to be too old and ineffective to take charge. That did not go down well with him, and he decided to resign.
However, the Congress was smarter than letting go of an experienced diplomat at a crucial time. So, this request was rejected. Additionally, he was given the charge of peace negotiator with Britain. Britain still wanted to negotiate terms of independence, while Franklin strongly put forward America’s non-negotiable stance. In fact, he proposed that Britain should offer reparations to America for the years of damage that it had inflicted and one way of doing so would be to cede Canada.
A complex balance-of-power game ensued where Britain, France, and America weighed the consequences of such a treaty. Soon a peace conference was initiated for all the stakeholders.
Franklin was clear about the terms he on which he wanted America’s independence. Therefore, he was especially annoyed when France was negotiated vicariously, and America was not involved directly. He felt that American dignity was being belittled. Therefore, he gained special permission to hold peace negotiations with Britain separately. After enduring a lot of back channel intrigue, Franklin found just the right moment to propose his peace plan when people more receptive of his ideas came to power in Britain.
The details of Franklin’s plan are worth mentioning. He divided his peace plan into two parts that contained both non-negotiable and negotiable terms. Under the ‘necessary’ provisions he demanded independence for America, which would be absolute in every sense, removal of British troops, autonomous and secure borders and fishing rights off the coast of Canada. Under the ‘advisable’ provisions, he asked for reparations from the British, ceding of Canada, acknowledgment of British guilt and a free trade agreement.
The plan was tabled, and the negotiations began. Britain was unwilling to ratify the plan in its original form and wanted further dialogue on both categories. France’s position as a reliable ally also came under doubt and led to a rift between Jay the skeptic, and Franklin, the believer. It would take some more espionage to coax Britain into making the terms of the treaty clearer so that American dependence on French help could be diminished and it would be Jay’s endeavor that would achieve it. Following this, he and Franklin were back on the same page and resumed working towards a common goal.
However, this accord came at the expense of peace in French and American relations and on Franklin fell the onus to explain to Vergennes about this decision. He did so by writing a letter that is considered to this day a diplomatic masterpiece. After that, there was little Vergennes could do to stall the proceeding of peace negotiations and eventually gave way. Therefore, Franklin was successful in securing a peace treaty with England, without endangering relations with France; a feat only a man of his political acumen could have achieved.
Having overcome this Herculean task, Franklin retired himself to the leisures of life. He found time to indulge in his family and called Benny to stay with him at Passy. For Temple, he continued to pull strings to secure a good office for him. This time was also conducive for him to resume his scientific pursuits that he had been away from for quite some time. The French were just as intrigued with science as he was and so he found ample opportunity to indulge himself.
He enjoyed the marvel of hot air balloons and perfected the design of bifocal lenses. He also continued writing anti-elitist literature and remained a crucial part of America’s independence proceedings. He also continued to work on his autobiography well into 1784, and he was 50% done with the project by that time.
Soon, it was time for him to return to America, but his bad health and affection for French society made him reluctant. However, when he received the news that his resignation had been approved by the Congress and that his efforts to secure an overseas appointment for Temple were futile, he decided to go back. Franklin conducted elaborate formalities of exchanging gifts and pleasantries with his high society friends and acquaintances, which included the King and Queen of France. He finally bid adieu to France on July 12 and was sent off by tearful eyes of his many admirers.
Chapter 16 | Sage
From accounts of his voyage to America, we can gather that he had finally let his age catch up with him. He did not attempt any studies nor made any observations. It was as if he was finally at peace, having completed all his duties. He also forsook work on his autobiography for that time. He now completely dedicated his time and effort to scientific experimentation. What resulted was a detailed budget of his maritime observations, replete with sketches.
He arrived in Philadelphia in 1785 and was received with great pomp and show by a large crowd. He soon settled into his Market Street home, surrounded by family and admirers. Despite his age and ensuing immobility, he was as sociable as ever and resumed meetings of old associations. He also went on a building spree and remodeled houses that he owned on Market Street. He installed a remarkable library there, equipped with some fascinating scientific implements, all of which were Franklin’s inventions.
It was almost impossible to keep Franklin away from an active political life, sometimes by his own insistence and otherwise by his admirers. He was soon elected president of the state executive council in Pennsylvania and was pleasantly surprised to find his popularity intact after so many years. He became part of the Constitutional Convention, whose task it was to draw up a final constitution for independent America.
He did not let his age or bad health hinder his work and took his seat every morning. He adopted wry storytelling over ostentatious oratory which was exemplary of the gravity he had gained with age.
He was a strong supporter of democracy and embodied the values of Enlightenments. He also had unparalleled experience in world affairs.
These qualifications made sure that his suggestions were always regarded even if they seemed incredulous to some. He professed compromise as a virtue for a nation that was proud of its diversity. This belief had helped him win battles in life. However, the one time that he forsook the value of compromise was also one of the most important ones on the issue of slavery.
Franklin, aged at 82 and having achieved the pinnacle of political success and recognition, had every reason to retire. However, his pride, by his own admission, still made him appreciate public ardor. Therefore, he accepted the renewal of his state presidency for another year. His swan song to a long and successful political career was to be his public mission against slavery. He presented an abolition petition in 1790, which pleaded for the recognition of the equality of man. It was an emotionally charged literature that sought to plead with reason. However, his petition by denounced by supporters of slavery and the Congress also refused to act on it.
Towards the end of his life, his faith in his religion became firmer than ever. Franklin preached indulgence in religion, but his reason for doing so also exemplified his rational beliefs; that it helped people behave better. He was an apostle of tolerance and left statues of this belief in the form of funds that he built for every religious sect in Philadelphia. Letters from the last days of his life are replete with his religious beliefs.
The very last letter that he wrote was to Thomas Jefferson, his spiritual heir to the nation.
His condition began to worsen and reached an all-time low. The final blow came on 17th April 1790, when Benjamin Franklin succumbed to an abscess which had burst in his lung. His funeral procession was a grand display of everything that the great man had achieved in life; throngs of admirers led by clergymen of every faith walking hand in hand to pay respect to one of the greatest Americans to have ever lived. Benjamin Franklin was a total badass indeed.
A Defiant Defence of Diefenbaker: The Defense Crisis and Its Implications
One of the most tumultuous periods in Canada-U.S. Relations was the Defense Crisis of 1962 and 1963. In order to examine the American presence in Canada during that period, this article will accomplish four objectives. First, it will explain the background of the Defense Crisis. Secondly, this article will provide a historiographical analysis of John G. Diefenbaker. Thirdly, it will argue that the Defense Crisis led to explicit American intervention in Canadian politics. Finally, this article will defend George Grant’s significant contribution to analyzing this history and will reach the conclusion that Diefenbaker’s indecisiveness was not a product of personal tension with John F. Kennedy, but a product of an irreconcilable vision of Canadian Nationalism.
The historical background of the Defense Crisis begins on October 15th, 1958. On that day, the Canadian government authorized negotiations with the US government “for the acquisition and storage of defensive nuclear weapons and warheads” . Bomarc-B Missiles were to be placed in North Bay, Ontario and La Macaza, Quebec to neutralize a surprise Soviet attack. The Canadian cabinet knew that “in taking the nuclear-[fitted] U.S. Bomarc weapon, Canada ran the danger of falling under greater U.S. military control in North American air defence”  given Canada’s obligations under NATO and NORAD. However, in response, Diefenbaker continued through five years of government to stall making a final decision to accept or reject the required nuclear warheads. Eventually, the government collapsed when the Minister of National Defense Douglas Harkness tendered his resignation in protest. Among historians, it is widely accepted that Bomarc controversy was a key contributor to Diefenbaker’s political demise because it highlighted indecisiveness caused by personality problems. This article will suggest an alternate cause of this indecisiveness.
Most historians have a vastly different interpretation of Diefenbaker compared to George Grant’s interpretation of the lucky 13th Prime Minister. The question is how has this history been interpreted through the lenses of political biases? Before assessing Grant’s perspective – which plays a central role in this article – a historiographical analysis of the various competing interpretations of Diefenbaker’s behaviour must be taken into account. It is the next step in this article to contrast these differences and to suggest why such a divergence with Grant’s perspective exists on foreign policy. A general consensus among historians suggests that Diefenbaker was indecisive on accepting the nuclear warheads. What remains to be observed is each author’s claim to the source of this indecisive foreign policy.
A recurring pattern of pro-Liberal Party historians is to attack the character, not the ideological motivations behind Diefenbaker’s demise. Nash and Robinson both take this interpretative position. Among the most popular interpretations of the period is Knowlton Nash’s Kennedy & Diefenbaker: Fear and Loathing Across the Undefended Border. The books major fault is its overemphasis on the personalities of John F. Kennedy and John G. Diefenbaker. Nash first notes that the two world leaders backgrounds do not complement each other as Kennedy was a Bostonian Catholic elitist and Diefenbaker was a Saskatchewanian Protestant populist. Although Nash shares this descriptive tendency with most other historians, he characterizes Diefenbaker as a messianic demagogue full of exaggeration and infectious charisma. Nash also repeatedly calls him ‘insecure’, ‘irrational’, ‘obsessive’ and a small-town lawyer. This is juxtaposed with friendly adjectives calling Kennedy ‘young’, ‘ambitious’ and ‘witty’. For Nash, a series of altercations illustrates the international friction between the two nations. In January of 1961, Diefenbaker visited Washington and argued with Kennedy over sport fishing and the War of 1812. Their personal tension were further exacerbated in May 1961, when Kennedy visited Ottawa, insulted Diefenbaker’s French and then asked for a ‘two-key’ nuclear warheads policy with Canada. Diefenbaker’s response instead was a peculiar proposition to accept nuclear warheads only during the initial phase of the supposed Soviet attack. Nash’s conclusion was that as a consequence of personal clashes, both politicians grew to hate each other resulting in a foreign policy rift.
One major historiographical problem in Nash’s interpretation is that he implicitly suggests the lack of friendship between leaders caused the disagreement on the Bomarc missiles. This is misleading. George Grant seems to have indirectly attacked the specific work of Knowlton Nash by stating that the media had “reduc[ed] issues to personalities” for the purposes of the ruling class. Far too much credence is given to the friction between the two world leaders because of a simple truth; personal anecdotes are amusing and they give a simple but false explanation for the poor Canada-U.S. Relations during this period. Another problem with Nash’s interpretation is that in reality Diefenbaker’s policy was not endearing to either American presidents Kennedy or Eisenhower. Evidently, Nash overlooks the smooth personal relationship with Eisenhower despite serious policy disagreements between the Canada and American governments from 1957 to 1960. This misleading historical interpretation must be highlighted in order to demonstrate the flaw of overemphasizing personality clashes. In addition, it seems unlikely that Diefenbaker could position himself as leader of the Progressive Conservative party and then become what is described as a petty and irrational person upon meeting John F. Kennedy. There must be more to Diefenbaker’s indecision over the Bomarc missile. Nash does not differentiate between actions motivated by personal tension versus political tension.
Sharing a similar Liberal bias with Nash is another civil servant’s interpretation called Diefenbaker’s World. Basil Robinson openly admits to being a continentalist Pearsonian who witnessed Diefenbaker’s disintegrating leadership from within the foreign policy bureaucracy. As will be explored in detailed below, a continentalist is an individual who believes in a closely unified North America. Adding more substantive insight into this history, Robinson analyzes the underpinnings of Diefenbaker’s internal indecision by noting the dichotomy between two wings of the Progressive Conservative caucus. Howard Green and Douglas Harkness each represented competing wings of the caucus. Green was appointed the Secretary of External affairs and admonished nuclear proliferation while Douglas Harkness became the Minister of National Defense in 1960 and called for nuclear weapons on Canadian soil. While Green attempted to make international disarmament a reality, Harkness had to constantly make excuses for “the failure of negotiating with the United States and NATO authorities on nuclear warheads”. Robinson also heavily implies that the Prime Minister was negligent and indecisive because of his natural tendencies and demeanour. This is flawed and serves Robinson’s personal self-defence from fundamentally disagreeing with Diefenbaker’s vision of Canadian Nationalism.
The more conservative leaning analysis, Peter C. Newman adds greatly to the interpretation of the growing Defense Crisis. Newman wrote Renegade in Power within several years of Diefenbaker’s fall in 1963. Newman took the necessary time in a balanced historical interpretation to focus on the philosophy that drove Diefenbaker to reject the rules of international subservience. For Newman, Diefenbaker believed in national building in the tradition of John A. MacDonald, although in a modern era of increasing continental interdependence. Diefenbaker was surprisingly left leaning on welfare policy and desired closer ties with Britain, which American continental interests despised. Newman continually emphasized in contrast to the Nash and Robinson readings that the Canadian Nationalist rhetoric damaged the influence of the “continentalists in the American State Department who believe that what’s good for the U.S. us automatically good for Canada”. “Diefenbaker never managed to make convincing his often-repeated boast that his anti-Americanism was actually pro-Canadian”. Although both Newman and Grant agree that a clear vision of Conservatism was allusive, they both point to the institutions and entrenched structures that usurped Diefenbaker from power. The indecisiveness was political, not a product of irrational fool, but of serious discord with the rhetoric and the realities of Canada’s position in North America. It was not that Diefenbaker’s indecisiveness was a product of character, but a product of untenable principle.
It could be argued then that the forces of continentalism overthrew the Diefenbaker’s Progressive Conservatives. With serious policy missteps regarding to the Coyne controversy, cancellation of the Arrow, growing monetary crisis, unabated unemployment rates, Diefenbaker’s defeat in 1963 can be attributed to many factors. This article, however, will present conclusive evidence that among the most significant factors was the American desire for regime change in Canada.
The Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962 reopened the debate over nuclear warheads in Canada. For Kennedy’s Secretary of State Dean Rusk, “Diefenbaker’s ‘introspection and nationalism’ were the biggest problems in Canada-U.S. relations”. On the Canadian side, continentalists like Sevigny believed that “the need for…a closer association with our NATO partners…[was made] very clear by [the] tragic Cuban incident”. From the American perspective, the intense crisis proved resolutely that Diefenbaker was either indecisive or stubborn with regard to American security needs. Following the failure to swiftly declare ‘DEF CON 3’ on October 21st, 1962, the Diefenbaker government was the target of a replacement campaign that would allow American Cold War objectives to be achieved. Similar to Vietnam in October 1963, Canada required a discreet coup d’etat. In quick succession, the Kennedy Administration struck three strategic blows against the Canadian government to achieve that end.
The first blow occurred with an incident of frankness, revolving around retiring NATO General Lauris Norstad; an American. On January 2nd, 1963, whether by accident or design, Norstad told reporters that Diefenbaker had not fulfilled his obligations under NATO regarding accepting nuclear warheads. This was an open attack on the Canadian government that would spark major controversy. Criticism in the Conservative caucus put Diefenbaker on unstable ground as indecisiveness seemed to give way to utter incompetence.
The next blow was the Pearsonian Re-Alignment on missile defence. On January 12, 1963, newly anointed Liberal Party leader ‘Mike’ Pearson decisively declared that he was ‘ashamed we accepte[d] commitments and then refuse[d] to discharge them”. In a complete reversal of Liberal Party policy, the Liberal leader fulfilled the desires of the ‘Establishment’ by calling for the acceptance of nuclear weapons. The infamous about-face was the consequence of repeated consultation with the JFK. Many insiders “felt sure that Pearson had made a deal with Kennedy that in exchange for Pearson’s switch on nuclear warheads, Kennedy would help destroy Diefenbaker”. As two Nobel Prize winning internationalists, Kennedy and Pearson had good personal relations, but far more importantly; Pearson had a malleable ideological preference for continentalism.
The final blow was a reaction to a miscalculation on the part of Diefenbaker. On January 21, 1963, Diefenbaker claimed in Parliament that a ‘rethinking’ had occurred between the leaders of America, Britain and Canada at the Nassau meeting. This was a crass attempt to justifying indecision concerning the nuclear warheads. The implication of this gaffe was that a public denial in a U.S. Government press release was necessary and tremendously embarrassing. In essence, the Kennedy Administration had explicitly intervened in Canadian affairs in what would “deliberately foster an anti-American thrust in the tactics…[of[ the coming election campaign”. This evidence of interference was openly accepted by future Liberal leader Pierre Trudeau who confirmed in the Cite Libre that “Diefenbaker was beaten by ‘les Hispters’ around Kennedy”. The 1963 Diefenbaker campaign was had the best of his political career according to most sources, but it was not enough against the full force of the United States. The ultimate consequence was the collapse of Diefenbaker and re-installation of the Liberal regime. The nuclear warheads were brought into Canada immediately by Pearson’s new government.
The most plausible conclusion for why Diefenbaker’s government fell is articulated by Sevigny: “…by choosing to listen to the dreamers in his entourage and discarding the opinions of the realists, John Diefenbaker committed his most serious mistake, one which broke up his party”. From the evidence, Diefenbaker’s dream of Canadian nationalism assumed that NATO was an alliance, not an extension of American foreign policy. Pearson’s acceptance of the latter gave him the advantage of American influence. During the election of 1963, Diefenbaker tried to paint the Liberals as co-conspirators with Washington and that a vote for the Liberals would lead to nuclear war. This did not resonate. However, there was some credence given to Diefenbaker’s nationalist position after U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara revealed that the Bomarc missiles were in fact designed to draw fire away from American cities without much regard for Canadian civilians below the aerial interceptions of a Russia attack.
To recap, the article first explained the Defense Crisis of 1962 and 1963. Subsequently, a historiographical analysis of Nash, Robinson and Newman interpretations showed that Liberal historians attempted to focus on Diefenbaker’s character over the true source of conflict. Then, the evidence was examined showing the Kennedy Administration’s intervention in Canadian politics. The article will now address the unique historiographical interpretations proposed by George Grant. It will conclude that Diefenbaker’s political principles were his ultimate downfall.
To understand more clearly the underlining framework of American manipulation, George Grant’s interpretation of Diefenbaker’s demise is most salient. George Grant’s Lament For a Nation is a direct reaction to the fall of the Progressive Conservatives in 1963 and its implications for Canadian Sovereignty. As part of his analysis, Grant states that “lamenting for Canada is inevitably associated with the tragedy of Diefenbaker”. According to Grant, Diefenbaker’s political failure occurred because he challenged American continentalist, progressivism, and capitalist designs in Canada. The “prairie blowhard”’s downfall was rooted in his ideology of Canadian Nationalism. Part of the great disappointment from historians like Peter C. Newman was that Diefenbaker’s larger than life expectations fell well short of their mark. His “One Canada” campaign rhetoric admonished voters against the Liberal desire for “a virtual forty-ninth state in the American Union” but this socialist nationalism could not stand a chance in an already submissive Canada. In the end, the Bomarc missile fiasco was the tipping-point for an American coup d’etat that was in the making upon Diefenbaker’s rise to power.
To elaborate on Grant’s argument, American imperialism relied heavily on the ruling class within Canada that had become continentalized in its views. These complicit Canadians were Diefenbaker’s adversaries. They include the King, St. Laurent and subsequent Pearson Liberal governments, as well as the entrenched continentalist bureaucrats such as Robinson and Pearson, in addition to the Central Canada’s anti-rural ‘Establishment’. Whether collaboration was intentional or accidental, the Liberal Party achieved hegemony during this period of the 20th century in part because of their acceptance of continentalism. Grant suggests that the march to American annexation was moving faster with Liberal pro-capitalist policies that “paid allegiance to the homogenized culture of the American empire”. As a consequence of compliance, American universalizing and homogenizing free-market forces within Canada benefited the willing Liberals and disadvantaged the Saskatchewanian who was a populist that rejected the ‘Establishment’. Liberal rule was only interjected by a lapse from 1957 to 1963, which would be marked by a constant struggle between the three groups and the antagonist to their self-interest; Diefenbaker.
If this is true, as the evidence suggests, then this prairie, Protestant, orator served merely as a sacrificial lamb for American Cold War objectives in 1963. It also shows that the demise of Diefenbaker’s government was the tip of an iceberg that has inevitably sunk Canadian political autonomy. Diefenbaker was unavoidably wrong in contradicting the conventional wisdom of the American led progressive age. From Grant’s account, Canadian sovereignty was no longer viable since no alternative could be found, as demonstrated by Diefenbaker’s failure. In truth, Diefenbaker seemed to be an irrational protestor because a truly rational leader would have submitted to American desires. In his concluding optimism, however, Grant argues that the overwhelming forces of American imperialism left Canada as a satellite state destined to desire annexation for the betterment of Canada’s citizens. The gravitational forces of progressivism, globalization and assimilation of cultural distinctions will ultimately result in the amalgamation of Canada into the American super-structure. This is Grant’s solace which Diefenbaker’s nationalistic rhetoric, so passionately, hoped to avoid but could not.
It would be erroneous to not mention, at this point, that George Grant was a leading proponent of Red Toryism. Compared to Liberal historians such as Nash and Robinson, Grant’s politics may too appear to mask biases. He may have simply developed a skewed perspective of Liberals who “led inexorably to the disappearance of Canada”. However, his claims are justified because they can be qualified with compelling evidence. Both sides have a point, eh?!
The goal of historians is to the piece together the past and synthesize it into tangible explanations of those events. It stands to reason that the Diefenbaker’s flawed personality, described by pro-Liberal academics, is a distraction from the actual source of Diefenbaker’s demise. Instead of the rampant character assassinations, historians should note that the causal arrow moves from Diefenbaker’s conceptualization of Canada to political indecision with regard to the Defense Crisis of 1962 and 1963. What becomes resoundingly consistent among historians is the sense that Diefenbaker was a disappointment. Intrinsic in their view is that he failed to achieve what his rhetoric so sincerely promised. Regardless of the bias of the various historians, there is a compelling argument within Grant’s work that may help change the commonly held perception about the outsider prairie populist and the Canada-U.S. relations in that period. The tragedy of Diefenbaker needs to be re-written to pay homage to his perilous and courageous attempt to carve out a sovereign nation despite forces more overwhelming than anything ever witnessed on this earth.
Diefenbaker, John G. One Canada: Memoirs of the Right Honourable John G. Diefenbaker: The Years of Achievement 1956 to 1962. A Signet Book: Scarborough, 1976
Grant, George. Lament for a Nation: The Defeat of Canadian Nationalism: 40th Edition. McGill-Queen’s University Press: Montreal, 2005.
Nash, Knowlton. Kennedy and Diefenbaker: Fear and Loathing Across the Undefended Border. McClelland & Stewart Limited: Toronto, 1990.
Newman, Peter C. Renegade in Power: The Diefenbaker Years. McClelland and Stewart Limited: Toronto, 1963.
Robinson, Basil H. Diefenbaker’s World: A Populist in Foreign Affairs. University of Toronto Press: Toronto, 1991.
Sevigny, Pierre. This Game of Politics. McClellan and Stewart Limited: Montreal, 1965.
Smith, Denis. Rogue Tory: the Life and Legend of John G. Diefenbaker. MacDarlan Walter & Ross; Toronto, 1995.
Stursbeg, Peter. Diefenbaker: Leadership Lost: 1962-67. University of Toronto Press, Toronto, 1976.
 Robinson, Basil H. Diefenbaker’s World: A Populist in Foreign Affairs. University of Toronto Press: Toronto, 1991: pp 106.
 Nash, Knowlton. Kennedy and Diefenbaker: Fear and Loathing Across the Undefended Border. McClelland & Stewart Limited: Toronto, 1990: pp. 76.
 Newman, Peter C. Renegade in Power: The Diefenbaker Years. McClelland and Stewart Limited: Toronto, 1963: 367.
 Nash, 96
 Nash, 119
 Nash, 100
 Grant, George. Lament for a Nation: The Defeat of Canadian Nationalism: 40th Edition. McGill-Queen’s University Press: Montreal, 2005: pp 8.
 Robinson, 227
 Newman, 254
 Newman, 261
 Newman, 262
 Nash, 65
 Sevigny, Pierre. This Game of Politics. McClellan and Stewart Limited: Montreal, 1965.
 Smith, Denis. Rogue Tory: the Life and Legend of John G. Diefenbaker. MacDarlan Walter & Ross; Toronto, 1995: pp. 469.
 Nash, 255
 Smith, 466
 Robinson, 307
 Nash, 301
 Sevigny, 261
 Newman, 387
 Newman, 391
 Grant, 6
 Diefenbaker, John G. One Canada: Memoirs of the Right Honourable John G. Diefenbaker: The Years of Achievement 1956 to 1962. A Signet Book: Scarborough, 1976: pp. 21
 Grant, 13
 Grant, 7
 Grant, 94
 Grant, 6
Listen, Think and Act…starring Buster Sales. Buster Sales is very frightening to me. Blockbuster should have played up the horror theme in this video just because it is weird. I guess if you want to your employees to pay attention, you might want to shock them with a strange training video. Not a terrible strategy…. I just can’t get the thought of “IT” the made-for-tv movie….
Is this kinda creepy?
“The following are my seminar notes from October 5th, 2011 @ The British Library: Business & IP Centre in London, UK. This seminar is generally relevant globally but particularly if you live in LonDonN. All examples are circa 2011. I used this guide to gain an initial $5,000 USD investment in my startup!” – Matt Arnot
How to Fund Your Start-Up
by Matt Arnot based on Paul Grant’s presentation.
Mr. Grant learnt how the funding game operates from his Banker to Entrepreneurial experiences, and he has realised that entrepreneurs are wasting a vast amount of time looking for capital, and then getting bad deals. Mr. Grant has helped with HSBC sponsored events, doing many workshops, seminars, and he is business coach.
The Objective of this Seminar:
• Getting funding
• Retaining ownership.
• Giving away as little equity as possible.
• Building on expertise and contacts.
The Story of the Eager Businessman:
The eager businessman had a scalable business, which had a lot of potential, but he/she was too impatient. Through his own desperation, he was offered a deal with an investor to give away 51% of the ownership of his business to the investor. In the end the eager businessman said “Yes” at 51%.
A few months later it was revealed that the investor had:
a) put a cap on the businessman’s salary, b) gained complete control over the finances, c) moved the company’s head office, and d) messed around with the fundamental designs of the business.
Making a quick deal is fine if you don’t mind working for someone else. However, if you do mind working for someone else then you should try to make a quick deal early on. There are ways of pulling back equity but it difficult so spare yourself that struggle…
…Part of the game is about controlling the majority stake in your own company and it takes a long time to get money from investors.
The biggest mistake made by entrepreneurs is to play on the wrong field of the four levels of this game. Therefore, you should:
1) Decide what level you are on,
2) Target the players you need to approach
The 4 Levels of the Game
Seed Funding – sources: Family, Friends and Government grants
£1K – £50K: Your business is an unproven concept, and the service/execution needs to be ironed out. You may have spoken to potential customers, and you have determined that there is a market. For an investor, the risk is very high.
Early Stage – sources; Angels, small funds, banks, Invoice discounting, grants, asset finance/bootstrappin
£50K – £250K: You have proven that your concept works, and you have a revenue stream or streams. The investment really does cap out at £250K because there is too much risk for investors. The business angel doesn’t want to concentrate their risk.
Mature Growth – sources: Ofex, AIM, Full Listing, Mezzanine Finance £250K – £10million – You have a good team, and you are executing well. You have proven the concept works in the UK as a whole. The VCs are interested because the risk is lower, this is possible only because VCs are not interested in risk now-a-days.
End Game (The Exit) – Trade sale, MBO,MBI, and in about 2% of cases an AIM listing.
The most believable exit for yourself and investors is a trade sale. Your business has a high valuation, The strategy applied here might be for you to get a management buy out in 5 years time, or for management to buy into the company, but it is not much of a case
for an exit. Get another company to buy you, but if you are in a slow industry they will be less inclined because investors want to make quick exits.
1%…Typical success rate for start-up raising equity in the funding game.
Why have so few entrepreneurs succeeded? You to have a business plan etc BUT this lower performance happen because they haven’t played the game well. There is no proven revenues, and haven’t tested their business model sufficiently….1 out of 100 entrepreneurs actually acquire funding of + £250K.
These are the Paul Grant, and VC/Angel Groups findings. The 1% figure is optimistic.
The 1% Approach….(means failing)
1) An entrepreneur has a great idea!
2) Sets out writing a detailed business plan: a robust business plan, which experts have been paid to ensure will work. Some entrepreneurs buy business plans, and end up spending a year working on a business plan. There are some people who
spend £50,000 on business plans, and only get £5,000 back in investment. Everyone thinks it is all about the plan, but continually fine tuning this blue print for the business actually detracts from reaching your funding goal.
3) In Search of Capital: while people aren’t even keen he/she flies to Silicon Valley where they meet VCs who are disingenuous, and rarely say “no, thanks” for fear of passing up the next Zuckerberg. There is no margin for saying “no.” For the VCs, there is no reason to turn someone away completely, but instead they will spur on an entrepreneur and give the entrepreneur false hope about the possibilities of successful deal being made after further research. Plans are refined, and entrepreneurs then go back with a better business plan, and a bigger team, but it is a waste of time, and have to get salaried jobs.
4) Entrepreneur quits after a year of searching: they might have good team etc and they blame the business plan, or the company who wrote up the business plan for them, perhaps some interest occurs but disappears before any contract or commitment to investment occurs.
BUT they are not going about it the right way.
The Success Model (Works much better!)
1) An entrepreneur has a great idea!
2) Researches market & creates cash-flow: The entrepreneur takes a week or two to produce a 2 or 3 page plan with a cash-flow and P&L forecast. It looks viable. So he/she asks potential customers whether they would buy this product/service? The entrepreneur conducts market research. The entrepreneur goes to potential customers, and even competitors to make contacts and gain feedback. “Can you help me on this project I need to find cash-flow” It could be tiny, but they start getting cashflow through testing the idea, up-front payments, or other methods.
3) Based on experience, proceeds with a concise plan of 12 pages where the most important aspect is centrally focused on an executive summary, which investors will read. Investors will ignore the majority of the business plan document anyway, so please not that the executive summary is the most valuable part of the
4) Secures funding with a favourable valuation: the entrepreneur has proven that he/she has a viable concept that is working, and that they have reduced the risk substantially by generating revenue. Their funding is increased with this kind of revenue generation, so they offer a simplistic forecast.
Regarding the Business Plan: VCs are not going to read the business plan but they will read the executive summary: there is no time, as the VCs need to see if the business is credible or not quickly. It may be disappointing to you if you’ve spent the last 9 months writing a robust business plan but learn the reality when asking VCs:
“Did you read the full plan?” The answer is frequently, “No, not really.” Not even small VCs have a good response rate when asked, the vast majority of people will not read your entire Business Plan, so do not make this mistake. They will only notice the tools you have, the actions you have done and the revenue being generated.
Who are the Players?
• The Angel investor
• The Banker
• The VCs
• Government officials
• The Gatekeepers
• The Entrepreneur
• Family and Friends
At the seed stage: Incubators nurture very young companies. They are solely looking for seed stage people ie. those who are vulnerable without any cash, and who need an environment to help them grow. These organisations are set up to give a little bit of money, usually between £10K to £20K to get a business started. They will provide expert advice around that business, including mentoring, office space. There is a lot of access to funding, but these incubators are very technology biased.
The Kinds of Incubators:
Seedcamp (competition based) http://ycombinator.com/ You pay a fee, and it is competition based. You apply to be part of an open pitching competition. If you win, then you get the support, and the money for winning. The problem is that entrepreneurs might not be so good at pitching.
White Bear Yard: they take on someone, read up on it….
Innovation Warehouse: It is part funded by the Corporation of London, they have a small fund attached, and large spaces available to you, also supply a mentoring system, and access to funding. For initial inquires about IW, ask Mr. Grant.
Open Fund: it’s another pitching type event.
Springboard: universities are a good place to start from.
www.microfunding.com These different options require that you pitch effectively amongst large groups.
The Angel Investor (Offering cash, experience and divine guidance)
The perception is it is extremely difficult to get Angel Investment, but there is a lot of money out there. The problem is, rather, that most of the deals aren’t good enough. Most deals are through a network BUT Angel Investors do not want to invest in a badly
structured deal where the propositions do not stack up.
People are very unrealistic about raising £900,000, for example. Or people are very unrealistic about time scales for investment, i.e. 1 or 2 months. They prepare things on a piece of paper but you really need to make money, until you have that you don’t have a lot. It’s a competitive environment, where only 10 out of 100 will actually get read. It is very difficult to get any attention from Angel Investors.
Angel Investors want to be within an hour’s drive: You will want to be in close proximity to your angel investor, do not go out of London, or southeast etc. International angel investing is unnecessary.
Angel Investors investment £50K – £200K: Investment size has deceased over the years. The deal size was much larger a few years ago at about £100K, now it has slipped under £70K on average. It is now not uncommon to get £20,000 or £30,000 instead. This decline has occurred because of the decline in ‘crazy money’ where Angel Investor wealth has declined in the personal accounts. The other reason is it is much easier to start a business on less money in 2011. Running some businesses can cost next to nothing in some cases, so the business environment has changed.
Angel Investors nearly always invests in areas of expertise: It is not easy to make money as an angel investor, and there is a strong incentive to have expertise in a particular area. If they know software, they will stick with that industry, or venture into other areas at their own risk. Angels get burned badly in some cases, they retreat to solid knowledge areas.
Angel Investors tend to experienced entrepreneurs: so don’t pull the wool over their eyes. It is very important to be fairly honest with entrepreneurs. They are looking for deals with a potential to attract VCs.
Angel Investors expect 10x Investment in return: The average portfolio of an Angel is about 10 deals, 2 or 3 will die quickly, but then the majority of deals will go on and on, and never making a profit and no change of an Exit. The only deals they will look at are
the ones that have a chance of getting them to an exit, there is no point of doubling their money because that will not work. ROI from 40% p.a.
Angel Investors exit for them is often in 5-7 years: they want to get their money and then invest it elsewhere subsequently. Your interests as an Entrepreneur have to be aligned with the Angel Investor. You should speak about the exit when you are talking
with Angel Investors. You must plan for an exit for yourself. The Angel Investor needs to have an exit or they will not be interested in the deal. Talk about the exit in your pitch.
Angel Investors prefer deals from referrals: You should not just send an email, you need to interact with an Angel Investor. Networking will be essential for success. You need to create a referral network. It saves you a lot of time. They only look at it from a scalable view-of-point, the business has to have scale and growth. For an angel investor, scalability is very crucial.
2 types of investors
• Passive – Invests in 10 projects a year averaging £100K
• Active – £250K ex-entrepreneur seeking a job with no EXIT!
Tips to retain ownership
1. Include a share buyback scheme (called “ratcheting down”)
2. Reduce the risk whatever way you can (bootstrapping)
3. Get bankers money to support angel investment.
Where do you find an Angel Investor?
Investors.com run by “Oliver”
Business Angel Networks (BANs): they screen the entrepreneurs, only put forward 5 every month with 5% success fee, and an upfront payment of £5,000 average. These agencies transform the business plan to make it stand up in front of the investors. They help channel, and drill down the business plan, etc. You need to get your business plan as public as possible. They entail Business Plan analysis, and transforming that content into investors.
Accountants: are gatekeepers who can help connect you with Angel Investors.
Lawyers: an investment lawyer doesn’t get a success fee, but they know lots of Angels. They are very low risk themselves, and so the deal must be excellent to move forward.
Other entrepreneurs & pitching groups of entrepreneurs: “What do you think of your deal, he’s doing well. Can you introduce me to your Angels?” Need to assess how much experience they actually have, etc.
Pitching Groups: tend to charge a fortune for pitching to a group. You are nervous when presenting, and then you discover that the room is almost 80% consultants. Pitching groups like that can be tricky, and wastes time. Do your research to find out which ones
are good ones. Try the following pitching groups: Great Eastern Forum, Thames Valley Network, or Oxford Investment Network.
Internet matching sites: but few get any funding this way. Put your deal up for free online. Haven’t known anyone to get funding that way. A matching sites supposedly gets 2,000 angels, but in reality there were only 14 angels. www.companypartners.com might
be acceptable but on the whole do not participate in Internet Matching Sites. In some arrangements, the entrepreneur pays a monthly fee for how many hours the business plan is exposed. This route doesn’t make that entrepreneur look professional. You can strip out the sensitive bits, but everyone can see everything for free, and there are better ways.
Small networking organisations: finding groups, become a member of OpenCoffee which is weekly meet-up, do get out there an mingle. Talking to people is the secret 50% of the time. You need to network, and talk to people. Beware of groups that accept you, and then ask for an upfront payment. Disclosing the Business Plan to as many valuable people as possible is acceptable because it will enhance the likelihood of finding a viable investor. You cannot be secretive. The pitch is about creating a teaser, not providing the chemical formula of your product.
The Big VCs
“The probability of an entrepreneur getting venture capital is the same as getting struck by lightning while standing at the bottom of a swimming pool on a sunny day. This may be too optimistic.” – Quote from a VC based in the US
If you want your own business then you will want that 70% for yourself and then 30% for the investors but it doesn’t mean you will have control in the case of working with VCs. VCs can control you with their contract, and they can do anything including fire you. VCs will try to control your business, and it is a fast ride on a bullet train…
Criteria for VCs: the risk has to be stripped out
• Proven business model
• High-flying team
• 1bn market size: real scale as a target for 1 billion pounds.
• Exit in 3-5years: VCs are always hot on exit because they will only have a 10 year
funding, and they want to make a 20% return. Need to do an exit in 5 years.
• 100m + exit valuation: they are looking for a major exit.
• Other people’s cash, expect to have 0.5%, and you need to know someone from Cambridge or Oxford.
How do you find a VC?
• Make sure your business is high-growth and profitable.
• Target VCs that operate in your sector. www.bvca.co.uk
• Find people who can introduce your deal. You would want to meet as many VCs as possible to leverage influence even if they have a term sheet. Meet with at least six different VCs in order to play various VCs off of each-other.
• Get a good lawyer.
The Small-Business VCs
• Deal size of £250k – £1m: they are not a soft option but it is do-able.
• Producing early revenue
• Credible team
• Scope to grow to £10million+
• Exit in 5-7 years
• £10m + exit valuation
• Other people’s cash.
Six Small-Business Friend CVs
•The Capital Fund (www.thecapitalfund.co.uk)
•The Technology Fund (http://www.londontechnologyfund.com/)
•Braveheart Ventures (http://www.braveheart-ventures.co.uk)
•MMC ventures (http://www.mmcventures.com)
•Bridges Community Ventures (http://www.bridgesventures.com)
•Seraphin Capital Bridges Community Ventures (http://www.bridgesventures.com)
1. The London Fund (RVF):
Five or six years into their fund, they need to turn quickly to make an investment. They don’t need a business plan, and they have £50million fund. You must apply online and they have a weekly meeting looking at the possible firms. You do not need a referral.
2. The Technology Fund (http://www.londontechnologyfund.com/)
The London Technology Fund (LTF) is London’s specialist investor in new technology companies. It is focused on the funding gap for new, high growth technology companies based in Greater London. It bridges the funding gap by leading and building a syndicate of investors or by completing the gap in an existing syndicate. The Fund is happy to work with investors already known to a company or to help entrepreneurs find investors. It has developed a streamlined investment process with an initial web-based application. The application helps entrepreneurs identify and provide the essential
information LTF needs for prompt decision-making.
3. Braveheart Ventures (http://www.braveheart-ventures.co.uk)
Braveheart Investment Group plc is an investment company that makes and manages investments in British businesses. Braveheart was formed in 1997, by four Scottish businessmen, as a co-investment vehicle so that they could pool their money and
knowledge to reduce risk. Investments are made in young emerging companies, most of which are not listed on the London Stock Exchange at the time of investment.
Investments are a mix of technology and more traditional businesses and range from start-up companies to businesses in pre-listing situations. Typically ten investments will be made each year out of several hundred-business plans received.
4. MMC ventures (http://www.mmcventures.com)
One of the top firms investing in smaller pre-VC deals. MMC Ventures invests between £0.5 m and £2.5 m in initial funding rounds. MMC typically invests in pre-profit companies where MMC is the first institutional investor. MMC Ventures’ capital comes
from two sources: a value adding syndicate of experienced businessmen and a managed fund that co-invests with them.
5. Endeavour (http://www.endven.com)
Endeavour Ventures is a venture capital firm focused on providing sophisticated and high net worth clients an unrivalled selection of unquoted investments. Endeavour Ventures introduces unquoted investments of between £200,000 and £2,000,000 in growth companies with real prospects and selected other investment opportunities, such as property, to investors. They then provide an on-going service to keep investors up to date with their investments.
6. Seraphin Capital
7. Bridges Community Ventures (http://www.bridgesventures.com)
Bridges Community Ventures are all about social VCs starting in a deprived area. Bridges Ventures is a privately-owned venture capital company with a social mission. All the funds raised aims to achieve a social purpose as well as financial returns to investors.
The size of the fund is £115M. They are looking for deals of £150K to £10M which can deliver strong social benefits either through their geographic location in underinvested areas or through their sector or approach, for example in healthcare, education and the
8. Noble Investment Bank (http://www.noblegp.com/nfm/npe)
They take a longterm view and invest between £0.5m and £5.0m over the life of the deal. The team is a generalist investor with no specific sector focus. Recently it has invested in a range of transactions across a variety of industries. The team specialises in
providing venture and development capital, either equity and/or debt, to dynamically growing companies, across Europe and the UK, with a focused business plan, strategy and exit strategy within 5 years. This fund is for companies that already have developed
sales and does not provide seed capital or start up finance.
9. NESTA Investments (http://www.nesta.org.uk/)
NESTA is the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts. The largest single endowment devoted exclusively to supporting talent, innovation and creativity in the UK. The mission is to transform the UK’s capacity for innovation. NESTA invest in early stage companies, inform innovation policy and encourage a
culture that helps innovation to flourish. Invest directly in high-growth start-ups with innovative technologies looking for £250K and over.
• Angel networks
• Matching websites
• Pitching events
Crowd Funding: (A little more about this emerging trend)
Suited for creative industries: “Marillion” in 2007 got fans to fund a £40,000K music Tour from the general public.
Legal constraints: it is illegal to go around and ask people to fund you, the FSA will be on you quickly. Legally there are only 2 types of people you can approach are:
a) corporate finance people in VC houses trading in that area, or
b) High Net Worth Individuals: people who can afford to invest.
You used to have to have them sign a document. You can now ‘self-certify’ which basically says that you asked for funding. You couldn’t stand up in a room, and ask for money but crowd sourcing is circumventing this somewhat.
Going about 6 months and found a way to get around crowd funding limitations, allow entrepreneurs to put a deal on their site. People can make donations up to £2000. They are allowed to legally sell to the general public through their platform. You can put your
business plan up on their website, BUT you need to push people to get them on the page, ie. you need to market, and cuts out the middle-man, if you get a good deal then you stand a chance of getting funding.
It is illegal to crowd source but not entirely with a certain kind of crowd sourcing. This group have funded a lot of deals, it’s more creative industries, and they have a show or documentary. Then they give it a certain time frame, and if they don’t reach the tipping point then everyone gets they investment returned. There are some crazy deals, which are not mainstream deals that get a lot of funding so it can be done.
General public gives money for a loan, rather than an actual investment in this case.
Family and Friends (F&F)
Real business angels require due diligence for a loan, but with family, and friends there is less documentation, and it counts as your own money. Beware of Uncle Bob giving you £20K that they thought was equity rather than an interest free loan. After 5 years in business the person in the background is holding up new arrangements because they claim to have made a loan with the goal of equity, not an interest free loan. Get your payment in writing if it is loan interest free loan or other arrangement. This will prevent you from undue legal strain subsequently.
• F&F will take you on personal merit;
• F&F does not expect big pay-offs;
• Is often willing to commit cash quickly;
• Make sure they can afford to lose the money;
• Pay them back as quickly as possible;
• Warn them of the risks – ie. they could lose everything;
• F&F can be patient – not always though!
The Banker (Who are they lending to?)
It is very difficult to get a business loan. In fact, you may get thrown out the door, and have to come crawling back through the window. Banks will never give you money without a collator, which means you will have to put your assets on the line.
How do you find a Banker? HSBC used to do loans but in the last 10 years, they stopped doing it because, there are so many debts that could go bad, and they are trying to keep the existing debts a float in order to ensure the existing businesses are still working. The fact is that bankers are not focusing on startups as the risk is too high.
Maintaining existing businesses is what has been the preoccupation. The government paperwork is too extreme. It is very difficult to get a banker to come speak at entrepreneur events lately because only 1 out of 20 will get any support.
Visit as many banks as possible: You can even apply 6 times to the same bank, to 6 different managers, until you find someone in the same bank that will say: “Yes.”
Aim for the SLGS (enterprise Finance Guarantee) One option that is available is the Small Firms Loan Guarantee scheme. (http://www.companypartners.com/content/resource/sflg) Government covering these enterprises with the Enterprise Finance Scheme.
Think Cashflow: and your credibility determine whether they will support you.
Find a banker you “click with”: You want to have the decision-maker in front of you, and it has to be under the £25K barrier because that is the signing limit.
Overdrafts are better than loans: try to get overdrafts, which are better than loans. You need to consider getting at £5,000 overdraft, and this is very flexible.
Cheaper than equity capital: bankers are only interested in the cash flow.
Brokers funds it. These are convertible loans.
You cash in your invoices, you bidding for your invoices. They also do a lot of great deals, they are doing of good work.
Alternatives to a Banker?
www.fundingcircle.com They are trying to replace banks, you ask for a loan for £100K, and they look at it like a bank loan. They have John Milton on the board, if you pass the screening, then they’ll put it on their website. When they put a deal up it gets funded almost immediately. There is a very small default rate.
• One year operation £10m loans raised.
• Apply for a listing – 15mins.
• Deal get credit scored (min 2 year trading)
• Members bid from £20 – £20,000
• Investors love it. 2 Weeks before bids are closed
• Funds transferred to business account
• Typical interest rate 8.5% + 3% fee.
• Downside is that you need 2 year trading for this option! Business with a turnover of £60K has been done. The less risk involved, the better interest you’ll get.
• www.firstfunding.org Brokers funds it. These are convertible loans.
• www.marketinvoice.com You cash in your invoices, you bidding for your invoices. They also do a lot of great deals, they are doing of good work.
• Can you use a collection of funds from a group of families, because there are business people that will collect £200,000 and each of the business owners can source the funding as their own for at least 5 or 10 startups.
Slow…but sometimes win the race. One person was looking for a grant and he hadn’t done anything with the project in lieu of acquiring a grant…. Find someone who knows the grant area, and an expert that can guide you down that path, understand the politics of
each of the grants, and how to make the application, DO NOT DIY.
• Time consuming;
• Usually a small player in the funding game;
• The DTI has developed the Research & Development Grant (this replaces the
SMART scheme) – Up to £500K;
• DTI – Geographical funds;
• European Funds.
Saving: you want to look like an outsider to the angel investor. This is different from what the media and press will tell you. A smart investor won’t put a whole fund on one business, so do not do so with yours. The chances are that your business is a learning
experience, and you should not expend all finances.
Personal loans: don’t go there, if you put your house, and everything you have, it is considered very imprudent. Personal credit cards: don’t even think of the Credit cards, and that’s insane.
Story of the man starting a club –
•Approached a 100 hot entrepreneurs in a newspaper pull out
•Send exec summaries to nearly all 100
•Obtained 3 meetings
•Secured finance from one investor
•The investors/entrepreneur had valuable contacts and experience
Story of man approaching Bill Gates via e-mail for travel.com company
•Moral of the story – successful entrepreneurs often become angel investors.
The Art of Bootstrapping
It’s about managing the cashflow: in the approach you should take ages to pay out people because that cash is an interest free loan. Build a business to that is scalable, try to survive, and work this out in one or two years. Need to try to work out to keep that cashflow, you need to keep the cashflow in the game long-enough until you work out an investor situation. You need to survive the first year, often so learn how to manage cashflow.
Famous Bootstrapped companies (values adjusted to reflect inflation)
•Larry Ellison from Oracle – Started with £2,000 of his own capital.
•Dennis publishing of loaded magazine and PC world started with less that £100
•Anita Roddick – Started “Body Shop” with £5,000 from an Angel investor
•Tom Hunter founder of Sports Division – Started with £200
•“Ben & Jerry`s” ice cream, started in a rented disused garage in Vermont, US with less
•Rockefella started with £44,000 and went on to become the worlds richest man
•Amazon started with less than £5k before raising £200K from family and friends.
•“Subway” founder started with less than £2K
•Can start generating cash quickly on small levels of finance
•Can learn from mistakes cheaply
•Gives amazing insights into your business
•Helps raising funds about 20x easier, and reduces risk to investor
Help the founders retain large controlling stakes of the company
Alterative Sources of Capital
1) Vendor Funding: as stated above, use suppliers money as an interest free loan. If you get the cash upfront then you can use that cash, and hold off the suppliers. In other words, take ages to pay back the supplier. This is known to fund an entire business. If you have a 30-day period to pay a supplier then you have a 30-day
interest fee loan effectively. You can stretch that to 60-days or 90-days. Bankable companies can afford to pay people later. The problem is that the Vendors will chase you. If you give them enough sales then they will not pull out. If they are a small company they are rarely going to pull out.
2) Rental: People come up to investors and say that they need a £50K chunk of equipment, why buy it when you can rent it or lease it? You need to manage your cashflow until that business is proven, in order to justify that chunk of the business.
3) Factoring/Invoice Discounting: (try www.marketinvoice.com) Rather than wait 90-days, you can get bids on the invoices. If the profits are okay, it might actually work out. There is 20% cut…
4) Half Purchase/Leasing: better approach to full purchase.
5) Overdrafts: try to push the overdraft with your bank to £5,000 then £10,000 etc.
6) Credit Cards: mentioned the credit card, corporate credit card. Then push it, use it a lot and it can be extended. If the worst scenario, unless you have a personal guarantee, you shouldn’t go after that.
The 4 Levels of the Game (Revisited)
The key is to launch your business, then get the funding. With the principle of bootstrapping, you don’t have credibility, so you should find someone who does, and do a deal with them. A lot of people think that bootstrapping is for a select person, but if you check the most successful companies, 45 out the top 50 in Times Magazine were bootstrapped companies.
Seed Funding – sources: Family, Friends and Government grants, Incubators, crowdfunding, competitions
£1K – £50K: Again, your business is an unproven concept, and the service/execution needs to be ironed out. You may have spoken to potential customers, and you have determined that there is a market. For an investor, the risk is very high.
Early Stage – sources; Angels, small funds, banks, invoice discounting, grants, asset finance, bootstrapping
£50K – £250K: Your business is proven, and you have revenue stream(s). The investment really does cap out at 250K because there is too much risk in the game. The business angel doesn’t want to concentrate their risk, so understand their position.
Mature Growth – sources: Ofex, AIM, Full Listing, Mezzanine Finance
£250K – £10million – You have a good team, and you are executing well. You have proven the concept works in the UK as a whole. You have a good team, and VCs are interested because the risk is lower. VC is not interested in risk…
End Game (The Exit) – Trade sale, MBO,MBI, and in about 2% of cases an AIM listing
You should aim for the quick exit from your own company.
Franchising: There is one other funding opportunity: franchising is huge. Build a system and can sell the franchise, but it comes with a high limitation for the franchisee. You cannot change the brand, execute within tight parameters. Trying to buy back franchises
isn’t easy, but it is worth investigating in certain industries.
So what now? (Develop your funding game.)
1. What funding level am I playing on?
2. What players do I need to approach?
3. What tools do I need to win the funding game?
4. What are the next steps?
You build a robust business plan, fine BUT there are six essential tools…
Six Essential Tools (that will dramatically improve your chances)
1) USP: deals have to be unique. Only 20% know their USP, you can spend an hour in front of someone and not come to understand their USP, it needs to be really unique, and succinct. You should be able to explain yourself in 60 seconds.
2) Team: obviously need to have a solid team.
3) Proof of Concept: talk to customers, and reduce the risk as much as possible.
4) Executive Summary: it should be a marketing tool, not a summary of the full plan. You need to get yourself a meeting with an angel investor. This has to be a solid, and short executive summary, with a key focus on investor interests.
5) Valuation/Exit: A crazy man thinks his/her business is worth 5million, he is fixated, there is no risk stripped out of that valuation. You should never go over £1million pounds on your valuation. You need to produce sales ASAP.
6) The Pitch: you need to be face to face, and you have to have your executive summary printed in your head. You need to have a clear presentation. The pitch is a verbal calling card/executive summary. It needs to be a verbal element of the Exec Summary with clearly set out parameters and guidelines.
Fundraising for Fast Growth: October 13th, 2011
a. Intensive one day workshop, ambitious entrepreneurs, step by step approach, building the tools to attract funding, one speaker has been training Angel investors, industry contact and case studies, on getting support, small group – limited places so act quickly.
b. £120 standard (£85 with discount below)
c. 30% discount for past attendees.
Strategy Is Not Operational Efficiency: You can run the best kebab shop in London, UK but if you are doing something that many people can copy, you are not going to make any money. You need a great strategy, but the first step is picking the right industry. Anyone can become a proofreader. The most profitable sectors in the US earning over 20% growth per year: pharmaceuticals, high-technology, financial services, discount department stores, and oil. The worst industry is airlines. Picking the right industry, one with a sound structure, where your chances of making a profit are highest, was where good strategy begins. Note that you should be interested in what you are doing with your time. Passion is also important.
[This is a synopsis of several books on the MBA experience including What They Teach You At Harvard Business School by P.D. Broughton]
Grilled Cheese Sandwich Business
Most of the value is in the cheese, the bread and the accompanying tomato soup. Mmm, that all tastes toooooo good. And when customers taste the food, they think “that was a great sandwich” and very rarely think “some Chef made that.” We rarely see the Chef to begin with. The quality of the ingredients is essential. It’s the reason Italian food is so good when, surprise, you actually go to Italy. The Chef is still important however.
Just like a good grilled cheese sandwich, you need great employees to help create awesome products. However, the cheese is not going to convince the bread to get into the frying pan together. You need that Chef. The Chefs are the management. What frustrates workers is that they are the ones that produce the quality outcome as the cheese the bread and tomato soup. It doesn’t seem fair and it probably isn’t that the cheese and bread don’t get the credit for the amazing meal. The chefs do. From Steve Jobs to George Lucas to Richard Branson, the chefs get a the bulk of the credit and the value from orchestrating the meal that is any business. They just sit in the kitchen while customers eat the cheese and bread and tomato soup that are the true value of the transaction. This is why social democratic values will always live on. It doesn’t seem fair that the cheese that makes the sandwich awesome gets paid less than the chef. It’s really hard to see whether the Chef made the meal awesome or the ingredients themselves are where the value lies…..
The difference in business (if there is one: sarcasm) is that sometimes the cheese is smarter than the Chef. But if the chef doesn’t listen and just wants the cheese to stay flavourful, then management misses out on something awesome. In fact, recognising when someone who is not a manager is way smarter than the managers can lead to the opposite effect which is that the Chef replaces that cheese. I think I’ve taken this metaphor too far….
LET’S SAY THAT BUSINESS IS RATHER LIKE GOVERNMENT. In the case of the USSR’s space industry, the government was in the business of captivating the imagination of a nation, to inspire young children to study science, and to make the USSR a interplanetary power. Okay, that’s a bit extreme. Great art is used to evoke feelings of pride. However, like Pets.com or many other startup business, the Soviet Space program rushed launches before sufficient tests were conducted; comparable to a company buying an office before having any cashflow. In Silicon Valley, the running joke was that a startup that bought this highly stylised chair at $600 each was doomed upon purchase. In London, there are still startups with decorations, mascots but no cashflow. It’s important to dream imaginatively, but art is supplementary rather than complementary. The USSR should have invested more in testing the N1 Rocket and computer technology and less on the propaganda around it. By the 2000s, the Russian space program became the dominant channel for delivering supplies to the international space station…