Tag Archives: Bill Bowerman

Phil Knight | Banks are Risk Averse & the PWC Experience | 1965

blue ribbon phil knightAll along, Phil Knight believed that growth was the end to be achieved 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.

Tiger Shoes 1965Phil Knight renews acquaintance with an old classmate he had met on the tracks one day, Jack 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 the author, he 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 – the author 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.

Bowerman JoggingPhil 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.

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

Phil Knight | Finding Bill Bowerman & Rejection Matters | 1964

female-lion-images-photos 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.

Bill BowermanAnother 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 his some trepidation, but the discussion is brief and settles any fears Phil had.

Phil KnightThe Tiger shoe import business booms, and Phil feels immensely content and happy with his success. However a wrinkle pops up when a competing company wants to sell the shoes he is selling. 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.

Mount FujiIn 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.

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