Think Outside the Big, Orange Box

Shoe Dog by Phil KnightUnlike my wife, Roslyn, I’m not the type of person who reads for pleasure…most of the time. What reading I do is about business — marketing and sales books are my go-to. So when Roslyn recommended I read a memoir, “Shoe Dog” by Nike co-founder and chairman Phil Knight, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to connect with the story. But you know what? It was a really good book. I read all 350 pages of it over four nights!

At the crux of “Shoe Dog” is the story of a very private person — and one of the richest in the world. But he decided to put it all on the line and tell the story of his success, and how Nike came to be. Breaking his silence, he wrote the book for his grandchildren, “So they will know.”

“ … the Nike swoosh is more than a logo, and the big, orange box contains more than a pair of shoes. They’re staples for perseverance and innovation …”

The memoir begins with Knight’s graduation from Stanford. He was a runner who wanted to build a better running shoe. His peers and superiors thought he was crazy, but the idea stuck with him. In 1963, Knight started his company out of the back of a Plymouth Valiant — he took out a $50 loan from his father as startup money. By the end of the first year, he did $8,000 in sales.

Nike would continue to be unprofitable through the first decade of its existence, even though sales nearly doubled every year. And every time Knight and his band of “misfits and oddballs” jumped a hurdle, another was just down the track. In a great entrepreneurial struggle, Knight faced naysaying banks that wouldn’t loan out any more money, a Japanese supplier who went behind Knight’s back, and a $25 million lawsuit. None of that stopped the Nike team, which was composed of attorneys and CPAs who knew almost nothing about marketing, but worked passionately to make the company a success.

As we know, today, the Nike swoosh is more than a logo, and the big, orange box contains more than a pair of shoes. They’re staples for perseverance and innovation, and Knight’s story is one that can relate to and inspire us all. Take me, for example. When I started in my tax resolution business, lots of people thought I was crazy. But, like Knight, I had passion and a burning desire to succeed. And that’s all that mattered.

Knight also knew he couldn’t succeed alone. He kept in constant contact with his college running coach, close friend, and mentor, Bill Bowman, the other co-founder of Nike. Like Knight relied on his team, I don’t work alone either. I have coaches, mentors, and teams of people I rely on every day. And because I am a coach myself, I know I play a key role in the success of others.

Finally, though the Nike team knew little about marketing, they learned as they went, were persistent, and persevered. The end result was a timeless logo and an orange shoe box — because the team thought outside the box!

These are things you and I can do, too! You don’t have to know everything right off the bat to succeed.

You just need an entrepreneurial spirit and the drive to make great things happen.

And I’ll always be here to help you see it through.

michael rozbruch tax and business solutions academy