Shoe Dog; Memoir by the Creator of NIKE

Shoe Dog; Memoir by the Creator of NIKE

Shoe Dog; A Memoir by the Creator of NIKE, by Phil Knight

Published: 2016; 386 Pages

Category: Memoir, Entrepreneurship, Success

Quick Takeaway: Shoe Dog, A Memoir by the Creator of NIKE, by Phil Knight dispels any thoughts that America is an entrepreneurial Shangri-La where a good idea turns to money quickly and easily. Rather, Knight claims that entrepreneurs are always outgunned and outnumbered by naysayers and businesses trying to thwart success with “No’s” and other roadblocks. Shoe Dog is a wonderful book showing Phil Knight’s uphill battle that turned a crazy idea within the head of a young man searching for meaning into a megabrand, multi-billion-dollar company.

Why I read this book: It was given to me by my brother-in-law, Chris Payne

Notable Quote: Fighting not to win, but to avoid losing is a surefire losing strategy. – Phil Knight (I slightly paraphrased this for context)

Book Report: Shoe Dog is, simply put, a very fun read. This memoir does a great job highlighting the adventure that is the life of Phil Knight, creator of Nike. The book highlights Knight’s desire to explore as a young man, and it highlights his manic drive for success, but the book is also written with a humble attitude that makes the reader root for the underdog, forgetting that Knight succeeded in the end, becoming one of the richest individuals on the planet.

Another interesting aspect of Shoe Dog is the reader learns how much happened before Phil Knight’s shoes were even called NIKE. We learn about his multiple travels and the motley crew that helped Phil propel his idea into the household name Nike is today. The reader also learns about some of Phil’s challenges. He failed at multiple sales jobs, but he succeeded in selling shoes. Why? Because, according to Knight, he realized that he wasn’t selling. He believed in running, and he believed that if more people ran, the world would be a better place, and he believed that his shoes were better to run in. Knight writes, “People, sensing my belief, wanted some of that belief for themselves … Belief is irresistible.” And, this belief can apply to anything.

Belief alone doesn’t guarantee success, however. In Shoe Dog, the trials of Knight’s extremely difficult dealings with Japanese Corporations and American banks shows that any wavering would certainly lead to failure, but fighting through overwhelming obstacles is necessary to win. Many times, Knight’s company was on the cusp of failure, but with a passion and a lot of hard work, he was able to keep it alive.

While reading Shoe Dog, it was fun to follow the path of a never-give-up entrepreneur who overcame financial, cultural, external, and internal challenges, and Knight’s memoir definitely wasn’t self-glorifying, but rather it feels like it was written to inspire not only other entrepreneurs but also athletes, painters, novelists, or anyone else with a vision. Near the end of his book, Knight encourages young men and women not to settle for a job, profession, or career, but instead to seek a calling. Knight writes, “Even if you don’t know what that means, seek it. If you’re following your calling, the fatigue will be easier to bear, the disappointments will be fuel, the highs will be like nothing you’ve ever felt.”

At the end of Shoe Dog, as Knight reflects on his book, his life, his adventure, his success, he does reveal one secret regret—that he can’t do it all over again.

How to Make Millions with Your Ideas

How to Make Millions with Your Ideas

How to Make Millions with Your Ideas by Dan S. Kennedy

Published: 1996; 250 Pages

Category: Business, Entrepreneurship, Success

Quick Takeaway: How to Make Millions with Your Ideas is a pull-up-your-boot-straps-and-go-to-work type of book. However, this book is not just about working hard. It as about using your ideas to surpass others, and it is about taking ordinary business concepts to extraordinary levels by focusing on Millionaire-Maker Strategies which Dan Kennedy clearly explains.

Why I read this book: It was suggested in The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss

Notable Quote: “Money made by pioneering is no more valuable than money made from reliable, predictable means.” – Dan S. Kennedy

Book Report: Written in 1996, How to Make Millions with Your Ideas has an old-fashioned salesmanship feel to it, however this should not preclude anyone from reading and learning valuable strategies from a proven millionaire who is passionate about making money and teaching others how to do the same. How to Make Millions with Your Ideas might have a bit less of the feel-good motivational rhetoric in other books on entrepreneurial success, but it is certainly not short on practical advice on how to succeed.

After highlighting eight high-probability areas of opportunity for millions of dollars to be made, one of the first concepts in the book is that not everyone has to be a progressive innovator who creates a game-changing product. Rather, Kennedy shows that it can be much easier to take an ordinary business and do something different with it. His case study for this is an ordinary plumbing company in an ordinary, small town that, by doing things differently from others, ended up becoming one of America’s fastest growing companies.

Other case studies include ThighMaster, Domino’s Pizza, and Barney (the children’s TV character). With these examples, Kennedy highlights that 1) there really isn’t a magic product that just takes the country by storm, but sometimes failure before creativity is involved in hugely successful products, 2) that figuring out what services customers would value that aren’t offered can lead to hugely successful profits, and 3) that refusing to quit when traditional methods of distribution (or anything else) reject what you have to offer can lead to amazing multi-million-dollar results.

The glue that really holds How to Make Millions with Your Ideas together are Kennedy’s forty-five Millionaire-Maker Strategies that are woven throughout the book with explanations and examples. A few of these strategies are:

Diversify in marketing to fully exploit Total Customer Value.

Provide the customer with an exceptional guarantee.

Break the rules.

Clarity of purpose.

Get others to do your selling for you.

Do not undervalue what you know.

Success breeds success.

Other important components of How to Make Millions with Your Ideas deal with marketing, distribution, and even selling a company. All these are shown with practical tips on what Kennedy has found to work in his own experience and while working with countless other businesses, and he simplifies things by providing practical lists on exactly how to accomplish certain tasks such as exclusively controlling your products, getting involved in direct marketing, and getting valuable publicity.

After all the practical advice on starting, growing, and selling a business, Kennedy provides the reader with his Million-Dollar Rolodex which is forty-five pages of contacts regarding product sourcing, mail-order marketing, trade publications, trade shows, distribution channels, publishers, advertising placement, and many other resources. Of course, many of these “contacts” are outdated, however running through his categories is a good way to see what types of companies/services are available to help grow companies.

Through his stories and advice, Kennedy ignites the entrepreneurial excitement of possibility within the reader. Near the end of his book, Kennedy explains that he never had a college education nor did he have any formal training, rather it was his ideas that made his millions, and it is his goal that by keeping focused on big ideas and practical strategies, anyone can make millions with their ideas too.

The E-Myth Revisited

The E-Myth Revisited

The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber

Published: 1995; 270 Pages

Category: Entrepreneurship; Business; Success

Quick Takeaway: The E-Myth Revisited is a nuts-and-bolts book about small business management and entrepreneurship. After craftily dispelling certain “myths” about business ownership and identifying and explaining key components linked to successful enterprises, Gerber wraps it up by considering meaning in the big picture.  He highlights how owning a business can act as a bridge between our internal sense of self and the rest of the outside world.

Why I read this book: It was suggested in The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss

Notable Quote: “If your business depends on you alone, you don’t own a business, you own a job.” – Michael E. Gerber

Book Report: Michael Gerber did an amazing job weaving very different ways of communication through The E-Myth Revisited, so his reader is at some points gleaning practical information and is at other points being shown how human business owners are. The book is one part text book and another part narrative. The small business and entrepreneurship messages are extremely clear, but the book also explores the emotional thought process of a struggling entrepreneur who seems to be wondering why she started a business in the first place.

Gerber points out there is a myth that there is something special, intelligent, and unique about entrepreneurs, but this really isn’t true, and by following a very clear step-by-step development process, anyone willing to give time and attention can flourish in business ownership. Gerber also states early on that a business is nothing more than a reflection of who the owner is.

Another concept in The E-Myth Revisited is that ”everyone who goes into business is actually three-people-in-one: The Entrepreneur, The Manager, and The Technician.” With this in mind, the Entrepreneur is the visionary, dreamer, and lives in the future of possibility. The Manager is pragmatic and provides order, and the Manager lives in the past, resisting change. The Technician is the one who gets things done, tinkers with things, and is always busy. The Technician lives in the present. According to Gerber, there is always a constant struggle for control between these three roles, and unfortunately, his experience leads him to believe that “the typical small business owner is only 10 percent Entrepreneur, 20 percent Manager, and 70 percent Technician.” This imbalance leads to more work rather than more success, and the owner realizes that he doesn’t own a business, he owns a job.

There are quite a few other powerful concepts highlighted in The E-Myth Revisited, but another main concept is the flow of a business from Infancy to Adolescence to Maturity. Basically, Gerber believes that if a person wants to build a large company, the person should not think about the company as it is in the moment, but rather as the owner envisions the company. From the very start, the entrepreneur should create a robust Organization Chart, for example, even if that means that his or her own name is placed in ten different roles on the chart at the beginning. Also, there is a critical point which Gerber named “Beyond the Comfort Zone” at which time the owner has to deal with a loss of control because the company can’t be managed by a single person, and this is a huge point leading into the next topic called The Turn-Key Revolution.

The Turn-Key Revolution proposes that a successful company should be created out of order rather than chaos, and the owner should look at his or her company as a prototype that could be replicated easily without the owner, so the owner is working On the company rather than In the company. Gerber doesn’t stop there, however. He clearly explains a process to do just that through three distinct yet integrated activities: Innovation, Quantification, and Orchestration. The creativity, tracking of everything, and elimination of choices once order is found are the backbone of successful companies.

Marketing is one of the last major components in The E-Myth Revisited, and Gerber highlights objective things to think about and strategic approaches to marketing including the idea that people don’t buy products, they buy feelings and much more. Gerber also gives us a nice glimpse of his life as a young adult who drifted around a bit with a beard and a guitar and who ended up in Silicon Valley only to realize that not only did he know nothing about what was happening in technology, but none of those working in the tech revolution did either. His ah-ha moment was a changing point in his life, and one that really humanized the way Gerber looked at systems (including businesses).

At the end of the book, after learning all about systems and processes, and success formulas, the reader is taken to the idea that business is a game, and businesses should be created with rules that make the game worth playing. In the end, a company is a representation of the individual who created it, and this can be a beautiful thing. Gerber points out that the first order of business for his book isn’t your business. You are. He writes that before business owners determine exactly what they will do, they should ask themselves the important questions such as: What do I value most? What do I want my life to look like? Who do I wish to be? These answers will help the owner design the best possible game for their life which ultimately will also become a reflection of who they are.