Phil Knight is the multi-billionaire founder of Nike. But things weren’t always so rosy for him.

When he started out (as is typical for so many entrepreneurs), nobody believed in him or his idea – not even his parents.

And through his journey of building Nike from scratch and making it a success, he had many ups and downs along the way. The business almost went under several times, but Knight always managed to save it at the last moment.

He led the company humbleness, strength, and coolness under pressure, and he never stopped believing in his idea.

The result? Knight, once a scrappy kid from Oregon, managed to build Nike into one of the most successful companies in the world (and make himself a multi-billionaire in the process!).

His compelling and well-written memoir is jam packed with lessons that any entrepreneur can use as fuel to transform themselves and their business. But to make it easy for you, we’ve selected 5 of our favorite lessons.

And so, here are 5 lessons entrepreneurs can learn from Shoe Dog…

  1. Sometimes Our “Crazy Ideas” Are the Best Ones

At the beginning of the book, Knight refers to his shoe company idea as his “crazy idea”.

But for him, it was the only idea worth pursuing. He didn’t want to follow the trend and work for somebody else. He wanted to build his own thing.

So, he took massive action on his idea. He flew out to Japan (just a couple of decades after the trauma of World War II), and met with one of the biggest shoe companies there.

Just because people think your idea is a little crazy doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pursue it. That being said, you should research, test it, and move quickly to validate it. That way, your crazy idea can turn into a successful business.

  1. Shipping Beats Perfection

When Knight first showcased Nike to the world at a trade show, the first prototypes were low-quality. Knight and his team thought they would be a disaster.

However, the opposite happened. People loved the shoes and overlooked the flaws.

By that point, Phil had already built his shoe business into a respectable, trusted company. It was because people trusted his company that they could overlook the flaws.

Your product doesn’t always need to be perfect. But it’s key to run your company with solid values, and to keep on shipping.

  1. Culture is Crucial

Culture was one of the biggest keys to Nike’s success.

Knight hired people who believed in and loved shoes. They had a sense of purpose with the company, and this sense of collective purpose helped drive the company to new heights.

As an entrepreneur, it’s your responsibility to build a winning culture within your company. This goes back to hiring people with the right values, as well as your style of management.

  1. Don’t Micromanage

Phil Knight used this favorite quote to direct his management style: “Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.”

His employees thrived with this management style. They had the freedom to be entrepreneurial within their role, and often took advantage of that freedom. The result was that they often surprised Knight with their results.

All too often, entrepreneurs dive in and try to micromanage their employees. This leads to frustration and underachieving employees. But when you give your employees the freedom to surprise your with their results, they’ll often surprise you with those results! However, you need to be sure to hire driven and hungry employees for this to work, as the natural underachievers will use this freedom to slack off instead of do great work.

  1. Prepare Yourself for the Journey

As Phil Knight discovered again and again, entrepreneurship is far from an easy path. It’s a journey of ups and downs, and there is almost never 100% certainty. What’s more, you’re responsible for your own success.

You can’t just punch in, work 8 hours, then go home and forget about it. Your business is always on your mind, and you’ll always feel like there’s more you can do.

Plus, there are the big risks involved, like running out of money, legal trouble, etc. (which Phil Knight ran into a few times thanks to some of his dishonest competitors).

However, if you’re willing to stick with the journey, it can be amazing. You see, we’re most happy when we’re solving good problems – and when you run your own business, you’re forced to constantly solve those types of problems.


Entrepreneurship is a topsy-turvy journey. Lessons like these from successful entrepreneurs can help you weather the storm and run your company at a high level.