In March 2019, I finished Phil Knight’s “Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike”.
The story of how a young man, 24 years’ old, passionate about athletics felt running shoes could be produced in a better way. The concept was his final year project at the University.
With every breakthrough, mostly being in the right place at the right time (Phil admits), he was more and more on the verge of bankruptcy. He recalled how “…industry watchers pointed to…our sales, and said we were unstoppable. Few imagined we were broke.” Nike constantly fought low demand, too much demand, liquidity issues, competition gangup. Phil himself constantly beat himself up about his poor work-family life balance. Talk of tradeoffs.
One of the most important factors responsible for Nike’s success is the team. Made up of people who didn’t just want paychecks, these guys wanted to prove themselves. They wanted to show Americans, then the world, that something good, scratch that, extraordinary, could come out of Oregun. It was a fanatical belief. Power of hindsight? May be, but they felt they had a chance.
Oh, I’m reminded that if you live long enough, a lot of the people you love the most will die. You will have a lot of heartbreaks. No matter how you much you try, you can’t be prepared for these events.
Because I’m the kind of person who reads stories of the triumph of free enterprise with Nigeria in mind, I could only read in shame how Phil kept looking for places to produce Nike shoes all around the world and not a wink about Africa. He went from Japan to Korea to Taiwan to England to Ireland to China. In fact, he was so excited about China (in 1980) because of its population of “One billion people, two billion feet”, that it becomes obvious that if Nigeria had provided opportunities, he would have come over.
We shortchange ourselves with our terrible attitude towards private enterprise. Too many low hanging fruits to shore up revenue.
A couple more lessons for Nigerians and Nigeria, but go read it for yourself.
Oh, and some lessons from China. I will share one: In 1980, a train trip from Beijing to Shanghai was almost 20 hours. In 2018, it’s under 5 hours. Let it sink in! Nigeria?
Indeed, “the cowards never started and the weak died along the way. That leaves us, ladies and gentlemen. Us.”