The influence and eminence of the Nike Corporation is undeniable as they continue to set the standard for sportswear across the entire globe. The company has not been without its fair share of controversy when it emerged as the clear leader in its field.
The company’s position as number one was not always as clearly cut as it is today, and the company very nearly collapsed on a number of occasions.
The co-founder Phil Knight explains some of the challenges that he had to overcome in order to keep the company in existence against the challenges of managing cash flow, distribution, competition, taxes, inconvenient delays in imported goods and so on.
The company started off as Blue Ribbon Sports in 1964 with Bill Bowerman, a straight talking ex military track and field coach and Phil Knight joining forces.
There are so many lessons that Knight gives in his address to the Stanford graduates. An important lesson is that it is vital to get started with what you have, and grow from there. The Nike name was not used until nearly a decade after Knight began importing his shoes as a single distributor from Japan in 1962. Often the ‘perfect’ moment to begin anything never arrives and it is always a matter of deciding to take action and strike out into the unknown.
It is always useful to remember that mighty oak trees were always tiny acorns at one stage, and by learning the lessons of those who have succeeded then it is possible to emulate elements of that success.
Having said that, we must follow our own path and create things in our own way to be fully authentic to ourselves.
‘There is an immutable conflict at work in life and in business, a constant battle between peace and chaos. Neither can be mastered, but both can be influenced. How you go about that is the key to success.’ – Phil Knight
Phil Knight’s Stanford Graduate School of Business Address
For a detailed account of how Knight saw the early years of Blue Ribbon and Nike, you can see it in his book Shoe Dog.