The Brilliance of Phil Knight

Growing up in England in the late 70s/early 80s, I never heard about Phil Knight. However, what I did notice as a fresh faced 10 year old was these sneakers and cleats with swooshes that became more and more popular each year. By the time I was 15 they were ubiquitous. A decade later and you’d have to have been a hermit living under several rocks to have not heard about “Nike”.

In “Shoe Dog”, Phil’s outstanding autobiography. This is the story of a maverick entrepreneur for sure. It’s also a book filled to the brim with simple and actionable business advice.

Here’s some of my major takeaways:

  1. Be authentic, be honest. Phil’s each to success was refreshingly messy with many failure along the way. Phil was ok being himself, and as an introvert used that to his advantage. He didn’t pretend to be someone he wasn’t, and this really comes across in “Shoe Dog”.
  2. Take CALCULATED risks. Sure Phil was a risk taker, but he didn’t throw caution to the wind. He strategically grew his companies, even though a lot of his decisions didn’t pan out in the short term.
  3. Surround yourself with the best people you can find. Although Knight’s first few employees were a diverse group to say the least, they shared similar values and many of them would have gone to the end.

I don’t think that Phil Knight really has an underlying message for the world in “Shoe Dog”. Maybe it’s the redemptive power of running, or . As business owners, we can learn learn the myriad lessons in . The lesson I took was to take massive action and follow up

Does your business have a strategy?

The dictionary definition is:

“A plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim”.

What do you want for your business? What are the major objectives you want to achieve (both short term and long term). And most importantly why are you in business? Obviously other than to make money. This is a given. What is the deep reason you put in countless hours of sweat equity? What in your life affected you emotionally enough for you to start business.

Then, you need a strategy, a plan to achieve these goals.

Everything else is then divided up into tactics, the short term day to day activities that help you reach your outcomes.

This is what I offer every client I work with, clarity around a strategy that is a good fit for their business and lifestyle. For a free consultation, please click this link. I’d be happy to talk to you about your business.

You probably know who Gary Vaynerchuck is, but if you don’t, Google him now and watch a couple of videos. He is the founder of WineLibraryTV and Vernermedia. He’s outspoken, opinionated, you should definitely listen to him, but please don’t try to be like him. Gary is a unique individual wit incredible drive (“Hustle” as he calls it).

  1. He doesn’t hold back. He doesn’t filter his opinions. He realizes he is not for everyone, but those who are in his target market adore him.
  2. He’s amazing at promoting his brand. He is his brand and he is relentless in promoting it.
  3. He delivers great advice that is immediately actionable.
  4. He shares his why. All the time. Gary has made no secret that he wants to own the NY Jets football team one day. This is a big, hairy audacious goal that speaks to the size of his vision.
  5. He produces timeless content.

Why is this useful for a business owner? It lets you know exactly whether or not your potential clients and customers are a good fit for you.

Now the disclaimer here is that you and not Gary V, nor should you want to be Gary V! You need to be you, and bring more of “you” to the the world.

  1. Do you hold back what is special about the work you do? What can you do to communicate this with your audience?
  2. What is your brand, and how do you promote it in every piece of communication that you write?
  3. What immediate actions could you take today CLICK HERE for my free immediately actionable eBook.
  4. What is your “why”? If you’re unsure, watch this Youtube video.
  5. What content can you produce that will be timeless and support your business one year, five years and ten years from now?

People in my life ask me why I spend so much time going to music concerts. It’s because there are so many valuable lessons that we can take from top performers who are able to practice excellence in front of huge crowds day in day out.

  1. Be strategic. One of the greatest concerts of all time was Queen at Live Aid at Wembley Stadium in 1986. Unllike a lot of the other artists performing that day, Queen prepared to deliver the show of their lives. They segued their hits together in a way that transcended music.
  2. Teamwork. This is pretty obvious but bears repeating, teams working in harmony both front stage and backstage make a concert a great experience for the concert goer.
  3. Executing despite immense pressure. The Beatles, the greatest band of all time, had immense pressure as twenty-somethings, yet they still delivered all the way until “Abbey Road”, this final album. George Harrison, who contributed two amazing songs to the album, was 27 years old when The Beatles broke up. He and the other Beatles had achieved all that pressured success when they were in their twenties.

I love it when great bands and acts don’t settle for good, but they strive for excellence. Another great example is Bruce Springsteen who at 70 still performs to close to 4 hours to deliver the ultimate concert experience for his adoring fans.

What are you selling for in your business?

When did you learn to network effectively?

Elementary school? High school? College? Chances are you probably didn’t receive much networking education.

Most schools will tell you that networking is the most effective activity you can do for your business and career. And then they’ll tell you to go out and network. No wonder most people become disillusioned with networking quickly. It’s lie being to told here is a rope, here are some climbing shoes, now go climb that mountain.

I network. I network a lot. I meet people through my I go to very structured networking meetings that have the sole purpose of generating high quality business referrals. I attend conferences. I’m by no means an expert, but my networking is effective, because I have a plan, I have a strategy, and most importantly, I execute.

  1. Research who you’d like to meet at the networking event that you are attending, and ask to be introduced to them. Prior preparation prevents poor performance.
  2. Find out how you can help others. Listen to their concerns and needs when you are out networking. Don’t dominate the conversation.
  3. Follow up. Collecting a bunch of business cards, wrapping them up in an elastic band and throwing them in the drawer the next morning is not networking. This is called wasting everybody’s time. Fortune is in the follow up. Follow up with those who yo had a genuine connection with.

Like most things in life, the more you network effectively, the better you will get at it, and the more you will generate the results you desire. For a more in-depth plan on how to network, check out my book that I wrote with an introduction from the “Father f Modern Networking Dr Ivan Misner. It’s called “Word Of Mouth” and is crammed with ideas to make your networking more effective.

I often laugh at how “busy” people (I hate how most people are always so busy..but that’s for another post) can find so much time to watch sports on tv. They root for their team and question calls that go against their team.

There are so many business lessons to be gained from high level professional sport. But, you need to go beyond being a “fan” to an intentional observer of the nuances of the game.

I don’t consider myself a busy person, I like to use my time effectively. But I do watch a lot of sport both live and on TV. I love the leadership and I love watching players execute under intense pressure.

What lessons are you learning from the sport you watch? What is your favorite team’s strategy? (or do they even have one?) Who are the leaders? What is their leadership style?

As a business strategist it seems strange for a business strategist to say that strategy is not the most important thing in business, but it simply isn’t. You may have the best strategy in the world, but if your business or organization has a lousy culture, then you are simply banging your head against the wall.

Peter Drucker is attributed to to have said that “Culture Eats Strategy For Breakfast”. And it is true.

Take a temperature check of your business’s organization and be brutally honest abut the culture. A great read on this subject is Daniel Coyle’s Culture Code: