Summary of Phil Knight, MBA ’62, Co-founder and Chairman Emeritus, Nike

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00:00:00 - 00:35:00

Phil Knight, the co-founder and Chairman Emeritus of Nike, reflects on his time at Stanford where he focused on entrepreneurship, believing in his ideas despite facing doubts. He also talks about the early days of Nike and the importance of attitude and belief in entrepreneurship. Knight stresses the importance of maintaining a winning culture as an organisation grows, using Nike as an example. He also discusses Nike's partnership with Michael Jordan and the significance of good advertising, improving products, and working collaboratively. Lastly, Knight reflects on how Nike successfully overcame the sweatshop crisis of the late 90s and advises entrepreneurs to find and love their niche.

  • 00:00:00 In this section, the interviewer shares the story of how he convinced Phil Knight to do the interview. He stalked Phil outside of McDonald Hall for 40 minutes to convince him to do the interview with him. Phil reflects on how he feels coming back to the campus after almost 60 years and talks about how it's like stepping back in history and remembering when he had the whole world ahead of him. He describes himself as someone who thought an extrovert was the person who stared at other people's shoes and that the MBA program was a time for him to grow and chase what he was going to become.
  • 00:05:00 In this section, Phil Knight, co-founder and Chairman Emeritus of Nike, discusses his time at Stanford, where he focused on entrepreneurship under the guidance of professors that inspired him. He recalls a term project in which he proposed a shoe company that would create lightweight shoes, filling a gap in the market. Although he faced many doubts, he enjoyed what he was doing and believed in the product, eventually generating support from others. Knight also remembers his trips to Asia, where he brokered his first shoe import deal at the age of 24 without knowing the culture or language, demonstrating his ability to embrace hustle and take risks.
  • 00:10:00 In this section, Phil Knight reflects on the early days of Nike and the importance of belief and attitude in entrepreneurship. He talks about how he overcame his own shyness and uncertainty by believing in the idea and taking chances, and how his former track coach and co-founder, Bill Bowerman, was a hero and mentor to him. He also discusses the early team at Nike, which he called "buttheads," and how their complementary abilities and unwavering belief in the company helped them weather tough times and emerge successful.
  • 00:15:00 In this section, Phil Knight, co-founder and Chairman Emeritus of Nike, discusses the importance of preserving a company's winning culture when its workforce grows from a startup to a 74,000 person team. Knight believes that Nike's success is largely due to its culture, which was formed in the early days of the company and still exists today. He notes that the culture has been modified over time, but it remains a big part of Nike's strength. Knight also discusses how John McEnroe became a Nike ambassador, and why he decided to name an executive building at Nike's headquarters after the tennis player.
  • 00:20:00 In this section, Phil Knight talks about Nike's partnership with Michael Jordan and how it became one of the most successful and dominant brands in marketing. Despite being criticized for overpaying Jordan when he was first signed, the distinctive red and black shoe became an instant hit after being banned in the NBA. Jordan's strong personality was reflected in their advertising campaigns, which generated immense success even long after he quit playing. Knight also talks about how Nike constantly works to improve product and advertising, with good advertising being critical. He cites their partnership with advertising firm Wieden and Kennedy, who have been able to project who Nike and their athletes are to their consumers.
  • 00:25:00 In this section, Phil Knight discusses the importance of advertising and product development in the success of Nike. He also talks about the importance of democratic and collaborative leadership styles in today's world and how even introverted individuals can use these styles to be effective leaders. Despite not being a touchy-feely person, he emphasizes the importance of communication and understanding the unique personalities of team members for effective leadership. He disagrees with the notion of politically correct communication and believes that each individual's communication style is unique, and a leader's job is to understand and adapt to that.
  • 00:30:00 In this section, Phil Knight reflects on how Nike overcame the sweatshop crisis of the late 90s, which had a negative impact on the brand. Initially, the company denied the accusations, but after a year, they changed course and took steps to become a better company over the next decade. They made a commitment to improve their factories’ conditions, and since then, their factories have been recognized as the best in the world. Knight advises entrepreneurs to find a niche they love and to be passionate about it. In a lightning round of either/or questions, Knight was asked to choose between Jordan and LeBron, but he was not ready for that question.
  • 00:35:00 In this section, Phil Knight, co-founder and Chairman Emeritus of Nike, answers a series of rapid-fire questions including preferring the Rose Bowl over the Super Bowl, a track suit over a nice suit, and choosing "just do it" over "dream crazy." He also reveals a preference for barefoot over Adidas and his admiration for The Beatles over The Rolling Stones. However, he struggles to choose between The Sopranos and Breaking Bad.

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