As a small business owner one area you should be constantly practising is learning. Learning from others, learning from case studies, learning from books. As we are now gearing up to the busy Christmas season, I thought I’d share with you the books which you might get inspired by in terms of building a strong brand.
Shoe Dog by Phil Knight
So this is one of the best books I ever read. Very rarely a book makes me laugh and cry (almost!) at the same time. Phil’s journey to building NIKE as a brand is incredible. And, as with many brand stories, it just shows that reputation, credibility, market positioning and customer’s trust take a lot of time, patience, money, smart strategic thinking, making mistakes, risk, stress (both physical and financial) – you get the message, the list goes on and on.
Why is it must-read?
This book is all about building a business on reputation, quality and taking care of your customer. If you are building a business for the future, slowly and patiently while moving forward, this book is for you. It focuses on the start-up years of Blue Ribbon (pre-NIKE time) all the way to 1980, when it went public after building 50% market share in the U.S. athletic shoe market. Phil takes you on a journey from getting the idea, selling his first shoes from his bedroom to moving into a first store and yearly growth that followed. However, he is also honest about being cash-poor and always pushing it to the wire in terms of cashflow and his financial battles.
My biggest takeaways:
Lesson one: The importance of making business connections and delegating work to talented people, putting your trust in them and letting them to just get on with it. Business, after all, is about people. People who work with us and people who we serve. I took a serious inspiration from this and will start applying this to my business. What not many people know, unless they read this book, is that Phil had initially a full-time and later on a part-time job for the first five years or so. He put together a small sales team (of two people initially) who were pushing the sales for him.
Lesson two: The power of sponsorship agreements as a marketing strategy. It’s a fascinating insight into how these agreements work and how effective they can be. This marketing strategy is a great example of how a brand can do things slightly different in a market which is dominated by 2 key players and how a newcomer over a long period of time can disrupt that and beat them both eventually. Anyone has a chance to break in.
Lesson three: Using resourcefulness as your competitive advantage. I think start-ups and small businesses have a great opportunity to explore creative thinking and use it to their advantage. I used to study big businesses but now I’m more attracted to small businesses who put resourcefulness at the centre of their strategy. With lack of money and resources we are pushed to think more creatively to achieve a vision or execute a project on a very small budget. I will be testing my resourcefulness and creative thinking more in my plans.
Want to be part of a group of like-minded creatives who are going through what you’re going through? We have an amazing community of emerging designers, interior designers, stylists, fashion accessory brands, artists and photographers, where we help each other to grow. This is where I encourage sharing knowledge and brand collaborations. No fakes, self-centred liars and backstabbers are allowed. Please join us here. And, feel free to share if you found this useful!