Stanford Graduate School of Business Graduation Remarks by Phil Knight, MBA '62 | Summary and Q&A

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July 7, 2014
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Stanford Graduate School of Business
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Stanford Graduate School of Business Graduation Remarks by Phil Knight, MBA '62

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Summary

This video is a commencement speech given by the co-founder of Nike, Phil Knight, at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. He shares his personal journey and experiences, highlighting the challenges he faced in building the company and the lessons he learned along the way.

Questions & Answers

Q: Why did Phil Knight give this commencement speech at the Stanford Graduate School of Business?

Phil Knight mentions that he was asked by the Dean to give this speech, although he is unsure why. He suggests that his journey might be relevant in terms of attitude and philosophy, and he also feels a personal connection to the school as it is where his entrepreneurial aspirations began.

Q: What was Phil Knight's mindset when he first arrived at Stanford Graduate School of Business?

Phil Knight describes himself as shy, insecure, and unsure of what he wanted to do with his life. He had a desire to figure things out and find his purpose.

Q: What was Phil Knight's experience selling encyclopedias after graduating from Stanford?

After graduating from Stanford, Phil Knight's first job was selling encyclopedias door-to-door in Honolulu. However, he clarifies that he never actually closed a sale during this time. He reflects on how this experience pushed him to find a different path for himself.

Q: What challenges did Phil Knight face when trying to distribute Japanese shoes in the United States?

Phil Knight talks about his experience trying to distribute Tiger athletic shoes in the US. He faced language barriers, navigational challenges, and even arrived at the wrong location for a business meeting. Despite these setbacks, he was able to successfully secure a deal to distribute the shoes.

Q: How did Nike come up with its brand name?

Phil Knight explains that they held a contest among their employees to suggest brand names. Jeff Johnson, their first employee, submitted the name "Nike." Although Phil Knight admits that he didn't love the name initially, it grew on them and eventually became the iconic brand it is today.

Q: What challenges did Nike face during the Great ASP customs battle?

Phil Knight explains that an obscure customs code dating back to the 1930s led to a huge invoice for pass-through customs duties. Nike fought against this demand, which threatened their business, through legal battles and lobbying efforts. After three years, they settled the case for a much lower amount and continued to thrive.

Q: Who were some of the key people who helped Nike along the way?

Phil Knight mentions several individuals who provided invaluable support to Nike, including Chuck Robinson, Jill Conway, Dick Donahue, Tom Paine, and Masaru Hiyama. These individuals offered guidance, connections, and mentorship that played a significant role in Nike's success.

Q: What lessons did Phil Knight learn in his journey with Nike?

Phil Knight shares several lessons he learned throughout his journey with Nike. He emphasizes the importance of seeking wisdom, being open to help, and not being afraid to take risks. He also highlights the significance of managing creativity, prioritizing ability and desire over money and power, and embracing struggle as a part of the artistic process.

Q: What advice does Phil Knight have for the graduates?

Phil Knight encourages the graduates to seek a calling rather than just a job or career. He urges them to continue their search for wisdom and to not be afraid to ask for help. He also advises them to embrace the struggle and take chances in order to fully realize their potential.

Q: How does Phil Knight envision the future of the graduates?

Phil Knight imagines that in ten years' time, one of the graduates will be delivering the commencement speech to the next class. He acknowledges the challenges and responsibilities that come with success and encourages the graduates to make the most of their talents and opportunities while staying humble and open-minded.

Takeaways

Phil Knight's commencement speech offers valuable insights into his journey with Nike and the lessons he learned along the way. He emphasizes the importance of seeking wisdom, being open to help, and embracing the struggle. He encourages the graduates to find their calling, take chances, and prioritize ability and desire over money and power. Overall, his speech serves as an inspirational reminder that success comes from perseverance, creativity, and a willingness to learn and grow.

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