The Coach's Corner

Archive for 2019

The Ultimate Shoe Dog Story (Nike)

July 15th, 2019 // Tom Doescher // 0 Comments

Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

Once again, I’m embarrassed to admit a bias I’ve had for years. I’m not sure exactly when it started, but it may have been when Nike started selling clothing with their name on it — and it wasn’t cheap clothing. My reaction was, “I’m not going to pay to advertise for those guys!” And from that and other observations, I developed a negative attitude about what I perceived as arrogance, to the point where I’ve boycotted Nike shoes and clothing for decades.

I just finished reading the Nike story as chronicled by its founder, Phil Knight, in his book, Shoe Dog. I know what you skeptics are thinking: “He fell for the story.” Well, maybe I did, but I’ve read a lot of books like this, and I would suggest most tend to eulogize the founder/CEO, and even have a tendency to rewrite history. This book surprised me. If anything, Phil Knight seems to understate his personal impact on Nike and instead praises many others for their unique contributions.

Because many of us have observed Nike from its humble beginnings to its current $134 billion market cap, we might draw the conclusion that “it just happened.” Many of you have started your own businesses or have been involved from the beginning, and I found this to be a very real, at times painful, success story. It reminded me of practice units that I was involved in creating and building. Many years later, newer team members had no idea how difficult our journey had been. So, I could relate to Knight.

Some fun facts/stories:

  1. Knight ran cross country at the University of Oregon for the famous Coach Bill Bowerman — who was Knight’s first business partner, the primary shoe innovator, and a close mentor until his death in 1999.
  2. One of Knight’s colleagues came up with the name Nike, in honor of the Greek goddess of speed, strength, and victory. Knight didn’t care for it, but had no other option to offer.
  3. The famous Nike Swoosh was designed by a young artist at Portland State University for $35.
  4. Knight is an introvert who loves his alone time.
  5. Knight is a CPA who, while teaching accounting at Portland State University, met his wife, Penny, a student. The couple recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.
  6. Due to shoe endorsements, Knight has developed close, personal relationships with many of the greatest athletes of the past five decades.
  7. Unlike many other company founders, Knight avoided going public (and cashing out) for years.
  8. Knight reported: “Often the problems confronting us were grave, complex, and seemingly insurmountable; and yet we were always laughing.” (Editorial comment: This was my exact experience working with my former partners, Ken Kunkel and Bruce Berend, in the ’70s and ’80s — and those are some fond memories.)

Here’s a sampling of some of the major obstacles Knight and his team had to overcome in a span of almost 20 years:

  1.  While Nike had significant profitable growth almost every year, the bad news is that this increased growth and expansion required more inventory, so Nike was always cash poor. Sound familiar?
  2. In the early years, Nike Tigers from the Onitsuka shoe company, based in Japan, were the primary shoe sold. Nike was the exclusive distributor for the western U.S. At one point, Onitsuka informed Knight that they were going to change to one U.S. distributor, and it wasn’t going to be Nike. Knight asked, “Why not Nike?” to which Onitsuka answered, “You do not have an East Coast presence.” Knight replied, “Yes, we do.” Instead of losing their primary shoe source, Nike became the company’s exclusive distributor in the U.S. Sound familiar? Just like many of you would do in similar circumstances, Nike quickly opened an East Coast office.
  3. To avoid dependency on one source, Nike designed a new shoe and identified a new supplier in Japan. Onitsuka discovered the plan, immediately terminated their agreement with Nike, and filed a lawsuit that went to a full trial. Sound familiar? I know a number of you have spent a lot of money on lawyers defending yourself from unfair, baseless lawsuits.
  4. On occasion, athletes whom Nike had under contract would appear in a competitor’s shoes (including at the Olympics) because they were offered more money. Sound familiar?
  5. One of the greatest runners in modern history, Steve Prefontaine — who wore Nike shoes exclusively — died at age 24. Sound familiar?
  6. As Nike grew and cash continued to be tight, the company’s primary bank of over 10 years fired Nike and froze their accounts without warning. Sound familiar? It gets worse. The bank suspected fraud, so they notified the FBI. Yeah, more wasted time and money.

If you ever feel these same types of pains, you might want to grab a copy of Phil Knight’s book. I promise you’ll be encouraged.

The Final Quest

June 17th, 2019 // Tom Doescher //

Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

is a fascinating little book that has significantly impacted me for the past several months.

First, a disclaimer: It’s written by a Christian pastor about a series of dreams (visions) he had about the spiritual world. For that reason, you may want to skip this post.

Secondly, again as a Christian, he’s writing from his point of view of the Bible. Again, if that’s not something that’s to your taste, you may want to skip this post.

For those of you who are still with me, I would highly recommend this book, written by Rick Joyner. It’s a short, easy read. Whether the author’s vision of the spiritual world is “real” or whether he just has a vivid imagination, he’s able to paint a very realistic picture. In my three decades of being a Bible student, I’ve had limited exposure to the dark side of scripture. Joyner’s version of what could be or might be going on is very believable — to the point where I’ve thought of it almost every day since finishing the book. He has expressed a point of view that would explain experiences that I have daily.

As you know, the first category in the Doescher Advisors Executive Health Check-up is “Spiritual Health.” With that in mind, The Final Quest is something you may want to at least consider reading and reflecting upon.

What if what Joyner reports is true? How might it affect you?

Fearless

June 16th, 2019 // Tom Doescher //

Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

is a 2012 book about Adam Brown, a Navy Seal. I thought I was reading it for fun, due to my fetish about Seals over the past decade — but wow, was I wrong. Yes, it was fun and entertaining, but it was way more than that.

I believe Brown is a role model for having a clear mission (he knew his “Why”) and for staying laser-beam-focused on it.

First, a little background. Brown grew up in a loving, intact Christian family in Arkansas. He was an athlete and well liked in high school. Sadly, he lost his way after graduation and became addicted to drugs. His life got pretty ugly and, near the bottom, he attended a Teen Challenge drug treatment center. Along the way, he decided he wanted to become a Navy Seal and serve his country as a patriot warrior.

Before reading Fearless, I knew that becoming a Seal was a rigorous process, but it was more complex than I realized. Brown, however, was determined to join their ranks. Here are just a few obstacles he had to overcome:

  1. During his dark drug years, Brown was convicted of several felonies and spent time in prison. This was a huge deal-breaker that he miraculously overcame.
  2. Near the end of his Seal training, he became blind in his dominant right eye in a training accident, but he was able to train his non-dominant left eye and eventually passed the precision sniper marksmanship tests. More importantly, he convinced the Navy that being blind in one eye wouldn’t be a liability to his fellow warriors.
  3. During an early deployment in Iraq, he crushed his hand and severed all his fingers in a Humvee IUD accident. His fingers were reattached on his dominant right hand. Still, he learned how to use his left hand and, once again, passed the rigorous marksmanship training.
  4. Brown was always the one to volunteer for the toughest assignments and, as the title of the book reflects, he was, indeed, fearless.

If you’re struggling with your “Why” or staying on your “Why,” I would strongly encourage you read Fearless for motivation. I would say that focus is a common challenge for many entrepreneurs, and I think Brown is a poster child for being single-minded.

A postscript: I found Brown’s reporting of the ups and downs of his Christian faith and his lifelong struggle with his drug addiction refreshingly candid and realistic.

World-class Feedback

June 3rd, 2019 // Tom Doescher //

Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

is what Kim Scott, author of Radical Candor, is referring to when she describes how you can “Be a Kick-A__ Boss Without Losing Your Humanity.” If you’ve been a reader for awhile, you know that, on more than one occasion, I’ve encouraged team leaders to provide their associates with quality feedback. At Plante Moran, where I received great feedback from many different partners and associates (I didn’t say I always liked it), we referred to it as “Candor is Kindness.” Scott had the privilege of working for Apple and Google during their formative years and, per her book, both companies, although they used different styles, were havens for constructive feedback.

Here are two specific examples of quality, actionable feedback that I received. Early in my career, Plante Moran’s founding partner, Frank Moran, encouraged me to work on my grammar. I was a young hotshot, recent college graduate with a high grade point average, and Frank’s comments could have offended me. But he handled the situation in the most delicate way, and I’m forever grateful for his feedback. Another time, my team supervisor and mentor, Ken Kunkel — who provided hundreds of great suggestions — gently told me that I had coffee breath. I give these as simple but very personal examples. When I read Scott’s book, I was reminded of both Frank and Ken.

Based on my observations and experiences with privately owned businesses, I’ve found that many bosses aren’t providing good, actionable feedback to their team members.

If you own a business or are responsible for leading a team of people, I would highly recommend you read Radical Candor. Scott, whose mentor was/is Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, offers some great, practical examples and advice regarding feedback and career planning.

I’m going to leave it there and encourage you, after reading the book, to take the risk of giving your team members developmental feedback (stuff you’ve talked to your colleagues about, but have never shared with the specific person). If it would help, I would be happy to role-play a situation with you.

 

Have We Modified Our Behaviors After Listening to Susan Cain?

May 27th, 2019 // Tom Doescher //

Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

In my November 10, 2014, post, called “The Power of Introverts,” I shared the epiphany I had after listening to Susan Cain’s landmark (at least to me) TED Talk.

Well, it’s almost five years later, and I continue to observe and read about innovative new workspace, collaboration, and brainstorming ideas. Something I’ve noticed, though, is that almost all of them totally ignore introverts. This stuff is written by very successful business executives and consultants, who get paid a lot of money, so it’s a bit disappointing to me to see this group completely overlooked.

Maybe I get it more because I’m an ambivert who leans slightly toward extrovert. Maybe because I can understand both personality types, I feel the pain of the introverts. As a result, I want to share two very practical suggestions:

Office Space. I know the latest rage is open-landscape office designs and, while this may be great for extroverts, I’d suggest that before you make a change to your office setup, you select a few of your high-performing introverts and meet with them privately. Let them know ahead of time, in writing, that you want their candid input on office design, specifically as it relates to privacy. Maybe list some possible solutions and ask them to add any ideas they have to your list. You can also encourage them to bring their list of suggestions to you one-on-one.

Brainstorming Meetings. Next time you conduct a brainstorming meeting, instead of sending a brief note stating the topic, send a more detailed write-up of the goal of the meeting and explain, in detail, what will occur during the session. Encourage the recipients to spend some (company) time thinking about the subject and recording their ideas. This will give the introverts a chance to think about the subject and write down their thoughts, rather than being put on the spot in the meeting. When the team arrives, collect the sheets and record the ideas on the white board. The super extroverts may not hand in a list, but they’ll be pleased to share their ideas as the session proceeds.

Following the session, send out another communication, this time summarizing the meeting. Again, ask the team members — especially the introverts — whether they have any additional thoughts they’d like to share after spending the day together and having a few days to think about the conversation.

Basically half the population consists of extroverts and the other half are introverts, with a few token ambiverts thrown into the mix. If you want to get creative, innovative ideas from your introverts — who definitely have some great ideas — then converse with them in their own language, so to speak.

I apologize for being so direct, but I hear so much about the need for new ideas and I sincerely believe this is a way to double them at no extra cost.

The Advisor’s Corner

Tom DoescherYou’ll find stories from the trenches, business lessons, and pertinent questions to help you find inspiration, professional growth, and leadership savvy.

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