Rummaging through business books, I came across the inspirational story of Phil Knight, the founder of Nike. Before the creation and eventual worldwide success of the Nike brand, Knight was a door-to-door shoe salesman in the 1970s. In order to develop his brand, Knight decided to borrow money and market his own sneaker. But when Phil Knight first introduced his new sneaker, nobody bought it.
While success is something that we all desire, its realization is not easily achieved. In the attempt to put our products in demand, many of us feel the temptation to concede our own vision and succumb to whatever the market dictates. The concept known as the White Hot Center offers some valuable insight on this issue. The White Hot Center, as explained by brand strategy advisor Thomson Dawson, is the achievement of a balance between the entrepreneur's beliefs and the market's demands. The balance that Dawson describes is perhaps more important than many of us realize, as either extreme—defiance of the market and stubborn persistence on one's vision or submission to the market and lack of passion—can be detrimental.
As I reflect back on my journey, I believe that Knight's initial vision for success does not seem so different from my own. Like him, I had decided that I wanted to put myself in the White Hot Center and elevate my brand to be sought out by clients. As we continue to expand our businesses, we must meet the market's demands. Yet, I consistently argue for the importance of passion. Knight, who was a runner, let his passion guide his business path, eventually providing custom-made sneakers for a college track team. Knight offered his sneakers for free, which I consider an exemplary decision of letting passion play a decisive role in business. A few of the runners loved Knight's sneakers, wore them at an event, and placed No. 1 in the country that year. By the mid 1980s, Nike was the largest sporting goods apparel brand in the US, and it still ranks among the top today.
Phil Knight's business was not an instant success, and often, the most influential brands are not. Phil Knight's brand was not always lucrative, and often the most successful brands are not. Still, Knight did not give up; he did not abandon his vision. Phil Knight created his own brand—one that is still extremely relevant today.
As a technician, I am honored when dentists call asking if I will work with them, but this, I now realize, is not the mark of success. Success, to me, is the realization that to stay in demand I must improve, keep my center hot, and be willing to grow and adapt. You never know where your success will to take you, but if we define success as our willingness to fight for our vision, create something that we believe in, and "just do it," we have found our success already.
Peter Pizzi, MDT, CDT
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