The story is not what you think. REEBOK wasnt born in the US. It was in fact born from a Bolton familly in a terrace house.
This is a story of working hard, spotting the opportunity, never stopping, stepping up to the plate and frankly making your own luck.
Joe was born on 18 May 1935 and shared a birthday with his grandfather Joseph William, who had set up sports shoe manufacturer J.W. Foster & Sons, in Bolton, in 1900.
Joseph William died around 18 months prior to Joe's birth but was a pioneer in his day, especially in the use of spikes on the bottom of running shoes. His shoes were worn by the likes of Harold Abraham and Eric Liddell, eventually being immortalised in Academy Award-winning film Chariots of Fire.
"He learned the best way to sell his shoes was to have influencers," Joe said.
"He was giving shoes to leading athletes and in the 1920s he was supplying all of the Olympic teams, it was amazing. He was supplying the bulk of football leagues as well."
"Back then, the shoes weren't for the street, they were pure performance."
Talking about how he named REEBOK:
"I just opened the dictionary on R because I thought it was a good, strong letter. I came across Reebok and thought 'fantastic', it was a small South African Gazelle and with us being a running company, it fit nicely."
Joe talks about how "then we heard about this thing called Aerobics..."
Hollywood stars such as Sigourney Weaver and Cybill Shepherd went on to wear Reebok shoes in Aliens and at the Emmy Awards respectively.
This is a great story and a great episode.
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joe it is an absolute uh pleasure and uh i'm hugely excited to have you on this episode of leadership bites welcome well thank you guys thank you very much for asking me to to join you in this podcast well i you know i i came across you as my life seems to be led vicariously through linkedin and um i saw that you had a book out called shoemaker uh joe foster the founder of reebok and there was lots of great things in this that jumped out of me um and i was so eager to get you sort of on the podcast and to um do what i do with people who've sort of ridden the horse so to speak is to you know pull the learnings and the experiences so just for those of you and i've kind of said what you are there but just for those of you you know sort of uh that don't know you formally um what are you known for joey it it'd be great just to kind of get that starting block with you yes well indeed i i don't suppose many people know me because really they know reebok and it was my well good luck good fortune or whatever to be the co-founder of reebok way back in 1958 we didn't start as reebok we started as mercury but the story's in the book but yes if anything right now i'm known as the co-founder with my brother of reebok which became the number one sports sports brand globally and that's a a heck of a thing you know to um i think it's like when you know the harry potter book kind of got written it wasn't probably going to be the harry potter book if you know what i mean that global phenomenon and when you start off with something like this um you know did you have in your mind yep global phenomenon that's what i'm going for global brand or did you have something a little bit smaller and of course if it takes off i can't that'd be marvellous but what was that initial kind of thinking that you had and maybe that kind of line of sight that you had on it at the start i was just talking about the book i'll be talking about know about the brand itself when you started that kind of what the books were phenomenal as well but yeah well that's my latest uh sort of mission at the moment this book yeah well with the brand and you've read the book yeah um jeff we we came from a family um really of sports shoe manufacturers we go back to 1895. go back to my grandfather and my grandfather in 1895 and it seemed a long time ago he made himself a pair of running spikes pro shoes spikes in the bottom not many if anybody had done that before so he's a bit credited with inventing it or he certainly pioneered it because he got the idea from his grandfather and his grandfather was a cobbler in nottingham who not only repaired street shoes also repaired cookie boots and cricket boots in those days anything about you know 1885 18 90. cricket boots had spikes in and obviously when grandfather saw this and they asked the question yeah grandpa why have you got spikes in the bottom of these boots to give them grip and i i guess that was the beginning of his business but he was a member of his uh his local athletics club not a good runner sort of halfway down the field made himself post spikes and became came second very unlikely second start of this business okay we got that through my grandfather was really fantastic he knew he knew how to create his business you know he knew what this was all about and in by 1904 he had three world records in his shoes the second decade of the 20th century of course that was world war one so my grandfather's bellar park was world war two it was was the 20 1920s where he supplied all the olympic teams and he even supplied the runners that were in the chariots of fire so this brings me forward he died in 1933 i was born in 1935 and it was one of those weird things i was born on his birthday being born on his birthday my grandmother who was quite a firebrand insisted i brought my name with me so he was joe foster i became joel foster four years after being born we had world war ii blackouts you name it whatever so i was 10 before the switch the lights on again but i enjoyed that that period then seven years of education college then two years of national service jeff and i we just sort of worked at the factory as you do you know you brought up everybody's looking after you but you go away for national service probably a bit like going into university these days but national service has been more disciplined to it and we came back from two years back into the factory and of course we had a different mindset totally different mindset and we're looking at the company jeff had been in germany he'd seen adidas puma what they're doing came back to fosters they're making the same running shoes they've been making in the 1930s i mean not many in 1940s because again we had a world war until the end of it so try as we we did we couldn't get my father and uncle who were then running the business we couldn't get them to listen mainly because there were teachers of throats they were fighting a bit like uh adi dassler and rudy dassler in the dusseldorf family and they added us but they really left the family left nobody left the foster family all they did was fight with each other it was three years after coming back back into the family business that we decided well we decided a little before that we needed to leave that was the only way really to to change this situation um we done college at night and so we and that was very important for us because we knew how to make those 1930s running spikes but we needed to know how to make 1950s 1960s shoes and probably athletic shoes at that big change and we made a lot of friends got a lot of people where do you buy your leather from where did you get this so we could ask a lot of questions so when we when we left to set up our own little unit in six miles down the road from bolton in a place called berry which was near rossendale valley roslindale valley is a shoe making area of lancashire so we were nearer to that and we set up in this old brewery which had three floors at the top floor we couldn't use it it was so full of buckets and tins and everything to catch all the water coming through a very very sad roof um anyway and the middle floor i mean this this building a brewery had been in there for over 100 years and left it and we were sort of second in after that so that building was 125 maybe or years and the floor was not exactly one that you would uh uh you would do cartwheels on it was a bit bouncy and we had machinery we put it round the edges but it was that beginning and that's how we started and uh of course we started as mercury sports football and well you know the story we we tried but it was our accountant really i mean bless his cotton socks he he told us we were making money and we would have registered the name it's about that yeah i mean i'm 23. jeff is 25. what do we know about life you know okay we know we know how to look after ourselves our business now so what do you do and yes so we had to go to see a patent agent because our name was registered how do you find your new name and he points you through his window it was a nice day it's nice to hear today by the way it's a nice day though and he pointed through the window to assign kodak and uh i'm saying what was with kodak he said well it doesn't mean anything it's a up name that's what you need really a made-up name he said but don't bring me one bring me ten we go back and look through things and we come up with birds like falcon and uh cheetah different animals this is it but in 1943 in 1943 when i'd uh during the war we had these athletic events local players and i won a race 60 yards i wonder wow fantastic prize what's the prize a dictionary but it's an american dictionary a webster's american dictionary um i didn't know that at the time i probably picked up the dictionary at that moment of time and probably almost threw it in the file and said what's this who needs this when in the dictionary however that did here we are now in 1960 and i pick up the dictionary which i had one and i'm thinking i like that nice strong beginning to a word ah so i'm picking up my dictionary get to r in my webster's it's not long before you come to re and i came to r w b okay reebok a small south african gazelle you sell just what we need that's fantastic so that with a lot of other names took it to the agent he tested these out with the register and said well as this happens because it's i told i told you look i don't care about these other names we've found this and we love it and we've got to be in love with it it's got to be our passion and it so happened it was the only one to hear but the regis the registrar insisted we could only go in part b what does that mean about me well if somebody starts making shoes out of a reebok skin um we can't stop them saying they're doing that oh right we thought that's a bit of a far-off chance that he was going to think of that forget it right however 20 years later the registrar come back and said we've moved from part b to part a instead because everybody now knows that reebok is a an athletic shoe it's not an animal ah sorry it shifted its uh its meaning and joe when you looked when you think back to the growth of reebok when you maybe not when your very first start or maybe it was but when you were you know you were getting that name confirmed how far could you see in your imagination it growing did you have a sense of gosh if it ever got there i i'd that would be amazing i mean did you have that global view in your in your mind or you know where where was your head at that point i i think it's probably like running a a marathon it's can i keep going first job is to can i do the 26 miles oh how competitive am i i need i need a base we we need foster's fosters as a failing company uh we we need to be a successful company and i think we were happy to do that um but of course we did concentrate in athletics soccer at that point was taken by adidas added us unfortunately i had just taken over the soccer scene and um to join into that we did make some uh some football boots but to actually get into it would be very costly and we didn't have that sort of money but what we did have of course is local athletes athletes club i could i could get into the athlete scene which we did and we we saw our image grew tremendously so we became very well known in athletics but what was the view well okay you know as you move along you think yeah but this is not a very big market is it you know it's like athletics in the uk yeah but you know it's nice and it's nice to be known as you know the one but we could see nike nike was across the water and they were they were quite happy to take on i think it was brendan foster at the time and uh you know you're thinking yeah that's that's going to be a big challenge to us because they're exactly in our market you know we had everybody in the uk we had them all be we knew that we we were there but when you start thinking of the americans coming across and the size that the americans would grow that that was a big challenge so instead of started worrying about that i thought why don't we go to america yeah running that's it running was starting to grow um my first event in america was 1968. uh the board of trade invited sports uh companies to export they they said they would pay for a stand at the nsga show which was the national sporting goods in america in chicago in february i wouldn't wish anybody that however we accepted it because of the free uh return of firs and half the hotel bills fantastic i didn't pick up any orders i've got a lot of people saying oh not your product yes where do i get this one i was saying england and they're saying is that new england no no it is uh it's across the water oh that was like the biggest put off you could have across the market well when you get somebody over here you know let us know and we'll you know we really love to try your shoes right it's 1979 11 years later i get my distributor paul fireman but really what i did learn is that to get into the american market it's not good enough just to have a good shoe you need you need what in america they call the hook you need something that brings them in and that came because running you know running in america was growing fantastic it was a category it was out of this world and runner's world magazine was driving this and and they they with nike nike growing with them and i'm thinking no we we've got to get well brenda's world decided he got so big bob anderson was so big and so much into this that he decided he could rate shoes he could tell you which were the best which he did and for a couple of years number one shoe i think he was nike on both occasions but what happens you give somebody number one shoe all of a sudden you've got two three million americans want to buy that shoe how do you spy it he's buying it from onitsuka which was asics of today tiger he's buying it from they were making it for him six nine months later he managed to get the pr the volumes but of course three months after that the next number one shoe so the retail trade the retailers were absolutely wild about this because first of all they couldn't supply the shoe then when they could supply the shoe it was going to be another one it was going to be another number one so we changed it bob anderson changed it to a star rating five star was the top going down for each category it was in well you could have three four shoes five star which was my opportunity i needed a five star shoe and i knew how to get a five star shoe because we knew bob anderson we knew how he was rated shoes we knew exactly in fact we we've been across with and then had a good chat in his office there in uh just north of uh san francisco um and uh i think palo alto something tomorrow but so i know what and we did i designed aztec aztec that was going to be it 1978 we tested this out part of the gold range we tested out in edmonton in the commonwealth games and we got lots of gold medals with our racing shoes because we aztec was part of gold range the gold range was aztec was the trainer midas was the royal racing shoe an inca wouldn't spike all the same colors but different uh sort of different categories so i am the then wonderful 1978 commonwealth grabs 1979 february i'm on the stand kmart come along came up well running is growing so much and came out well you know they obviously wanted to get into it and came out as most people who are a very big wholesaler well big retailers giant retailers yeah and they wanted 25 000 pers oh that's about six months work for our factory that oh however we hadn't made that dumb we knew if we got a five-star shoe we need help i got i got barter on board i had some good friends and barter would make my shoe but then they came and said but we need a better price we also knew that because everything's moving to the far east fortunately i knew a couple of guys who represented the largest company in in in south korea and and they were ready to make me some samples so i'd bought things covered but difficult times and paul fireman came along while paul fireman he said joe love to be your distributor but we need a five-star shoe i said paul come here look aztec this is your five star shoe bam to be okay okay well we're talking february and it's august before the shoe edition comes out so uh i'm backwards and forwards to america seeing kmart and keeping them warm um but i knew with kmart kmart will look at you as a square yard i think there used to be an enema square meter and if you didn't sell enough products in that square meter you wouldn't be back there again that would be your best it was simple maths for them right yeah just simple yeah paul fine paul fireman well he had he and his brother and his brother in law uh steve and uh brothers but steve and they were running this boston campaign and boston campaigns is an outdoor sort of campaign was he went to the outdoor stores not the sports stores that we were talking about or even the shoe stores because by then shoes have been so big that people like foot locker and others they were just selling shoes massive massive store so and of course that was different and i think well paul paul's in the outdoor but at least he knows what hope sailing is and at least he's got a company we can just bolt onto that company and it would be nice growth that wow yeah and i like paul we got off you know it's some people you can meet and it's fine you know and you can have a joke coming up go out for a meal and you know and i felt i was talking to somebody who owned the business as against with kmart who am i talking to i remember visiting the kmart office and he was the girl there and i said look i've got this appointment to see mr biasate oh right and across the world going into that warehouse i think about raw three c29 or something like that and could you i just meet the guy yes it's just a numbers game this is going to be almost impossible pretty pleasant guy however i went on to boston and uh fine meet up porky paul warm met the other guys met the guys in his operation and whatever however it's the last week in july of 1979 and that's when the magazine comes out what's the august magazine is usually a week before i get paul on the phone unfortunately it's about seven o'clock in the morning for paul which was a bit sort of um who's that you know it was it must be it's a joke right look paul can you get down to the nearest kiosk and get him a run as well magazine because this should be it this should give us our five stars oh okay an hour later paul came back on the phone john got a magazine has take five stars wow that was it it was like the rocket went off that was us fantastic it's a bit of a joke no i said midas five stars inca five stars we had three five star shoes all three categories wow i mean that was that was it that was fantastic all of a sudden yeah reba holy trinity has been achieved yeah yeah so that was we we've got ourselves into america fantastic that's uh so that was the thing then one of what i've really heard there is you know you just keep pushing you keep going forward and you kind of know where you'd like to go you can't see the future so you just keep going keep going and what i'm also here there is though a lot of effort but without a quality product or a quality service you know these two things you know all the effort in the world but with something that doesn't actually deliver the promise then it's a lot of effort for something that people probably then very quickly fall out of love with but actually if they love the product then hey the effort then you know brings it to life for people because more people get to hear about it and see it if that's what i'm kind of reading into that really yeah well you need that influence i mean these days we talk about influencers yeah grandfather had influences you know he he gave it to top athletes and he and he influenced other athletes today when you when you get the influences you're influencing street and sport now is street and fashion yeah you don't do the volumes you do on performance shoes performance shoes are very small by comparison it's streets it's when people just pick up a pair of trainers and put them as we do now everybody has a pair of trainers just to go out you know unless you're getting dressed up and being posh on a sunday or or you've got one of those jobs where you need a collar and tie and i gave up those years ago yeah you don't put shoes on you put it even now it's still probably just a really posh pair of trainers i don't think there aren't posh trainers now that's right yes so i'd be really keen to pick up on you know this this marathon of the journey in some respects and this this great journey that you've been on what's one of the hardest truths that you've had to deal with and that might be from either feedback or a relationship with somebody or an expectation that you had or whatever it might be that actually you go yeah that was that was a moment where that was a hard truth for me to have to navigate or face into because when it's easy it's easy but i think you know the the story isn't him when it was easy the stories in the hardships i think well i mean you're reading the book and in the book there are many hurdles that we came up against many walls and i i think what happens is because you you decide no we're carrying on you find a way through it around it over it and if you if you have a mindset and that mindset i think grows it's like this is a challenge this is part of this is part of the business the challenges and you can start to enjoy them because like with changing the name and an earlier an early event we had is when uh when we got a letter we'd only been about four or five years into business and we got a letter from um the additive solicitors to say that we were infringing the three stripes goodbye those days we had two stripes and a t-bar and saw this letter and rather than being sort of oh my god what do we do now it was wow this is fantastic they found out we're here they're now a little bit worried about us now they're the yeah yeah that's right so as we changed our name we actually changed our silhouette and our silhouette became the vector so again and that was a bit inspired by the tail fin of the british airways it used to have this speed bird they called it on the side and so that was inspired a bit by that and so you know these are things that uh that you come across we've got a distributor we were doing very nicely so i decided we'd have a district well somebody asked me if they could distribute our shoes in the uk yeah why not because that gives me more time to look at other things and uh and then they went out of business which again yeah and you couldn't see that at the time it was one of my best friends who was a salesman though as it happens he went down to barter so he was able to help us when he was down in barter but you know these are the problems that you come up against and uh and this happened so many times and the sad thing is that we just got this five stars and this was probably one of the most difficult times just got five stars just about to say right now where do we go jeff became ill and died he was like cancer just took him uh you know you think you know he he just looked after the factory that that was jack jeff loved the factory yeah he didn't want to move out of it he didn't want to do anything else you do the other thing's job and so i had i'd done all the traveling i did whatever whatever was necessary and marketing the whole thing but i mean that that sort of having something solid though just looked after that factory and just made it work all of a sudden not there because at that time and as you've read in the book partner doing jobs they he should have gone down to bart because he would have been able i couldn't do all all the jobs i had to entrust that to to the people about her and it it it nearly killed us in in a way it was our it was our ability to get through in america the first six months uh but at the same time it nearly killed us because they didn't do a really good job however so it probably made me feel well i've got up i've got to succeed we've got to make this work because we were still a small company at that point and paul you know i went across the sea paul at his boston camping and when i arrived there there's no boston camping what happened well paul must have been that fed up of going round and round and round year after year with his brother and his brother-in-law and doing what they were doing they decided they would stop the company and go their own ways and and i think it was more or less just stopped the company i don't think there was any any selling the company i think it was just not happening so paul had no money yeah he had a bit yeah of course he had a bit of demolition but we've just got three five star shoes we're launching and orders are going to come in like brilliant so we had to find something we have to find money because this is one thing you couldn't give up until we did find money and it was uh stephen rubin of pentland i don't if you don't heard of pendleton in fact stephen rooney is is the biggest taxpayer has been the biggest taxpayer in the uk during 2020. fantastic yeah love it but anyway he he didn't particularly want to get involved in reebok but what he what he saw with paul it's an opportunity because stephen rubin used to do uh sourcing sourcing a product in the far east so that was his company ask for with that company he sourced it and sold it to british shoe corporation all all the people in the uk and he wanted paul to do the same in america and paul said forget it no we're reebok that's what we're doing and he did so reebok doing really really well and what steven did stephen didn't give much money he just gave an open credit line so you could just keep buying shoes buying shoes by selling and selling and selling and i think stephen got a bit worried when when paul owed him 20 million that was a bit oops however we're only i think about two years into running doing very nicely and there's this guy down in los angeles arnold martinez and he's a tech rep so he's going around checking the stores telling the stores or good things about reebok et cetera and uh but his wife frankie coming home really full of what what are you doing yeah it's just going to these aerobic classes says what are robbie classes well perhaps they exercise into music it's fantastic and her and the girlfriends they're really full of this he said i'm going down to have a look at this see what's going on next time he went down what did he see he saw an instructor there in uh and running shoes half the classic running shoes and the other half no shoes at all wow a light bulb moment for why don't we make shoes for these girls fantastic off he goes to boston to have a word with paul paul look there's this new thing going on down in los angeles that this it's it's aerobics and paul said well i wrote bricks what what are you talking about hence arnold explains and paul said look i know no we're doing really well now we're running we're only two years into running we're expanding it's fantastic no we don't want to play around with anything like that no forget it arnold wasn't put off he just went around to the back door had word with the production people said look guys i want this nice glove leather shoe with a nice cushion sole can you make it give me 200 they did it made him 200 which he gave to the instructors and whatever whatever and the rest is history all of a sudden women owned reebok these women they weren't just wearing them for the aerobics classes they were wearing them out into the streets big problem because they were made of glove leather love leather you can just tear it like a piece of paper and when i heard that what they were doing i was thought of oh no you can't do that in saying that we had made we made world 10 for our wrong hill that was glove leather but we reversed it so we use the suede side for the aerobic shoes that were using the skin side and we're able to take a little layer off and when you think glove leather is less than one millimeter thick and you've got to start taking a layer off to get the adhesive in what was happening it got too fragile around the ends in about three four five weeks that have fallen apart luckily we were in california we were in los angeles the girls love the shoes so what what buy another one it took us a month or so to get this problem right but by that time it was infectious and you got people like jane fonda wearing them in her videos and you know we went from a 9 million dollar company to 30 million dollars to 19 million dollars 300 million dollars and 900 million dollars in successive years so i mean you know you gotta think well okay by that time we had stephen rubin and stephen was getting very nervous at the amount of money it was taking but by the time you get company doing 300 million uh turnover the banks are getting more interested so the banks were helping as well but it's not that money and when it becomes the easy point is the problem it's how do you get the product yeah how do you go from 300 million dollars to 900 million dollars there's not now the amount of product you need for that and again a little bit of luck came our way nike at that point they've been going really well all of a sudden everything went to be quiet for them and they lost traction and they had to pull out about three factories in south korea we just marched straight in so that saved us that was it because i i remember sitting down with paul and paul saying joe i know i have to stop this he said but if i do i don't know how to start it again because the demand was such that you know and we were yeah we were starving the uh well the business because we couldn't get you couldn't get the product but we said without it with nike going into the problem it did help so by 19 well the end of 1989 when we were about just short of four billion i decided it was my time to retire and because all i was doing okay i'd put since putting paul on i put on about another 30 different countries for 10 years i've been just going round around the world putting on new distribution growing our distribution and but by that time of us you know we had so many lawyers we had so many accountants and so many people who were just selling boxes of shoes not just a pair of shoes it was boxes and just in the late 80s we we'd actually become number one we'd overtake nike we'd all take canada's so we were i think they called us in uh sports goods intelligence i think it was called called us and they called nike the eager beaverton so i can't remember what they call that is but uh we were number one so i thought well you know one of your early questions did you expect that no we didn't yeah and what was the journey like well the thing is that everything was going out so fast off you were just going with it we were running with it and it you know nothing came as a surprise everything came as okay look up that okay what's next okay monte carlo you're going to do the princess grace trust foundation uh tennis book tennis tournaments and we had all the stars from hollywood there and it was absolutely fantastic you know you're meeting people uh meeting royalty you know we we're supplying uh charles sarah ferguson major ferguson diana we supplied her with shoes and harry and wills so you know it was it was fantastic and from hollywood you know people like john forsyth roger moore chuck norris yeah i mean all these people were with their own i have a nice photograph with chuck norris and chuck norris is a personal hero of mine so i'm obviously telling him what to do in his next movie of course just giving him a bit of coaching advice you know i get that yeah so you know when you've moved into this within three or four years from doing you know just slugging away that all of a sudden you're in monte carlo or you're meeting i went to the palace and met prince rainia you know i was in and however sort of glass of champagne with him so from dirty though and it's like wow and yeah i got to that point and say okay but you know what's happening and so i retired i did go back to monte carlo on a few occasions and do do a few more things but when i get out i can liken it to um the eagles in hotel california you can check out you can never leave yes i get it yeah and that's that's been it with with ebook for me even today yeah in fact it was only last week we sent we sent a whole pile of 15 books he asked for 15 books for the executive for the whole executive board uh wanted wanted the book so that was only last week so we i still i still do a lot with reebok and uh yeah it's fun so you know i've got a load of questions here joe and i'm gonna be courtesy of time but what one of them um is did you ever have a moment with yourself where you kind of paused and looked in the mirror or the proverbial mirror and went what is going on you know you know as in you know there i am this lad from you know the uk yeah did you ever have a moment you know or would you have but were you ever conscious of just taking time and just recognizing the experience you were having you know it's funny that i do get asked the question and now is the time when i do sort of did that really happen in the book yes what did you do in 19 in in the 60s we didn't have computers we didn't have mobile phones the best i had was a a calculator and and i'm jumping on planes with a handful of american express dollar travelers checks that's all i had yeah you know you didn't have credit cards yes yeah and i'm thinking no i didn't really but during the time it was like it was also it's a need the next step i've got to do this that's waiting that's waiting that's where no time to stop you know it was such a an uphill rush that and in fact we weren't controlling the company the company was controlling us at that time uh it was really how do you keep up with the company that's growing like this and uh so you know we didn't grow strengths other strengths we were just keeping keeping things going so it was a fantastic chase um and like i said did you stop it no we had no time to stop yeah there were times possibly when i must have reflected but i think it was like what's next i think it was more what's next where next rather than sort of just a minute let me park myself here and think about it and possibly i'd have thought about it maybe maybe i'd have got scared maybe it had been oops whatever but as i say now you know and quite a few years after that i ever have sat down in fact when i sat down to write the book i'm thinking you go through the stories did we do that yeah did that really happen yeah i mean so i mean only on the second time that i had met john forsak who you may have known was dynasty and carrington and big whatever and that's loads of people and he just came straight up to me and said hi joe how are you doing and i'm so dumbstruck john how do you remember my name i mean i could never remember people's names yeah that's okay guy i remember you this i'm still getting over the fact you've met chuck morris so uh here's my here's my um here's a question i really want to ask you which is uh as a business grows you know i love the phrase an uphill rush actually i just noted that down i think that's a i don't know why i've not heard that before but just it was an uphill rush which kind of says it all really um but as a business grows i think for a leader there are there are two i mean there's process and there's all that kind of stuff that says hey we've got the systems and all that kind of stuff but talent and letting go and i'm interested in that because you know you've got to bring talent in or you've got to grow the talent because it's expanding and then you've got to let go because if you don't let the talent have its space then they themselves don't grow and maybe even become disenfranchised and leave so i just wondered about that relationship with maybe it's two different questions you know how did you bring talent in how did you know who would fit that that non-stop level of action required it wouldn't be a night or fiverr and and maybe how did you find it did you find it easy to give that responsibility to others or were there any lessons there so i it's maybe one question or maybe it's two i'm not sure but i'll let you answer as you see fit well it's a field for the questions really yeah well i never considered myself that bright that brilliant that whatever i consider possibly i made more of grit than any intellect or any brilliance i made to keep going and i consider that if people are going to join the company it's because they know how to do it better than i do and if they know how to do it better than i do those are the people who should come in and and it's always a question with people you'd say look you know okay report to me but don't bring me your problems bring me your answers you know and if you have a problem with having too many answers we'll sight out but don't bring me problems you bring the answers and and that way people worked on their own you gave them gave them things to do and yeah they get on with it and give them ownership you know they all need a bit of ownership if you're going to you're going to really live it and you're going to feel it's your passion because the culture was that the culture was a winning culture that was it was a winning you know we're going forward we win it so we're going to need more people and okay not everybody that comes into your company is the right person but yeah if you're honest enough you soon talk that through with somebody and if it's time that they move on they move on and it's good to do that rather than say well this is first lesson you know do it again and you know no that's not me you're either working with me you don't work for me so i'm not going to suck you you walk out because it's not working that that worked for me it wasn't being a boss it was like this is the way we're going then if it doesn't fit then you need a new a new hole to put the peg in you know it's this is not you at all but basically you find that people who want to work for you are the best people not just people with skills you can you know if they've got some intelligence they'll learn the skills and and you can't do it all yourself as you say you've got to give something up that's why uh i decided my best route was to do the uh the global distribution and grow that so i i just went on to that one which is good because i had to sectionalize the country i think they're all into ems and whatever eastern everybody now has a time sort of uh journey so that you look at that time area you know the big companies do that we developed some of that which uh you've just got to do it but i enjoyed the travel right i'd been traveling and i got into the blood i suppose you know and i i needed to travel and needed to communicate with people so so it's quite natural for you to bring people in to allow you to play to your strengths i guess well yes i need to bring something to bring something more so for me that uh that wasn't a problem and uh yes you've got to release certain things and then you can focus so joe in this illustrious career that you've had or or this history that you've created whatever the phrase might be um i'd love to get a sense of what's the best advice that you've ever been given well it it's difficult it really is difficult to say whether you ever give an advice or where you pick things up [Music] i've always found that people give you advice be wary be very wary because they are experts and i've been told what x is the unknown quantity spurt is a drip under pressure um you know it's it's a difficult uh thing to take advice i think for somebody to comment as against give advice but i found out that most of the advice i have had has turned out to be not too good it turned out to be if if you can put something into a little square i can tell you how to run the square but if life is so so simple as to put into a little square then you're not going to go anywhere and an expert tends not to go anywhere an expert tends to be in the little square telling you how to run that little square but you know life is usually all over the place and uh and indeed it was all over the place for me so yeah people give me advice no i mean i i really valued people like john willie johnson who was in in the book who was a quite a big shoemaker up in roslindale valley and uh but he was quite eccentric and i met him at these sales you know the the business as as i said everything was going far east so all the shoe industry and lancashire shoe industry in the uk there were out there was probably two or three companies going out of business every week for three or four years it was incredible and we used to go to sales and john willie johnson used to go to sales and i met him there because he used to sit in front of the auctioneer and he bid for very little but when things were not bidded for nobody bid for it the auctioneer look at john and john just not and so he'd take that and he bought everything stuffed stuff crocodiles you name it he buy everything and he showed me through his warehouse because he decided that we should travel together and and it's in the book where uh i wanted this i saw this machine it's a pounding machine you won't know what a primary machine is but it knocks the creases out of toes or boots and not knocks all the creases that metal nice said john can i buy this off you no no no right oh can i rent it off yeah i said no no he wouldn't i said okay john he said joey said you can have it you can have the machine give me back when you're done with it and that wasn't just one machine it was more and he actually got his men to put it on the wagon and deliver it to me and fix it into our production line yeah so it's friends like that friends like shackled and shaku you know he got me into trouble with lawrence but then he got me out of trouble with barter and uh you know those friends it's amazing that you can pick people who just you just get on with and they i think realizing the value of them was much better than somebody giving me advice yes so it's being around good people and as life unfolds as you serve them they'll serve you oh absolutely yes yeah people who don't want anything they just like what you're doing like you yeah likeable characters and so they want to go and help they want to participate yeah you know they just want to see if they can help you get that extra mile they can probably see look you know i've got a great company but i'm not going anywhere he's got a well a miserable company that got tremendous potential come you know kind of give them a little bit of a lego so uh yes people are willing to do that for you so i've got a penultimate question before i ask you one last question about the book which is um you know there's a lot of you've you've referenced it influencers there's a lot of people in the world the social media world that um another social media there's a there's a lot of publicity around you know making your own business being your own boss and these days it's all around the social media sort of platform but there's also a lot of people at a local level i walk around and they're barbers they've got coffee shops they've got you know and they're not going to be global perhaps but they're just running their business and there are a lot of youngsters i think that look at that i don't want to work for somebody i'd like to work for myself and i wonder if you ever get that sort of youth question you know i'm 23 i'm 25 i'm 18. you know what's you know i i make coffee i do coffee or i do hair whatever it is it's nothing to do with shoes joe but as a young entrepreneur starting out you know what's the one thing if you're gonna say something to me that i could take away you know and and maybe sort of uh reflect on and think about it well i think the beauty of being an entrepreneur is like you say 18 23 25 it's be young and if you're young and you've got some idea just go ahead don't ask too many questions give it a try too many questions will put you off because you ask a question somebody's going to give you an answer and you get too many negatives i think belief believe in yourself and just go and do it just give it just don't because when you're young and if it goes wrong you can change you can move and when you are young you you can make those moves because you'll need to when any business you start up it's not just going to be straight or straight line it's not straight line there's going to be something that happens maybe you didn't think about it but if you had thought about it and this is where i come to if you get too many too much advice because oh think about this think about it we never thought of registering our name yeah we never thought obviously no we just went on so you get round get round so you learn to get around the obstacles you're young don't don't try and get around them by asking too many questions get a good idea believe in yourself and that's what that's i like that just learn to deal with things as they as they crop up almost get moving get some momentum absolutely and then stuff will happen and then you'll deal with it that's right yeah you know people can't train you how to avoid problems they can they can only say yeah one of the things being in the boy scouts we were in the boy scouts and it was a serious boy scouts house it wasn't just somebody going out having a bit of fun i don't know how our skip sort of scout he was really good and really serious and you know the motto is be prepared and and i think throughout business if you can think of that be prepared just yeah yeah don't you won't know but just be prepared whoops you know it's something so and it's always a good match all that yeah i love that so joe as we come to an end uh as we start to sort of wrap up the book uh shoemaker um where's that taking you you know you publish a book you have a you know in essence it's a memoir it's a history it's uh there's it's it's i've been fascinated in the reading of it there's there's elements of just great narrative and story and you know i think it's one of those books i'm probably going to read again which is which is rare for me um because i think it's got so much value in it but where's it where's that journey taking you um in terms of it being published and podcasts didn't exist 20 years ago and now they do and here you are you're on one so what's your journey been with this where where is where's that taking you at the moment well i think probably if you you look at the character in in the book this is now a challenge it's given me a challenge again it's got to be a bestseller and so no point in writing a book no point in it sitting there okay that's great but i started writing the book because so many variations of how did reebok begin you know so many people had guested it came out with the best ideas and this is in wikipedia google it began here in fact there's a photograph i think in wikipedia of a guy called joe foster i have no idea not a clue who he is can't even think about it yeah is where did you come from so i'm trying to put the world right yeah i'm trying to put the world to rise with with reebok but then it's just being worked out as well let's get into a bestseller so this is what we're doing now we're thinking come on come on let's get up i'm back to the same challenge yeah what are the obstacles where can we push it you know and so it is a challenge but yeah so maybe watch this space watch this space maybe in 12 18 months time we'll we'll have the best seller on that and then i mean a few people have still asked me it should be a film well maybe it should but that's other people's decisions not mine but it'd be funny the reebok story has got to be a film so or or a damn good documentary what are the other ones so so listen joe i'm going to you know with a bottle of wine and a curry i could spend the entire evening just uh asking you questions and picking your brain and listening to the narrative it's it's it's overwhelmingly interesting for me personally so i just want to thank you for from myself and i'm sure there are listeners that have just kind of gone wow yeah i think you can tell it's the tip of the iceberg in terms of the conversation i will put links to the book in the description and i absolutely i'm just going to hold it up again for people uh shoemaker joe foster the founder of reebok it's an excellent read and i say that as a person that reads a lot of books and he's relatively ambivalent about them so i sometimes pretend i read them but i'm actually i can actually read so just for me to you thank you so much and if you'll just stay on for a few moments just to check that all the recordings worked but other than that thank you so much jeff well thank you guys it's been a pleasure you