Michael Dell says the important thing to successful is being unafraid to take dangers

Michael Dell says the key to winning is being unafraid to take risks


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That time Michael Dell almost had his PC company taken…



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Michael Dell begins his new book with a story about a mediocre meat loaf dinner with the man who turned out to be one of his greatest business foes.

The year was 2013, and Dell had convinced the board of the PC maker he started in his college dorm room in Texas to take the publicly held company private. He decided it was time to reset the business and make new investments for Dell Inc., but his plan would only work without being scrutinized — and judged — by financial analysts and shareholders.

Though it was a challenge to convince his board of directors that taking Dell Inc. private was the best move for the company, the bigger fight ended up being a “nine-month drama” with activist investor Carl Icahn, who argued that Dell was undercutting shareholders as he pushed for a higher bid price. Icahn’s battle for control of the company didn’t succeed, though he did make money off his play for Dell Inc. And the story about what happened behind the scenes is the backdrop against which Dell frames his new book, Play Nice but Win: A CEO’s Journey from Founder to Leader, which was published by Portfolio/Penguin this month.

He says he hopes the takeaway for readers is they shouldn’t let fear stop them from working on something they’re passionate about. 

“I want people to have a real sense for the importance of taking risks — and don’t feel like you’ve got to follow every rule that’s out there,” Dell, 56, says in an interview for CNET’s Now What interview series.

“I have this deep-seated belief that a lot of people don’t realize their full potential because they’re too afraid to fail and too afraid to make mistakes,” he tells me. “There’s so many ups and downs and twists and turns. In the first couple of years of business [we] might have failed not less than 10 instances, with all kinds of issues that had been occurring. However that is actuality, and that is how I feel nice companies are constructed.”

What can we study Dell from his e book? A number of issues, beginning with the truth that he is a severe tech geek who took aside his Apple II as a 14-year-old proper after he unboxed it, out of a want to see how the machine labored. 

And we be taught simply how severe a risk-taker he’s, operating a pc firm out of the bed room of his school dorm (packed to the ceiling with components and stock) and driving round Texas to purchase up components and resell machines with barely sufficient money movement to maintain going.

We additionally be taught he is received a fairly good humorousness, which brings me again to the meat loaf story. Conserving in thoughts his dad and mom’ recommendation — play good however win — he determined to name Icahn whereas visiting New York halfway via their shareholder battle. Dell says he wished to fulfill his nemesis face-to-face so he might hear firsthand what Icahn deliberate to do with the corporate if his takeover bid succeeded. Icahn, he writes, was shocked by his name however invited him for dinner, after warning him that his spouse “is only a horrible cook dinner.” 

Michael Dell Play Nice But Win book cover

Portfolio/Penguin

Dell writes that he listened to the story of Icahn’s life and enterprise dealings; then he provides readers this summation: “I lower my meat loaf and ate a bit. Carl hadn’t been far off about his spouse’s cooking. And I hadn’t been far off in my estimate of him as a human being.”

Whereas the Icahn battle is the thread that he returns to all through the e book, Dell gives perception into how he constructed his PC enterprise from scratch, together with touring to Asia to chop offers with suppliers so he might hold his costs under the more expensive IBM PCs of the time. He talks about rising the enterprise and taking it public. He is candid about being behind the PC market in designing and promoting laptops as clients shifted away from desktops

And he shares tales about his friendship with Steve Jobs and about how Apple’s co-founder provided to license the Mac working system software program for distribution on Dell’s low-priced however fast-selling Intel-based PCs as Apple was months away from chapter. Jobs’ pitch: Set up the Mac OS on each Dell PC, alongside Microsoft’s Home windows OS, and depart it as much as clients to determine which software program to make use of. The hitch: Jobs wished a lower for each PC bought. Dell acknowledges the deal was a what-could-have-been second in tech historical past. 

“It might have modified the trajectory for Home windows and Mac OS on PCs,” Dell says. “However clearly, they went in a unique route.”

We additionally talked about the way forward for work, and the tech business in a post-pandemic world. Dell says the foundations are nonetheless being written, however he is positive there is no returning to the outdated regular. 

“We have had this glimpse of the long run, and I do not suppose we’ll return in any respect to the way in which it was,” Dell says. “We have all found out that work is one thing we do, it is not a spot. There may be locations the place we congregate collectively to collaborate or be collectively in individual, as a result of we like that interplay and social connection, however hybrid work is right here to remain.” 

Hear our complete dialog within the video above.


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Now What is a video interview collection with business leaders, celebrities and influencers that covers traits impacting companies and shoppers amid the “new regular.” There’ll all the time be change in our world, and we’ll be right here to debate easy methods to navigate all of it.

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