Michael Dell

Michael Dell, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer, Dell

michael_dellMichael Saul Dell, the founder, chairman and CEO of Dell, was born on February 23, 1965 in Houston, Texas. Michael was enterprising and entrepreneurial even as a kid, selling newspaper subscription and was earning more than his teachers in high school. He became wealthy by changing the way computers are sold.

At age 19, Michael Dell founded PC’s Limited with $1,000 operating out of his condominium while studying as a pre-med freshman at the University of Texas at Austin. He has proven a valuable knack for creatively financing his business and stretching his cash flow:

I started with a thousand dollars, almost no capital. The interesting thing about the business that we started was that — because we were selling directly to the customer — the customer would pay us, often, right at the time we shipped the product. So we were able to get credit lines from suppliers and we had what’s known as a negative cash conversion cycle, which is a very good thing in a business like ours. We still have that today and it helps us generate significant positive free cash flow. /1

Dell initiated the direct selling of computers, offering low-cost, custom-configured personal computers direct to customers. In order to keep low on stocks, Dell sold computers on build to order basis. And with the Internet, Dell reached the global consumer. Looking at his startup days, Dell explained in the January 2009 issue of SUCCESS Magazine:

“Well, we started the company by building to the customer’s order. And, interestingly enough, we didn’t do it because we saw some massive paradigm in the future. Basically, we just didn’t have any capital (to mass produce).” /2

That company later became Dell Computer Corporation. Dell’s success with the direct selling business model made him the youngest C.E.O. ever of a Fortune 500 company.

Books on Michael Dell

Direct from Dell: Strategies that Revolutionized an Industry (Collins Business Essentials)

At nineteen, Michael Dell started his company as a freshman at the University of Texas with $1,000 and has since built an industry powerhouse. As Dell journeys through his childhood adventures, ups and downs, and mistakes made along the way, he reflects on invaluable lessons learned.

Michael Dell’s revolutionary insight has allowed him to persevere against all odds, and Direct from Dell contains valuable information for any business leader. His strategies will show you effective ways to grow your business and will help you save time on costly mistakes by following his direct model for success.

Michael Dell: From Child Entrepreneur to Computer Magnate (Extraordinary Success with a High School Diploma or Less)

At an early age, Michael was making money using his above-average intellect. The computer company founder began his high-tech career in his college dorm room, selling upgrades for personal computers. Today, Dell Computers is one of the biggest PC manufacturers.


Michael Dell Quotes

“Many times they’re talking about risk as a bad thing. The way I think about risk is, I want to take some risks. The most dangerous thing is not taking a risk.”

– Michael Dell at Davos from the Huffington Post article Michael Dell: ‘The Most Dangerous Thing Is Not Taking A Risk’, Jan. 23, 2015

The changes headed our way require more than incremental progress; they demand fundamental reinvention. We need to de-materialize heavy processes and drive radical efficiencies across the entire global economy. Think about what’s happened in music, publishing, travel and taxi cabs. Entirely new, digital business models are replacing resource-intensive ones. The opportunities in the digital economy for both growth and sustainability are limitless.

– From the article “How can businesses prepare for a world of 9 billion?”, by Michael Dell, published Feb. 20, 2015 at WeForum.org

The point is, you can’t keep doing the same thing and expect it to keep working. We had to do something different, but the really hard question was, What is it? We made plenty of mistakes along the way to answering that question, but the most important thing we identified was that we needed to know more about our customers and what problems they were really trying to solve in their businesses–even if they didn’t neatly fit into an existing category of ours.

– From the article “Michael Dell: How I Became an Entrepreneur Again”, by Tom Foster, published in the July-August 2014 issue of Inc. Magazine

The best customers for us are the ones that present us with a new problem, because chances are, if one customer has that problem, 100 more have it, or 1,000, or 10,000. So you start thinking about solution development rather than product development. That can mean anything from a new feature or capability to a new way to finance purchases or a new way to link things together.

– From the article “Michael Dell: How I Became an Entrepreneur Again”, by Tom Foster, published in the July-August 2014 issue of Inc. Magazine

The key challenge—and the biggest change from business as usual—is changing the focus from how much inventory there is to how fast it’s moving.

– From the article “The Power of Virtual Integration: An Interview with Dell Computer’s Michael Dell”, by Joan Magretta, published in the March 1998 issue of Harvard Business Review

Michael Dell Videos

Interview with Michael Dell: At the epicenter of change: Technology

Michael Dell: Growth Rate Accelerating as Private Company (Dec 4, 2014)

Exclusive Interview with Michael S.Dell – Founder Dell Inc (Feb 16, 2013)

Interview with Michael Dell at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Huffington Post


1. “Michael Dell: From Dorm Room to Board Room,” Academy of Achievement http://www.achievement.org/autodoc/page/del0int-2

2. From the Archives: Michael Dell from the January 2009 issue of SUCCESS Magazine http://www.success.com/mobile/article/from-the-archives-michael-dell