Look at that:
Back then, Michael Dell almost took his PC company …
Michael Dell begins his new book with a story about a mediocre meatloaf with the man who turned out to be one of his biggest business enemies.
It was 2013, and Dell had convinced the board of directors of the PC maker he founded in his Texas college dorm to take the publicly traded company private. He decided it was time to restart business and make new investments for Dell Inc., but his plan would only work without being reviewed – and judged – by financial analysts and shareholders.
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While convincing its board of directors that the privatization of Dell Inc. was the best move for the company was a challenge, the bigger battle ended in “nine month drama” with activist investor Carl Icahn arguing that Dell is undercutting Shareholders when he pushed for a higher offer price. Despite making money playing for Dell Inc., Icahn’s struggle for control of the company was unsuccessful. And the behind-the-scenes story is the backdrop against which Dell is creating its new book:published this month by Portfolio / Penguin.
He says he hopes readers shouldn’t let fear stop them from working on something they’re passionate about.
“I want people to have a real sense of the importance of taking risks – and not feel like you have to obey every rule out there,” said Dell, 56, in an interview for CNETs.
“I have this deep-seated belief that many people fail to reach their full potential because they are too afraid of failure and too afraid of making mistakes,” he tells me. “There are so many ups and downs and twists and turns. In the early years of doing business [we] could have failed at least 10 times with all sorts of things going on. But that’s the reality, and that’s how I think great companies are built. “
“We all found out that work is something we do, it’s not a place.”
What do we learn about Dell from his book? A couple of things, starting with the fact that he’s a serious tech geek who, when he was 14, took his Apple II apart right out of the box to see how it worked.
And we learn how seriously he takes it when he runs a computer company from the bedroom of his dormitory (crammed to the ceiling with parts and inventory) and drives around Texas to buy parts and sell machines with barely enough cash to keep going.
We also learn that he has a pretty good sense of humor, which brings me back to the meatloaf story. Taking his parents’ advice to heart – play nice but win – he decided to give Icahn a call during a visit to New York in the middle of their shareholder battle. Dell says he plans to meet his archenemy face-to-face so he can learn firsthand what Icahn plans to do with the company if its takeover bid is successful. Icahn, he writes, was surprised by his call, but invited him to dinner after warning him that his wife was “just a terrible cook”.
Portfolio / penguin
Dell writes that he listened to the story of Icahn’s life and business relationships; then he gives the readers this summary: “I cut my meatloaf and ate a little. Carl wasn’t far from his wife’s kitchen. And I didn’t have him as a person.”
While the battle for Icahn is the common thread he returns to throughout the book, Dell shares glimpses of how he built his PC business from the ground up, including traveling to Asia to do deals with suppliers to keep him below its prices The world’s more expensive IBM PCs could hold up time. He talks about growing the business and getting it out there. He is open to standing behind the PC market in the design and sale of laptops as customers are turning away from desktops.
And he tells stories about his friendship with Steve Jobs and howfor the distribution on Dell’s cheap, but fast-selling Intel-based PCs, as Apple was still months before bankruptcy. Vacancies from Jobs: Install the Mac OS on every Dell PC alongside Microsoft’s Windows operating system and let customers decide which software to use. The catch: Jobs wanted a cut for every PC sold. Dell admits the deal was a moment in technology history that could have been.
“It could have changed the trajectory of Windows and Mac OS on PCs,” says Dell. “But obviously they went in a different direction.”
We also talked about the future of work and the tech industry in a post-pandemic world. Dell says the rules are still being written, but confident there will be no return to normal.
“We had this look into the future and I don’t think we’ll be going back the way it was,” says Dell. “We all found out that work is something we do, it’s not a place. There may be places where we gather to work together or be together in person because we like that interaction and social connection, but hybrid work is here to stay. ”
Hear our entire conversation in the video above.
is a video interview series with industry leaders, celebrities, and influencers covering trends affecting businesses and consumers in the midst of the “new normal”. There will always be changes in our world and we will be here to discuss how to navigate through all of that.