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Dell’s three steps to entrepreneurial heaven explained

12 Jul 2017
IoD Scotland and Dell

Bill Magee reports from Silicon Valley on the business strategy of one of the titans of the tech industry, Michael Dell.

Michael Dell marked the first anniversary since he recorded Silicon Valley’s largest ever tech takeover to reflect on his entrepreneurial ‘golden rules’ for lasting start-up success, culminating in the tech veteran landing EMC Corporation for a cool $67 billion. In 1984 a then 19-year-old Dell decided to mark the end of his freshman year in dorm room 273 at University of Texas by acting on an idea he had and using $1,000 saved to launch the PC manufacturing company that to this day carries his name.

Fast forward and 33 years later the billionaire has been described as having an ‘interesting management style’, one more akin to the boss of a fast emerging start-up than a global giant in this data-driven, mobile-focused digital age. We’re talking about a $50 billion business with 100,000 employees operating in 170 countries before going private – the largest company ever to do so – re-emerging around 12 months ago with market leader in cloud computing and IT data storage solutions EMC on board. He alluded to his approach here when he gave the keynote speech at Dell EMC World, staged at the Valley’s ‘retreat’ Las Vegas, also thanks to his alma mater for supplying his thoughts given to students over the years.

Dell urges anyone wishing to become an entrepreneur should try things, not worry about getting everything correct and learn from experience. How fast you learn is the differentiator, as opposed to making every decision correctly. If you’re waiting for someone else’s advice to become an entrepreneur, chances are you’re not one.

There are a few things that distinguish real entrepreneurs. Dell calls them his “three Ps.” Endowed with these, you will not have to ask anyone’s advice before pursuing your dream. Step 1: Find a Passion. Work/life balance? Entrepreneurs have a real passion so work doesn’t feel like work: it’s energising and fun, crazy hours to someone else but there’s nothing else you’d rather be doing. Dell has been fascinated about technology since a boy “banging around” on his father’s adding machine: he’d type in an equation, the device made some cool noises and out came the answer. “I was hooked,” he recalls. Today he is passionate about delivering technology solutions his customers need, remaining energised by all the great things that “enable” in the world.

Step 2: Find a Problem and Fix It. Even breakthrough business ideas begin with solving a common problem - the bigger the problem, the bigger the opportunity. In Dell’s case personal and business computing needs have radically changed, but he employs the same approach: create modern data centres and commercial software, services and solutions. Also, always help your customers to analyse, secure and manage their valuable information with open, affordable and accessible technologies. New and interesting opportunities almost always start with a problem. Find one you think you can fix and you’re well on your way.

Step 3: Find a Purpose - It’s purpose that brings fulfillment. Dell’s has always been to enable human potential by accelerating the adoption of technology on a global scale, in turn opening the door to growth, productivity and opportunity for people everywhere.

Three decades-plus later Dell still stands by those 3Ps, which he says inspired him then and continue to do so today. It’s all enhanced by a social media ‘command centre’ the company has created based on listening and engaging with customers from all over the world. The company interacts with two billion customers annually and Dell told me he answers many emails personally!

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