Michael Dell

“You don’t have to be a genius or a visionary or even a college graduate to be successful. You just need a framework and a dream.” ~Michael Dell

Michael Dell

Michael Dell
Image: Hartmann Studios / Oracle PR via Flickr CC

Michael Dell is the Henry Ford of personal computers.

Most likely, you have owned or worked on a computer made by Dell.  Once the world’s largest computer manufacturer, Dell was integral in making personal computers ubiquitous in the western world, and became famous for their affordable and customizable product.  The man behind it all was Michael Dell, a Texas born entrepreneur who started selling upgrade kits for personal computers while in college.  By the time he was 27 years old, his company was listed on the Fortune 500.  Dell’s company became successful on the grounds of hyper-efficiency, creating one of the first online computer stores, and the ability to make computers cheaper and easily customized to individual user needs.

Michael Dell was raised in Houston, Texas, and showed early interest in computers and business.  While in high school, he was able to make $18,000 in just one year by selling local magazine subscriptions using targeted cold calling techniques.  He bought an Apple computer as a teenager and dismantled it to examine its inner workings.  Even though he had early success as a businessman and had early computer programming experience, he originally went to college to prepare for medical school.  While he was a freshman in 1984, his fate was quickly changed as his side business took off, making over $50,000 in sales in its first year.  Dell continued his focus on making his company the best cost-leader in the computer industry, with a ruthlessness against overhead costs that is shadowed only by Wal-Mart.  Factories produce regionally to keep shipping costs down, worker performance is tracked electronically, and distribution companies are largely cut out of the deal.

Today, Michael Dell is worth $15.3 billion dollars and remains the CEO of his company.  He started a philanthropic foundation with his wife Susan in 1999 and together they have given over $650 million to charity, including a large gift to the University of Texas to help build a new medical school, which will be named after Dell.  He also has written a book about the success of his company, called Direct from Dell.  He is also an active leader of several industry groups and schools, including the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad, India.

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