In 1984, Michael Dell told his parents he was going to drop out of college to sell computers. They were concerned, to say the least. The gamble worked out, of course—his namesake company became one of the largest players in the computing space, then went public and made him a billionaire. But when, in 2013, Dell announced that he was going to take his company private, industry insiders and the press were even more skeptical than his parents back in the ’80s. That didn’t bother him. “I think most people are careful and risk-averse,” Dell says. “They don’t achieve their full potential because they don’t want to fail. And I think a big part of my success is that I wasn’t, you know, 50 percent smarter than everybody else or something—I was just willing to take more risks and experiment and learn and ask questions.”
In his new book, Play Nice But Win, Dell details his career origins and the long saga of taking his company private. Here, he talks about the hard lessons learned along the way, and why he still appreciates his failures from long ago.
You seem to be very aware of your critics. Throughout the book, you quote what naysayers said about you in places like the Times and the Journal. How do you make bold decisions while also listening to the people who say you’re wrong?
Going private was an epic media extravaganza. I developed a bit of a Teflon skin, because, you know, people are always criticizing you. When you’re leading a company, if things are going really well, greatness is ascribed to you way beyond what you deserve—but the reverse is also true. You’re the front person. So you just learn to not take things personally and to stay focused on the long-term plot.
Do you have advice for people who struggle with that? Teflon skin does not grow naturally.
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
Facing a Hard Choice? Get Out of Your Head
When we look at a decision through someone else’s eyes, change becomes a lot easier to make.
Don't Compete. Differentiate!
Want to scale your business? Stop worrying about the competition, and focus on these three areas instead.
100 Women Of Impact – Eva Longoria
Eva Longoria became famous as an actress, but her real mission was to be the boss—and then give opportunities to women who might never otherwise get them.
Where Change Leads You
The process can be painful, but the goal is profound: Find something new that you’d never want to lose.
The Big Are Getting Bigger
Major acquisitions. Consolidations. Conglomerates. What’s going on in franchising? The answer says a lot about where the industry is heading—and what growth means going forward.
Innovation Comes from Intrapreneurs
Employees say they’re unhappy. Companies are struggling to navigate massive change. The solution to both? It’s creating a culture of intrapreneurship.
Lessons That Are Worth Billions
How did Michael Dell build one of the most valuable technology companies in the world? By being willing to try, fail, and learn.
Mapping the Route to Success
The tourism industry is ready for a comeback, and travel agents are proving their worth like never before.
What Did You Cut?
To stay agile, business owners must often rethink what they truly need. We asked six entrepreneurs: What expenses have you realized your company is better off without?
Making the First Sale
My sales career was almost cut short by my parents.
Dell XPS 17: The ultimate content creation laptop
With a giant screen and thin profile, the Dell XPS 17 is perfectly built for content creators on the go.
How to Deal With a Swollen Laptop Battery
Lithium-ion batteries pack an amazing punch for their size. They’re robust enough to run our laptops for hours on a single charge, they’re at the core of the latest smartphones, and they even serve as the power plant behind cutting-edge electric vehicles such as the Tesla line.
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 (2021): A Superlative Aspirational System
We won’t try to keep you in suspense. When we reviewed last year’s model, we called the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon the best laptop in the world—though we later decided it shared that title with the Dell XPS 13 OLED—and it hasn’t done anything in its latest revision to change that state of affairs. The X1 Carbon Gen 9 catches up with the Dell and other elite ultraportables by moving to an 11th Generation Intel “Tiger Lake” Core processor and a slightly taller 16:10 rather than 16:9 screen aspect ratio. Its premium price and lack of an SD card slot still knock half a star off what would otherwise be a perfect five-star rating, but it effortlessly collects yet another Editors’ Choice award as the most desirable executive notebook on Earth.
Alienware M15 R5
Close encounters of the Ryzen kind
Durabook S14I: Tough Semi-Rugged Laptop
Buyers of rugged laptops, sturdy systems designed to be bolted to first responders’ dashboards or dropped onto rocky ground, make a distinction between “semi-rugged” and “fully rugged” notebooks— machines rated to survive a fall of three feet versus six feet, say, or pouring rain versus a high-pressure hose.
What Works For Me: Swim With The Shark
During his career, Greg Norman racked up 91 professional wins and spent 331 weeks atop the Official World Golf Ranking. On the green and in the boardroom, the Hall of Fame lives up to his nickname: The Shark. Here’s how he stays razor sharp.
Cristina BanBan – The Nuance of Memory
BanBan’s pieces evoke those complex states of mind when we feel like crying, and how being transported through time can elicit emotions of profound grief and joy.
Intel's debut Iris Xe graphics cards are headed to prebuilt PCs (but not for gaming)
Intel will sell a discrete desktop GPU aimed at mainstream users and small businesses.
Boeing To Outsource It Work To Dell, Eliminate 600 Jobs
Boeing Co. has said it will outsource a significant amount of information technology work to Dell starting in April, including support of cloud services, databases and information technology. The move is expected to eliminate 600 jobs.
HP Spectre x360 14: A Game-Changing Convertible
HP still sells the Spectre x360 13, but you can forget about it. The Spectre x360 14 is an elegant convertible laptop that ditches the older system’s 13.3-inch touch screen—and its familiar 16:9 aspect ratio— for a 13.5-inch panel with a squarer 3:2 ratio, for a superior view of text and web pages.