8 entrepreneurship lessons from Michael Dell, Founder, Dell Technologies

By Sanchit Khera|23rd Feb 2018
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When one talks about computer hardware manufacturers, Dell is often one of the most commonly cited ones. Known for robust hardware, the company, founded in 1984 by Michael Dell, was one of the world’s leading computer technology companies. In September 2016, Dell merged with EMC Corporation to form Dell Technologies, a multinational IT corporation that earned $61.6 billion in revenue in 2017.

When it comes to building a brand from the ground up, few have a legacy as rich as that of Dell Founder Michael Dell. Forbes estimated his personal net worth to be around $20.8 billion in February 2017, and he was Inc.’s ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ in 1990, at the young age of 24. Over a lifetime building one the world’s top computing companies, Michael has experienced failure and success up-close and become an inspiration to entrepreneurs around the world.

Image: Flickr

Here are eight lessons we have learned from the Founder of Dell computers:

Innovate when you see an opportunity

Michael Dell is famous for saying “There’s got to be a better way of doing it”. When he sees an opportunity, he wants to take full advantage of it. Michael recognized the huge opportunity he had to offer better service and cheaper laptops in a market that was gradually warming up to personal computers in a big way. He started his own company in 1984 and sold $80,000 worth of devices in the first year.

It’s often said that opportunity rarely knocks twice, and it’s doubly true for entrepreneurs. Keep an eye out for the right moment, and when it comes along, don’t hesitate to seize and make the most of it. As Michael says, “Don’t spend so much time trying to choose the perfect opportunity, that you miss the right opportunity.” This is all about closing. You shouldn’t wait for the perfect opportunity to sit on your lap, and you need to explore all options before you pick one.

Fuel your passion

Michael has been a vocal supporter of entrepreneurship in the world. He wants founders to find what moves them and then go ahead with it full-steam. He says, “Whether you’ve found your calling, or if you’re still searching, passion should be the fire that drives your life’s work.” If you’re not passionate about what you do, it will reflect on your work and performance, and eventually, stop you from achieving your full potential.

Failure is a part of life

Michael has gone his whole career failing from one project to another, but he has always maintained that what he learned, in the end, is invaluable. In his words, “Recognize that there will be failures and acknowledge that there will be obstacles. But you will learn from your mistakes and the mistakes of others, for there is very little learning in success.” Nobody who has ever become successful has done so without failing. Accept it as part-and-parcel of your journey, focus on the lessons you can take away, and move on.

There is a tendency among entrepreneurs to sit and sulk about losses they’ve taken. It’s not the right approach and you tend to become irritable after a while. You should keep on going and follow your curiosity as you go from one project to another.

It’s through curiosity and looking at opportunities in new ways that we’ve always mapped our path at Dell. There’s always an opportunity to make a difference.”

You can learn as you go

So many entrepreneurs want everything to be perfect before they launch into the market. They don’t build their minimum viable product (MVP) to raise capital and want themselves to be perfect before they go live. This is the wrong way to go about business. Michael says, “One of the things I benefited from when I started this business was that I didn’t know anything. I was just instinct with no preconceived notions. This enabled me to learn and change quickly without having to worry about maintaining any kind of status quo, like some of my bigger competitors.” Learning on-the-job is the best way of improving your skills, so don’t wait to become an expert in your field before you start out on your entrepreneur journey.

Focus on your dreams

When you wake up, are you pumped up about your day, or are you hitting the snooze button every 10 minutes? Tiny as it seems that may mean all the difference between failure and success. Michael says, “The key is to listen to your heart and let it carry you in the direction of your dreams. I’ve learned that it’s possible to set your sights high and achieve your dreams and do it with integrity, character, and love. And each day that you’re moving toward your dreams without compromising who you are, you’re winning.” It’s important to always remember what drove you to strive for success in the first place. Keeping your end goal and dream in focus will not only give you the motivation to keep working, it will also keep you focused and driven.

Find a target market, and don’t try to please everyone

This is a common misconception that founders fall into. They try to please everyone and reach out to every person they see. But you can’t solve everyone’s needs and problems. A much better strategy is to brand yourself effectively and create value for a smaller focused crowd; this improves your chances of success and also helps you develop a strong presence with your target audience.

“The idea of being all things to all people is a thing of the past.”

Define your success

You don’t want to compare yourself to others, as that’s the fastest way to be sad and depressed in life. You should focus on creating success the way you want it and in the life that you choose. Michael believes so as well, saying, “If you’re happy, that’s probably the most important thing. Everyone probably has their own definition of success, for me it’s happiness. Do I enjoy what I’m doing? Do I enjoy the people I’m with? Do I enjoy my life?” It’s a relatively simple task, but one that many entrepreneurs and leaders overlook, resulting in dissatisfaction, resentment, anger, and eventually, failure.

Have courage in the face of danger

So many times, entrepreneurs reach a certain point from which they can’t come back but don’t take that extra step. Whether that’s in terms of your mindset, your business, or your life, you simply can’t create value for yourself if you give in to fear. Michael recommends that we face our challenges head-on. In his opinion, “Sometimes you just have to belly up to the bar and take a chance. We made some mistakes, but we also had the strength to work our way out.”

Michael Dell may not be the richest tech entrepreneur in the world, but he has lived a life rich in experience and learnings. His journey building Dell is one of true grit and determination, and an inspiring example for business leaders and entrepreneurs everywhere.

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