Featured Business Leader Michael Dell

Featured Business Leader  Michael Dell


The wider technology industry is a common playground for entrepreneurs, simply because the opportunities for innovation and development are so vast. Our featured business leader, Michael Dell, is just one person who chose to capitalise on the innovative nature of technology and build a multi-billion dollar business.

Born in Houston, Texas in 1965, he showed an early interest in gadgets – especially in the mechanics of gadgets and new technology. He purchased an early model Apple computer at the age of 15, purely to take the machine apart and ascertain how it worked.

Though he’d always had a statistical and analytical brain, it was in college that Michael Dell found the niche market his business would serve. The PC industry was young in 1984, but he’d realised that there was an opportunity to differentiate from other providers by selling computers directly to the customer, bypassing retail middlemen. Choosing to focus not only on building quality machines, but providing great customer service and a discount price, Michael Dell started his business from his University of Texas dorm room – building and selling computers to his friends and fellow students.

Soon, his business had outgrown his dorm room, and he dropped out of university to continue providing computers to private clients, as well as fulfilling government contracts. Calling his fledgling company the “Dell Computer Corporation”, Michael Dell employed a few key staff and his business began. The total capital cost of the business was $1,000.

1984 was the first full year of the Dell Computer Corporation, and the company achieved over $6 million in sales. In 1992, at the age of 27, Dell Computer Corporation was named as a Fortune 500 company, making Michael Dell the youngest CEO of a ranked company. In 1996, Dell launched their online sales market, and by 2001 the company was reported to bring in over $1 million dollars per day in sales from their website. In 2004, Michael stepped down from the position of CEO, but regained the position in 2007 to lead the company in a new direction – offering customers the ability to use one company for their end-to-end IT needs.

In his personal life, Michael and his wife Susan are well known for their philanthropy. In 1997, the pair created the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, an organisation designed to improve the lives of children living in poverty – through education, health and community building programs. The organisation has committed more than $1 billion dollars to projects around the globe, and continues to provide support to communities around the world today.

Though the Dell Computer Corporation went from strength to strength in the height of the PC era, and it has afforded Michael Dell the ability to do some great work around the world, the business journey has not been without controversy. Issues with faulty computers and an investigation from the Security and Exchange Commission left the company’s brand battered, and Michael Dell’s personal reputation in question. Since this damage, the company elected to devolve, buying back its shares and becoming a private company. Michael Dell is now working to ensure that the long-term growth of Dell is secured in an ever-increasing competitive market.

What is your view on the story of Michael Dell and Dell Computers? Do you think the brand has recovered from its discretions? What would you do differently in such a situation? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

This article was written by Simone Ball on behalf of the Australian Institute of Business. All opinions are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of AIB. The following sources have been used to prepare this article: Biography, Wikipedia, Dell and Michael & Susan Dell Foundation. Image sourced from The Huffington Post.

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