Business Insights From Play Nice But Win by Michael Dell #1

Play Nice But WinThe book I am currently learning from is the latest business autobiography from Michael Dell the founder of Dell Computers. The book is titled Play Nice But Win and was published in October 2021. Michael Dell is one of those understated yet successful technology entrepreneurs who has managed to weather the storm of running a technology company with a decreasing market share. Dell started out as a direct-to-customer personal computer company and with the advent of tablets and other mobile devices, many forecasted the demise of company. While the company is less prominent, it survived and is still thriving.

In this book Micheal tells us a bit about his own personal story by giving some insights into his childhood and family (not much) and also how he started Dell. He then goes on to write about what he did to make sure that Dell as a company did not die, which involved taking the company private from being a public company and taking it public again.

Over the next couple of weeks as I read the book, I will share with you some of the insights I am getting from it and below is my first lesson.


Michael was 17 when he decided to buy a brand-new BMW 320i for over $15,000. So, his parents followed him to the car dealer for back-up. After agreeing on the car to buy, the dealer looked towards Michael’s parents to pay but they didn’t. It was Michael who paid with a $15,000 plus cashier’s cheque and the rest with a lot of cash. His parents had not contributed a single penny to the car. Yet Michael had paid for it without any credit card or loan debt. How does a 17-year-old pay for a car that expensive. Where did he get all that money from? To answer that question, let’s meet Michael.


If you do not know Michael Dell then you will at least know something he is associated with. Michael Dell started one of the biggest and most well-known computer companies in the world called Dell Computers. He was born in Texas, USA and raised in Houston. Both his parents were ambitious people, with his dad being an orthodontist and his mum, though a full-time mother, invested in stocks and real estate.

There’s was not a typical American family. Michael’s parents were not into sports. They did not talk about it or watch it. But they did talk about the economy a lot and read business related magazine’s such as Forbes and Fortune at home.


Consequently, Michael was not an athletic kid. He didn’t have sports hobbies and his heroes were businesspeople and entrepreneurs such as Charles Schwab, Ted Turner and Fred Smith. These were people he was reading about in business magazines his parents brought home. Michael says his true interests were business, science and maths. At 13 Michael bought his first computer for $1,298 with his own money. That was a lot of money for a 13-year-old to have but he had bitten the work and entrepreneurship bug from his dad. During holidays he worked at his dad’s orthodontist practice. And as a teenager after reading The Wall Street Journal, he started investing in stocks, as well as gold, silver and currencies.

At 12 he got a job at a local Chinese restaurant and later a Mexican one. He also worked at a coin and jewellery store negotiating prices on gold coins. He also started a small business collecting and selling stamps. But what really got him making money was his interest in computers. He learnt how to take computers apart and put them back together again. He was soon customising computers to make them faster and more efficient and professionals such as doctors and lawyers were paying him to do this for them. Thus, it was not surprise to his parents (it was to the dealer) that Michael could pay for an over $15,000 car with his own savings without needing any help from them.


  • Having productive hobbies can help you develop productive habits. Michael loved computers and that helped him create businesses selling computers in his teenage years. What productive hobbies do you have? Develop hobbies you can turn into something productive.
  • What we read matters? Reading books and information that can make us smarter, better and more productive is important? Challenge yourself to read stuff that makes you more productive.
  • People around you will influence you. Michael learnt about entrepreneurship from his parents. What are you learning from those around you? Don’t surround yourself with friends who won’t help you be better.

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