Michael’s first computer was the Apple II. It had cost a fortune at $1298 which he paid for out of his savings. When the computer was delivered by UPS, his dad drove him to pick it up at a local warehouse where it was held up.
When Michael got home with the computer, he did something almost unbelievable considering it’s steep price. He took it to his bedroom, unboxed it and then took the computer about. Not surprisingly, his parents were furious.
Michael’s rationale for doing that? How could you understand the computer if you didn’t take it apart? By taking the computer apart Michael got to understand it’s open architecture and other things you could do with the computer such as reprograming it.
This obviously wasn’t the first time Michael was taking things apart and it would not be the last. That process of taking things apart and seeking to understand what they could do helped him develop a deeper understanding of how computers work and what you could do with them. Hence, he was able to start a very profitable business at a young age taking IBM computers apart, customising them to make them more efficient and selling them. This of course was the foundation of Dell as a business.
Michael’s strategy at that time was to customise existing computers and sell them directly to people and it became the foundational strategy for which Dell Computers became known by selling directly to consumers instead of selling through retail stores.
Michael’s curiosity helped him to learn things that others could not learn and build products that were highly profitable.
Curiosity is a key learning behaviour. It will cause you to ask questions, try different things and sometimes take risks with the aim of further developing your understanding of the way things work. By being curious you are guaranteed to keep moving forward because you will keep learning. Lack of curiosity will keep you stuck and stagnant.
No matter how old you are, don’t lose your curiosity. Keep asking, keeping taking things apart and keep learning.
Use your curiosity to understand things better so you can build new products and better services. If you see things the same way all the time, you will keep on producing the same things. But if you seek to see things differently, you will produce different things.
The 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.
THAT’S A LOT OF CASH!
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. Continue reading →
I’ve just finished reading What It Takes by Stephen A. Schwarzman. Stephen is one of the co-founders of Blackstone which is one of the biggest investment companies in the world. I got a lot of lessons from the book but I would like to share with you his 25 lessons for life. I am sharing the lessons exactly how they were written in the book and I do hope you gain one or two things from them.
Here they are:
It’s as easy to do something big as it is to do something small, so reach for a fantasy worthy of your pursuit, with rewards commensurate to your effort.
The best executives are made, not born. They never stop learning. Study the people and organizations in your life that have had enormous success. They offer a free course from the real world to help you improve.
Write or call the people you admire, and ask for advice or a meeting. You never know who will be willing to meet with you. You may end up learning something important or form a connection you can leverage for the rest of your life. Meeting people early in life creates an unusual bond.
There is nothing more interesting to people than their own problems. Think about what others are dealing with, and try to come up with ideas to help them. Almost anyone, however senior or important, is receptive to new ideas provided they are thoughtful.
Every business is a closed, integrated system with a set of distinct but interrelated parts. Great managers understand how each part works on its own and in relation to all the others.
Information is the most important asset in business. The more you know, the more perspectives you have, and the more likely you are to spot patterns and anomalies before your competition. So always be open to new inputs, whether they are people, experiences, or knowledge.
When you’re young, only take a job that provides you with a steep learning curve and strong training. First jobs are foundational. Don’t take a job just because it seems prestigious.
When presenting yourself, remember that impressions matter. The whole picture has to be right. Others will be watching for all sorts of clues and cues that tell who you are. Be on time. Be authentic. Be prepared.
No one person, however smart, can solve every problem. But an army of smart people talking openly with one another will.
People in a tough spot often focus on their own problems, when the answer usually lies in fixing someone else’s.
Believe in something greater than yourself and your personal needs. It can be your company, your country, or a duty for service. Any challenge you tackle that is inspired by your beliefs and core values will be worth it, regardless of whether you succeed or fail.
Never deviate from your sense of right and wrong. Your integrity must be unquestionable. It is easy to do what’s right when you don’t have to write a check or suffer any consequences. It’s harder when you have to give something up. Always do what you say you will, and never mislead anyone for your own advantage.
Be bold. Successful entrepreneurs, managers, and individuals have the confidence and courage to act when the moment seems right. They accept risk when others are cautious and take action when everyone else is frozen, but they do so smartly. This trait is the mark of a leader.
Never get complacent. Nothing is forever. Whether it is an individual or a business, your competition will defeat you if you are not constantly seeking ways to reinvent and improve yourself. Organizations, especially, are more fragile than you think.
Sales rarely get made on the first pitch. Just because you believe in something doesn’t mean everyone else will. You need to be able to sell your vision with conviction over and over again. Most people don’t like change, so you need to be able to convince them why they should accept it. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want.
If you see a huge, transformative opportunity, don’t worry that no one else is pursuing it. You might be seeing something others don’t. The harder the problem is, the more limited the competition, and the greater the reward for whomever can solve it.
Success comes down to rare moments of opportunity. Be open, alert, and ready to seize them. Gather the right people and resources; then commit. If you’re not prepared to apply that kind of effort, either the opportunity isn’t as compelling as you think or you are not the right person to pursue it.
Time wounds all deals, sometimes even fatally. Often the longer you wait, the more surprises await you. In tough negotiations especially, keep everyone at the table long enough to reach an agreement.
Don’t lose money!!! Objectively assess the risks of every opportunity.
Make decisions when you are ready, not under pressure. Others will always push you to make a decision for their own purposes, internal politics, or some other external need. But you can almost always say, “I need a little more time to think about this. I’ll get back to you.” This tactic is very effective at defusing even the most difficult and uncomfortable situations.
Worrying is an active, liberating activity. If channeled appropriately, it allows you to articulate the downside in any situation and drives you to take action to avoid it.
Failure is the best teacher in an organization. Talk about failures openly and objectively. Analyze what went wrong. You will learn new rules for decision making and organizational behavior. If evaluated well, failures have the potential to change the course of any organization and make it more successful in the future.
Hire 10s whenever you can. They are proactive about sensing problems, designing solutions, and taking a business in new directions. They also attract and hire other 10s. You can always build something around a 10.
Be there for the people you know to be good, even when everyone else is walking away. Anyone can end up in a tough situation. A random act of kindness in someone’s time of need can change the course of a life and create an unexpected friendship or loyalty.
Everyone has dreams. Do what you can to help others achieve theirs.
There are books you read and you power through them while others you slug through. This is one of those I powered through. What attracted me to this book was the ‘entrepreneur’ in the title, and to be honest I didn’t expect much from it. But once I started reading it, I couldn’t drop the book. This is not your typical entrepreneurial book as it’s not so much about ‘how to create a business’ or ‘the secret of startups’. Rather it is about seeing entrepreneurship as a way of thinking, an attitude, a mindset. In other words it is more about entrepreneurial leadership.
The authors use stories from interviews with 55 entrepreneurs and other thought leaders to discuss a view of entrepreneurship that is holistic. One that doesn’t just look at the business aspect, but also the social, relational and emotional aspect of a person’s life. Each of the short stories used are quite inspiring, but at the same time thought provoking and give a more balanced perspective on the entrepreneur, a word which has attained celebrity status in our days.
The book is divided into 3 parts, each consisting of 3 chapters, making it 9 chapters altogether. While the book has just 185 pages of reading content (you can read it in 3 days), it has 3 appendices. Following is a brief overview of each chapter. Continue reading →
Sometimes you read a book where you grow to like the author and what he/she stands for. This is one of such books. Start Something That Matters by Blake Mycoskie is the story of how Blake started the shoe company, TOMS, but it’s not a business biography. Blake’s intention is to teach and encourage people to start a business using his own experience. This is an endearing book which shows that you can create a company that does good and at the same time make money, and you don’t have to be a mean or bad guy to run a successful company.
Over 8 chapters Blake relates how he got the idea for his business, started iT and built it into a sustainable and successful company which continues to have a positive effect on people’s lives. Continue reading →