Michael S. Dell

Michael Dell
Michael S. Dell
  • From:

    Dell Inc. | Round Rock, Texas

  • Year:

    2013

  • Subject:

    Leadership

  • Award:

    Bower Award for Business Leadership

  • Citation:

    For revolutionizing the accessibility of personal computing by his founding and leadership of Dell Inc. and for his extraordinary philanthropy, through both his company and the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, towards benefitting the lives of youth and families in the United States and abroad.

If things had gone differently, Michael Dell might have been a physician. Instead, a casual activity he took up in college, while still enrolled in a pre-med program at the University of Texas at Austin, set him on a wholly different path—making him one of the world's most successful businesspeople and philanthropists and leader of one of America's top computer companies.

In the 1980s, personal computers were still a mystery to most people. But not to Dell, who had bought his first computer, an Apple II, at age 15 with money earned from washing dishes and selling newspaper subscriptions. After taking it apart to learn how it worked, he put it back together and used it to start an online message board or BBS. So it was a natural step for him to start repairing and assembling computer systems for his fellow college students. Modifying and upgrading stock IBM PCs, he was designing and building customized computer systems, individually tailored to meet his customers' specific needs. This was unheard of in the personal computing industry; Dell had found and was rapidly developing a previously unimagined market niche. What began as an extracurricular sideline based in his dorm room soon blossomed into a thriving venture, and Dell had to move his operations off campus. He bought parts and assembled systems as his customers placed their individual orders, using a "just-in-time" strategy that held overhead and inventory costs to a minimum. Within months, Dell's company, "PCs Limited," was bringing in around $80,000 a month, and Dell finally decided to put aside his medical ambitions and devote himself full time to his business.

By 1988, Dell was ready to go all in, changing the name of his company to Dell Computer Corporation and going public with an IPO that valued the company at approximately $80 million. Three years later, Dell Computer Corporation made the Fortune 500 list for the first time, making Michael Dell—then only 27 years old—the youngest-ever Fortune 500 CEO. The company continued to grow and prosper at a rate almost unheard of in the annals of business, and by 2001 was recognized as the world's largest manufacturer of PCs. Now renamed Dell Inc., the corporation employs about 35,000 people in more than 170 countries worldwide, and has expanded its repertoire beyond PCs to build network servers, printers, home entertainment systems, and personal electronics devices.

In 1999, Dell and his wife established the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation. Its mission is to improve the education, health, and safety of children throughout the world. It addresses a variety of pressing issues, giving millions to aid disaster victims, to build and improve hospitals and universities, and to fund a wide range of medical and scientific research programs. To maintain a strong personal involvement in Foundation activities, Dell stepped down as CEO of his company in 2004. He also served on the Foundation Board of the World Economic Forum and the executive committee of the International Business Council. But when Dell Inc. slipped from its first place position in the personal computer market by 2007, Dell resumed his CEO post, while still continuing his philanthropic work. Under his leadership, the company he founded in a dorm room in Texas continues its remarkable dominance of one of the world's most important industries. Michael Dell may never have earned the M.D. he once sought, but he has authored and fulfilled a vital prescription—how to create, build, and lead one of the most successful businesses in history, while also translating that success into charitable work that is changing the lives of people across the globe.

Information as of April 2011