I was looking at the CRN “Top 100 IT Executives of 2019” reports and Dell is impressively well represented. Not only is Michael Dell number one on the top 25 most influential list, VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger (VMWare is a Dell subsidiary) is number 4, Marius Haas, Dells President and Chief commercial officer is number 1 on their Enterprise IT Innovators list, Joyce Mullen in number 2 on the It Channel Sales Leader list, and number 3 on the 25 IT Industry Disrupters list is Jeff Clarke Michael Dell’s number 2 (Vice Chairman, Products and operations). I should add that Pat Gelsinger was also ranked best CEO in the US as ranked by employees (Glassdoor) which is particularly interesting since I personally think he should have been the guy that took over Intel decades ago.
This is an impressive showing by a company and fascinating for me because I’ve met everyone on this list and I’ve known Michael Dell and Pat Gelsinger for decades and I’ve hung out with Jeff Clark at his home, and I’ve known and been impressed with Joyce Mullen for years.
There is a lot of hype about a lot of executives, but Dell continues to come up not only as one of the most powerful tech companies in the world but one of the better run, and despite their size, they aren’t on the list of Tech companies under review for anti-trust. This is because the firm isn’t known for acting out and, while all firms make mistakes and can miss customers, for the last decade Dell has stood out with strong customer loyalty, high satisfaction scores, and some of the most amazing moves I’ve ever seen from a company of any size.
Let’s look at some of their accomplishments.
Taking Dell Private was thought to be impossible due to the firm’s size. But the company pulled it off despite some serous interference by a famous corporate raider and a ton of regulatory hurdles. In going public again, they also took a unique path to make the entire process relatively painless. In addition, as kind of an afterthought, they acquired and took EMC private as well through the acquisition and saved the company from being destroyed by Meg Whitman who was infamous for nearly destroying HP.
These were amazing efforts to watch because they were all innovative approaches to nearly impossible problems and yet Michael Dell and his team pulled the efforts off with seeming ease largely be choosing the right people to lead the effort, and then allowing those people to execute without undue interference.
Mergers and Acquisitions
One of the problems with the technology industry is that the firms are known for doing mergers that destroy the acquired company and its assets. IBM was the first to really get that the common process being used was disastrous and they developed a merger process that was market leading at the time. Most CEOs wouldn’t take even a good practice from a competitor and emulate it for fear of being accused of stealing an idea from a peer and looking inferior. But Michael Dell not only copied IBM’s process his team improved on it and currently, in my opinion, Dell has the best merger process on the planet which paid dividends during the massive EMC merger.
The way the process works that is different is than focusing on ramming the two companies together to and forcing the acquired company to conform to the acquiring company’s policies which has the side effect of driving employees out and destroying much of the acquired company’s value they focus on preserving the acquired assets.
This doesn’t seem like rocket science because you’d think that after paying billions for a firm every CEO would primarily focus on making sure they didn’t destroy the company but that’s not how most of the world works. So, Dell’s process works because the goals are aligned with preserving and protecting the acquired asset.
Over the years I’ve met with people that have joined and those that have left Dell and one of the things that both groups comment on is how well Dell instruments their operations. This instrumentation allows Dell managers to have a better handle on their respective areas of responsibility and results in more decisions based on facts rather than the executive’s gut feeling.
Executives coming into the company are like people who haven’t seen suddenly gaining sight. They are amazed at how much information is available to them and the quality of the decisions Dell execs make are typically better than their peers in other firms as a result. In addition, this application of technology is a showcase for Dell solutions because those solutions are also part of the reason Dell is so successful.
One of the most interesting conversations I have with Dell annually is on Diversity and Karen Quintos is one of the most aggressive supporters of woman in business of anyone I know. Granted she wouldn’t be effective without massive backing from Michael Dell. The work they are doing to promote women entrepreneurs is market leading.
Michael also told me personally that if he ever hears about a manager abusing a female employee, he takes personal interest in prosecuting that manager to the full extent of the law acting as if every female employee he has is like family. I can count on one hand the number of executives I know that are this passionate about promoting women in business and the fact he is ranked number 1 in influence should be a huge boost to women in business everywhere.
Wrapping Up: The Secret To Dell’s Success
This all comes back to the secret to Dell’s success being the ability to choose good people, put them in jobs they are well suited for, and giving them the support, they need to be successful. This isn’t a difficult formula. Any company could follow it, it just amazes me how few companies do to their own detriment. Excellence starts at the top and, the top of Dell is now recognized, and deservedly so, as being excellent.
I’ll close with how I met Michael Dell because it is kind of interesting. I was at an Analyst event there and he got up in front of us to talk. Now normally when this happens the executive just feeds us BS and we drift off into thinking about all the things we are going to do the following weekend. Dell didn’t do that, he did a quick opener an then turned to me and asked me what I thought. Now this had happened to me once before and I wasn’t ready so I always have, just in case, a response for the likely questions I might be asked and, unlike my peers who weren’t prepared, I responded with my prepared response.
He was impressed and we’ve been chatting on and off ever since. And that’s one of the things I like about Dell. He doesn’t seem to think, even though it is likely the case, that he is above everyone else. You can just have a chat with the guy. I find that both refreshing and very powerful.
Most of the folks at Dell are like this and I think that is another one-off they’re underappreciated advantages.