Michael Dell Opens E&Y Strategic Growth Forum 2011 – A Conversation with Charlie Rose

In 1989, Michael was named Ernst & Young’s first national Entrepreneur of the Year, just one year after Dell went public. Earlier this week, Michael helped kick off this year’s 25th Anniversary Strategic Growth Forum in Palm Springs, Calif. Interviewed by Emmy-award winning TV journalist Charlie Rose, Michael and Charlie discussed a number of topics relevant to entrepreneurs driving high growth companies.

A few key themes stood out: Embrace change. Be curious. Move fast. Take risks. Be customer centric.

Change is constant in our industry and that has never been more apparent than it is today in terms of “the way data is stored, information is processed and software ingredients are put together,” said Michael.  “These changes present incredible opportunities for our customers and how we can help them solve their most pressing business problems.”

People are no longer carrying one device but one or two complementary devices like a smartphone or tablet in addition to their laptop. As Michael said, “today there is a clear line between ‘what is laptop’ and ‘what is a tablet.’ In the future, we don’t know what it will be; lines will blur. We will see many more devices come to market.”

Social media is also changing the way we communicate and helping us get closer to our customers in new and meaningful ways. Cloud computing is at a tipping point helping companies large and small access data anywhere and everywhere from any device. 

Because Dell is offering solutions from the data center to the end user device – PC, phones, tablets – we  can grow in a unique way and provide the end-to-end solutions our customers need even as the industry rapidly evolves. “If you put our business in the context of the $3 trillion IT industry, there is a lot of opportunity for growth,” he said.

From the beginning, Dell has been all about taking out inefficiencies and finding a better way to do things.   Michael’s curiosity as a teenager led him to take apart his first IBM PC and find a better way to manufacture computers. His curiosity and the culture of risk taking at Dell ultimately revolutionized the PC industry and helped bring technology to people everywhere.

Today, that spirit is still very much a part of the culture. With nine acquisitions in the past year, Dell will continue at this rapid pace of innovation and investing–both organically and inorganically. We are delivering solutions like systems management, security services and cloud integration all with the common denominator of open technologies that help customers address their top needs. “We have 45,000 people in services. Nine acquisitions in the past year. Our business is changing. Our strategy (to provide hardware, software and services) is working,” Michael told Mr. Rose and the more than 2,000 entrepreneurial companies in the audience.

Michael was also quick to point out that the fast pace we keep at Dell is also critical when you make a mistake. “You learn the most when you make mistakes. There is no such thing as a perfect plan. Talk about what is not working and move quickly to fix it as soon as you find it,” he said. 

But probably the best advice of the day – “stay close to your customers.” When asked the typical question of any entrepreneur, who do you turn to for advice and inspiration, Michael answered “our customers.”

“The CIO of a key customer can tells us if a new idea is a good one or not,” he added. “Customers are our best source of R&D.”