Personal Background： Michael Dell Dell Computer 3-year return： 4，200% Age： 35 CEO since： 1984
It's often said in business that some event—— good or bad——happened on a particular chief executive's “watch.” It's a nautical expression suggesting that the enterprise is a ship and that this particular chief executive took the helm at some moment mid-journey， just in time to land a great white whale or hit an iceberg. Good or bad， that course and the event that followed were already set before the CEO entered the pilothouse. The idea is that CEOs come and go， but great companies go on forever.
This model does not apply to Dell Computer， a ship that Michael Dell designed， built， launched， skippered， re-directed， ran aground a couple times， overhauled， and has kept sailing for 15 years and counting. Dell， who is still only 34 years old， has run his company longer than any other CEO has run any other major computer manufacturer. During Dell's watch， Compaq Computer has had two CEOs， Hewlett-Packard has had three， IBM has had three， Apple Computer has had four. Michael Dell can be held directly responsible for everything that has ever happened in the history of his company. It's all his fault.
而这种模式并不适于戴尔计算机，一艘迈克尔。戴尔设计、建造、下水、担任船长、改变航向、四处游逛、检修，并且一直航行了15年的船，他也一直认为其具有重大的价值。只有34岁的戴尔经营他的公司的时间超过了任何经营其它主要计算机制造公司的CEO.在戴尔的当班期间，康柏计算机曾有两任 CEO，惠普曾有三任，而IBM有三任，苹果计算机甚至有四任。迈克尔。 戴尔可以对他的公司历史上发生的任何事情直接负责。这是他的唯一缺点。
And a lot has happened on Michael Dell's watch. He founded the company and led it to $18 billion in annual sales， from one employee to 24，000， from operations in one country to 33 countries. He took Dell public and made it the single most successful stock in the history of the Nasdaq. A $100 investment in Dell stock at the 1988 initial public offering is worth more than $56，000 today——three-quarters of that increase coming last year alone. So if we decide to make the somewhat subjective declaration that Michael Dell is the number-one CEO in America， please humor us.
The Dell saga is well known. The son of a doctor and a stockbroker， he was raised in a business-savvy home in Houston. After an extraordinary success selling subscriptions to the Houston Chronicle （he was able to buy himself a new BMW while still in high school）， young Dell discovered and fell in love with computers. He bought an Apple II to celebrate his 15th birthday， and took it apart. Soon he switched to IBM PCs. He took those apart， too， and came to the conclusion that Big Blue was charging $3，000 for around $700 worth of disk drives， motherboards， and RAM chips. He went into business. Dell souped up IBM's own computers for less than IBM was charging to do the same thing. He took advantage of IBM distribution anomalies to buy PC overstocks below cost from IBM dealers. He upgraded those computers and sold them in direct competition with the very dealers they came from——first from a dorm room at the University of Texas in Austin and then， by the end of his freshman and only year of college， from an off-campus condominium.
戴尔的传奇故事是很出名的。作为一个医生和股票经纪人的儿子，他成长在休斯顿的一个精明的商业家庭。在成功地把订单卖给休斯顿新闻（Houston Chronicle）后（在高中的时候他就能够给自己买一辆新的宝马汽车了），年轻的戴尔发现并爱上了计算机。他买了一台苹果II庆祝他的15岁生日，并把它拆开了。不久他换成了IBM PC.他也把它们拆开了，并且得出结论：蓝色巨人把价值约700美元的磁盘驱动器、主板和随机存储器芯片卖到3000美元。他开始从事商业。戴尔改进了 IBM自己的计算机，能够以低于IBM的收费做相同的事。他利用IBM销售的不合理性以低于IBM经销商的价格购买库存过剩的PC.他升级了这些计算机，然后销售它们，直接和其进货的正式销售商竞争——这项事业开始是在奥斯汀的得克萨斯大学的宿舍里，然后等到他大学一年级结束时，已搬到了校园外的公寓里。
There were no Dell stores or dealers. Right from the start， the PCs were sold direct to customers who called Dell on the phone. Sales were $50，000 to $80，000 per month even before Dell moved the operation out of the condo， incorporated （this was 1984； he did business for a time as PC's Limited）， and started making his own computers. The company was profitable in its very first quarter， and has been profitable all but one quarter ever since.
It's a great story， sure， but the personal-computer industry was built on companies that started fast and were headed by college dropouts. The real miracle of Dell Computer is not that the company started so well but that it has endured. With the exceptions of Compaq and IBM， most of Dell's competitors from 1984 are no longer in business. The only stories even remotely comparable to Dell's come from Bill Gates at Microsoft and Ted Waitt at Gateway. The miracle of Michael Dell is not that he started an important PC company at age 19， but that he is still running it today and happens to be the richest man in Texas.
这是一个伟大的奇迹，但事实上个人计算机产业是靠一些发展很快而且由大学退学学生领导的公司而建立的。戴尔计算机的真实奇迹不在于它开始得非常好，而在于它能持久。除了康柏和IBM，从1984年起大多数戴尔的竞争对手都退出了市场。还能和戴尔间接进行比较的故事来自微软的比尔·盖茨和 Gateway的Ted Waitt.迈克尔·戴尔的奇迹不在于他在19岁创建了一个重要的PC公司，而在于他在今天仍然在经营这个公司，而且成为得克萨斯最富的人。
Or maybe it is not a miracle at all. The first time I met Michael Dell was at a business meeting held during his honeymoon. Ten years， four Dell children， and many Dell billions later， this profile could probably end with that sentence and still give a fair image of what makes Michael Dell America's top CEO. Here is a man who loves his work and sometimes fails to see where the business ends and the man begins. After all， it's his name on the building.
At the heart of Dell's success is the word “direct.” The company sells direct to customers， eschewing distributors， re-sellers， and dealers. It deals direct with vendors， again avoiding middlemen. Dell builds no computer until it is ordered by the customer who pays for it， often in advance. This way Dell holds no inventory， or at least not for long （an average of five days， according to Dell himself）。 And since the computers aren't built until they are ordered， the company likes to say that it has perfect market research and builds exactly the computers its customers want. Whether this is precisely true or not， Dell's operation is the ultimate extension of the Japanese ultra-efficient just-in-time production management pioneered in the 1970s. For the most part， Dell doesn't even buy the parts for your computer （or at least doesn't pay for them） until you place your order.
This hyper-efficient manufacturing operation， with plants in the U.S.， Ireland， Malaysia， and now China， can build PCs that are as reliable and as inexpensive to build as any in the world， yet Dell has hardly ever been the absolute price leader. The company sells a high-quality product with great support and a 30-day money-back guarantee， but don't look for a sub-$1，000 PC from Dell， a company that is fixated on manufacturing efficiency not for its own sake but because efficiency is the route to higher profit. As the rise and fall of companies like Packard Bell have shown， low-margin PCs intended solely to build market share don't contribute to profits. And it is consistent and growing profit that has fueled Dell's success. That's why the company still sells more than 80 percent of its machines to businesses.
It is in the business market that Michael Dell has always seen his major competitors——Compaq and IBM. “From the first day I interviewed with the company in 1987， Michael made it clear that our goal was to be mentioned by customers in the same sentence with IBM and Compaq，” says Brian Fawkes， one of Dell's first hundred employees. “This focus has never wavered. There was a time when another Austin-based PC manufacturer called CompuAdd reported higher revenues than Dell， and people started saying， 'We have to attack CompuAdd.' But Michael kept us concentrating on Compaq and IBM， which was the right thing to do. CompuAdd is gone.”
Everybody calls him Michael. Everybody.
While Dell was always focused on the bigger companies， it took a while for Compaq and IBM to notice Dell. “In 1989， Michael's company was growing from PC's Limited to Dell Computer，” recalls Patrick Dryden， who was then a reporter and is now an analyst for the Giga Information Group. “I interviewed Rod Canion， one of the Compaq founders， about growth plans and targets； at that time， Compaq still had its sights set on surpassing IBM， and it was considered a very ambitious goal. What about Dell Computer and its early success with the direct-sale model？ Canion sneered and referred to PC's Limited as a novelty that wouldn't last. Later， I recounted the episode to Michael. He was hurt， genuinely pained to be dismissed in such an offhand way by someone he respected as a competitor. Not long after that， Dell Computer pointedly attacked Compaq in ads that depicted an empty-headed sales guy in a chain store.”
虽然戴尔总是集中注意力于大公司，但过了一段时间后康柏和IBM才开始注意戴尔。“1989年，迈克尔的公司正在从PC's Limited成长为戴尔计算机公司。”当时是一名记者，现在是技嘉信息集团分析员的Patrick Dryden回忆，“我采访了康柏的创始人之一Rod Canion有关增长计划和目标的情况；当时，康柏仍然把视线集中在超越IBM，这被认为是一个非常有野心的目标。对戴尔计算机和它的直接销售模式的早期成功你有什么看法？Canion对此很不屑一顾，他称PC's Limited是一个小玩意，不会持续太久。后来，我向迈克尔叙述了这段情节。他觉得受到了伤害，为被他尊为对手的人以这种唐突的方式奚落他而感到痛苦。不久以后，戴尔计算机在广告中描写了一个在连锁店里的没有头脑的销售员，用此来尖锐地攻击康柏。”
Don't offend a 24-year-old CEO with a large ad budget. While Compaq is still the PC sales leader， Dell is a close second in the U.S. and actually beats Compaq in corporate desktop-PC sales. And Rod Canion is long gone.
Not even the savviest twentysomething CEO knows everything， so Dell imported over the years a variety of older experts from other companies. It was a cheaper alternative to Compaq's tendency to grow by acquisition. Dell just bought the people， sometimes discarding them when he had learned what they had to teach. This was the case when Dell recruited Graham Beachum， an experienced executive from IBM and Tandy. Beachum arrived in the year prior to Dell's initial public offering， bringing with him a number of experienced associates just in time to bulk up （and make older） Dell's executive ranks for the IPO. Two years after the IPO， Beachum and his people were gone.
即便是最精明的二十多岁的CEO也不会知道所有的事情，因此这些年戴尔从其它公司吸收了许多老专家。这相对康柏通过收购而增长的倾向是一种更廉价的替代方案。戴尔只接受人，往往当他已经学会他们所教的之后解雇他们。例如戴尔从IBM吸收了Graham Beachum，他是一位有经验的管理人员，Tandy Beachum也在戴尔开始上市前一年就来了，并带来了许多有经验的同事，及时地壮大了（并且增大了年龄）戴尔的IPO（开始上市）管理队伍。在IPO两年后，Beachum和他的手下都离开了。
Dell， the company， has faltered only when it has veered from the purest form of its direct model. There was a flirtation with retail sales when Dell machines were sold in Staples stores and some others. But building speculative retail inventories and then having to share profit with the retailer wasn't to Dell's taste， and the relationships ended.
戴尔公司只有在它从最单纯的直接销售模式进行改动时才有点动摇。当戴尔计算机在Staples和其它商店被销售时感觉这是对零售的一种挑逗。但是建造有风险的零售库存，然后和零售商分享利润不对戴尔的胃口，于是这种关系结束了。 Dell's reluctance to hold inventory was briefly overridden in 1989， when the company bought millions of extra memory chips in an attempt to stay ahead of an expected shortage. It is a mistake to speculatively buy commodity products like memory chips that typically go down， not up， in price. Dell gambled and lost. Worse still， the industry was in transition from 256-kilobit chips to 1-megabyte chips， leaving Dell with too many of the older chips.
One more goof： After raising $30 million in the 1988 IPO， Dell blew at least $10 million in 1989 trying to technologically leapfrog IBM and Compaq with a super-advanced computer code-named Olympic. This was a violation of the direct model， in that Dell would have been trying to tell its customers what to buy——that is， if the project had even made it that far. Olympic produced a few custom chips and a writeoff for Dell before it was declared a failure and canceled. 另一个失败：在1988年IPO中获利三千万美元后，1989年，戴尔努力以超级先进的命名为Olympic的计算机在技术上超越IBM和康柏，他花费了至少一千万美元。这违背了直接销售模式，戴尔想要告诉消费者该买什么－即，如果这项计划曾经如此设计。在宣布Olympic是一个失败并最终取消之前，已生产了一些戴尔的定制芯片和报废产品。 Since then， the company has made mistakes， sure——the design of its notebook computers got so off track at one point that Dell canceled most of the line， leading to the company's only quarterly loss， in 1993. But Dell quickly recovered by again hiring a top gun from outside， this time raiding the group that designed Apple's PowerBooks. 从那时起，公司曾犯下了某些错误，这是事实－笔记本电脑的设计在某点上脱离了常轨，使得戴尔取消了大多数生产线，导致了公司在1993年一个季度的损失。但是戴尔很快就恢复了元气，再次从外界雇用了最优秀的工程师，这次对设计Apple 公司的PowerBook（强力笔记本电脑）的设计组实施了强有力的打击。
In the 1990s， the bywords for Dell have been “international expansion” and “increased economies of scale.” In the U.K. and Japanese markets， Dell has caused the same ripples among established manufacturers and had the same quick success as at home. The direct model seems to work everywhere. Even the mighty Compaq is emulating Dell by building some machines to order. IBM is trying to share Dell's success by becoming a major component supplier to the company. Japanese manufacturers are looking to Dell for tips on how to build PCs.
And Dell owns the Internet——it has by far the biggest presence as a direct online seller of PCs. Dell was selling $1 million per day over the Net in 1996， when some PC makers were still trying to get basic Web sites up and running. By 1998， Dell's online sales were $14 million per day， and the company had increasing sales and profits during a year that was flat or slightly worse for most of Dell's competitors.
Somewhere along the way， Michael Dell turned big rich——about $13 billion worth of rich. The guy who didn't think the company could afford a corporate jet was suddenly putting $1 billion into a private high-tech venture fund called MSD Capital. The kid who started a company in his dorm room was building a $22 million estate on a hilltop outside Austin. True， it's not as expensive as Bill Gates's $60 million digs， but around Austin it takes a major effort at conspicuous consumption to spend even $22 million.
Dell wrote a management book （Direct from Dell） with Andy Grove's co-author， then went on a book tour. This was the same guy who turned down an appearance on my PBS-TV miniseries Triumph of the Nerds because his PR people claimed he was “too shy.”
“For all the money， Michael really hasn't changed at all，” claims a longtime Dell employee. “He's still trying to think of new ways to make the business run even better. Our new Gigabuys section on the Web site， which sells software and accessories not made by Dell， is an example of just that. Michael was knocking around on the Web site in the middle of the night and found there were things he wanted to buy but couldn't. Now we have Gigabuys.”
“对于钱，迈克尔从未改变过什么看法，”一个戴尔的长期雇员声称。“他一直努力尝试使企业更好运营的新途径。我们有关网站的新Gigabuys 部门销售并非由戴尔制造的软件和附件，这就是一个好例子。迈克尔以前常在半夜访问各个站点，并发现那里有许多他想买但买不到的东西。但是现在，我们有了 Gigabuys.”
Among Dell executives， this is a good example of what's called “Michaelmanaging”——Michael Dell's fascination with the minute details of running his business. For 15 years he has set a work ethic for the company and demanded that the rest of the company meet it. Those who don't are asked to leave. Those who do may eventually join the “Dellionaires”——fully vested employees， often in their 30s， often early retirees. Austin is filled with Dellionaires， though the biggest of them all——Dell himself——has no plans to retire. Like Bill Gates and unlike almost everyone else in the industry， Dell really likes what he does for a living. And at 34， with a greater net worth than Gates had at the same age， Dell looks to be a force for decades to come.
I， too， have been Michaelmanaged. He called me once， furious at a story I had written. “Next time check your facts！” Dell ordered.
“Who can I check with who will get back to me in enough time？”
“Check with me，” said the billionaire， who sometimes has trouble delegating. “I'll get right back to you.” And he always has.
But Dell seems to take orders as well as give them， sometimes acting as the closer on major sales. “I talked to a salesperson today，” said a Dell sales executive. “He got Michael in to meet a customer to close a medium-sized bid. Michael sat at the table over lunch with the customer and was just enthusiastic——passionate even——about his company and products. The salesperson was amazed at Michael's incredible knowledge of products， even down to known glitches in hardware. We won the sale， against Compaq.”
The only problem with this image of corporate bliss is that it is so bland. Dell the corporate titan is also Dell the love-struck husband and father of four. “What you see is what you get with Michael，” says an early Dell employee. “There are no surprises.”
And it's true. The most controversy a reporter can dig up on Michael Dell is a property-tax dispute that doesn't deserve press past the Austin city limits.
“No one has a bad word to say about the guy，” says a recent Dell hire. “In fact， they think he's just a regular guy who has built a great business that most people really love working in.”
The ultimate test， of course， is jokes. Visit Microsoft and ask about Bill Gates jokes. Visit Intel for jokes about Andy Grove. Drop by Oracle for Larry Ellison jokes. Even Compaq has the odd Eckhard Pfeiffer joke. There are no Michael Dell jokes， none.
This can hurt in the publicity department. Charismatic leaders are supposed to have rough edges. The Dell story is so compelling that several years ago a movie was planned starring actor John Cusack as Michael. But they couldn't come up with a good script——not enough conflict. He must have been too busy making money.