As part of the internship program, we had an opportunity to ask Michael Dell himself questions in person during an event. I sat in the front row, and honestly didn't hear a word he said--because I was too busy trying to come up with a question to ask him.
I could have asked him any question in the world.
Do you know what I asked him?
"How does it feel to have your name everywhere?"
He said he was humbled by it, and it drove him to succeed even further. After this experience with Dell, I've always admired what he and his company have accomplished.
So, I was like a kid in a candy shop last week when Michael Dell tweeted out his first ever financial statement from Dell, which, at the time, he ran out of his college dorm room:
We can learn a lot about leadership and entrepreneurship from it. Here are my top three takeaways:
1. You don't have to quit your job (or college) to start a business.
As someone who writes about quitting quite a bit, starting a company before you quit is always my first recommendation. Getting a business off the ground always takes longer than you expect it to. Dell is living proof: He originally ran his business out of his college dorm room at the University of Texas in Austin.
You should always confirm that you're not the only one who likes your idea. Get money in your bank account and prove that what you're creating is actually adding value.
If you have evidence that what you're building can be something bigger, it's much easier to get everyone else on board--including, if necessary, your parents.
2. You can build a profitable business in your first year.
Building an almost-million-dollar business in your first year is definitely an achievement. There were real hardware costs associated with running the business, which makes it that much more impressive.
Dell proves that building a business, bootstrapping it, and being profitable is entirely possible. You don't need to resort to raising money right away.
Be smart when you decide to ask other people to invest their money. We've seen the importance of this in many recent retail closures, which occurred because they were over-leveraged from investments.
3. Get your hands dirty first, and then delegate.
When Dell started his business, he did everything: sales, parts ordering, and physically building the computers. He didn't hire help until he knew he was onto something.
We often hear that you have to delegate work so you can focus on your startup's overall vision. I understand the basis of this argument. The mistake comes when you try to delegate your core business.
I remember distinctly from 2004 that Dell let us interns work in the factories for a day, just so we could experience what it was like to build a physical computer. We got to see firsthand how massive the operation was.
Dell always pushed for us to get our hands dirty--and I've been grateful for the lesson ever since.