Excerpted from “PLAY NICE BUT WIN: A CEO’s Journey from Founder to Leader,” published Oct. 5, 2021, by Portfolio, an imprint of the Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2021 by Michael Dell.
Back in November 1988, a few months after we went public, I wrote a statement of values for our new corporation, an attempt to codify our culture. It was a one-page, dot-matrix-printed document, passed out to our little motley crew of two-hundred-odd team members for their perusal. And I wanted them to peruse it, because I meant every word and felt deeply about every part of what I’d written.
1. PROVIDE HIGH-QUALITY PRODUCTS AND EXCELLENT CUSTOMER SERVICE: THE BUSINESS
2. TREAT PEOPLE WITH RESPECT: THE PEOPLE
3. EMPLOYEES WILL LEARN AND BE GROWING AT ALL LEVELS: THE PROCESS
4. BE THE BEST AT EVERYTHING WE DO!: THE STANDARD
And the message (turning off the all-caps to make it easier to read):
1. Dell Computer Corporation’s mission is to provide high-quality computers directly to end users with a high level of customer service. We are committed to being very responsive to our customers. Our one-on-one relationship with our customers is key to our success because it provides the framework under which we respond to the ever-changing needs of the customer. The company will strive to satisfy the legitimate claims of all parties that have a stake in the business: customers, employees, suppliers, special-interest groups, communities, and shareholders.
2. Treat people with respect: The company will encourage and reward initiative, teamwork, responsibility, and excellence among employees. We will provide high-quality products with responsive and courteous service at a good value. We will always observe the highest legal and ethical standards in all dealings. People are the greatest asset of the company. We will provide an environment that attracts, motivates, and retains the best people in our industry. Employees will participate in decisions that affect their own work and receive the rewards that come as a result of their efforts. We will always reward superior performance.
3. Learning always: Flexibility, change, and responsiveness are the key characteristics that the organization will embody to succeed forever. We should always maintain a learning attitude in which we constantly anticipate and understand changes in the competitive environment and create strategies that will capitalize on new opportunities. We will apply what we have learned and always challenge the assumptions that the business operates under. A manager will empower others and remove the obstacles that prevent others from being fully productive.
4. The company will be the best at everything we do!
November 2, 1988
I was twenty-three when I wrote that, and my ragtag little start-up was just one of several hundred computer companies around the country—one that was having some success but also, as we’ve seen, came pretty close to going out of business at several junctures. Today I’m in my mid-fifties, in charge of a global organization with over 150,000 team members, and everything I wrote over thirty years ago still holds true. We’ve held on to those values on every step of our path: without them we wouldn’t have become the company we are today.
“Play Nice But Win” is available now and can be purchased via StartupNation.com.