Startups

I Work for the World’s Largest Startup — Here’s What I’ve Learned so Far

Source | linkedIn : By Jeremy Klutts

I work for the world’s largest start up.

What’s funny about that statement is that I thought I came up with it all on my own. Imagine my surprise, then, when I found that Michael Dell made the same sentiment almost three years ago, when he announced that he was buying back his company and taking it private.

In 2013 — the last year Dell was a publicly traded company — it employed around 100,000 people, making Dell the size Cambridge, Massachusetts (this of course means that we are all Harvard and MIT graduates). And yet, even at that massive scale, there was something that rang true about Michael Dell’s sentiment that his company was the newest (and oldest!) startup in Silicon Valley (well, technically Round Rock, Texas. Close enough).

When Dell bought Dell (inc.) he brought back with him the entrepreneurial spirit that made Dell one of the great innovators in the computer industry. While Michael Dell may not store computer parts in bathtubs anymore, it’s that sense of passion almost to a point of recklessness that he has brought back to his company. I’ve had the pleasure of being inside the walls of Dell’s corporate headquarters in Round Rock for almost a month now as an Enterprise Marketing MBA intern and here’s what I’ve learned so far.

For the record: Dell considers this to be “sub-optimal” computer parts storage

1. If the plays aren’t working, burn the playbook

At its peak in 2000, Dell stock was trading at roughly $56/share. By the time Dell became private in 2013 the stock was valued at $13.86/share. That was a loss in value of roughly 75% over 13 years. Needless to say, something at Dell wasn’t working. If you ask around, the answer to the problem seems pretty obvious in retrospect. Tied to quarterly earnings and investor demands, Dell had short-term goals which caused it tolose sight of long term vision, strategy and industry disruption. Once it went private, Dell was able to shed all of that external weight allowing it to become agile and disruptive in its own right – only three years shy of privatization Dell is poised to complete the largest merger in industry history.

The devil-may-care attitude of Dell’s founder, owner and namesake that caused many industry analysts and investors to balk (most notably Carl Icahn) at his decision to take Dell private has trickled down to his employees. At Dell, no question is off limits, no idea too outrageous. All Dell asks of its employees is that ideas are well thought through, logically defended and shown to make business sense. If those tenets are met, then employees have the freedom to pursue their ideas. While there is still a very real corporate structure for reporting purposes at Dell, ideas are democratic. Everyone from interns to vice presidents are expected to contribute insights and ideas into how Dell can better serve its customers and lead the industry.

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