Play Nice But Win: A CEO’s Journey from Founder to Leader | Michael Dell
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WALL STREET JOURNAL BESTSELLER
From Michael Dell, renowned founder and chief executive of one of America’s largest technology companies, the inside story of the battles that defined him as a leader
In 1984, soon-to-be college dropout Michael Dell hid signs of his fledgling PC business in the bathroom of his University of Texas dorm room. Almost 30 years later, at the pinnacle of his success as founder and leader of Dell Technologies, he found himself embroiled in a battle for his company’s survival. What he’d do next could ensure its legacy—or destroy it completely.
Play Nice But Win is a riveting account of the three battles waged for Dell Technologies: one to launch it, one to keep it, and one to transform it. For the first time, Dell reveals the highs and lows of the company's evolution amidst a rapidly changing industry—and his own, as he matured into the CEO it needed. With humor and humility, he recalls the mentors who showed him how to turn his passion into a business; the competitors who became friends, foes, or both; and the sharks that circled, looking for weakness. What emerges is the long-term vision underpinning his success: that technology is ultimately about people and their potential.
More than an honest portrait of a leader at a crossroads, Play Nice But Win is a survival story proving that while anyone with technological insight and entrepreneurial zeal might build something great—it takes a leader to build something that lasts.
“The book is acidly funny, nail-biting and fast-paced. It is also blessed with a villain from central casting: Carl Icahn, activist investor and publicity hound, whose sparring with Mr. Dell gives the story its bite.”
“In this super-candid book filled with revealing stories, Michael Dell shows how his development as a person was tightly intertwined with building the company he founded in hiscollege dorm room. It’s a fast-paced tale of launching a public company, taking it private, and then taking it public again, all while wrestling with colorful characters such as Carl Icahn. Dell provides a wealth of business insights but also something more important: how curiosity and good values are essential to success both in life and in business. It’s a lesson he learned from his strong parents and shares with his wife in the work of their foundation togive kids better opportunities. The result is a book that is exciting, insightful, and valuable.”
—Walter Isaacson, bestselling author of The Code Breaker
“Michael Dell takes you into the real world of building and transforming an empire, vividly describing conversations and deals with key players so you see the whole picture. It’s a great gift for those on a similar journey.”
—Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates and author of Principles: Life and Work
“Play Nice But Win is exactly right. Exceptional entrepreneurs like Michael Dell have changed the world under great pressure, but with great success. Michael tells you how to be successful and true to your values in this awe-inspiring narrative of what it takes.”
—Eric Schmidt, cofounder of Schmidt Futures and former CEO and chairman of Google
“Michael Dell is the rare leader who set his company on a successful long-term direction by balancing innovative strategy with consistent values. In Play Nice But Win, he reminds us that courage and conviction are the key to transformative change in any organization.”
—Indra Nooyi, former chairman and CEO of PepsiCo and author of My Life in Full
“Many people have great business ideas. Entrepreneurs see them through. That’s the story of Michael Dell, whose book takes us on a riveting journey from the dorm room at the University of Texas to the boardroom of one of the world’s largest tech companies. It’s a tale of vision and perseverance every aspiring entrepreneur should read.”
—Sir Richard Branson
“This is Dell Direct. With insightful frankness and humor, Michael Dell tells his story, that of his iconic company and the grit required to compete in the ever-growing technology industry.This is a book for entrepreneurs, leaders, and dreamers.”
—Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft
“Michael Dell’s journey is part of the historic fabric of American business. His story of multiple transformations through the decades has insights for leaders at every stage, from entrepreneur to CEO.”
—Howard Schultz, cofounder of the Schultz Family Foundation, former chairman and CEO of Starbucks
“With rare candor and insight, Michael shares his incredible journey as founder and CEO of one of the most iconic and admired tech companies. It’s the unvarnished story of one of the world’s greatest entrepreneurs, a visionary with unparalleled determination and a commitment to leading with compassion and integrity.”
—Marc Benioff, chair and CEO of Salesforce
“As Michael Dell likes to say, life is about taking a punch, falling down, getting back up, and fighting again. Play Nice But Win is as much a story about resilience as it is about business. Michael is candid about the setbacks and challenges he’s faced in his life and career. The lessons he’s learned along the way are important for everyone who aspires to lead.”
—Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and author of Lean In and Option B
“Play Nice But Win is an autobiographical thriller, and Michael Dell is the gangster protagonist—never looking for a fight, but relishing every brawl once he’s in it. By outwitting tyrants, takeovers, and dead ends, Michael relentlessly protects, transforms, and expands the product he tinkered with as a teenager into the multinational company Dell is today. Michael consistently wins not by exposing loopholes but always by making advantage of the rules. Play Nice But Win is a magic trick, and one hell of a caped crusader coup.”
—Matthew McConaughey, Academy Award winner, bestselling author of Greenlights
“Play Nice But Win belongs on the list of great digital-age memoirs. The quietest of the entrepreneurs who created the modern computer business finally tells his story.”
—Malcolm Gladwell, host of the podcast Revisionist History
“This is the saga of how one of the great founders of our time launched his company, grew it, got it back, and rejuvenated it. Michael Dell’s entrepreneurial spirit is infectious, and his behind-the-scenes stories are full of important lessons about leadership, collaboration, competition, and innovation.”
—Adam Grant, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Think Again and host of the TED podcast WorkLife
“In his new book, Play Nice But Win, Michael Dell provides a powerful portrait of his life—the early years, the obstacles and challenges, the successes and triumphs. Thoughtful and revealing, it shares an inside look at what it takes to become a good leader—and more important, a good human being.”
—Jamie Dimon, chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase
“This book is an incredible window into what it’s like to be in a founder’s shoes, and the difficult work of growing a company. Michael Dell is not only an innovator, but a leader, and in Play Nice But Win he shows what it really takes to build the future.”
—Marc Andreessen, cofounder of Netscape and Andreessen Horowitz
“Michael walks you through every step of his journey, from starting a company in his college dorm to pulling off the largest all-tech acquisition in history. Anyone who’s interested in business at any level can learn from the insights in this book.”
“Fast-paced and humorously told… Business news nuts who love swashbuckling stories will feel right at home.”
“…a candid second memoir… a lively chapter in computer history."
“In Play Nice But Win, the taciturn Texan entrepreneur finally has his say. It is worth going along for the ride . . . a good reminder that all business really is personal.”
“… a refreshingly candid account of Dell's success in the computer industry, and how his company has remained at the top of the business world.”
—Booklist, a publication of the American Library Association
“… a candid memoir from one of the most irrepressible entrepreneurs of the computer age.”
—Alan Murray, Fortune
“A quick and compelling read . . . a glimpse inside one of the era’s great entrepreneurial minds . . . Dell still wanted to play the game, and his enthusiasm for it is infectious.”
—Porchlight, Staff Pick
About the Author
Michael Dell is chairman and chief executive officer of Dell Technologies, an innovator and technology leader providing the essential infrastructure for organizations to build their digital future, transform IT and protect their most important information. Michael is an honorary member of the Foundation Board of the World Economic Forum and is an executive committee member of the International Business Council. In 1999, he and his wife, Susan Dell, established the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation.
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