Michael Dell On New Book: ‘It’s Not All Pretty…But It’s Real’

Michael Dell talks to CRN about his upcoming book, ‘Play Nice But Win,’ which took him two years to finish. “I’ve got a heck of a story to tell—actually many stories,” Dell says.


IT legend Michael Dell is ready for the world to learn his life story in the highly anticipated new book, ‘Play Nice But Win,’ where he dives head first into his private and business life—from his “epic battles” with Carl Icahn to the most difficult times in his personal life.

“It’s not all pretty and it’s not all success, but it’s real,” said Dell Technologies’ founder and CEO in an interview with CRN, regarding his new book. “I’ve got a heck of a story to tell—actually many stories.”

Dell said his colleagues and friends encouraged him to write a book about “going private, the epic battles with Carl Icahn, the merger with EMC and VMware, going public again,” as well as his personal journey.

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“I go through that in the book, but I also go back in time to my childhood, the start of the company, the origins of the company, and really describe in kind of raw detail what really happened,” said Dell. “I think there are lots of valuable lessons that people can take away from it.”

[Related: Michael Dell On VMware Spin-Off, Supply Shortages And Channel Commitment]

The 336-page book, ‘Play Nice But Win: A CEO’s Journey from Founder to Leader,’ took Dell two years to finish. One of the hardest things about launching the new book was recently doing the voice-over for the audio book version.

“When I did the audio book, it was super emotional for me. There were parts of it I really had a hard time doing it because I talked about my mother passing away. It’s like, pretty much my whole life. All the significant events of my life were things I covered in the book,” said Dell. “It was a much tougher emotional experience reading the book more than I would have imagined. I thought, ‘I’m just going to go read this thing and I’ll be done. Then I’m going to go home.’ It turned out to be a lot more difficult than I expected. But I think people will enjoy the audio book.”

Worth Davis, a longtime industry veteran who has been following Michael Dell and Dell Technologies’ transformation for decades, is excited to buy the new book.

“It’s really impressive and exciting that he is sharing the history personally and not just writing a fluff piece that many business leaders have written,” said Davis, president of Houston, Texas-based Computex Technology Solutions. “Dell is a great partner and has one of the most impressive origin stories and history in the tech industry. … I’m really looking forward to the growth story as well as the dirt behind the EMC purchase.”

According to Forbes’ real-time billionaires list, Michael Dell currently ranks No. 23 on the richest people in the world list, with a net worth of $53 billion. He founded Dell in 1984 when he was a teenager inside his dorm room at the University of Texas.

‘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, according to the description of the book. 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, Dell 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,” reads the description. “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.”

“I think there’s a lot to learn from this book,” Michael Dell tells CRN.

For Computex’s Davis, reading the book isn’t enough. “I plan on visiting Austin and getting my copy signed by him,” he said.

Michael Dell’s new book, ‘Play Nice But Win,’ comes out next week on Oct. 5.