Michael Dell has built one of the world’s most successful companies by making personal computers to order. Here he explains his principles

Over the past two decades, Dell has driven great successes for our customers and our employees around the world. Along the way, we’ve come to understand that the foundation of a great company is based on three fundamental principles: global citizenship, a commitment to customers and a winning team.

Global citizenship
To be successful and stand out among competitors, a solid global strategy must be part of every organization’s genetic code. For Dell, this means expanding into new countries where we can use our direct model to provide value to customers and create more productive communities and a healthy local business environment.

When the company was just three years old, we knew that global expansion was critical to our ability to grow – after all, more than 95% of the world’s population is outside the United States. The opportunity for Dell to be a great global provider drives every product development, engineering, manufacturing, marketing, sales and support decision we make. It’s what brought Dell to Britain in 1987, to Ireland in 1990, to Malaysia in 1996 and to China in 1998. This expansion is what has given more consumers and businesses access to innovative technology at a great price.

Global expansion must also reflect a commitment to creating economic growth and improving the lives of others. That means promoting a healthy business climate by hiring local citizens to work in the jobs you’ve created, as well as working with local partners and suppliers to augment your operations. By leveraging these on-the-ground resources, we’ve learned a great deal about product design, customers, sales and service. Additionally, we strive to enhance the quality of life in growing regions by supporting education and environment initiatives. Dell works with the educational establishment in every area where we do business to give students, teachers and parents technology equipment and skills that will help them lead more productive, enriched lives.

Commitment to customers
Beyond delivering products that customers need is a never-ending commitment to improve continually how we interact with them. At Dell, we call this “The Customer Experience”, and it’s an initiative owned by every team member.

Last year, we began looking at our service and support metrics from the customers’ viewpoint instead of simply measuring our performance internally – and we realized there were significant areas to improve. We mobilized “Customer Experience” teams around the world to develop a way to measure customers’ expectations. This new initiative now includes questions such as: Did Dell get my order right the first time? Did they fix my problem on the first call to tech support? Did the Dell employee I dealt with treat me like they valued my business? By listening to customer feedback, in their own voices, we’re better equipped to exceed their expectations at every turn.

A winning team
To build a great company, you must focus just as hard on your people as you do on customers, partners, communities and stakeholders. You must have talented individuals working together as a team, who share a commitment to common values and a collective determination to execute one vision.

For Dell, this is still one of our greatest challenges, but it’s also an area where we’ve seen some of our greatest progress. Several years ago, we surveyed our employees and learned that about half would leave Dell if they had a comparable job offer from another company. We knew we had to turn that around. We launched an internal campaign to find, articulate and promote “The Soul of Dell” so that our employees know that we’re committed to helping them succeed and grow. Since then, we’ve seen marked improvements in how our team members feel about their careers at Dell.

We’re also focused on developing the skills of our leaders, encouraging personal accountability, maintaining a higher standard of ethics and integrity, and building a workforce with diverse backgrounds, skills and potential. We know that, collectively, our employees’ achievements create the fabric of our company and ultimately drive our success.

By focusing on these areas, organizations of all sizes can build the foundation needed to help them become a great company. However, the most important message I can share with you is that building a great company is an endless, continuous, ever-evolving aspiration – and there’s never a finished product. Ask me the question: “Is Dell a great company?” I’ll tell you that while we’re pleased with our accomplishments, we’re never satisfied. We must always look ahead and focus on what will make us great in our next 20 years and beyond.

Michael Dell
Michael Dell is chairman of Dell Computer Company and a member of the World Economic Forum’s Foundation Board.