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New York City is a fascinating place, but especially during UN Week. Lots of interesting people doing interesting work on behalf of the world. I was there last week and had the privilege of speaking with Bob Safian at the Social Good Summit about my new role as the UN Foundation’s first Global Advocate for Entrepreneurship.
My goal as Global Advocate is to help pave the way for the next billion jobs by advocating for the No. 1 creator of jobs—the world’s entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs have an uphill climb and, as the source for roughly 70 percent of new jobs globally, it’s critical that we work collectively to remove the obstacles to their success. There are lots of ways to go about that, but first and foremost we have to make sure job creation makes the final list of Sustainable Development Goals, which will be voted on by the UN General Assembly this time next year. These goals will set the world’s agenda through the year 2030, and I will be making a strong case among key stakeholders for job creation (and the entrepreneurs that drive it).
Of course at Dell, we’ve been supporting emerging, fast-growing businesses for a long time. I’m inspired by the energy, enthusiasm and entrepreneurial spirit. One question I get asked all the time is, “How can I become a successful entrepreneur?” But that’s one question I can’t answer. Because if you’re waiting for someone else’s advice to become an entrepreneur, chances are you’re not one.
If I’d listened to everyone who told me what I could and couldn’t do and why, I’d be writing this column on an IBM PC. For the record, IBM doesn’t make PCs any more. I’m using a Dell XPS 15.
But there are a few things that distinguish real entrepreneurs, and if you have them, you’re starting in the right place.
Real entrepreneurs have what I call the three Ps (and, trust me, none of them stands for permission). Real entrepreneurs have a passion for what they’re doing, a problem that needs to be solved, and a purpose that drives them forward. Find your passion, a problem and your purpose, and you won’t need to ask anyone’s advice before pursuing your dream.
Step 1: Find a passion
No one works harder than an entrepreneur starting a business, but if you ask one about work/life balance, you won’t hear the usual gripes about long, grinding days. Why? Because real entrepreneurs have a passion for what they’re doing, so work doesn’t feel like work. It’s energizing and fun. It might seem like crazy hours to someone else, but there’s nothing else you’d rather be doing.
Certainly that’s been true for me. I’ve been fascinated with technology since I was a boy playing around with my father’s adding machine. Back then I’d type in an equation, the device made some noises, and out came my answer. I was hooked. Today’s technology is way cooler and more powerful than my dad’s old adding machine, and I’m passionate about delivering the technology solutions our customers need and energized by all the great things this enables in the world. I always have been.
Step 2: Find a problem and fix it
Every breakthrough business idea begins with solving a common problem. The bigger the problem, the bigger the opportunity. I discovered a big one when I took apart an IBM PC. I made two interesting discoveries: The components were all manufactured by other companies, and the system that sold for $3,000 cost about $600 in parts. I knew there had to be a better way.
My idea eventually became the Dell Direct Business Model, which forever changed our industry and solved a big problem for the world: PCs, and soon after servers, previously accessible to relatively few, were now available to the masses.
We’re still at it, even as personal and business computing needs have radically changed. (Your industry will change, too, trust me.) Today we’re using our same approach to create modern data centres, commercial software, services and solutions. We’re addressing our customers’ most relevant opportunities and challenges by helping them analyze, secure and manage their valuable information with technologies that are open, affordable and accessible.
New and interesting business opportunities are all around us, and they almost always start with a problem. Find a problem you think you can fix, and you’re well on your way.
Step 3: Find a purpose
While a passion and a problem might be enough to start a business, it’s purpose that brings fulfillment.
To be honest, at Dell, I’m not entirely sure we found our purpose; I think it might have found us. But it became clear pretty early on. Our purpose is to enable human potential by accelerating the adoption of technology on a global scale, and in turn opening the door to growth, productivity and opportunity for people everywhere.
This year we celebrated Dell’s 30th birthday. I consider the first 29-and-a-half years as Act One of our story. Act Two began when we successfully took Dell private almost a year ago. By revenue, it was the largest company to ever go private in history, and for me, it was kind of like a rebirth of the company, going back to our entrepreneurial roots—but with a lot more capital, an expert global team, enormous scale and what I firmly believe is the best portfolio of solutions in the industry.
When I decided to start Dell, I never imagined the journey it would take me on, nor the changes we would see and experience along the way. But three things remain very much the same: the passion, the problem and the purpose that inspired me in the first place. They are still inspiring me today to work hard for my company and our customers, and also for the entrepreneurs out there poised to do great things in the world.
Published in collaboration with LinkedIn.
Author: Michael Dell is the chairman of the board of directors and chief executive officer of Dell.
Image: Dell logos are seen at its headquarters in Cyberjaya, outside Kuala Lumpur September 4, 2013. REUTERS/Bazuki Muhammad.
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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.
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