Review: Play Nice But Win: A CEO’s Journey from Founder to Leader

I try and read as much as possible when time allows. Certain topics fascinate me, over the last few years, it’s been the confluence of tech, strategy and finance. This book covers all these topics. It’s a fascinating story of his evolution from a teen wunderkind defying his parents to put together his fledgeling startup, to a mature leader making huge bets on the future of the technology industry and market as a whole. Use of analepsis, in my view, made it a more compelling read. As the various crisis points in the story are brought forth, it’s clear that his history and principles guide Dell Technologies in the new challenges it faced. Whether it was the above board handling of the go private transaction, which was uncomfortable for Michael, but ultimately saved the deal when it faced litigation, or keeping his word to honor the legacy of the EMC founders, principles mattered and principles paid a dividend. A few themes emerge, but one of the biggest is that skulduggery is short term profitable and long term fruitless. Doing business with integrity, ensuring everyone wins, is its own reward. Michael is an autodidact whose curiosity ends up being the engine of transformation for the company. From not having a good sense of his cash position in the early days, to use of more sophisticated tools (such as a tracking stock), the evolution is interesting to read. The book is full of interesting nuggets on grit, talent acquisition, retention, sales (interesting that Michael still meets with customers), innovation and a good primer on corporate finance. It’s a recommended read for anyone in business / technology.