Interview with Dell’s Rollins

Kevin Rollins is Dell’s president and the No. 2 person in the company. He is widely credited as having played a key role in making Dell the powerhouse that it is today. has an interview with him. Some excerpts:

We still have a business model highly dependant upon the execution of our company every day. It’s not a model in which we develop a proprietary widget and sell it without worrying, because no one can catch us on the technology…
We have to do it every single day. So all customers have to have their needs met, products need to be shipped every day, the quality standards need to be met–just a whole series of to-dos. Therefore, it takes a lot of discipline to pull that off. We have to train a lot of people–because we grew this year between 15 percent and 20 percent in revenue, and we’ve got 41,000 employees worldwide. We’re adding new people every day, and none have ever worked at Dell. So they need to come in and understand how to execute every day. That’s really hard. It’s hard to keep that execution intensity at the level where you don’t ever make a mistake; you don’t ever upset a customer. And we do. We fail, but not very much–that’s the biggest challenge. It’s a very intense execution model.

We really have two areas [for future growth]. The No. 1 area is still the enterprise–storage, services and the notion of scale-out architectures, meaning buy just what you need, add incrementally and know you can scale out with your business. Scaling out means instead of buying a great big box and filling it up, you buy one box, add another one and add another one. You can buy $1,000 or $2,000 servers and put them together in a cluster and then just add capacity as you need it.

We have got a secondary, which is now in the consumer electronics world. Because we’ve become No. 1 in PCs in the United States in the consumer arena, we’re finding there’s a whole new world of consumer electronics that have been digitized, meaning they’re based on the same components that go into computersand they work with a computer predominantly (and offer) movies, music.

So you’ve seen us come out with a systematic set of consumer electronics products and you’ll see more that will round out that product category and have Dell be a great brand name for the home, with the PC being the heartbeat, or the center, of that digital home.

The enterprise is still the big thing, but the digital home on the consumer side is the next big thing.

We don’t sit down and cogitate a lot about what could hit us out of the blue. What we do worry about is where are we weakest? Generally, you find if you are weak somewhere, that’s where you could be vulnerable to an attack of some sort.

We don’t look so much at what’s the bogeyman as we do as where’s the profit made. We have a fundamental belief that the businesses will follow the profits. We haven’t been too worried about someone that’s going to start a new business and catch us with our pants down, because in the digitization era, it’s pretty easy to replicate copy and accelerate quickly. Profit pools are a much riskier concern–and who owns the profit pools–than gosh is something going to come out of the blue that we haven’t seen so far. That hasn’t happened much.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.