Kitchen Table Economics

First Job Fridays: Michael Dell

It might surprise you that some of the most successful entrepreneurs of today started from the bottom. The work skills that they acquired on the first rung of the career ladder served as a foundation for their future—which surpassed even their own wildest imaginations.

In our regular First Job Friday feature on Information Station, we profile American success stories and their first encounter with the workforce.

This week, we’re highlighting Michael Dell, the self-made billionaire who founded Dell Inc. Long before he started one of the world’s leading computer sellers, the tech titan was just a young boy who enjoyed collecting and selling stamps. At the age of 12, Dell realized that he needed more money to further his stamp collection and increase his earning potential.

So Dell found a job as a dishwasher at a local Chinese restaurant, cleaning plates for $2.30 an hour. Despite the long hours and meager pay, he was grateful for the opportunity to learn on the job and make some pocket money. In Dell’s words: “The best part was the wisdom of the restaurant owner, which I could capture if I came to work a little early. He took great pride in his work and cared about every customer who came through his door.”

Dell internalized that customer-first attitude and applied it to endeavors later on. He figured out that customer service is the key to a successful business—whether you’re selling Chinese food or personal computers.