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August 29, 2006
Every few months, my wife insists that I start throwing away old business magazines that are piling up in my home office. I finally caved into her demands yesterday. That’s when I stumbed across Fortune’s “Most Admired Companies” edition of 2005. Topping the list: Dell.
At the time, Fortune wrote: “It’s fitting that 2005 should be the year Dell is named America’s Most Admired Company. The computer maker turns 21 years old in May, and as it attains the age of majority, it has grown from an industry curio into one of the nation’s most prominent and respected corporations.”
Today, less than 18 months later, most of the business media is trashing Dell, insisting that the company has lost its price advantage and its focus. How did a company go from so good to so bad in less than two years?
Part of the problem is the press. We tend to see things in black or white: A business is either performing really well or really poorly. Is there ever a middle ground? Sure, Dell is struggling with falling earnings and poor customer service. Some resellers may even benefit from Dell’s struggles.
Still, Dell’s problems appear minimal compared to IBM in the early 1990s and Apple in the mid-1990s. Both of those companies nearly went bankrupt. In stark contrast, Dell has $8 billion in cash and delivered $500 million in net income during its most recent quarter.
It’s fair game to bash Dell for poor business execution. But you’ll never catch me burying the company. Not with all that cash in Michael Dell’s war chest.
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