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Larry_Augustinby Larry Augustin, CEO of Sugar CRM

The opportunity to meet great entrepreneurs is one of the reasons I love about what I do.  Nothing compares to the excitement and energy of a passionate entrepreneur.

That energy is palpable in competitions like SmartCamp where entrepreneurs wear their passion for their business openly.

One of the risks of competitions like SmartCamp is that it creates too much focus on issues like strengths and weaknesses in business plans and objectives. Don’t misunderstand me – that’s important.  Honing great ideas, sharpening business plans, and pointing out weaknesses in tactics or strategy that can doom a young business all increase the likelihood of success.

But one element critical to the success of any new venture that we don’t want to forget is passion.  I’ve often said that if most people you pitch on your idea don’t think you’re crazy, then it’s too late for your idea.  Too many people already know it, and will build a business there.  Your passion for the problem you are solving is the one thing that will get you past all of the people who think your idea is crazy.  If you don’t have that passion, you might as well concede now.

That passion doesn’t come from the desire to get rich.  So if you’re starting a business with dreams of making a killing, just stop. If the end goal is a big payoff, or if your pot of gold at the end of your rainbow is just a pot of gold, cease building your business. Don’t waste your time, and don’t waste other people’s time. Take your money and go buy lottery tickets and get it over with right now.

Monetary reward is a great end result – there’s nothing wrong with building a strong business that nurtures the people who nurtured it to success. But that pay-out can’t be the goal that drives you.

What should drive you is a desire to change for the better something about the way people live their lives. As the CEO of SugarCRM, I get a steady dose of this every day. Our customers use our software to better understand their customers and to forge deeper relationships with them. CRM is great for making sales more efficient, but it’s also great at helping businesses connect with customers on a more personal level. It allows to creation of the sort of buyer-seller relationships that we all relish when we’re buying things. Our customers are happy because they’re more organized, more productive and can better achieve their business goals; their customers are happier because they’re being treated not as sales targets but as real people.

Being in the CRM business affords us the luxury of seeing that direct impact we have on customers. But all kinds of businesses have this opportunity. If you’re making a consumer product, how does your product energize and enliven your target customers, and how can you increase the impact of that product? If you sell to business customers, how do your products and services help make their work experience easier, better and more profitable, and how can you continue to improve those experiences?

By switching from a hunger for bottom-line results to a hunger for real-life results, you not only keep your own head in the right place as an executive – you also arm yourself with the perfect tool for keeping your employees focused on what will keep them engaged and effective. Numbers are abstract; results and the human stories that go with them are concrete reflections on your success.

It’s about a hunger for impact. It should not be enough that you meet financial goals; those goals should be used as a proof point that what you’re doing matters to your customers. Beyond that is the impact of your products and services to change your customers’ lives for the better. Those changes are what will buttress your balance sheet in the near future and inspire your team for the long haul.

Of course, you have to manage the financial part of your business effectively, too; without it, you can’t devote sufficient attention to your end goals for your customers. But, by the same token, without that desire to have a direct impact on your customers’ experience, you will soon find yourself without a need to worry about financials, because your business won’t exist.

Pay attention to the numbers, but understand that they are a reflection of your business’s effectiveness at seeing what customers need and then innovating to not only solve their problems but to impact how they work and live in a significant way. If you can make your desire to have an impact a central theme of your business, and then build the organization to support that idea, the numbers are likely to take care of themselves.

To help further the likelihood of that, SugarCRM will be giving subscriptions to our CRM product to all the finalists in the SmartCamp competition. It’ll help with their sales and marketing efforts, but I really hope they use Sugar to understand the effects of their impact on customers and the relationships that they build through their businesses.

Take part in Smart Camp London in person, or right here or the Smarter Planet blog

The Smart Camp London finals will be held on the 16th and 17th November. From 9am GMT on Monday (14th Nov) till just before the winner’s announcement on the 17th Nov at 4:15pm GMT, you’ll be able to vote for a People’s Champion as each of our five Smart Camp London finalists pitch right here on the Smarter Planet blog – make sure you tune in and cast your vote!

If you’re going to be in London on the 17th November, we’d love you to come join us to see our five finalists pitch live on the Southbank.  Register for the event now at: http://ibm.co/SmartCampLondon2011

In the meantime, why not join the conversation? Follow us on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ibmsmartcamp and take part in discussion using the #ibmsmartcamp hashtag.

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