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SugarCRM CEO Larry Augustin Talks Animals, Empathy, and Consistency

By Carol Novello, President of Humane Society Silicon Valley (HSSV), March, 2014

I had the privilege of talking with Larry Augustin, SugarCRM CEO, and long-time supporter of Humane Society Silicon Valley. I wanted to find out how his love for animals started, how animals continue to play a role in his daily life, and how those experiences might have impacted his career.

Growing up in Ohio with a Dachshund named Tana and spending summers at a family farm in New Hampshire, Larry was always around pets and animals. He spent a lot of time with all types of animals - from collies, geese, and an Amazon parrot, to his aunt’s bullmastiff named Buffy. There were always cats around too, mostly calicos, who would disappear for days only to return and spend time being playful with him and his family. “My family’s calicos were very independent but also very loyal, smart and protective,” says Larry. This is something he would later fondly remember with his own family - wife, Alice, and their daughter, Andrea.

Larry found his first cat as an adult while working long hours and late nights starting his software company, VA Linux, in the early ‘90s. He took in one of the scraggly calico kittens that roamed around the office building and named her Big Geek. During those late nights, Big Geek was a calming, constant presence that anchored him in the face of the many challenges of getting a startup off the ground.

Big Geek also quickly reminded Larry how loyal, smart and protective calicos are, especially when his daughter, Andrea, was born. “Big Geek would meow and get our attention whenever Andrea was crying as a baby. Then, slept in her bed as her protector as she got older,” says Larry. “You kind of had a feeling that she was raising Andrea as much as we were.”

Big Geek has since passed away, but Larry, Alice and Andrea now have three rescue cats - Little Geek, Leo and Lyra - and a golden retriever named Evie. Larry says that it’s reassuring to come home after a long day, and independent of anything else, have his animals always happily there to greet him. “It’s important to take advantage of that moment,” comments Larry. “No matter what is going on, my animals provide constant, unconditional love.”

I asked what growing up with animals taught him about compassion, awareness, and wisdom. He immediately focused on how empathetic animals can be. He tries to do the same when interacting with people on a daily basis. He notes how people are ‘human’ and can sometimes have bad days. “If you can put yourself in another person’s shoes and see things from their perspective, you can understand that person better and communicate more effectively.”

With that in mind, I asked if growing up with animals and having them around might have influenced his leadership and management style. Larry recalled when he, Alice and Andrea adopted their Golden Retriever, Evie, and the training process and assimilation with their other pets. He noted how important it was to remain consistent, whether it was in regards to feeding time, potty training, where Evie was allowed in the house, to not giving Evie people food from the table. He knew that providing structure and consistency in order for the entire family to coexist in a loving and caring home was key. And after decades of leadership experience, Larry wholeheartedly continues to successfully apply some of these same techniques and lessons learned to the workplace.

After learning more about Larry, his family life and his pets, it’s fitting that animals continue to be part of his life as he creates yet another business success with SugarCRM, the leading customer relations technology management company for businesses worldwide. And what does growing up with Tana the Dachshund, spending summers with all those animals on his family farm, and having a household full of pets with his own family have to do with Larry’s success today? In a fast-paced world, driven by the ever-changing nature of technology, his animals provide him with structure and consistency that he can count on and unwavering loyalty to help him through the toughest days at the office.

And while having animals in Larry’s life wasn't a prerequisite to his success, his journey has been truly enriched and shaped by the animals that have shared the ride with him.

In addition to the Augustin family’s support of Humane Society Silicon Valley, SugarCRM also supports animal rescue through employee involvement and corporate sponsorship of our annual Walk ‘n Wag event.