When Gurvendra Suri, CEO of Irving-based Optimal Solutions, accepted the 2008 Sikh Entrepreneur of the Year Award in Washington, D.C., in June, he blended right in. But when Suri travels to his eight offices worldwide to manage Optimal’s more than 400 employees, he usually stands out. The Indian-born Suri wears a turban as an expression of Sikhism—a religion founded on the teachings of 15th-century Indian gurus. And he believes his faith has been instrumental in Optimal’s success helping its 200-plus big-name clients like ExxonMobil, Pepsi, and NASA with their SAP applications. SAP (Systems, Applications, and Products) is a company with software aimed at making business processing more efficient. Suri wants younger people to know they can be distinct in appearance and still be successful—a lesson he teaches by example, every day. AGE 45 TITLE Founder and CEO of Optimal Solutions Integration Inc. TENURE 13 years as CEO; 23 years in the industry FIRST JOB My first job was a very short stint. I had seven [opportunities for] jobs when I graduated from college and I went to the most glamorous one, at a software company. But there was no coaching or mentoring there, so I left after two weeks. BEST ADVICE Through professional life, the best advice I received is creating value for customers. In the personal life, do things passionately and don’t look for the outcome. IF YOU WEREN'T CEO OF OPTIMAL I would still be CEO of some company. If not Optimal, then maybe Suri Inc. BEST PART OF YOUR JOB? Creating a vision and following through and accomplishing it. That is what creates the sense of our company. It’s marching toward a single goal [of helping companies maximize the ROI on their investments in SAP applications]. CHALLENGES Creating balance between my passion for my business and my family. Another challenge is bringing my customers to reality on what’s not working for them. When I visit them, we do an analysis of their system and their infrastructure and software systems and applications. It’s difficult news to tell a CEO of a Fortune 500 company what they can realistically expect. TYPICAL DAY If I’m in the office, a typical day would start at 8:30 a.m. I have meetings with different people, make a couple of calls with clients, make sure I’m keeping a pulse on what’s going on with clients, at least major accounts. WEEKEND In my backyard relaxing, just reading, books or newspapers, and spending time with family. TENETS The three basic tenets of Sikhism are honest living, remembering God, and sharing with the less fortunate—and these three principles I bring to work with me every day. My personal as well as business dealings are guided by the simple fact that I am accountable to God for my deeds—good or bad. I pray for his blessings to do the right thing. BOOK I have two books on my nightstand right now, both by Eckhart Tolle: one is The Power of Now and the other is A New Earth. TV I might tune into CNN sometime or PBS for the evening news. I like comedy shows, but after Seinfeld I don’t think anything came out as good. TRAVEL Visiting clients is a big part of my job: understanding how happy they are, where we can add more value, and how they can benefit more from our services. We’re creating real value for Fortune 500 companies, and that’s a really rewarding part.