Sage Software kicked off its annual customer conference with a welcome from top executives and a dynamic keynote given by Christopher Gardner, a formerly homeless man whose story inspired the film "The Pursuit of Happyness."

Chicago-born Nina Smith, president of the company's Business Management Division, addressed the more than 2,200 confab participants at the McCormick West Convention Center, telling them, "It's only by talking with our customers that we know how we're really doing, the good and the bad."

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