Just a friendly update from the folks at Refundo on the IRS Tax Forums, conveyed via carrier pigeon (still the safest and most reliable mode of communication)
Refundo visits trade show conventions in Orlando, Atlanta, and San Diego
Three down, three to go.
The IRS Nationwide Tax Forums in Orlando, San Diego, and Atlanta have come and gone. You may remember the preview of the conferences we provided a few weeks ago, which went over the different venues that were planning to host them and the various programs they would feature for tax specialists. Now that a few of them have actually taken place, though, we thought it might be time for an update on how they went and what the Refundo team was up to while we were out there.
The IRS kicked off the first of its tax forums at the Hilton Orlando from June 19th-21st, with some of the latecomers and overflow registrations spilling into the Rosen Centre. According to Dan Meyers of the tax blog Tick Marks, somewhere in the ballpark of 2,500 people attended the convention. Some conflicting estimates also emerged, however. In the press release put out by Fast Forward Academy, LLC, their president, Matt McBride, placed the figure closer to 3,000. Atlanta’s Marriott Marquis played host to the second annual IRS Tax Forum, and was by all accounts a huge affair (with something like 3,000-4,000 people), though official numbers have not yet been forthcoming.
Either way, the overall number of attendees only mattered to a relative degree: the thing that really counted was the kind of buzz circulating on the convention floor. During the trade show exhibitions, different companies got the chance to unveil their products and compete for the conventioneers’ attention. Bill San Giacamo, a new member of our team, attended the 2011 forum before joining us. He said it felt like fewer people came this year, at least in Orlando. But that wasn’t the real takeaway for him. “From a Refundo perspective,” he stated, “it was busier than ever.”
In between classes — the IRS tax seminars required for recertification — visiting EROs and tax preparers got to wander around and tour the different booths and demo rooms in the conference halls. Most of the companies that set up shop there were allotted normal 8 × 10 spaces. Some of the older, more established companies (ahem, Tax Wise, cough, cough) bought quadruple the normal space in order to throw their weight around, hoping to substitute flashiness for innovation. But as the old saying goes, “Size isn’t everything…”
As it turns out, age isn’t everything either. Around this time last year our crew (with its whopping total of four members) showed up to its first exhibition in Dallas. Assigned to an unenviable location somewhere toward the back of the exhibition, the odds didn’t exactly favor our upstart company.
To compound our difficulties, there was the even further problem that people might not take us seriously. This is where the problem of apparent youth and inexperience came in. At that time, the mean age of our team was probably only around 26 or 27. You have to understand that this is an industry where everyone is supposed to put in their time, do the rounds, and pay their respects. So people tended to think of us as punks. All this forced us to do, however, was to think on our feet and make do with what was available. We had to get by on the strength of our product alone. People were easily impressed by our software and the savings it represented. Luckily, this was more than enough for us to go on. The software was a hit, and the team built on its unexpected initial success with the trade shows that followed.
Giving a demo at the Atlanta convention
Still, given all difficulties , the naysayers and skeptics may perhaps be forgiven for expecting we wouldn’t last. At the Orlando Tax Forum a few weeks ago, Roger ironically observed that “most participants were surprised to see we were there again this year.” Not only were we there this year, our double booth was fully equipped with cushioned hardwood floors, half a dozen Macs, iPads, iPhones, and a large screen TV (a big improvement from the year before).
Moreover, what people seemed most taken aback by was the new look of the Refundo team. All the young guns are there from last year, but this time around we’ve added a few veterans to the mix, as well. “People who remembered us from last year were also surprised that our team had grown and brought on some industry veterans,” Roger remarked. Grimaldy seemed to concur:
I think the biggest difference this year was the addition of well-connected people in the industry. That seemed to shock a lot of people. In matter of months we were able to bridge the gap from being a bunch of youngsters in the game to having a crew that’s been in it for a long, long time. So there was a huge turnaround in terms of our credibility from last year. Our software just works, so that’s been consistent for us. What has been restructured is the team, and I think that’s a big part of the buzz.
Although some veterans have come to our team, the culture has not changed. Our team is made up of pioneers and rebels, despite our age. Our focus as a team is to disrupt this market. Based on reactions from both tax preparers as well as the industry, it’s working.