[IMGCAP(2)] I attended Avalara’s A-List Event back in September, right before my husband fell, had emergency knee surgery, and spent some time in orthopedic rehab. Needless to say, I was a little preoccupied and didn’t really have the chance to write about the awesome time I had.

Better late than never, though, right?

It was a great event and I highly recommend their local event when it comes to your part of town.

So, are you curious, yet? Here’s the play by play from my experience:

My team member and I took the train downtown. We talked about how nice it was to get out of the office and take the train to the event. I travel for industry events and conferences but this was a refreshing change. We allotted half a day to hyper focus on SALT (State and Local Tax) or more importantly the new opportunities on how we could possibly include SALT within our practice.

The event was at Willis Tower - aka the Sears Tower for anyone who is from Chicago. It was a short walk from the train, through security and the never-ending elevator to a high floor. Can you tell I don’t get downtown much? We were greeted by the executive team of Avalara. Yes, the executive team not some sales reps. I liked this. And do I even have to say they were all wearing orange? Well, they were.

We listened to some really knowledgeable local SALT audit experts. The audit experts shared tidbits from a real-life audit engagement. It was cool to watch my team member agree with the expert and the room laugh knowingly at how strange an Illinois sales tax audit can be. We received practical tips on how to respond in various sales tax audit situations and statistics on how Illinois audits typically go. Overall, I really enjoyed the CPE and the question and answer period that followed. I’m kind of geeky that way.

Then we split into two groups, I went into the partner room and I sent my team member into the product room with the business customers. She liked her demo and questions and I learned more about how Avalara will support us as resellers of their SALT solutions.

Then the bar opened!

We were able to network and chat before dinner. We were also invited to go to “the top” of Willis Tower on their sky deck and look down. I opted out of that, but I heard it was really cool. It was also rainy so we had quite the storm view from the sky windows.

At this point, there were approximately 40 people in attendance; one quarter were CPAs, one quarter were either business owners or corporate accountant types from businesses all over the map in size, one quarter were Avalara people and another quarter were software consultants. It was a wonderfully diverse group of people to get to know.  

We ate our dinner and had to run to catch the train home. We didn’t win the door prizes. (Bummer!)

Overall, it was a delightful event. It wasn’t sales-y. It was just good, relevant information for practicing CPAs on how to implement Avalara’s SALT technology within a practice and learn from some outside experts.

Software such as Avalara is an integral part of our firms today. Get used to it. 

Their tools are replacing labor. This is a good thing. We are still the SALT experts - they are just helping us with the busy work of a sales tax return.

Yet, in general, so many vendors don’t understand how to interact with us. They try to sell us too hard. A word to the wise: We don’t want to be sold that way. Trust us, once we see the value, we will buy. We have to buy because their software is so relevant to our firms and our customers. 

Vendors, learn something from Avalara in how to treat your partners. Give us good relevant CPE and don’t try to sell to us and we will become raving fans.

And for CPAs, take a chance! Get out of the office and learn how a new technology can have a positive impact on your practice. It’s worth it.

Jody Padar, CPA, MST, is the chief executive officer and principal at New Vision CPA Group and the author of The Radical CPA (www.theradicalcpa.com).