I had the privilege to speak at Gusto Next this year. Gusto Next is an annual conference that brings tax professionals together to discuss the future of the accounting industry.
Gusto Next was held on Oct 21st. If you’re a tax professional, the timing is spot on. You’ve probably spent the last couple months tactically executing on tax returns for both the September 15th and October 15th filing deadlines. I can’t think of a better time to take a break from the craziness of the day to day than to spend some time thinking of the future and equipping yourself with more knowledge and tools.
Personally, the timing wasn’t great – while preparing my presentation for Gusto Next, I was also leading my team in helping our customers claim R&D tax credits by the October 15th deadline. We even had a customer who called us on the night of October 14th, hoping to claim their R&D credit the next day. And our team of superstars, supported by our leading edge tech, were able to take the challenge on and get it done!
That didn’t leave me with enough time to work with my design team to fine tune my presentation for Gusto Next. We had a decent enough version completed, but I wanted to provide better illustrations and reorder some slides.
So I had to be that guy event planners hate. And I had to have that awkward conversation:
Me: Excuse me, but I need to change some slides in my presentation.
Event Planner: You want to change the slides?
Event Planner: How many?
Me: A few. But I may need to rearrange the order.
Event Planner: All of them?
Event Planner: Well, what about the script?
Me: That too.
The response I got initially was no – not going to happen. So I just stuck around, getting to know them, and by the time the event was done, we had become good friends. And yes, they were kind enough to allow me to change my slides and script!
What I quickly learned through observation was their excellence in event organization and planning. That was clearly their jam. (A slightly close second observation was that if you don’t see the trouble-maker in the room, chances are it’s you!)
And as I got to know them, they told me about a group that wanted to invest in them and take about X percent. Putting my VC investor hat on, I asked them if they had considered potential exit strategies, and whether they had sat down as partners / shareholders to discuss what their objectives were. From problem child to trusted advisor, I started to facilitate these types of questions and conversations over the course of the next few days.
On the last day, as we were packing up, I offered some final words of advice.
- How to maximize your exit strategy
“I thought a lot about your plan to take on an investor and exit. When you’re in the service industry, your valuation multiple is only half X to maybe two X at best. Have you considered building software to help you actually manage event planning? If you have software that augments your service, the software gets highlighted. And you can potentially get somewhere between a 10 to 20X valuation on software.”
- Uncover R&D tax credits
“Everything that you’ve learned for the last X number of years, if you roll that knowledge into building your software, that knowledge and experience can qualify as feasibility for R&D. So a lot of the expenses you’ve already paid out learning about what you want to build in your software could actually be claimed as R&D in the early stages.”
And now I’m working with the event planning company to see how they might actually grow their business even further. From franchising to event planning software, there’s a lot of potential ideas for growth.
At Ardius, we call this our Innovation Plan. Even if you don’t qualify today, we can help you think of ways you can potentially qualify for future years.