Despite having started off my first ever trip to the USA with some serious Disneyland tourist action, I was of course in Anaheim, California for work purposes – specifically to help man the Touchwork booth at NACUFS IDEA ’16, the 2016 national conference for NACUFS, otherwise known as the National Association of College & University Food Services.
In case you are wondering the connection, Touchwork’s main business focus is providing a platform and solutions in the CX (Customer Experience) space, something we’ve historically enjoyed great success in implementing in the USA university dining services sector. (Our biggest market by far).
Our USA office, led up by Johann Leitner and Carl Mostert, routinely hits the dining services conference circuit in order to cement existing relationships and turn up a few more opportunities in the university space, with Touchwork SA occasionally sending someone (i.e. me this time around) up for the experience.
Of course, this then meant finding a shirt and ironing it first (as a mostly work from home software developer, shirts aren’t something I actually own), before making my way to the Anaheim Convention Center in order to help set up our booth, grab a coffee, and then spend the rest of the day standing around and speaking to anyone who shows even the slightest glimmer of interest in what we have to offer.
Surprisingly, it went pretty well, and I pulled in some nice leads for the team, so come close of day I ended up being rather chuffed with myself (I’m not known for being a people person).
This went on for two days, the length of the showcase/exhibition part of the NACUFS IDEA ’16 conference (which itself ran for about four days).
It wasn’t all work though. The first evening we attended the NACUFS event party, catching the finals of the NACUFS Culinary Challenge, essentially a live Chef food preparation battle as what you would see on DSTV’s Food Network channel or something like that.
Asking the question, it turns out that dining services are in fact big business for American universities. A lot of prestige can be found in this function, hence the focus on profession chefs, and quite often this service is used as a class differentiation between institutions!
(Who knew that someone might actually pick a university based entirely on what food it has on offer!)
We also ended up bumping into one of our very good clients at that same party, and as such decided to leave the bustle behind and head out for a quiet supper with them instead – ending up at a particularly brilliant/upmarket steak place (Ruth’s Chris Steak House) where I ate what was probably the best steak of my life. (Mind you, the wine and conversation were just as good!)
On that note, the second evening after work wasn’t bad either – Carl and Johann decided that catching a baseball game was very much something that I as a first time USA visitor needed to do, a sentiment which I (who played baseball as a kid) most heartily agreed with!
Pictures of that particular outing a little later, I assure you.
So. NACUFS IDEA ’16 appears to have been a decent success, but more specifically for me, was a great opportunity to see how Touchwork utilizes and sells my software on that side of the world, the end result being me given a much clearer idea of what software development our US office needs going forward.
Still, given the amount of tourist things I did along the way sure makes it difficult to think of #USA2016 as a pure business trip! ;)