Three finance leaders of successful SaaS businesses explain how they grow their businesses fast and sustainably.
In this post, we share three key points from a recent roundtable discussion hosted by Place. Watch a replay of the event below!
- Rick Faint, CFO of Cadalys
- David Kelly, CFO of Qstream
- Brandon Metcalf, CEO and Founder of Place
- Rob Bruce, Independent Consultant
1: Get finance and the rest of the business working from shared data
The panel agreed that everyone across the business needs access to up-to-date financial information. That is an important driver of growth.
Rick Faint said: “Being able to have a place where people can go to where we are all working with the same data even as things are changing fast, is a huge contribution to success”.
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Dave Kelly said: “Everyone across the business works with data that is important to them. In the CFOs chair, it can feel very hard to keep all of that data up to date if you are using disparate systems. Finding a resource that is that single source of truth so these key roles are working together in real-time with same data is critical to success.”
People in the business don’t always see the importance of accurate data being shared across sales, marketing, operations, Dave explained. “In that case, it becomes finance’s job to put the data in context, to explain it language that they can understand.”
Place CEO Brandon Metcalf recalled his time running his previous business Talent Rover where he operated the business from a massive Excel spreadsheet called “the Beast’: “My whole world was spent crunching the numbers just so I could get to the numbers - I didn’t have much time left to explain the numbers!”
Having a software solution that “brings the financial information to where the business people are” makes it simple for them to stay informed.
RIck said: “Being able to wed the CRM to the ERP and that it is based on Salesforce is extremely helpful. I don't have to leave the screen I am working on to see all the activity around a particular deal - so I can make my own judgment about when it is likely to close.“
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2: Empower people at every level to make decisions
The panel agreed that for a fast-growing SaaS business to succeed, it must be dynamic. If decisions routinely get pushed upwards, that slows down the rate of growth. In that lost time when people are waiting for a decision from above, opportunities get missed; and problems worsen.
Stakeholders who have access to the right financial information are in a better position to deliver customer success, attract new and repeat business and improve the bottom line. They can see what the effect of certain choices will be on margin. They can see, for instance, how long it takes for customers to become profitable and understand the critical importance of retaining them.
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The data “doesn’t make decisions” by itself, Dave said. “My sales, my marketing, my executive team have access to real-time information, from what is in our pipeline to what the revenue recognition, cashflow implications of that are - now the data is starting to do something, it is starting to get used!”
Dave added: “I don't think there is any employee in any organization that shouldn’t have the appropriate amount of info at their fingertips. There are decisions being made every day that affect the business. Having that real-time information generally makes those decisions better. Real-time info also goes up to the boardroom - it needs to be as up-to-date as possible otherwise those decisions can have serious dollar implications.”
3: Continually review and adjust the plan
The panel agreed the business’s plans have to be continually adjusted in line with reality. Financial data is really a way to see the big picture. Rather than seeing individual teams as having separate targets and budgets, they are joined up. Each decision has implications for the whole business. The numbers are a way of measuring that. In a dynamic SaaS business, Dave described that: “finance has a seat at every table, transitioning into a strategic partner role, listening digesting and then giving feedback about the decisions.
Dave said: “I make it very well known, whether in forecasting or planning, these are not ‘my’ numbers. Whether we are talking to sales or marketing I ask what do you envisage, let’s build it up from the ground”.
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Rick said: “I often say that the ideas people come up with are not bad ideas - but you can’t fund every one of them. Where stakeholders are in the loop about the financial situation, they are in a better position to prioritize which changes can have the most critical implications for where the business is today.”
For example, bringing onboard more new customers than planned has implications for the demands that will be made on customer success. An agile SaaS business will respond to that immediately, whatever the recruitment plan says.
Brandon said “as soon as I lock down the annual budget, it is out of date. We roll off an agile forecast where we can change as the business changes and it can change in real-time to take account of all the different factors that happen in the business - if the marketing team wants to spend more than the plan they have to explain what the impact will be on the business.”
Making informed decisions based on good data drives success
In a dynamic business, informed decisions are made at all levels. It is not just the CEO or the CFO - people across the business understand the financials and use them to make well-informed choices. That can positively impact a lot of important metrics - from margin and profitability to customer success.
Equip your go-to-market and finance teams with the connection they need.
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