How SaaS Leaders Can Make Smart Decisions and Keep Investors in the Loop
Recently, we were setting up our forecasting & planning product for a client, and specifically the P&L forecast and cash projections. The CEO of the company came to us, frazzled, saying that he didn’t really need any of this information, and that he was looking for something else.
It turns out that what he really needed to run the business was a specific set of reports that came from their investors at Craft Ventures. They had been exporting tons of data from Salesforce and going through the intensely manual process of running calculations in Excel and populating complex pivot tables and setting up growth charts.
Of course, we immediately changed gears to work toward setting up what the client needed. But this situation led to a lot of conversations at Place over the last several months, which in turn has led to our increasing focus on subscription management and bookings. Previously, we’d been largely looking at everything post revenue, but now we’ve added the capability to monitor bookings and billings to offset revenue.
As an organization that’s purpose-built for SaaS companies, we realized that what our founders — and their investors — need is a software solution that they can use as an operating system for their business.
Marketing, sales, bookings, revenues, billings, and reporting — all in one solution
Many SaaS CEOs are not finance people. They don’t really care how the numbers are created, and they don’t really want to look at spreadsheets. They just want the metrics they need in order to run the business in a very simple way and to deliver critical info to their investors.
It’s the same with the head of sales, head of marketing, and really all of the department heads. They just want to know what the number is and where they’re at versus the benchmark they’ve set. They don’t want to have to learn five different systems to try and piecemeal information together, and they don’t want to do the (probably outsourced) finance team’s job. Because the finance team’s job is incredibly time-consuming, and they have to balance time spent calculating important metrics and actually running the business.
To meet these needs, we’ve really dialed in to the reports and dashboards you need to visualize the financial workings of your business. Place has become a platform that you can use to fully manage and run a SaaS-based software company. All of these metrics are interconnected, and as you go through your workflow, your metrics and reporting will happen pretty seamlessly and automatically.
For instance, as sales come in, they’ll trigger the creation of opportunities under each client account. If the client adds things or removes things from their subscription, the dashboard will create additional opportunities accordingly. Eventually, it will create a renewal for that subscription.
This is really similar to what the Craft Ventures client was trying to do. The data they were reporting off of was all in Salesforce, and they were trying to manipulate it from a program standpoint. But ultimately, they couldn’t get Salesforce to produce what they needed, because Salesforce out of the box just isn’t designed for trend-based analysis.
What Salesforce could not be programmed to do for this client, Place can do
And it even takes things a step further — into real time and beyond. When our client was manually calculating these metrics, they produced reports that were just a snapshot of a moment in time. With Place, as they win deals, their reports update automatically.
Of course, it’s important to look at your company’s stats historically, but it’s even more critical to look forward. You want to be able to report off of what you’ve done, but also report off of what you think you’re going to be able to do in a variety of different scenarios.
That’s how you can thoughtfully create your rolling plan — the plan that you’re managing to every day. You can look at your budget, what you committed to doing over the year, your best case, and your worst case. These four scenarios will produce four different forward-looking metrics that will help you make the best decision possible.
Plus, it will help investors easily see the health of the businesses in their portfolios.
No two SaaS companies are alike, and your solution should reflect that
Growing SaaS companies need more than just the numbers delivered in an easy-to-understand way. They need a solution that is intentional about how the numbers are produced — and that’s going to be different for every company.
It’s easy to say that the two most important factors for a SaaS company are growth and net cash burn: How fast you’re growing versus how much cash you’re spending. But the devil is in the details of how you calculate each of these things. For example, are you basing growth off of when bookings happen or off of recognized revenue?
The differences in process among SaaS companies are many. Are you an enterprise sales product or an SMB sales product? Are you a product-led growth company or a sales-led growth company? The answers to these questions are going to affect everything from how you go to market to how you calculate cost of customer acquisition.
Cost of customer acquisition is a great example. How long of a look-back period are you going to use to figure out what costs went into acquiring a customer? What costs are you actually going to include? These answers are going to be different for every SaaS company.
And there really is no right or wrong answer. It’s all about what makes sense for your business and that you’re consistently reporting it the same way so your investors can understand exactly what’s going on.
Having a solution that can adapt to your business’s unique needs and allows your team to focus on execution rather than getting caught up in data analysis is key to accelerating sustainable growth.