After a groundbreaking recovery period in 2021, we saw businesses struggling to adapt to the latest version of the "new normal" in 2022 with rising interest rates and shrinking valuations. As we enter 2023, companies are cutting down their cash burn, choosing long-term optionality over bold bets, and actively prioritizing profitability over growth.
The onus of expertly navigating this climate of uncertainty and steering organizations through strategy shifts falls on the modern CFOs. In an Accenture survey, 93% of CFOs agree the responsibility they've been entrusted with today feels much more significant than in the past.
While macroeconomic slowdowns make companies instinctively want to cut expenditures across the board, strategic CFOs understand the need to remain mindful of the long-term picture and not cut into your revenue engines that fuel sustainable growth.
This ebook outlines five strategies the modern CFO can deploy to tackle the upcoming economic turbulence without steering off course from their long-term goals.
The answer is short and simple - Time!
The overarching lesson in the past two years has been the resounding importance of acting decisively and quickly in the face of change. Impactful contextual data-driven decision-making demands the right insights at the right time. So while CFOs typically have visibility across the organization, the ones who outperform their peers enable frameworks that bring insights from the trenches to the boardroom as quickly as possible. To achieve this, finance automation becomes a critical tool in the modern CFO's arsenal.
Gartner says 78% of CFOs will increase or maintain enterprise digital investments through 2023, even if inflation persists. Robust infrastructure and intelligent automation technology help build a foundation for resilient success. Having the right system and strategy in place frees up your time to experiment with growth segments and pricing models.
The average CFO loses 25% of their time every week to activities that can be automated.
Automating these tasks will enable you to spend more time on strategy and reimagining the finance function to carve out a more innovative role for yourself in your company’s success.
“One of the most important growth drivers is the resiliency of operating under a lot of change and dealing with a lot of adversity. Another one is the ability to thrive in the midst of that change and to innovate and reinvent our business models, reinvent our engagement models.”
- Russell Lester, CFO, Calendly
To be able to adapt and innovate quickly, you need is a robust revenue infrastructure to match your revenue ambitions. A system that is agile, helps you get rid of the existing FinOps inefficiencies plaguing you and also enables you to unlock new growth opportunities.
Sounds too good to be true, so let’s break it down a little more.
How can a Modern CFO unlock sustainable growth? You can do that in two parts:
1. Improve the efficiency of existing revenue streams
Identify and reduce revenue leakage
Improve the efficiency of the team with automation
2. Unlock new revenue streams
Maximize revenue with pricing experiments
Pivot to new business models
Drive decisions with in-depth reporting
As a SaaS CFO, the two growth pillars for your business are improving existing revenue streams and unlocking new revenue streams. Let’s look at the first part - how can you plug the leaks in your revenue flow?
SaaS revenue cycles are unique and ensuring that there are no inefficiencies and leakages is critically important. A CFO should partner with the revenue org to increase the efficiency of the revenue streams as well as your team.
In the world of subscriptions, there is always more revenue to be earned after the initial purchase. So businesses need to focus constantly on increasing the average lifetime value of customers they fought so hard to acquire. CFOs should dive deeply into retention and churn to understand how they can improve the inefficiencies in their current revenue cycles.
Did you know that 20-30% of your churn comes from credit card failures? Spotting, cross-checking, and following up on this lost revenue wastes your team's time and effort. Despite such efforts, some of that revenue will invariably remain unrecovered.
An inefficient receivables process can leak ~3% of revenue, even with an ERP. Automating your accounts receivables process can give you visibility into payment failures, provide a more transparent customer experience, and reduce your collection costs. Investing in an A/R tool can take a big bite out of your involuntary churn.
Similarly, retention is an untapped lever that can power your growth in the absence of shiny new sales. It's always been more (5x to 6x) expensive to acquire new customers than to retain your existing ones. During an economic slowdown, this differential becomes even more significant for businesses cutting down on spending.
Businesses that double down on retention are poised to reduce churn, increase customer lifetime value and realize more revenue from their existing customer base. Building a churn deflection funnel in the place of static cancel flows can help you glean insights into why your customers are churning and the type of offers that can get them to stay.
Source: 2022 Retention for eCommerce Subscriptions: The Ultimate Cheat Sheet
You can analyze churn rates in cohorts or customer segments by testing and trying retention experiments. Segmenting your customers according to revenue size or lifetime value can also guide future strategies.
Takeaway: Even incremental reduction in churn can significantly impact revenue maximization. CFOs equipped to tackle churn proactively can insulate their organizations in the face of reduced demand.
CFOs need to look into automation to improve productivity and reduce manual errors.
According to a 2021 report, 60% of traditional finance tasks are now automated, up from 34% in 2018. The number in 2023 would be a lot higher. With many time-consuming and error-prone processes like reconciliation and quote-to-cash workflows, there are a lot of efficiency gains to be realized in the finance function.
An example of automation as a vehicle of growth is Coorpacademy. They were losing a chunk of time and efficiency to siloed processes between sales, success, and finance teams. Automation helped their teams smoothly navigate the quote-to-cash workflows without any costly errors.
Today when you see a legacy finance system, such as ERP accounting systems or tax automation software, it is vital to understand that it was created to support one-time transactions for product-centered models. Organizations relying on these legacy systems suffer from their bulkiness and have blind spots that lead to scalability issues.
By automating tedious tasks, the finance team has more time to work on things beyond spreadsheets which empowers them and makes their work more growth-centric.
Takeaway: CFOs can now rely on automation as an ally to help optimize processes, save time, improve productivity, and reduce costs.
CFOs need to take a step back, understand the current revenue trajectory, and forge new revenue streams while partnering strategically with the GTM functions. Here are some strategies to help you achieve that:
PwC’s CFO Pulse Survey suggests that two out of five CFOs feel that growth opportunities can come from pricing changes. Since pricing can make or break a business, it is usually an iterative process, and until you find the pricing that works for you, you should experiment with different models. Continual pricing improvements have a significant impact on revenue growth in the longer run.
CFOs should make informed decisions about,
Geography based portfolio
Feasibility of premiums affecting working capital
Risk analysis of potential pricing changes
For example, Superfoods Company, a top-selling effervescent tablet globally, has 200,000 subscribers and a growing subscriber base for its product. The company achieved 4x growth in revenue within 12 months because of its effective planning and efficient execution.
“Our philosophy as a company is to not spend months deciding the right price prior to launching a new product. We go with what we think makes sense initially and then use the Chargebee platform to A/B test and decide on the optimal price.”
- Paul Kapsner, Director of Finance, Superfoods Company
If you're a CFO looking to monetize their product better, value-based pricing models might be the way to go. By pricing your product as a function of the user's perceived value, you stand to deliver a more transparent experience to your users and increase the overall trustworthiness of your brand. Penetration of usage-based billing is expected to be 56% among SaaS companies in 2023.
Regardless of the pricing models you want to experiment with, you need the right revenue infrastructure to pricing and plan changes. Pricing experiments shouldn’t have to be long-haul projects. The right tech stack should enable you to run pricing experiments at the flip of a switch and, more importantly, allow you to make mistakes and course correct. This agility aids in growth as you can identify the correct pricing points to service up-market or down-market whenever necessary to meet market demands and increase revenue.
Takeaway: The CFOs should focus on the strategy behind pricing decisions and adopt an agile tech stack that helps them scale to meet market demands.
Pivoting business models can help growing businesses adapt to existing market turbulence, switch to more profitable business models, and make way into new markets.
Startups are often known to pivot quickly and capitalize on new opportunities owing to their agility. However, as a business scales, it is challenging to maintain that agility while you walk toward growth. Sophistication comes with scale but it doesn’t have to be at the cost of your agility - in fact, this agility to capture new markets can in fact be a differentiator for your business.
During the covid-19 pandemic, Pret launched a coffee subscription to reclaim its old business volume. You could order five drinks a day, seven days a week, for a fixed monthly fee. In 2022, Moviepass relaunched its monthly movie ticket subscription plan, capitalizing on the increasing interest in in-person experiences. . An innovative idea, executed well, could transform into an additional revenue stream.
As a CFO of a scaling business, you should evaluate new market opportunities and gauge your business’s ability to act with agility. For example, is the technology stack scalable? Are existing processes fluid enough to accommodate changes? Say your SaaS currently has a sales-driven workflow, you should be able to scale confidently by setting your entire subscription workflow on autopilot with a self-serve capability without affecting your revenue workflows.
A Cloud Guru, an e-learning platform, leveraged self-serve workflows and automated them completely to open a new revenue stream. A Cloud Guru has joined the $100 million revenue club just five years after launching.
Takeaway: CFOs should evaluate new business models to open up revenue streams that can be captured. If your SaaS is agile enough to pivot business models and do so quickly, it gives the business a competitive advantage to stay ahead of the curve.
During crisis mode, you need all hands on deck and complete visibility into the trenches. CFOs trying to adapt and keep up with macro changes need real-time contextual data to guide their decisions. Research by PwC revealed 90% of all companies are looking to improve decision-making through digitization initiatives, with CFOs spending 18.5% of their time working on these projects. Without the right tools, it sets back these leaders to excavate data-driven insights to help the CEOs wade through digital transformations.
As a CFO, you’re not only responsible for the financial well-being of your organization, but you are also responsible for the growth strategy and sharing accurate reports to your stakeholders.
But acquiring the required financial data is no easy task. With more metrics to gauge, choosing the right metrics to track growth and share it with the C-suite becomes challenging.
CFOs need to have a dashboard designed to help them gauge the business’s health with real-time insights and provide instant forecasts.
Financial reports offer a wealth of insight that can streamline your business’s fiscal activities. This report should be built from the basics, with primary KPIs covering costs, sales goals, gross profits, and customer satisfaction figures and further followed with deeper metrics such as working capital, cash flow, and budgets. You should also closely track metrics that highlight the return on investment in the form of return on equity, return on assets, debt-equity ratio, working capital ratio, P/E ratio, and so on.
During uncertain times, proactive CFOs prefer to revisit their revenue goals and forecasts to course-correct them more frequently than usual. CFOs need a well-integrated dashboard that can cover all of these metrics and bring them up with just a single click.
Takeaway: Financial reporting is crucial because it acts as a checkpoint for the CFO to gauge the company’s health and take measures to course-correct if required.
The evolving role of the modern CFO is an oft-repeated theme in finance circles. In today’s volatile macro environment, CFOs need to put in place an automated, adaptive revenue management strategy that offers a smooth, error-free experience for their customers while helping the business unlock growth opportunities. That’s why we built Chargebee to offer multiple, modular solutions under one umbrella: recurring billing, receivables, revenue recognition, and retention. Chargebee enables efficient, sustainable growth, better customer acquisition, and increased customer LTV without compromising compliance and operational excellence.
If you'd like to automate your recurring revenue lifecycle and get started on the journey to adaptive revenue management, get in touch with us, and we'll take it forward from there.