Startup CFOs in 2021

We dig into what a CFO needs to succeed with insights from La-Z-Boy and a16z.
Startup CFOs in 2021

In our series of startup CFO blog posts, we have always argued that the challenges modern CFOs face are very varied. A 2021 CFO is not just about finance. She needs to understand the business as a CEO would, but also understand what’s behind the numbers.

The modern startup CFO is a lot more than finance

Melinda Whittington, CFO of the iconic furniture manufacturer La-Z-Boy, sums up these varied challenges really well in a recent Forbes interview: “as the CFO, you have to keep an unwavering eye on the ‘must-dos’ – including excellent accounting and controls and cash management. Leveraging continuous improvement and technological enhancements, like robotic process automation, are imperative to improving efficiency and enabling resources to take on new challenges.” And that’s where the real work comes in. New tech, new challenges, and continuous improvement.

Nowadays in tech companies, all those things are mostly done through SaaS. And a 2021 CFO needs to know this very well. Because she needs to figure out the right processes for the company to scale. And today, that’s done with SaaS. 

Which SaaS? That’s a great question, and one only a great 2021 CFO would have a perfect answer for. Because the CFO today needs to have the skills to know which SaaS to bring in for payroll, stock, expenses, payments, billing, bank relationships, treasury, analytics, financial planning, procurement… Just to name a few. And she also needs to try to integrate these tools with one another into a coherent process.

Let’s dive into this particular struggle.

The modern CFO needs better tools

We wanted to reference a particular blog post by a16z in our line of thought. As they say, the COVID crisis has forced businesses to make difficult decisions on resource allocation and cash flow planning.  And “the person most critical in helping the CEO make those high-stakes calls —the CFO—is more vital than ever.” In other words: “over the years, the CFO role has become highly strategic.”

Having said that, the Californian venture fund is also very frank in expressing its thoughts about the current CFO Suite. They believe that the finance tools available haven’t kept pace with the demands on a modern CFO. They claim that “none of these software products integrates with each other and none of the data flows from one product to another.” And that’s only in the finance team. Apparently, “these products don’t connect to other key systems for sales, HR, and marketing functions.” So that means that a lot of manual tasks and email chasing has to go on every month.

And that is an extraordinary waste for businesses everywhere. ModernCFOs are high-performers and strategic thinkers. They add tons of value to the company when they can focus on finance strategy and financial planning. It makes no sense having them doing manual, repetitive tasks. Huge value is being lost.

Then, what do we do?

The future of the CFO Suite

At Cledara, we believe that the CFO Suite deserves an upgrade. It needs easier integrations and it needs to eliminate repetitive tasks that waste CFOs time. 

That's why we built Cledara. We were the first SaaS management platform integrated with Xero. And we are also integrated into Gmail to automate SaaS invoices collection and reconciliation. Because we don’t want CFOs wasting their time. 

Other than integrations and repetitive work, there is something else CFOs need to be aware of in 2021. Cybersecurity. couldn’t say it clearer, as they claim that one of the top five priorities for CFOs in 2021 is to “make cybersecurity a business-critical priority”. SaaS platforms can be very risky if not managed properly. 

Customer and company data are stored in many of them, and it’s not wise to expose your company to get one of those platforms compromised. So we decided to build a SaaSOps solution to reduce the risk of that happening. Ticketmaster, BA and Marriot are some examples of companies that got fined for a breach because of one of their SaaS tools in the last quarter of 2020, just to name a few.

CFOs are more important than ever, and that translates in them needing better tools than ever before. So let’s get on with it.

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This post was inspired by questions provided by people like you. We love receiving new and interesting questions that help us think about data in new ways. If you found this post interesting, you might like to learn which are the future of the CFO suite take a look at our blog posts!

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