Optimizing Your Back Office Tech Stack: A CFO's Guide for Early Stage Startups (Chris Seidensticker)

Effectively managing back-office operations of early stage startups may not feel like the highest priority for your company, and it's not. Developing and iterating upon your go-to-market strategy, achieving product market fit, continuing to build out your product's features and functionality—all these are a higher priority. But ignoring your back-office tech stack is not something you can afford to do either, especially if all that work on sales and product are effective, and you find yourself on a rocket ship. A flexible, efficient, and scalable tech stack with all the pieces integrating with each other will be crucial for financial efficiency and sustainable growth. Optimizing your tech stack in key areas such as expense management, revenue management, and payroll is essential for streamlined operations, accurate financial reporting, and cost savings.

Before getting in to the different areas of a company's tech stack, if optimization of that tech stack is not priority #1 for the founders, who should lead the charge in ensuring you're set up for success? In an ideal world, you've engaged a fractional CFO who can fully assess your company's needs, build a plan to allow you to understand your growth trajectory and what it will take to achieve those projections, and design a back-office architecture that will optimize your probability of successful scaling.

Expense Management
Efficient expense management is crucial for controlling costs and optimizing resource allocation. Sure, you can pay vendors out of QBO or even use Bill.com and get a couple of credit cards from your bank, but the overall expense management universe has evolved tremendously recently, and the controls, visibility, efficiently, and ease of use of options like Ramp, Brex, Divvy, and Airbase are leaps and bounds beyond what used to be available. For example, Ramp offers AI-powered algorithms that analyze expenses, identify savings opportunities, and provide real-time visibility for your entire leadership team. It offers vendor payments via ACH or check, credit cards, and employee expense reimbursement. It seamlessly integrates with accounting systems, automates reconciliation, and offers corporate card solutions with spending controls. On top of all that, if your credit card spend is large enough, Ramp is not only free, you'd also earn cash back!

Revenue Management
Optimizing revenue management processes is essential for accurate forecasting and sustainable growth. If you sell one product at one price to one customer segment, manage it all in QBO and bless your stars for having such a simple business model. But for the rest of us, a revenue management solution can make the difference between efficiently growing your company and having happy customers and missing invoices, missing collections, miscalculating revenue, and spending a massive amount of money down the road to clean up the entire mess. Revenue management solutions are as varied as revenue models, so have your CFO do their research to ensure that the solution chosen is the right size for where you are today and where you will be, given your projected growth, in 12-24 months. Look for solutions that are flexible, easy to use, and integrate well with your accounting system. Examples on the SaaS side include Maxio, TrueRev, Chargebee, and Recurly.

Efficient payroll management ensures accurate and timely payments while maintaining compliance. In today's mostly remote world, working with a payroll partner that minimizes or eliminates the administrative burden of multiple state payroll tax registrations and filings is paramount. Of course, not only do you need to pay your employees, but you also need to offer benefits and hopefully an intuitive interface for your employees to review their options and make their selections. Although Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs) are a popular option given their promise to offer outsourced HR support plus lower benefits costs, the reality oftentimes leads to frustration and false promises. PEOs are expensive, tend not to help as much as expected with compliance and taxes, and oftentimes don't achieve the benefits savings expected. Alternatives to PEOs include the standard-bearer, Gusto, and Rippling, which offers global payment features and employee hardware and onboarding management.

Optimizing your back-office tech stack as an early stage startup requires careful consideration of the right solutions but will ensure your company grows in as efficient a manner as possible and minimizes regulatory, compliance, and tax risks. For expense management, look for solutions that offer cost optimization and real-time expense monitoring. Revenue management depends on your company's requirements, but the more complex your product offering, pricing, and customer base, the more important it will be to work with a flexible, powerful, and easy to use revenue management system. Finally, your payroll system needs to ensure your team gets paid, compliance and tax requirements are fulfilled, and benefits are managed as efficiently as possible. Remember to assess your specific requirements, cost factors, and scalability needs before making final decisions. Engaging a fractional CFO will pay dividends galore in this area. By selecting the appropriate tech stack, you can drive efficiency, accuracy, and growth in your back office operations. Good luck!


Popular posts from this blog

Fractional vs Consultant (Karina Mikhli)

A Cost Comparison: Fractional Leaders vs. Full-Time Execs (Natalie Stones)

Is Going Fractional Right for You? (Karina Mikhli)