A SaaS controller is a senior finance executive who oversees the accounting operations and financial planning for a software-as-a-service company. As SaaS businesses operate on a subscription-based model with recurring revenue, the controller plays a key role in forecasting, budgeting, and ensuring the company’s finances are managed effectively.
The main responsibilities of a SaaS controller include:
- Managing the accounting team and financial reporting processes
- Ensuring accurate and timely monthly, quarterly, and annual financial statements
- Developing financial models and forecasts for revenue, growth, and expenses
- Driving the budgeting process and financial planning
- Implementing and monitoring internal controls and accounting procedures
- Ensuring compliance with accounting regulations and standards
- Providing strategic guidance to executives on financial metrics and performance
- Identifying opportunities to optimize profits, cash flow, and financial operations
- Overseeing accounting systems implementation and integration
- Leading the evaluation and selection of financial software and tools
- Partnering with HR on compensation planning and headcount budgets
The controller role is critical in a SaaS company to guide strategic business decisions using financial insights, manage recurring revenue streams, and plan for future growth and profitability. Their financial expertise helps steer the company towards long-term success.
When should a SaaS Company Hire a Controller?
A SaaS company should consider hiring a controller when its annual recurring revenue (ARR) reaches around $1 million. At this stage, the business has likely achieved product-market fit and is ready to scale.
In the early startup days, a SaaS company can outsource its finance and accounting needs to bookkeepers and accountants. But as revenue grows and operations become more complex, it helps to bring on a seasoned SaaS controller.
A controller leads the accounting department and oversees core financial processes – from expense management to financial reporting, payroll, accounts payable/receivable, taxation, and compliance.
With subscription revenue streams, the finance function is critical for data-driven decisions on cash flow, bookkeeping, and accounting systems. An experienced controller provides rigor, best practices, and dedicated leadership.
Around $2 million ARR, it becomes prudent to hire a full-time controller rather than completely outsource finance. At this stage, the risks and costs of financial errors outweigh the expense of an in-house controller.
And with $20 million in VC funding, a SaaS company needs to demonstrate financial accountability and have robust metrics. A VP Finance or other senior finance executive is usually expected.
Qualifications when Hiring a SaaS Controller?
The ideal SaaS controller should have:
- A bachelor’s degree in accounting or finance, with a CPA license or other advanced certification
- 10+ years of experience in accounting and finance roles, with expertise in SaaS financial operations
- Proficiency in GAAP, IFRS, and staying compliant with accounting regulations
- Hands-on experience with accounting software, ERPs, and data analysis
- Strong analytical abilities to interpret financial data and insights
- Excellent communication skills to relay financial information clearly
- Attention to detail and accuracy in reporting and processes
- Leadership abilities to manage the accounting team and workflows
- Knowledge of best practices in SaaS accounting, including managing revenue streams, expenses, payroll, AP/AR, taxation, and more
- Ability to implement scalable finance systems and controls as the company grows
The ideal candidate will have the technical accounting skills, leadership experience, and SaaS-specific expertise to handle the complex finances of a subscription business model and guide strategic decisions.
Does Your Company Need a SaaS Controller?
Whether your company needs a SaaS controller or not heavily depends on the scale and complexity of your accounting workflows. If your company is in its early stages, focusing on product-market fit with the founder overseeing the accounting team, you might not immediately need a SaaS controller.
However, as your company grows and your accounting workflows become more complex, the presence of a SaaS controller to provide oversight, verify and validate transactions during monthly or quarterly closes becomes more valuable.
Hence, if you are seeing growth and complexity in your transactions, or if errors are starting to creep into your accounting processes, it may be time to consider bringing on a SaaS controller.
Difference of Financial Controller vs CFO (Chief Financial Officer)?
The financial controller is responsible for overseeing the accounting operations and financial reporting within an organization. Their key duties include:
- Managing the day-to-day accounting functions like accounts payable/receivable, payroll, fixed assets, etc.
- Preparing and analyzing financial statements like income statements, balance sheets, cash flow statements.
- Ensuring accounting policies and procedures adhere to GAAP standards.
- Implementing and monitoring internal financial controls.
- Reconciling accounts and managing the monthly/quarterly/yearly close process.
- Producing financial reports and analysis for management.
The CFO holds a more senior strategic leadership position focused on high-level financial planning and management. Their responsibilities include:
- Developing financial strategy aligned with the organization’s short and long-term goals.
- Providing guidance and analysis to support budgeting, forecasting and capital allocation decisions.
- Communicating financial performance and risks to the CEO, board and investors.
- Managing fundraising, acquisitions, capital markets and banking relationships.
- Implementing processes for financial monitoring and controls.
- Overseeing treasury functions like cash management, debt financing, equity management.
- Leading finance teams like controllers, treasurers, auditors.