It’s not hard to find CFOs who profess a people-first view of what creates value for their companies. But Chris Lynch seems to walk the talk a bit more than most.
It’s not that Lynch is so taken with people that he wants more of them. On the contrary, staying lean is a core component of his strategy for running finance at a young, fast-growing software-as-a-service (SaaS) company like Sprinklr, which hired Lynch as its first finance chief last July. Rather, it’s that he routinely measures progress and makes forecasts based in significant part on people-related decisions and strategies.
That mindset may not be overly surprising, given the people-oriented nature of Sprinklr’s business. The company provides large organizations with a platform that compiles and aggregates what consumers are saying about them on social media, enables interaction with those consumers, and helps them create data-based marketing and other strategies based on consumer sentiments.
New York-based Sprinklr, launched in 2009, has only about 200 employees (100 or so in each of the United States and India). But it has 350-plus clients that average more than $1 billion in annual revenue and include giants like Cisco, Intel and Microsoft. Included in the head count are just two finance staffers.
The company’s sales are running roughly 300 percent higher this year than in 2012. Lynch recently spoke with CFO about the keys to growth, running a lean ship and the role people costs play in forecasting.
Some companies that are half the size of Sprinklr have more than two finance staffers. Why are you so lean?
Part of my job is to eliminate stuff that is not necessary. So we outsource all transactional aspects of finance and automate everything else. We should spend our time on analysis and become better predictors of outcomes. We’re forecasters, not scorecard keepers.
I don’t want to hire somebody to do accounts-payable processing. An organization that does that all day every day will do it 10 times better than I can, and it’s better than trying to layer that on as a responsibility for somebody who can help me forecast the business.
You’ll obviously be hiring more finance people as you grow.
Of course. But I love capacity constraints on a team. It forces us to eliminate nonessential tasks. People will do stuff that’s not important because it’s always been done. It’s a natural thing to do — somebody once said “produce this report” and you keep doing that, but maybe nobody is using it anymore. Capacity constraints force us to constantly re-evaluate what we’re doing.