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Which of the six major startup finance personas are you?

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Last Updated

Which of the six major startup finance personas are you?

Anrok | Streamlined sales tax for SaaS

Managing finances for a startup is a demanding job — while there’s much to be done, it’s often only one or two people in the beginning who are responsible for it all. Most startups could use a full team of financial professionals, but few have the budget for it. So you may find yourself wearing more than one hat until the company is ready to go public.

We’ve spoken to more than a hundred finance leaders and identified the major personas involved in building a successful finance org. The question is, which of the following six startup finance personas are you?

Chances are you might be able to point to more than one: Perhaps you’re the workhouse bookkeeper but also the limit-pushing analyst. Or perhaps you're the accounting manager early hire who is wearing the hat of a controller or head of tax (without the paycheck). Check out where you fall on this list of startup finance personas.

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Table of contents

The scrappy first finance hire

A young go-getter, you may have started in-house at a big four accounting firm and moved to a startup as a way to get out of a rut and spread your wings. As the startup’s first finance hire, you’re new to working independently; in the past you were on a big team overseen by managers who gave marching orders and took responsibility for risks. Now it’s up to you to figure things out—including how to stay on top of the unendingly complex tax laws your startup has to follow.

Your goal? Get tools in place that can help make you into a strategic problem-solver who is contributing to the business’s bottom line and helping the company expand into new territory. Establishing a single source of financial truth would be a huge win for you and the future finance team.

The veteran CFO

As a spreadsheets pro with a distinguished work history, you’re a strategic leader in the company and the one responsible for taking a big-picture view of the business’s cash flow and financial wellness. You not only oversee bookkeeping, tax accounting, and treasury management, but you may also work on acquisitions, market analysis, and fundraising, as well as overseeing HR and IT. The buck stops with you.

As a collaborator with the CEO, you help guide strategies for growth, contribute to strategic planning, and advise on the financial and tax implications of managerial decisions. You dream of helping take the company public, but before that can happen you need to get things humming smoothly. It’s hard: You wear about 20 different hats and are perpetually playing catch-up.

The tech-savvy analyst

You have your finger on the pulse of new tech and are sure to lobby management to implement the best options. You get energy from working cross-functionally and collaboratively, and some of these tech tools make that far more possible. Along with being a tech-enthusiast, you love financial planning and analysis. You take pride in synthesizing financial data into useful forecasts that can inform business decisions. You might be subscribed to FinTech Today and be a regular on Hacker News or Reddit.

While the company might officially have you classified as working in Revenue Operations (RevOps) or Financial Operations (FinOps), you think of yourself as more in the business of data visualization, budgeting, forecasting, and pricing analysis. Basically, you use financial data to help the company make better decisions.

The bookkeeper

You’re detail-oriented and dependable—the reliable numbers wiz on the finance team. Without you the books would be a mess. You find recording and reconciling transactions inherently satisfying because you care about both accuracy and order. Your business is extremely lucky to have you; you’re the quiet engine of the entire finance operation.

As a one-person-band in your startup, you may be responsible for a range of bookkeeping tasks, including payroll, accounts payable, accounts receivable, and tax management. You work with the tech-savvy analyst to ensure your company has solid financial record-keeping tools in place.

The regimented controller

As the company’s controller, you’re like the conductor of the business railroad. Your job is to ensure compliance and implement systems so that the trains run on time. For example, you might process accounting transactions, close the books, file the company’s taxes, and oversee employee stock and 409a valuations.

While you’re probably not a strategic partner in the business’s management, you’re an indispensable senior member of the team. You are, as your title suggests, in control of a lot of important things. And the company wouldn’t run smoothly without you.

The ambitious VP

As a VP with your sights set on the top, you probably have an investment banking or strategic finance background, and you may have joined the company at the Series C stage in hopes of climbing the ranks to CFO. You partner closely with the executive suite to work up financial forecasts, set operational goals, and apply financial insights to decision-making.

Your responsibilities likely include financial planning and analysis (FP&A), operating reviews, board updates, overseeing the controller, and creating processes and dashboards to ensure that the firm’s leadership always has the right answers to their complex questions.

So who is responsible for sales tax at a fast-growing tech company?

Very rarely does a tech company have in-house tax resources until being on the path to IPO. Until then, it’s everyone on the finance team’s responsibility to safeguard revenue and be in compliance. The longer the team delays rolling out an automated sales tax solution, the more revenue the business will be paying out of pocket.

Fortunately, there is a better way to sort out shared pain points like sales tax. With the right sales tax engine for your subscription business, getting compliant can be an easy win.

Whichever of these roles you play in your organization, it’s a sure thing that you’re a valued and necessary part of your startup finance team. The executive leadership and product designers and marketing and sales hustlers wouldn’t be able to do what they do without you there to make sure they are on solid financial ground.

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