Pivoting from Growth Agency to SaaS Platform with Camille Soulier of Germinal
"If you want the team to move in the same direction, you need to show them how the work they do every day translates into numbers and facts. And they really look forward to my monthly numbers. It’s something they really appreciate."
How do you react when 80% of your customers leave in a single week? Thanks to the infamous Covid-19 pandemic, Germinal had to answer this very question.
With some quick thinking and a brave product pivot, the company survived what could have been a knockout blow. And a year later, it’s thriving with a whole new offering.
In this episode of the CFO Yeah! podcast, we spoke with CFO Camille Soulier. She details Germinal's abrupt pivot from growth agency to SaaS platform, the financial challenges this brought, and her biggest goals for the coming year.
Pivoting from growth agency to SaaS platform
Germinal was created to help firms with their online growth marketing. But during the first Covid lockdown in 2020, we lost 80% of our clients in one week. So we decided to launch our online platform: l’antichambre. It’s an adaptive online platform for entrepreneurs.
We had it in mind to build this platform for a few months prior. But the lockdown really accelerated it. Today, we have lots of growth marketing content on how to reach your first clients and expand your business. But we’ll gradually include all the other topics that matter when building a new firm: HR, financial, legal, and more.
Our goal is to help one million entrepreneurs reach €1 million in turnover, by giving them all the content they need to grow their business.
It was a really difficult time. We lost most of our team because we changed completely what we did. But now we’re back on track, and everything is going well. We really have a good product now.
How to pivot from a financial perspective
I had to make sure that we had the financial health to actually make this pivot. When you do something like this, you need to be in a good financial position. You have to ensure that you’ve set up all the processes for invoicing and collecting cash, to make sure your cash management will be OK.
So we need to have the best processes in order to invoice clients quickly, and to collect payments easily.
And as we're a public training institution, we need to go through certain certifications in France to be able to receive public financing. So I need to have all of our processes in place to achieve this.
We’ll also have an initial audit soon, and that auditing process repeats every three years. They’re going to look for processes - not only for results.
Camille’s key missions as CFO
I’m in charge of accounting, financial, legal, and administrative management. I’m mostly there to give all the financial information to the CEO and the team in order to drive the business. This involves a monthly P&L which I make myself, and day-to-day management.
I ensure that our administrative and finance processes are efficient - mainly around invoicing and collecting cash. So I work closely with the sales team to identify and invoice our customers efficiently.
But my job really focuses on translating all of our business into numbers. At Germinal, it’s really important to us to be transparent with the team. That’s our policy. So every month I present our P&L to the team and explain why this happened, why that happened, and how we can do better.
I’ve never done that before in any of my jobs, but it’s very important. If you want the team to move in the same direction, you need to show them how the work they do every day translates into numbers and facts. And they really look forward to my monthly numbers. It’s something they really appreciate.
Working fully remote
When I was looking for a new position, I really wanted one that was fully remote. It really helps me to balance my personal and professional life. I can pick up my daughter every afternoon and spend more time with her.
At Germinal, we can organize our time however we want. We each have objectives to reach, and we can work however suits us to reach these. We just need to be organized and produce what’s expected of us.
We don’t answer emails at night or on the weekend - there’s a clear respect for the balance between personal and professional life. That can be more difficult with other firms working fully remotely. I think many others don’t respect this balance.
We also have a daily conference call at noon. It’s only 15 minutes, and each day a team presents the work they did in the past week so we all have the same information and the same vision.
Challenges on the horizon
The biggest challenge for the year ahead is to find the right financial tools to drive the business forward. And also ensuring our financial health through the Covid crisis. Changing from being a service company to a SaaS company has a large impact on the financial structure of the company.
We’ve changed all of our tools. We changed our invoicing and accounting tools, and I’m working on a tool to manage cash. We’re really looking at how we can automate all of these processes, because today we still issue invoices manually.
I’m working closely with our Product team on this. Luckily we have these skills in the company already. And I also need to have visibility over how our users interact with the platform, which impacts us financially. So I really need their help to build some automation around that.
One tool I can’t live without is Agicap. It helps me monitor cash on a daily basis. And it’s really so much better than Excel.
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