Calm in the Chaos of the $1m-$10m ARR SaaS growth journey

Nick Peters

Nick Peters joined Ardoq in 2018, just as they passed the $1m ARR milestone. As the VP of Operations, he managed to do Finance, Legal, RevOps, Support, HR, IT, and Security tasks on a tight budget before they could afford specialist roles like a CFO, VP of Legal, Director of RevOps, Head of Support, Head of IT, or CISO. What they’ve learned on that journey is valuable to any B2B SaaS company trying to optimize its budgets for growth.

Building the ecosystem for growth

Nick says that “the ecosystem” is his favorite metaphor for a fast-growing company. An ecosystem is incredibly complex, and no single actor understands how the whole thing works. Everyone knows part of it, but nobody knows everything.

However, in his session, Nick zoomed in on the $1m-$10m journey at Ardoq, and on Peter’s own role as the VP of Operations. Starting in that position, he was responsible for Finance, Legal, RevOps, Support, HR, IT, and Security tasks. In other words, he was doing the job of 7+ specialists. 

“You need to be comfortable with chaos”

There are ways to spend money in a SaaS company, and allocating funds properly, in the beginning, can make or break your growth journey. There’s R&D, Research and Product Development, S&M, Sales and Marketing, and G&A, General and Administrative. And while R&D and S&M are must-haves, the G&A side of things is usually put on hold.

To navigate this somewhat chaotic first phase, Nick shared a few pointers:

  1. It’s ok to have some chaos initially as long as you have a good strategy and know your risk profile. 
  2. You need the right mindset to handle the chaos. You have to be able to keep calm in it, or else you’ll quickly get burnt out from stress. 
  3. SaaS is great for scaling businesses! SaaS will help you scale and amplify a lean team, so invest in the right tools early. 

Focus on execution – don’t wait for perfection

Nick says it’s much better to make 100 decisions at 80% quality than 10 decisions at 90% quality. You need to have a management team that embraces this, and it should be an explicit agreement that you’re going to do a lot with a little and accept the risks that come with that. 

Then, inevitably, you will reach the point when generalists no longer suffice to do everything needed. For Ardoq, that point came at around $5m ARR. That’s when they started to build out the G&A to support the organization in a better way. And at $10m ARR, Ardoq is putting around 45% of budget towards R&D, 45% towards S&M, and the rest goes to G&A.

But Nick says that one thing that has becomes clear to him, when reaching different financial milestones, is that they don’t really capture the journey. Cool achievements like being featured on TechCrunch is not, in the end, what it’s all about. 

Building a great product, side by side with great people, and having an impact on the customers’ lives – that’s what it’s really all about. Working in a great SaaS company, the win is what we do with and for each other: meaningful work.