June 1, 2022
Insights

How Artem Mashkov, CFO of SwagUp, is building a modern finance team

,
,

Editor's note: On our podcast recently, Artem Mashkov shared how he helped SwagUp grow to $22 million in annual revenue with just two people in finance. In this guest post, he dives further into how he runs finance at SwagUp and his organizing principles.

Most finance leaders obsess over accounting and FP&A—but a healthy finance team needs a third function: FinOps. For any startup looking to scale their business—and their finance team—it’s important to have clearly defined roles for each function. That’s particularly important in today’s evolving landscape of finance automation and operations, which has revolutionized the way that we do business. Here’s how I describe the framework we use at SwagUp: 

“Accounting is the past. FinOps is the present. FP&A is the future.”

Let’s unpack the core focus of each function, why their respective roles become more important with scale, and what you can do to grow these functions. 

The 3 pillars of finance

Accounting, by its nature, is a backward-looking function. Its role is to audit and double check transactions that have already occurred, whether they took place yesterday or a month ago. Even when looking at future transactions (i.e. accruals), accounting still uses the past as a basis for projections. 

Accounting essentially guards the gate. It keeps people honest and reconciles the past. Companies need a strong accounting function because they need to understand why losses occurred in order to drive profitability going forward.

Financial operations (FinOps), on the other hand, focuses on transactions occurring in real time. It makes sure that bills get paid, invoices are collected on time, and payroll works properly. FinOps also helps streamline processes via automation and ensures compliance to rules. For example, FinOps can help prevent employees from going over their spending limits.

Your FinOps team is responsible for ensuring on-time payments and compliance

Financial planning and analysis (FP&A) allows organizations to look ahead and make the financial plans necessary to achieve future goals. The goal of FP&A is to make sure that every initiative ultimately results in cash flow, whether those returns come in after three months or in 10 years. But you want to make sure that the numbers are based on strong data, since you don’t want to miss your projections.

How accounting, FinOps, and FP&A are interconnected

I'm a CFO who spends a lot of time thinking about operations and how different functions work together. While these three functions all play different roles in an organization, they’re also all interconnected. I think of them as a circle, where each one enables the performance of the other two. For example, FP&A will create a plan, FinOps will ensure its execution, and accounting will double check to make sure that the numbers are aligned with the goal.  

While the roles of accounting and FP&A are crucial to an organization’s success, it’s hard to overstate the importance of FinOps. That’s because FinOps is the function that allows you to pay your vendors and your employees. Without that capability, you have no business.

As an organization grows, the distinct roles of accounting, FinOps, and FP&A become even more important because the impact of errors becomes more obvious. Making a 2% mistake when a business is generating $100,000 in revenue results in a loss of just $2,000. That can be a far less painful mistake than a $100 million business that loses $200,000 due to a mistake of a similar scope. The marginal impact really matters as a business scales and that’s where FP&A matters most. 

How to scale up these financial functions 

Hiring more finance people as your business grows will help you keep up with operational work, but it’s important to scale the team strategically. This is something I have personal experience with. Before building out the FinOps function at SwagUp, we only had two people on our finance team. We were able to grow to nearly $22 million in annual revenue with just that team, but we needed to streamline our operations and improve efficiency within finance to sustain our growth. 

Today, my finance team includes three people and a director in accounting, one person in FP&A, and six people plus a director in FinOps. While I see FP&A as the least important finance function for us at this point, I still believe it’s more important to a company’s success than sales or product.

We still run very lean. I’ve learned that the key to avoiding growing pains as a finance team scales is making sure that accounting and cost attributions (both fixed and marginal) are properly labeled and as accurate as possible. Particularly amid today’s market volatility, cash has become even more important to growing businesses. An important question businesses must consider is whether they have enough cash to reach their goals. This requires positive unit economics and modeling for actual cash versus profit, because the former often matters more than the latter. 

The role of automation

Making smart use of automation can allow even small finance teams to scale more quickly. That’s because automation allows team members to focus on efforts that are driving value, rather than simply on repetitive, non-impactful tasks. Automation allows startups to make the best possible use of time, which is often their most valuable asset. However, I think that companies sometimes automate the wrong parts of their business. For example, companies should automate the $1 transactions that happen 100 times per day. Those add up to $100, and it’s fine to have less visibility there so that the company can focus on what actually matters, e.g. the three transactions that are worth $3 million each. 

Automation can also flag potential issues, allowing the team to address them quickly before they become problems. For example, we started using Ramp to automate our expense reports, and we were able to suddenly see the areas where there were gaps in our controls. We were subsequently able to change our policies and tighten controls to eliminate those issues. This important as our spend has grown 10x since we started using Ramp.

Ramp insights help you focus on the transactions that matter

FinOps, accounting, and FP&A are all essential functions to any growing business, and automation is the key to integrating each of these functions. Automation helps improve their efficiency and create a more profitable company.

Learn how Ramp strengthens your finances

Error Message
No personal credit checks or founder guarantee.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Artem Mashkov
CFO, SwagUp

Over the past decade, Artem Mashkov has been a founder and angel investor in retail, hospitality and B2B technology startups. In his current role, as an operationally heavy CFO at SwagUp, he's built all of the finance and business operation functions from scratch. He prides himself on high-level strategic execution with tactical precision.

More Resources
View All
No items found.
View All
FAQs
Meet our customers

How we helped Bubble streamline operations and save $9k/month with Ramp Bill Pay

How we helped WizeHire save over $100k in annual SaaS spend with Ramp

How we helped Sandboxx replace Amex, Expensify, and Bill.com with Ramp

How we helped SwagUp save over $30k in SaaS spend

How we helped Fi scale its finance function

Marqeta closes its books 88% faster with Ramp + Sage

How Long Meadow Ranch got on top of its multi-entity spend

Learn more about Ramp

Streamline approvals.
Review requests, pre-approve expenses, and issue general expense cards in a few clicks – or directly in Slack. Delegate approvals and empower your team leads to spend on the things they need and control their team’s expenses.
Learn more
Issue instant cards.
Unlimited virtual and physical cards with built-in spend limits, instantly available for everyone in your team. Define spend rules and let your smart cards enforce your policies automatically. No more surprises or under-the-radar spending.
Learn more
See spend as it happens.
Stop waiting on monthly statements or manual spreadsheets. Find, browse, and download real-time transactions from any employee, department, or merchant – on any device.
Learn more
Close your books 5x faster.
An accounting experience by finance teams, built for speed and efficiency. Automate manual processes and start enjoying instant reconciliation – Ramp does all the heavy lifting.
Learn more
Trim wasteful spend.
Ramp analyses every transaction and identifies hundreds of actionable ways your company can cut expenses and alerts your team via email, SMS, or Slack. It’s like having a second finance team, laser-focused on cutting costs.
Learn more
Consolidate reimbursements.
Ramp makes it easy to reimburse your employees for any incidental out-of-pocket expenses. Review, approve, and pay employees back for anything that didn’t make it onto a card with the rest of your Ramp transactions.
Learn more

Get fresh finance insights, monthly

Time and money-saving tips, straight to your inbox
Thanks for signing up
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
No, thank you