Designing KPI dashboards for startups

Startup Success Guide to Financial KPI Dashboarding


In order to make plans, you need information. For most startups, the most vital benchmarks of success are KPIs - the key performance indicators that gauge the health of the business at any time. However, having a set of positive KPIs isn’t just useful for your team - investors and partners will always want to look at your financial performance when conducting their due diligence, and having a dashboard makes these metrics readily available in real-time.

This is why building a financial KPI dashboard is so vital. If these metrics are not readily available to all pertinent stakeholders in your startup, you’re steering your business strategy ship without a rudder.

Making good financial accounting dashboards is simple with access to the right tools. To make sure that your startup isn’t working blind, here’s a quick guide on every question you could have about financial reporting dashboards. 

Why Dashboards?

Most people would agree that the best information that you can convey to your team and investors is information that is practical and real. Lofty speeches about your goals and mission statements are important, but if you want to reach your goals, you need to be tracking your progress every step of the way.

A financial KPI dashboard is a management tool that displays all the most relevant KPIs in a single place. Just like the dashboard on your car, it shows you all the most relevant information in an easy-to-read way. 

Having an operating financial KPI dashboard makes it easy to find the context you need to make better business decisions. One example is using financial metrics to judge how purchases or investments would affect your operating cash flow. This lets your team quickly come up with a well-informed strategy to boost working capital and make other strategic pivots both short term and long term.

Where financial KPI dashboards are truly invaluable is in their ability to easily communicate your financial metrics to your stakeholders and investors in real-time. With a good financial accounting dashboard, meetings with the investors will become a breeze, as you can quickly refer them to the most pertinent financial metrics. 

How Do I Prepare a Dashboard? 

So now that you know why a financial dashboard is so important, how do you get started with one? Before you get someone to program a financial accounting dashboard for you, here are a few points to consider.

How Many Dashboards?

One size financial dashboard does not necessarily fit all. Depending on your business and what it provides, you may need multiple dashboards. While this may seem like extra work, it’s important to remember that the purpose of a financial KPI dashboard is to easily share information. If you have one dashboard stuffed with information, it becomes difficult to quickly pick out what is needed.

As a good rule of thumb, every financial dashboard should have a clear audience, and be able to fit all its information for that audience on a single page. The most vital of these dashboards will be a financial KPI dashboard designed with investors in mind. As your startup grows, you may want to create different dashboards for different teams. 

What Metrics Do You Need to Measure?

This can be one of the trickiest questions about financial dashboards, and there is no easy answer to it. The best piece of advice here is - don’t be afraid to ask! Consult with your investors and openly ask them what sort of financial metrics they consider important for a financial KPI dashboard. You should also consult with your team members, who may have insights into metric recommendations.

If we had to pick, there are 8 metrics that VCs typically routinely look into when conducting due diligence on a startup. The most important metrics to always include would be revenue, expenses, cash flow, and burn rate. These are the financial metrics that are most closely related to the overall financial health of an organization. These will let any investor know at a glance how much revenue your company is generating, how much cash it tends to have, and how much cash it tends to be spending. 

Other good metrics to measure can include your activation rate, your active users, your sales cycle, and your customer acquisition cost. If you measure something it becomes much easier to work on improving it. 

For me, the metrics I absolutely need to measure on a monthly basis are revenue, recurring revenue, expenses/burn, and overall cash position. While these are important for investors, they're also important to running a healthy business. For example, each month, I take these monthly metrics and compare them against my own revenue and budget forecasts, making sure I'm not spending more or earning less than my monthly expectations.

Evan Tarver, Co-founder & CEO, Selling Signals

What APIs Do You Need?

Lastly, it can also be useful to understand what application program interfaces (APIs) are when talking about KPIs. APIs are the tools that allow the different pieces of software and applications that your startup uses to “talk” to each other. This is what allows for those KPIs to be updated in real-time, instead of having to wait for someone to input the data. 

How this works can get very technical. In short, with the right APIs, information put into your accounting software can be made to instantly appear as KPIs on your financial dashboard. Having good optimization through APIs is key to making sure that your financial accounting dashboard can give you the correct information, instantly. 

It’s important to circle back and remember those APIs. Saying you will have certain metrics is one thing, but you have to make sure that they show up in the dashboard. To avoid getting too technical, think of it this way - where are the KPIs going to come from in your business? If you want revenue as a KPI, for example, you should arrange for an API to measure your sales and record them as a KPI. 

It’s worth it to do research into the integrations available before deciding on your APIs as part of your accounting automation stack. Punch Financial is always happy to offer advice on any kind of accounting software or implementation guides so you can get the most out of your accounting systems. 

At Punch Financial, Dashboards Are Our Speciality

Our goal at Punch Financial is to help your business thrive in a competitive landscape and draw the dollars of lucrative investors. We can help design your accounting automation and dashboard software solutions, and provide an outsourced accounting and bookkeeping team at a fraction of the cost of hiring full-time employees. Each account is assigned a staff accountant, a Director, and a CFO.

Our mission is to help you streamline your back-office and provide you with actionable data and reduce your overhead. Let’s connect to give you a customized quote and free consultation. You have nothing to lose but so much to gain.

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