When Salesforce announced on its most recent earnings call that it wouldn’t give a revenue forecast for next year, it was a bit of a shock, especially for being the most successful SaaS company in the world.
With sales in excess of $7.8 billion for the quarter and a target of to $50 billion in fiscal year 2026, the company hasn’t done too badly. But when you combine the lack of forecasting with the recent exodus of executives, it begins to paint a picture of unusual instability at the CRM giant.
First, let’s look at that prediction – or lack of it. It appears that the economy has become so uncertain that Salesforce backed out of a fiscal year 2024 forecast (the three months ending October 31, 2022 made up the third quarter of the company’s fiscal year 2023). We use the word unparalleled A lot these days, but it’s pretty unusual for a company like Salesforce to tell investors they’re betting on a forecast, and it’s the first time the CRM giant has ever done it.
Here’s what Salesforce CFO Amy Weaver told investors during the income interview:
Before closing, I’d like to share a few thoughts on fiscal year ’24. As discussed, we are experiencing a very unpredictable macro environment as our clients work to ensure their businesses are healthy over the long term as well. This dynamic is reinforced by an unprecedented foreign exchange market. Therefore, we believe it is premature at this time to provide a revenue outlook for the next fiscal year.
That would be enough to make anyone who has followed this company raise their eyebrows. But remember, at the same time, Salesforce dropped the bombshell that co-CEO Bret Taylor plans to step down.
The reason for that departure was ostensibly because Taylor was tired of life within the big company and wanted to go back to his roots as a business builder – in other words, back to basics. But that may not have been the whole story. The This was reported by the Wall Street Journal tension between the two leaders and that the resignations may not have come as far out of left field as we’ve been led to believe. (You can pull your mouth off the floor; this isn’t the first time a company has tried to skew bad news as neutral.)
There were other shoes to drop. Mark Nelson, CEO of Tableau, announced the smaller of the two clogs he left. (Salesforce bought Tableau in 2019). The more dramatic news story quickly followed: Slack co-founder and CEO Stewart Butterfield told his flock that he wanted to spend less time running a business and more time gardening and taking care of his kid.
Slack quickly announced that Lidiane Jones, who had been GM of Salesforce’s Commerce Cloud, Marketing Cloud, and Experience Cloud (yes, that’s a lot of clouds), would replace Butterfield.
Let’s not forget that even prior to all this, Salesforce had to deal with activist investor Starboard Value breathing down its neck, never a comfortable position. (The company highlighted its cost-cutting efforts in its last quarterly callit’s worth noting.)
On paper, that feels like a lot of disturbing news in a short amount of time. But what does it mean for the company’s underlying financial stability? As part of our year-end get-together at businessroundups.org+, we decided to take a look under the hood and see what’s going on. Is this a short-lived glitch in a bad year for all SaaS companies, or a series of moves that could point to something more worrisome at Salesforce?
Within the numbers
We have three goals: First, look at Salesforce’s recent quarterly performance to see what we can conclude about its health. Second, to wonder if other companies are reporting similar results and forecasts. And third, to ask if there’s a lesson for us tech watchers, especially with regards to startups.