Benioff educates investors on which numbers they should look at

In an interview with Business Week, Marc Benioff, the larger than life CEO of Salesforce said

we’re not going back to disclosing our number of subscribers each quarter. It’s not a meaningful, revenue-based metric. We don’t think investors should look to non-GAAP numbers. High-fidelity numbers like revenue, profit, and cash flow are things investors should measure us on. It didn’t make any sense to me why people should anticipate a subscriber number. We’re not just a one-product company. When we were a single-product company with salesforce automation, then it was apples to apples. Now it’s apples to oranges.

Interesting. Usually investors get to make their own mind up on what’s interesting. Moreover, some investors might find subscriber growth numbers or revenue per subscriber a useful indicator of the company’s activities. Financial numbers don’t tell the whole story and normally lack any context. It’s also a little unnerving when a CEO asks you to stop looking at a set of numbers and tries to get you to look elsewhere for your own best interest, regardless of motive.

Hypothetically, if you happen to winning big deals by slashing your prices, then you might not want to announce small revenue increments and big jumps in subscriber numbers, in case this became obvious.

That said, Salesforce is clearly doing a great job persuading the security departments of big banks to trust them – Merrill, Citibank and Deutsche have now signed up as customers – Citi has 30,000 seats.

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