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Basics
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Rule of 40 in SaaS

Rule of 40 – Calculation and it's importance

The rule of 40 is a valuable benchmarking tool for Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) companies that offers insight into the financial health of their operations.

rule of 40

The rule states that for a software business to be successful, it must achieve at least 40% in combined growth in Gross Margin or Operating Income from quarter to quarter. This ratio can provide guidance on whether current trends suggest that the company is performing well and should continue to expand its operations, or needs to rethink strategies for staying profitable. While the rule of 40 isn't definitive by any means, it does offer an interesting metric by which executives may evaluate performance and make decisions going forward.

Given the rule’s importance, many companies strive to reach the rule of 40. Doing so can be a challenging task, as it requires a combination of high growth in Gross Margin and Operating Income simultaneously. But all is not lost – by keeping careful track of these two metrics and making strategic decisions accordingly, it is possible to hit this rule and maintain a successful business.
The rule of 40 may be difficult to reach, but for SaaS companies that do manage to attain it, the rewards are great. The benchmark offers reassurance that their operations are on the right track and provides insight into how they could continue improving performance in the future.

Rule of 40 – Definition of the core SaaS metric

The Rule of 40 is an important concept for any business operating in a software-as-a-service (SAAS) environment. It states that the growth rate percentage of a business must be higher than its combined profit plus expense ratio - usually over 40% - in order to maintain successful momentum.

When businesses apply the Rule of 40, they gain confidence that their sustained growth can be achieved not just by increasing sales but also by carefully managing expenses. By implementing this rule, companies will have less risk associated with their operations and better profitability and cash flow every year, enabling success for the long term rather than just the short term.

Companies using the Rule of 40 will find their performance more consistent and predictable as well.

The metrics to track according to the Rule of 40

Knowing which SaaS business metrics to track can be a difficult decision, but the Rule of 40 is a great guide when making this determination. This rule requires that businesses must have a combined growth rate of their top line revenue and bottom line profits that totals 40 percent or more in order to hit their financial targets. When assessing business metrics then, organizations should focus on those that help them achieve the Rule of 40. Trackable items may include such things as customer acquisition cost, user engagement times, sales cycle length and total customer count. Taking time to understand the Rule of 40 is essential to any organization’s success.


In conclusion, the rule of 40 can be an invaluable benchmark for software-as-a-service companies. By combining profitable growth with mindful expense management, it is possible to achieve and sustain a successful business. Companies that understand this rule are well-positioned to make informed decisions about their operations and will enjoy greater stability and profitability in the long term.

Budgeting according to the rule of 40

Know your numbers

Get an accurate picture of yourbudget. Take a close look at your current costs and revenue to determine where you can make adjustments or cut back.


Aim high and reach for the stars

Setting stretch goals is a highly effective way to push your team to reach ambitious objectives in the long term. However, for stretch goals to be truly successful, they must be achievable and realistically incorporated into an overall strategy. They should require effort and dedication from the whole team, but also be tangible so everyone can see the progress that is being made towards them. As such, it is important to set thoughtfully crafted goals that will make a long-term difference in the growth potential of your team or organization.


Don't skimp on research

Investing in market studies and customer surveys can be an invaluable tool for businesses who are looking to maximize potential areas of improvement. Having access to direct feedback from customers can help a business understand what resonates with their target audience more effectively, which in turn allows them to craft sound strategies.


Diversify your capital

When considering creating or growing a business, capital is one of the most important resources entrepreneurs must secure. It is important to consider the various sources available in order to determine which is the most suitable option. Sources such as venture capital, investments, loans and crowdfunding are all viable options that can provide much-needed funds needed for a business' operations. Each option offers its own advantages and disadvantages, so it's important to evaluate these carefully with respect to your particular business model and goals before committing. Taking advantage of the right source of capital can ensure your business has the financial stability it needs to pursue its dreams.


Get creative with pricing models

Businesses can maximize their return on investment (ROI) by experimenting with tiered pricing options and free trial periods. This method of customer segmentation allows businesses to tailor their products or services towards specific groups, making them more appealing and affordable. Additionally, businesses may gain new customers as potential buyers are enticed by trying a product for free or at a lower cost for a limited period of time. Offering tiered pricing options and free trial periods may not only increase ROI but could potentially attract many customers if marketed properly and implemented appropriately.

analytics platform showing key numbers for rule of 40

Understanding of your core metrics as a SaaS

We are building an analytics platform, allowing SaaS businesses to understand their data better and to take overarching data-driven decisions on your own data. If you're interesting in this, check out the Gilion platform.

Common questions on rule of 40

What is the Rule of 40?

The rule of 40 is a rule of thumb for software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies to ensure profitability and long-term success. This rule stipulates that the total growth rate should be at least 40% or the gross margin should be at least 40%.

In other words, businesses should strive to have both high revenue growth and high gross profit margins in order to be successful. This rule provides a benchmark for SaaS companies to ensure that they are setting realistic goals and staying focused on their long-term strategies. By considering this rule, businesses can make informed decisions that will help them grow and reach their potential.

How is the Rule of 40 calculated?

The rule of 40 is calculated by taking the total growth rate (40%) and gross margin (40%) together to form a percentage. For example, if a business has achieved 10% revenue growth and 30% gross profit margin, the rule of 40 would be 40% (10 + 30).

This rule helps businesses understand what their combined level of growth and profitability should be in order to remain successful.

How can a SaaS company improve its Rule of 40 score?

In order to improve their rule of 40 score, SaaS companies should focus on strategies such as diversifying capital sources, getting creative with pricing models, and investing in research and development. By considering these tactics, businesses can ensure that they are competitively priced and have a steady source of funding for operations.

Businesses should focus on creating customer loyalty, engaging in marketing efforts, and developing a comprehensive strategy that will help them reach their goals. By following these tips, SaaS companies can increase their rule of 40 score and reach their full potential.