What is Annual Run Rate?

Annual Run Rate (ARR), sometimes referred to as revenue run rate or sales run rate, is a financial metric commonly used to estimate a company's annual revenue based on its current performance over a shorter period. 

How to Calculate Annual Run Rate

To calculate the ARR, you typically take the revenue generated over a shorter period, such as a month or a quarter, and then extrapolate it to represent a full year. The formula for ARR is as follows:

ARR = Revenue in a Shorter Period × 12/Number of Months in the Shorter Period

For example, if a SaaS (Software as a Service) company generates $100,000 in monthly subscription revenue, the ARR would be:

ARR = $100,000 x 12/1 = $1,200,000

In this case, the estimated annual revenue for the company based on its current performance is $1.2 million.

When is calculating ARR helpful for businesses? 

Startups and Growing Businesses: Startups and fast-growing companies often use ARR to assess their financial performance and set growth targets. It provides a clear picture of the company's revenue potential and is especially useful when seeking investment or demonstrating revenue growth to stakeholders.

Investor Relations: When communicating with potential investors or existing stakeholders, ARR can be a powerful metric. It showcases the company's ability to generate stable and recurring revenue, which can instill confidence in the business's long-term viability and potential returns on investment.

Performance Assessment: ARR helps assess the health and growth of a business. Comparing ARR over different periods allows companies to track their progress and make informed decisions about resource allocation, sales and marketing strategies, and product development.

Drawbacks and Limitations of Annual Run Rate (ARR)

This equation presumes steady, unchanged revenue streams, which is rarely the case. Seasonal fluctuations, customer churn, and competitive pressures are just a few variables that can affect this metric. So, while the formula itself is simple, its interpretation requires a nuanced understanding of your business landscape.

Imagine that this past month was December, a peak time for software subscriptions in your industry. Without accounting for the seasonality, the ARR could present an overly optimistic view of your annual revenue. Alternatively, consider a scenario where your company just landed a substantial contract that significantly boosted the monthly revenue. In this case, the ARR might overestimate future income if such large deals are not a regular occurrence.

Another limitation is ARR's lack of granularity. While it's adept at providing a bird's-eye view of yearly revenue, it doesn't capture the month-to-month nuances that could be critical for decision-making. This lack of detail can be especially problematic for businesses undergoing rapid growth or seasonal fluctuations, as ARR could either overestimate or underestimate actual revenue.

The takeaway? ARR serves as a useful yardstick but must be contextualized to reflect the nuances of your specific business situation.


How Does ARR Differ from Gross Revenue?

ARR focuses solely on recurring revenue streams, usually from subscriptions, while gross revenue includes all income sources, such as one-time sales and non-recurring contracts.

Can ARR Be Used for Businesses Without a Subscription Model?

While less common, ARR can be adapted for businesses with consistent, recurring revenue streams even if they don't operate on a subscription model.

How Does Seasonality Affect ARR?

Seasonal businesses may find ARR less reliable because it assumes revenue is consistent year-round, which is often not the case.

Is ARR a Good Metric for Investor Relations?

Investors often look to ARR as an indicator of business health and scalability, but it should be presented alongside other metrics for a fuller picture.

How Do Discounts and Promotions Impact ARR?

Discounts and promotions can temporarily boost revenue, potentially inflating ARR if not accounted for.

What is Net Negative Churn and How Does It Impact ARR?

Net negative churn occurs when revenue from existing customers, through upsells or cross-sells, exceeds revenue lost to churn, thereby increasing ARR.

How Do Customer Lifetimes Affect ARR?

Longer customer lifetimes generally lead to a more stable and higher ARR, making it a key factor in its calculation.

Should ARR Be Calculated Before or After Churn?

ARR is typically calculated before accounting for churn. However, a separate metric, often referred to as "net ARR," takes churn into account.

How Often Should We Update Our ARR Calculations?

The frequency depends on your business needs, but quarterly updates are common to coincide with financial reporting periods.

Can ARR Be Used in Conjunction with Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)?

Absolutely. Comparing ARR with CAC provides valuable insights into the profitability and sustainability of customer relationships.