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Cornerstone OnDemand, Inc. (NASDAQ:CSOD)
Q1 2021 Earnings Call
May 6, 2021, 5:00 p.m. ET

Contents:

  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:

Operator

Thank you for standing by, and welcome to the Cornerstone OnDemand Q1 2021 Earnings Call. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. After the speaker presentation, there will be a question-and-answer session. [Operator Instructions] Please be advised that today's conference is being recorded.

[Operator Instructions] I would now like to hand the conference over to your host, Senior Vice President, Finance and Corporate Development, Jason Gold. You may begin.

Jason Gold -- Senior Vice President, Finance and Corporate Development

Thank you very much, Latif. Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to Cornerstone's first quarter 2021 earnings call. With me today are our Chief Executive Officer, Phil Saunders; and our Chief Financial Officer, Chirag Shah.

In conjunction with today's call, we published a presentation that's located on the Investor Relations section of our website. Today's press release was also furnished to the SEC in a Form 8-K.

Today's discussion will include forward-looking statements, including, but not limited to, statements regarding the expected performance of our business, our future financial and operating performance, including our GAAP and non-GAAP guidance, the integration of Saba into our business and achievement of related cost synergies and efficiencies, our strategy, our long-term growth, and our overall future prospects. Forward-looking statements involve risks, uncertainties and assumptions. These risks, uncertainties and assumptions, as well as other future factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those contained in our forward-looking statements are included in the Risk Factors section of our most recent 10-Q and 10-K, as well as subsequent periodic filings with the SEC.

During the call, we will be referring to both GAAP and non-GAAP financial measures. The reconciliation of our GAAP to non-GAAP information is provided in the earnings press release and in the presentation.

With that as a backdrop, I'd like to turn the call over to Phil.

Phil Saunders -- Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Jason, and thanks, everyone, for joining us today. We're excited to update you on our first quarter results and overall progress, as we continue to advance our Company. The Cornerstone team delivered another strong financial performance in Q1, with the numbers being just an element of the wider momentum we've seen in the business. So I will dive into the details of our financial performance with you, but the summary view is this.

Our topline results continue to reflect the resilience of our business and the exciting market opportunity we see in front of us, while coupled with the continued bottom line progress driven by our team's strong operational focus. This powerful combination has positioned us to build out an efficient, scalable and highly profitable growth business.

As you know, this performance doesn't happen by accident. The commitment and perseverance of our team has powered our success during the unprecedented times we've all been living through over the past 12 months to 15 months. When we also consider the internal realities of the past year, given the complexities associated with integrating a large acquisition, it's really humbling to see what this team has accomplished.

The Q1 results further validate the power of Cornerstone as a business and the criticality of our solutions to organizations in every corner of the globe. The business is healthy, our operational focus is undeniable, and our team is dialed into delivering success.

We've spent time over the past few earnings calls outlining for you the various areas we're actively transforming inside the Company. And while our experience has proven these initiatives can have a long tail to reveal their ultimate return, we have continued to see encouraging signs that we believe validate the long-term strategic value creation capability of this business.

As we look at our market opportunity, there is simply no doubt that companies around the world need to accelerate their digital transformation. We see a timely and ongoing need for organizations to enable the reskilling and upskilling of their people in a manner that is needed in personal, and that aligns with their strategic destinations. We believe it's this alignment or symbiosis of a company and its employees to transform that fuels our current relevance and our growth outlook. This opportunity to have such an impact for our customers and their people drives tremendous excitement for us here at Cornerstone.

So let's dive into a couple of operational areas that we feel are fundamental to accelerating our business performance, starting with customer experience. It's a broad area of investment as there are a number of customer lifecycle touch points that we are deeply focused on in order to materially and positively impact our customer engagement motions. One of those touch points is our global customer support. Our team has continued their hustle toward the improvement and engagement of our customers, which we know is a critical success factor in driving long-term retention in the SaaS business.

Given the multiplier effect in blending talented people with improved processes and systems, we've added several new members to the customer support team to improve coverage and shorten resolution times. We have done this in combination with an aggressive rollout of our advanced self-service platform, which has already enabled a meaningful improvement in our CSAT ratings.

As another related example, we also expanded our designated services manager roles to include onboarding and implementation in concert with our partners. We know that customer journey start at signature and by refining how we support customers right from the get go and providing them the engagement to be successful with a single internal contact, we expect that customer sat, and in turn, retention should trend higher. We rolled this out in North America during Q1. We plan to bring it to the rest of the world in Q2.

As we continue to run as a newly combined larger company, we've also been on the hunt to reduce and ultimately remove internal silos and ineffective processes that just impede customer success. In Q1, we've driven detailed clarity in communicating our product roadmaps, while updating our customer community portals in order for customers to have greater insights as to what capabilities and enhancements to expect in combination with improving their access to our teams and their peers in Cornerstone's 6,000-plus base of customers. We expect these initiatives, along with our global field sales team's commitment to an awesome customer experience, to ultimately serve our long-term retention and growth objectives.

The second area worth highlighting is our accelerated progress in the innovation. As our R&D teams continue to advance the power of the deepest experience in people development software, our product innovation advancements have become increasingly meaningful. One example is our AI-fueled Skills Graph offering which we highlighted for you last quarter, which is now readily available to our customers, and enable them to power their journeys toward their transformation. Another is the controlled lease[Phonetic] of our in the flow of work learning capabilities inside Microsoft Teams, which is on the horizon and well ahead of schedule.

We're also leveraging the expertise and scale of Cornerstone with two additional public data centers now live in Japan and Australia, enabling global customers to serve their regulatory and data sovereignty requirements, which has already unlocked new business for us. There is more to come. With dedicated resources on innovation and our AI lab investments, we've quietly and confidently been building out a unique framework and a set of capabilities that further the Company and employee talent journey, many of which we expect to be released later this year. I look forward to sharing more on future earnings calls.

As I mentioned earlier, we believe that some of the transformational shifts we've been making inside the Company have a long tail to realize the value of returns, but we're excited about the progress we've made in Q1 as we executed in our market. In the quarter, we experienced another positive uptick in our win rates in each of our global theaters, which we believe is based on two notable factors. First, the sheer breadth and depth of capabilities we offer are truly differentiated. And second, our global sales team's ability to demonstrate the power of our newly combined assets and resources that directly serves our customers and prospects talent development objectives.

We respect the competition in this exciting market and we take the responsibility in preparing for and winning those opportunities Cornerstone is best suited for quite seriously. We have new numerous examples of us winning against big ERP and our more traditional competitors across multiple verticals, where our depth and learning, our wider talent capabilities, and our strategic direction led us to experience another quarter of increased average selling prices in our enterprise market. And while we continue to navigate sales cycle impacts due to COVID across our markets and verticals, our EMEA and APAC regions had a strong performance exceeding our expectations.

We also experience encouraging dynamics in our content business with over 200 transactions globally during the quarter, strong growth year-over-year in the United States and usage levels at all-time highs. As you call out that while we're proud of this, the reality is, we believe we have room for improvement in our content motions with our customers, and we've been investing the mind share to accomplish the same.

As we've discussed in prior calls, this is far beyond merely selling content. This is about the integrated power of data, AI and machine learning, that allows us to drive personalized recommendations, enhance skills tracking and development, and curate a truly personalized experience for the user. The increasing consumption of content, along with our 75 million users actively engaged on our platforms, create an expanding data lake combined, beyond what we believe our competition can capture. Folks, this is about driving tangible outcomes for our customers to the combined data of both content and platform, and we believe outcomes equate to engaged users and a valued customer experience.

Given all that's going on around this, I feel compelled to cover a couple of other relevant and personal topics for us -- for here -- for us here at Cornerstone. During Q1, we continued our proper attention on diversity, equity and inclusion as we prepared for the Q2 rollout of our DEI strategy that includes metrics we will measure and report on, on an ongoing basis. We also hosted our first session of an internal program we call courageous conversations. These are facilitated panel discussions used to discuss difficult topics, with our initial one addressing the rise of anti-Asian aggression over the past year. I highlight this simply to bring to the surface that we deeply care about how our people are doing and building a better company as a result.

Additionally, with rising rates of COVID-19 infection and new variants emerging around the world, there is an urgent need for all countries to vaccinate their populations. To support this effort, our Cornerstone Foundation has partnered with Project HOPE and Brown University to create a series of free online courses for frontline healthcare workers on the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines, as well as how to address vaccine concerns and encourage vaccine uptake.

These courses will be available over the coming weeks via our foundation's free online learning programs, both DisasterReady.org and NonprofitReady.org. I encourage you to check out these sites, along with our Cornerstone Cares initiative for relevant development offerings we could all personally benefit from. For over 20 years, it has been in our DNA to better the world by developing people and we take great pride in these programs.

With that, I'll turn things over to Chirag to discuss our financials and outlook.

Chirag Shah -- Chief Financial Officer

Thanks, Phil, and good afternoon, everyone. As Phil mentioned, we had a strong first quarter from both the top and bottom line perspective. Our subscription revenue of $200.6 million, coupled with services revenue of $8.7 million, drove total Q1 revenue of $209.3 million, which was well above our guidance range of $203 million to $205 million.

Our total customer count of 6,084 was down 1% sequentially. Similar to what we have seen in the last few quarters, sequential growth in our core product customer count was offset by decline in our non-core product customer count.

We delivered non-GAAP operating income of $59.2 million during the quarter. This resulted in a 28.3% non-GAAP operating margin, representing a sequential increase of 313 basis points. I would also note that on a year-over-year basis relative to Cornerstone stand-alone, non-GAAP operating margins have increased by 1,170 basis points. These improvements stem from strong operational discipline in the multitude of operational efficiency initiatives we have been working on over the past several quarters.

While much of the outperformance on the operating income line is sustainable and will flow through the future periods, some of it was driven by change in the timing of certain expenses that we still expect to incur later in the year. We are also taking some of the outperformance and reinvesting back into our business through our product innovation that we believe will deliver strong returns.

Moving on to cash flow. We reported Q1 unlevered free cash flow of $88.4 million. This cash flow performance was largely driven by operating discipline and efficiency, but also benefited from stronger-than-expected collections.

As you likely saw from our press release last week, we completed the repricing of our Term Loan B debt in late April, lowering our effective interest rate by 100 basis points to LIBOR plus 3.25%. At current LIBOR and debt levels, we expect this will save us approximately $9 million in annual cash interest expense. In conjunction with the reprice, we also paid down additional $20 million of principal, bringing the outstanding value of the Term Loan B debt to $830 million. We remain committed to delevering expeditiously but prudently.

Let's now turn to our guidance, starting with our full-year ARR. We are reiterating our 2021 full-year ARR guidance of $868 million to $878 million, and in doing so absorbing foreign exchange headwinds of just over $6 million caused by adverse movements of several currencies relative to the U.S. dollar. Said another way, before considering the effects of currency fluctuations on our reported results, we are raising the midpoint of our ARR guidance range by $6 million.

We now expect our 2021 full-year GAAP subscription revenue to be in the range of $827 million to $835 million with the midpoint at $831 million. This is up from our prior expectation of $825 million to $835 million, which had a midpoint of $830 million. Similar to ARR, this guidance absorbs $3 million in foreign exchange headwinds relative to our prior guidance. Therefore, on a constant-currency basis, we are effectively raising the midpoint of our guidance by $4 million.

As a reminder, the full-year subscription revenue guidance also accounts for a headwind of approximately $6 million resulting from the purchase accounting treatment of the Saba acquisition. Both our ARR and subscription revenue guidance speak to the strong performance that we've seen from the business thus far in 2021.

For Q2, we expect GAAP subscription revenue of between $203 million and $205 million. This guidance absorbs nearly $1 million of foreign exchange headwinds relative to our second quarter outlook at the start of the year. Similar to the full year, I would remind everyone that our Q2 subscription revenue guidance also accounts for a headwind of approximately $1 million related to the purchase accounting treatment of the Saba acquisition. With that said, we do not expect the headwind impact from purchase accounting treatment to be material after the second quarter.

Let's then move to profitability. We are raising our 2021 full-year non-GAAP operating income guidance to a range of $215 million to $222 million, which at the midpoint of $218.5 million would result in a non-GAAP operating margin of 25.6%, up 350 basis points from 2020 on a full-year reported basis. This $10 million increase from our prior guidance of $205 million to $212 million takes into consideration outperformance we saw in Q1 with adjustments made for the timing of certain expenses as well as the plans I mentioned earlier reinvest into the business to drive long-term growth and shareholder value.

For Q2, we expect non-GAAP operating income to be between $49 million and $51 million. We typically experienced sequential expense increases in the second quarter across various areas and initiatives, including marketing program spend, R&D hiring, and investments in our employees.

We now expect our 2021 full-year unlevered free cash flow to be in the range of $208 million to $216 million, which at the midpoint of $212 million will result in an unlevered free cash flow margin of 24.8%. This represents a $12 million raise from the $200 million midpoint of our prior guidance range of $195 million to $205 million. As a reminder, this guidance accounts for an assumed $50 million in non-recurring one-time cash outflows for restructuring and integration activities related to the Saba acquisition.

As I mentioned on last quarter's call, excluding these one-time integration expenses, our pro forma unlevered free cash flow expectation would be $50 million higher than our guidance range. So again, when you think about the unlevered free cash flow in 2022, we believe we should start with the pro forma 2021 unlevered free cash flow that excludes the $50 million in one-time cash outflows.

I want to reiterate our previously issued mid-term targets of $1 billion in ARR and unlevered free cash flow margins that exceed 30%, and we are moving closer to both with each passing quarter. We're encouraged both by the momentum we're seeing in our marketing business as well as the opportunities we're continuing to find and unlock to improve our efficiency.

And with that, I'd like to turn the call back over to the operator, so Phil and I can take your questions.

Questions and Answers:

Operator

Thank you. [Operator Instructions] Our first question comes from the line Siti Panigrahi of Mizuho. Your line is open.

Michael Berg -- Mizuho Group -- Analyst

Hi, this is Michael Berg on for Siti. Congrats on a good quarter. I wanted to get some more color around ARR. You maintained your same full-year outlook, but when I think about what you disclosed in Q4 and the results in Q1 and implied guidance in Q2, it appears that there is decel in total ARR from Q4 to Q1 and Q1 to Q2. Can you give some color around that? And what might be happening in the background and puts and takes behind it?

Chirag Shah -- Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. I mean, really the Q1 to Q2 subscription revenue sort of the change in the mix of subscription revenue from Q2 relative to our expectations to the start of the year is driven by foreign exchange, and we are also expecting a slightly more back-weighted sales -- intra-quarter sales seasonality than originally anticipated. So that's what's happening in Q2.

And then from an overall ARR perspective, just to give some additional color on the foreign exchange impact there. Obviously, ARR is going to be more impacted than subscription revenue because there is a recognition aspect to subscription revenue that ARR doesn't have. So there is just -- again, it's just really about seasonality of sales within Q2 and foreign exchange.

Michael Berg -- Mizuho Group -- Analyst

Is there any color around the core versus value piece there? I mean is value going -- dropping at a faster clip than core? So, maybe, probably, any more color around that?

Chirag Shah -- Chief Financial Officer

So when you say value, are you talking about that the non-core products range?

Michael Berg -- Mizuho Group -- Analyst

Yeah.

Chirag Shah -- Chief Financial Officer

I just want to clarify the question. Yeah, Phil, do you want to provide any color on core versus non-core?

Phil Saunders -- Chief Executive Officer

Sure. Glad to. I think it was Michael, right? Michael...

Michael Berg -- Mizuho Group -- Analyst

Correct.

Phil Saunders -- Chief Executive Officer

In fact, the balance between core and non-core quarter-over-quarter, parting all the core stuff, was not notable. In fact on the non-core, while we expected, frankly, more migration, we saw greater retention in the quarter, I think largely due to the customer communications in the portals and the road maps we provided. So no, we did not see any further acceleration of churn in the non-core. The churn numbers actually looked pretty stable and comforting for the non-core business.

Michael Berg -- Mizuho Group -- Analyst

Great. Thank you.

Chirag Shah -- Chief Financial Officer

And Michael, I just want to reiterate that we are, on a constant-currency basis, increasing our ARR guidance, and also increasing our subscription revenue guidance. So again, the movement between Q2 and Q3 and Q4 is simply just a slightly different distribution of revenue, but obviously the guidance for the year is rising.

Michael Berg -- Mizuho Group -- Analyst

Understood. And it was $3 million FX headwind, correct?

Chirag Shah -- Chief Financial Officer

On subscription revenue, the FX headwind was $3 million. The midpoint we increased by $1 million. So the operational increase in guidance for subscription revenue is $4 million. The headwind on ARR FX headwind was $6 million, and so we are effectively increasing ARR on constant-currency basis by $6 million.

Michael Berg -- Mizuho Group -- Analyst

Perfect. Thank you very much.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from Keith Bachman of BMO. Your line is open.

Keith Bachman -- BMO Capital Markets -- Analyst

Hi, thank you. I had two questions, if I could. The first is on customer metrics. I was wondering if you could tell us how we should be thinking about -- you had another sequential decline. I know you're doing some increased focus and perhaps some of that churn is desired. But could you give us any sense about how that trend will continue through the year, and do you see it stabilizing?

And the corollary part of that same question is, any comments on subscribers within the context of how you're envisioning the customer count moving through the year?

Chirag Shah -- Chief Financial Officer

Yeah, so the -- can you actually just repeat the first part of your question in relation to churn? I just want make sure I understood it correctly.

Keith Bachman -- BMO Capital Markets -- Analyst

Well, your client numbers have moved down sequentially for the last three quarters. Some of that's expected. I'm just wondering how that will trend for this year. And the second part of the clients is, underneath that, how are subscribers -- what are subscriber trends looking like and how would you anticipate that unfolding through the year?

Chirag Shah -- Chief Financial Officer

Got it, OK. So yeah, I mean, the non-core customer base has -- we saw outsized churn last year. We started to see a deceleration of that churn this year. We expect that to continue throughout the year. So while right now, we're still seeing Q1, as I mentioned during my prepared remarks, we saw higher non-core churn than core customer adds, we expect that to flip over the course of the year. From the subscriber perspective, we would also expect to see an increasing number of subscriber additions over the course of the year as we see the less non-core churn.

Keith Bachman -- BMO Capital Markets -- Analyst

Okay. Okay.

Chirag Shah -- Chief Financial Officer

So effectively, the net -- basically what will happen is the net customer adds will flip to the positive and that should also lead to increase in subscribers.

Keith Bachman -- BMO Capital Markets -- Analyst

Okay, fair enough. Interesting. My second question is on cash flow. You had a very strong cash flow of $88 million unlevered. Your cash flow metrics are moving up, call it $12 million for round numbers, but it looks like, frankly, you're going to do $210 million for round numbers. It doesn't look heroic for the balance of the year. Is there anything you could call out on why the cash flow for FY '21 would in fact be higher, given the performance in Q1?

Chirag Shah -- Chief Financial Officer

Well, we had a very strong, as I mentioned, collections quarter in Q1 that was much higher than we -- that brought in much more cash flow than we expected. We also have, obviously, our seasonally largest quarter in Q4 and because of that, we had a significant amount of collections to bring in. Now Q1 and Q2 are our seasonally lowest quarters of the year, so you shouldn't expect the $88 million would continue in Q2 and Q3, just because we have smaller sales seasonality in Q1 and Q2 than we do in Q4.

Keith Bachman -- BMO Capital Markets -- Analyst

Okay. All right. Well, the math looks pretty good, guys. Congratulations.

Chirag Shah -- Chief Financial Officer

Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. [Operator Instructions] Our next question comes from the line of Scott Berg of Needham. Your line is open.

Scott Berg -- Needham & Co. -- Analyst

Hey, Phil and Chirag. Congrats on the good quarter, and thanks for taking my questions. I jumped on a moment late, so hopefully you guys haven't tackled this yet. But I guess, Phil, as you look at the balance of '21, and I know we're still kind of relatively early on it, is -- how do you look at sales trends, either from a seasonality perspective or may be momentum today and for the next six, seven months versus a typical kind of pre-pandemic year? Obviously, we will throw out last year because everything was different.

Phil Saunders -- Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. Hey, Scott. Good to hear your voice again. And this is like the magic million-dollar[Phonetic] question, right? My perspective in that is, I continue to be amazed about the level of transactions that are taking place amid the pandemic. And I think there is a really interesting balance there, Scott. I think there is, obviously, the need and the relevance for what we do on the increase, not just for us, but obviously our competition, right? It's a very important space to develop your people for remote learning, for remote engagement, check in with their managers and skilling. So, that's all good.

But we also know that the pandemic has really shut down a lot of sales cycles, fits and starts with them. So I would say on the balance, I believe as we go through the year and with the power of the vaccine programs around the world, some more spotty than others, I think we're going to see the positive metrics we experienced in Q1 to continue. And I'm caught -- you know me, Scott, I'm cautiously optimistic, I think, about the long-term direction, but I'm really cautiously optimistic about those metrics playing themselves through -- Q2 through Q4. So, I feel good about things getting better through the year, not worse.

Scott Berg -- Needham & Co. -- Analyst

Got it. And then kind of a follow-up on that, Phil. If I went back to 2014 through 2019, I think in every U.S. News & World Report or Time Magazine article on the priorities for corporate executives, workforce management was always a top two or three theme given the wanted[Phonetic] talent that's out there. Obviously, sales in the space slowed last year. But are you hearing that theme kind of come back, especially as unemployment rates are dropping relatively fast, and it seems like there is a mismatch in skills between what's available in the market, what companies are truly looking for in new personnel today?

Phil Saunders -- Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, Scott, for me, it's a really -- I tried to put this into the script, I'm not sure it punched through, right? But we're really excited here at Cornerstone because the conversations we're having with customers and prospects are, like in the last six years of me being in this business, are more strategic and Board level with our customers than they've ever been before, whether it's SMB, mid or large enterprise, whether it'd be in Japan or in New York City.

And I think that's not just because of this new normal, right? I think what we're all getting ready for is coming out of the pandemic, the old work way of five days a week in the office is going to be gone, but it will be a hybrid way of work, right? There'll be in and out of the office. And that's going to require a blending of talent development capabilities and remote learning.

But it's also both -- along with the fact that these companies around the world are all in the midst of transformation. I'll use an example. I can think across multiple industries, the power of zero carbon, just as an example. That initiative, I'm going to be zero carbon by 2028, will acquire the whole set of things that frankly five years ago, Scott, you and I wouldn't be talking about, right? How do I reskill my talent to go get my repair folks to be able to fix an electric engine versus a gas engine, and that requires talent that doesn't exist in the market. So you have to transform your talent and train them properly. That transformational effort, just as that one example, in combination with what's going on with the new world of work post-pandemic, I think makes our market probably unbiased, but the most exciting market to be in.

Scott Berg -- Needham & Co. -- Analyst

Got it. Thank you. Congrats on a great quarter. Talk to you guys soon.

Phil Saunders -- Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Scott.

Chirag Shah -- Chief Financial Officer

Thanks, Scott.

Operator

Thank you. At this time, I'd like to turn the call back over to CEO, Phil Saunders, for closing remarks. Sir?

Phil Saunders -- Chief Executive Officer

Well, thanks folks. We really appreciate you joining us. We're excited about what the future holds for us here at Cornerstone, and we look forward to meeting you after our second quarter is closed. Looking forward to talking to you. Bye now.

Operator

[Operator Closing Remarks]

Duration: 31 minutes

Call participants:

Jason Gold -- Senior Vice President, Finance and Corporate Development

Phil Saunders -- Chief Executive Officer

Chirag Shah -- Chief Financial Officer

Michael Berg -- Mizuho Group -- Analyst

Keith Bachman -- BMO Capital Markets -- Analyst

Scott Berg -- Needham & Co. -- Analyst

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