What Does a Controller Do and Should You Hire One?

what does a controller do

Are you wondering what does a controller do? The financial aspects of running a company are vital and complex. They include forecasting and planning, accounting and measuring results, and monitoring cash flow. Having this information at hand can help you as a company owner to make better decisions. While managing a business is nothing short of overwhelming, the good news is you don’t have to handle all these processes yourself. You can set up a financial team within your business to help you.

Common Accounting & Finance Positions Within a Business

There are a few key positions within the accounting and finance departments that you should be aware of:

Bookkeeper/Accounting Clerk: Duties include the day-to-day recording and assessment of basic accounting information.

Accountant: Duties include handling money in and money out, payroll, preparing financial reports, and maintaining financial controls.

Financial Controller: Duties include working alongside the CFO and sometimes financial director to provide financial leadership. They are responsible for accounting, reporting, analysis, budgeting, and more. 

Chief Financial Officer (CFO): Responsible for overseeing the financial operations of a large business. A CFO leads companies through growth cycles and business downturns. Duties include identifying the best investment opportunities, developing relations in banking, and minimizing finance costs.

The Valuable Role of a Controller

A controller is one of the most influential people within your company’s accounting and finance department. Controllers help everyone within the department work together. Some of their specific duties include:

  • Ensuring the integrity of all accounting functions
  • Performing meaningful financial analysis
  • Facilitation of tax information to your CPA<
  • Providing financial information to company executives
  • Assisting management with financial decisions
  • Helping the accounting team with cash flow management
  • Provide job training and mentoring ton the accounting department

When Does Your Company Need a Controller?

It takes effective leadership to handle your accounting so that your business can flourish. A financial controller can benefit your company by offering skills and experience that you may not be able to get from other people on your team.

Here are three specific situations where a controller would be a perfect addition to your team:

  • Your business is expanding: If you are scaling your business and your company is becoming more complex as you add lines of business or open new locations, you run the risk of your operations becoming splintered. When you reach this point, you need someone who can help you generate your financial data and make recommendations to help you use your capital wisely and save money wherever possible. This is where a controller comes in.
  • You need to supplement your accountant:There is a significant difference between an accountant and a controller. A controller can supervise your accounting team and streamline your financial processes. They can also assist with hiring new members for your accounting department while making sure you have the most qualified professionals.
  • Your CFO is overwhelmed: If you don’t have a controller, your CFO could possibly handle those duties. However, if your CFO is struggling to handle their role as chief strategist while also supervising the accounting team, you need a controller to step in. A controller can take the load off your CFO by focusing on the day-to-day supervision of the accounting team and providing the CFO with the necessary information to help them make accurate financial forecasts to support future strategic decisions for the business.

Is It Better to Outsource a Controller?

Many small or medium-sized businesses do not have the budget to hire a full-time, in-house financial controller. Nor does it make sense for them to do so. However, this doesn’t mean your business wouldn’t benefit from one. You can take advantage of the numerous benefits of fractional hiring by employing an outsourced controller. These may include:

  • You may not have enough work to employ a full-time controller: One of the main reasons companies don’t hire a controller is because they do not have enough work to keep them busy full-time. Often, when a business employs a fractional controller, they haven’t had one on their team before. An outsourced solution offers an excellent opportunity to bring a controller onboard while your company is in growth mode.
  • You may wish to supplement your existing financial team: You might already have an accounting team in place, but if you notice the books are getting out of hand or that things are not as organized as you’d like them to be, an outsourced controller can help. Their role would be to manage the current team. Part of the role includes the streamlining processes and implementing best practices to ensure there is consistent reporting, including an extra layer of review.
  • You wish to support your outsourced CFO: Not all financial challenges can be met by reorganizing your accounts or creating accurate financial reports. In some cases, you may need the strategic experience and expertise of a CFO. When you combine an outsourced CFO with an outsourced controller, you create a pretty dynamic team. The CFO can analyze your financial data, make financial forecasts, and offer strategic advice on how to change, improve, or grow your business. Meanwhile, the controller can keep the accounting team performing at peak efficiency.
  • You are preparing for a transaction: You may find having an outsourced controller on your team advantageous if you are planning a transaction such as an acquisition or merger, or if you are attempting to raise capital. As these are typically shorter-term transactions, you may not want to hire a full-time controller, and this might not be a good time to add another full-time employee to your staff.
  • You want professional confidence: When you outsource a financial controller (or any F&A role), you immediately reduce your hiring process and staffing overhead. You will also simultaneously obtain more immediate professional confidence and experience with this option than you would by going the traditional route of hiring an in-house role.

The credit given here is to the professional service provider’s ability to thoroughly vet the depth of their experience and test their knowledge within this role in a variety of scenarios.  Meaning, you can rest assured that you are getting a top-notch professional who has the skillset and experience you need for your team.

  • You want to save money: Hiring an outsourced controller means you can avoid a full-time salary and save resources on raises, bonuses, and benefits at the same time. As you are only paying for the work you need the outsourced controller to do, you are maximizing your ROI.  This model allows for flexibility to scale up and down with the ebbs and flows of your business.

Fractional Controller Services

A professional fractional controller can offer your company a wide range of services such as:

  • Cash flow management
  • Drawing up budgets and financial plans
  • Creating monthly financial reports
  • Producing industry-specific analysis
  • Implementing internal financial policies and controls
  • Supervising preparations for an audit
  • Training and supervising accounting staff
  • Expertise with accounting software systems

If you want to take advantage of the experience and expertise of an outsourced financial controller, Signature Analytics can match you with a professional controller who is just right for your company’s needs.

Don’t let a weak or underqualified accounting team let your company down. Contact Signature Analytics today; we’ll help you find a professional controller who can manage your accounting team and take the pressure of your CFO.