Growing companies can outsource bookkeeping and accounting in the early days, but at a certain point it makes sense to bring these tasks in-house. It’s important to do this at the right time and hire the right type of employee to ensure proper oversight of your financials.
This likely means hiring a controller—an important role in every company of a certain size. Read on to learn why and when to hire a controller, and what to look for as you conduct your search.
What is a controller?
A controller is the leader of an accounting department, overseeing all aspects of how the company’s finances are organized, analyzed, and documented. As leaders and overseers, controllers are more than simple “number crunchers.” They’re like number interpreters — acting as a vital bridge between the company’s leadership and the company’s books.
The role of a controller varies depending on the size of the company. A controller in a larger company typically reports to the chief financial officer (CFO) and may supervise an entire department of accountants, payroll administrators, tax managers, and other financial analysts. The controller may share financial management responsibilities over the company’s cash and investments with the company’s treasurer. In a smaller company, the controller may be a department of one — serving as the company’s sole accountant — or may oversee a clerk or two. The controller in a smaller company without a CFO is likely to report directly to the VP of Finance or the CEO.
A key role played by the controller is applying generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) in the set-up and management of financial systems and accounting processes, as well as the provision of regular, GAAP-compliant financial statements to company leadership. They also do in-depth financial analysis and establish internal controls to ensure good financial management across an entire company. Controllers are also responsible for hiring, training, and managing employees in their accounting department, as well as billing customers.