In Pursuit of Profit
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How do you know if you need to hire a financial controller? A controller is essential when:
A controller can implement internal controls to mitigate financial risk, improve cash flow, and facilitate profitable growth. As a result, hiring a financial controller is a key strategic move, but it hinges on correctly defining the role and seeking out the best candidate.
Define the Role
Broadly speaking, a controller will oversee accounting and finance functions. However, the specifics of the role include:
Smaller businesses and newly emerging businesses will likely have a controller or CFO, not both, which means that initially a controller’s role may have some overlap with what is typically expected of a CFO. However, as the company grows, these roles will split with the controller overseeing everything up to ensuring financial reporting accuracy and the CFO taking over after that point to obtain financing and manage investor relationships.
Regardless of what is expected of the role, write your controller job description to clearly define what you are looking for in a candidate.
Assess your Options
Next, determine whether you need to hire internally, or whether it makes more sense to outsource the role.
A fractional controller can fill the same role as an in-house hire without the steep costs associated with employees (such as payroll taxes, benefits, and performance bonuses). As a result, a fractional controller is the right choice for a company that does not have the budget for a full-time controller. Furthermore, a fractional controller is also a shrewd option for when a company needs financial leadership on a part-time basis, over a specific time-period, or in association with certain financial tasks.
If this is more in line with your current needs, look for a reputable financial services firm that offers these kinds of fractional services. However, if hiring an in-house controller is going to be a better fit than hiring a fractional controller, the next step is to understand where to look for a controller.
Knowing where to search for the right candidate is the first, and perhaps the biggest barrier, that hiring companies face. While there is not one right way to conduct an executive search, there are some best practices to follow that can increase your chances of finding qualified candidates:
Utilizing a recruitment firm is always a smart business decision because they have access to the best avenues needed to pull together a pool of experienced candidates that fit your needs. They will vet applicants to ensure their skillsets match your hiring criteria as well as facilitate later-stage hiring activities like interviewing and making an offer to ensure the best candidate is hired.
A strong candidate will have significant accounting and or finance experience, whether that experience includes the title of “controller” or not. Regardless of previous roles held, however, anyone interviewing for a controller role should be able to identify instances when they have created, documented, and implemented processes to guide financial activities (like monthly close) as these are crucial financial oversight activities.
They will also have left their previous employer better than when they found it – shortening closing timelines, reducing expenses, and/or improving cash flow. Managerial experience here is a real bonus, as a controller will oversee lower-level personnel, but is not necessarily required.
Strong candidates must be skilled at creating and using data visualizations in presentations to convey critical information as well as able to identify, track, and improve key financial metrics. The best candidate will be a “numbers person” but also a “people person” to ensure a good working relationship with the rest of the management team. This person should be comfortable communicating ideas and financial recommendations to the CEO to aid in decision-making.
Let us help you find a controller to lead your company to success.