Preparing for the Position of Controller

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Controllers play a key role in the function of a company. They provide the tools needed to steer the business towards financial success. Although a large part of a controllers job involves basic accounting, the controller is occupied with management issues as well. A controller helps to establish information systems, internal controls, and participates in the financial planning of the company.

However, because the scope of a controller’s responsibilities is so broad and encompasses more than bookkeeping, many accountants lack the training, desire and even perspective to hold this position. A controller has to work well with people in addition to mastering figures. Along with training and experience, a controller must a have the personality type that is comfortable going beyond numbers and actively working with managers.

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Two Sets of Accountants

Most companies have two different accounting structures in place. Often, the company has hired an outside CPA firm. In this case, the CPA firms focus is on tax work, auditing and reviewing financial statements. For small companies, the CPA may be called upon to compile the financial statements at the end of the month. He/she is not involved in the daily operations of the business.

On the other hand, controllers, accountants and bookkeepers work internally, side by side with management. It is difficult to teach those trained in useful reporting to be able to also forecast and anticipate company needs. One may be able to read and draw conclusions from the financial statements. But it takes another caliber of accountants to be able to develop strategies and implement these in a practical ways on a managerial level.

Controller Attributes

A controller must be able to…

  • provide accurate financial information through basic accounting processes
  • anticipate company needs so it can function optimally
  • be aggressive and willing to meet with managerial staff
  • contribute a specific skill set and experience to meet the breadth of the company’s needs
  • be comfortable working with management



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