An experienced controller can provide considerable benefits for a business, but they often come with a high salary range. If your company needs the financial guidance and support from a controller, but you also need to save money, a part-time controller is your answer. Hiring an outsourced controller or CFO for the first time can be difficult to navigate if you are unsure what to look for in a controller. Keep reading to learn the top tips for hiring a part-time controller.
Understand the role of a controller
It is important to understand exactly what a controller can offer your company. When employed in a full-time role, a controller often leads the accounting or finance departments of a business. Both accounts payable and accounts receivable fall under their jurisdiction. If your company has a CFO, the controller reports directly to them.
When searching for a controller, freelance or full-time, there are certain credentials he or she should hold. Narrow your search to controllers with a degree in fields such as accounting, business administration, or finance. They should also hold a certification as a Certified Public Accountant or a Certified Master Accountant. If your company needs an experienced financial advisor, look for professionals with ten or more years of experience. The level of responsibility the controller will have in your organization can help determine how much experience is needed for the role.
How does a controller contribute to the business?
A controller takes on many responsibilities in an organization within the finance and accounting departments. From financial planning and reporting to administrative tasks and financial managements, the responsibilities of a controller will depend on your business needs. Common roles and functions include the following.
- Management responsibilities: If you have not had a controller or CFO in the past, a part-time controller can help establish the policies and procedures of your accounting team. A controller can select accounting software, establish financial benchmarks for the organization, and manage control systems. These management duties can set your team up for success, even when the outsourced controller is not on the clock.
- Financial reporting: A controller can manage financial statements and reports, including annual updates, reconciliation, budgets, and more. They can provide detailed reports to a board, executives, and investors. Based on reporting, the controller can provide valuable insights into the health and future of your organization.
- Company transactions: Accounts payable and accounts receivable report to the controller, and payroll falls under their duties as well. If you have not had a controller in the past, your part-time controller can establish and maintain the general ledger for your company as well as a filing system.
- Compliance needs: If your company is publicly held, you must complete filings with the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC). A controller can file these reports and ensure compliance on behalf of your organization or CFO. During the auditing process, the controller manages documentation.
Tips for hiring a freelance controller
If you are looking to save money without sacrificing expertise, hire a freelance or part-time controller. You only pay for services when they are needed instead of committing to a full-time salary. Freelance controllers also tend to have considerable experience across industries and company types, from startups to large organizations.
Set clear expectations
The specific role and responsibilities for a part-time controller will depend on the needs of your organization. Small businesses and startups cannot often afford the full-time services of a CFO, so a controller takes on that role. If a CFO is currently on staff, a controller can help manage the direction of the accounting department.
Before you search for a controller, determine the needs of your business. If your team consists of experienced accounting staff members, you need a controller who can fit in seamlessly with the existing team. If your team is relatively small or inexperienced, a controller may need to step into a leadership position.
Decide on a budget
Outsourced controllers can work on a project or hourly basis. When you are looking for a part-time controller, consider your budget and scope of work. These factors can help you narrow down your search considerably and provide potential candidates with relevant information. If you are hiring a controller for a specific project, an experienced controller can help estimate the hours needed to complete the work.
Look for relevant experience
Limit your search to controllers who have worked with companies within your industry. Industry experience means that they are familiar with the policies and procedures necessary to run your business. They can also offer guidance for your finances based on the current state of the industry.
Your controller should also have experience with companies similar to the size and structure of your own. This experience will help them fit seamlessly into your organization and better understand your needs. Financial best practices, benchmarks, and reporting will also be specific to the size of your company, and prior experience ensures the controller is up to speed when they join your team.
Align software experience
If your company already has a preferred accounting software in place, you need to hire a controller that is skilled with that software. Hiring based on this criterion can save both time and money when it comes to training someone on your software and getting them up to speed. Freelance controllers can also provide valuable guidance on best practices for software and how to maximize your efforts with the resources you already have.
Consider company dynamic
Your freelance controller may not spend every day with your team, but it is important that they work well with your staff. Someone who fits in with your team can save time by avoiding unnecessary friction or miscommunication. When interviewing controllers, it may be beneficial to introduce them to your team or ask your team’s opinion on various candidates.
Rely on a contracting service
Professional controller agencies can provide top-notch controller services that meet the needs of your business. With multiple experienced controllers on staff, agencies likely have consultants that already know your industry and work with similar companies. An agency, like K-38 Consulting, can match your business needs with the right freelance controller.
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