Why Use a Part-time Controller for Your Growing Business?
By Peggy M. Seville
You’ve been in business for a several years and your business is growing.  You have a bookkeeper and a year-end accountant.  Things should be going great, but your time is stretched thin.  How can you focus on marketing, customer service, employee management, and find time for financial planning, budgeting, analyzing results, and implementing new systems and procedures?

You realize you would save money by making better financial decisions but researching different options needs big blocks of time.  Perhaps you could implement better systems to be more efficient but you aren’t sure where to start.  You may feel like you’re on a treadmill, running and running and never getting anywhere. You possibly have already figured out your business needs a controller but don’t have the resources to hire a full time in-house accountant.  What’s the best way to take your business to the next level?

What does a Controller do? 
A controller will provide leadership, have a keen eye for details, and look after all those financial details you don’t have time for.  Here is a list of tasks a controller will be responsible for:
n Develop key performance indicators  
n Design and maintain internal control systems and processes
n Identify cost savings
n Research financing options for large asset expenditures and manage fixed asset replacement schedules
n Analyze insurance costs and procure insurance quotes
n Develop and manage budgeting and forecasting systems (yes, you should do both).
n Review account categorizations for accuracy and makes monthly adjusting journal entries where required
n Provide monthly financial and management reports
n Oversee your technology infrastructure, IT outsourcing, and backup systems.  Suggest new technologies, procure quotes.
n Develop relationships with lenders and key stakeholders.
n Research new capital financing options
n Support day to day operations and oversee inventory management
n Manage cash flows
n Supervise accounting staff and work with operational managers
n Coordinate with your year-end accountant to facilitate year-end reporting and strategic tax planning

I have an Accountant - How is a Controller different?
A controller does very different things than an accountant and does it all year long.  Year-end accountants do important work to produce year-end financial statements, tax returns and provide tax planning strategies.  They focus on compliance and assurance to the readers of your financial statements that your financial position is accurately reported. In order to grow, you need timely, accurate and useful information throughout the year, not just once a year. 

A controller will provide and analyze management reports you can use to make real decisions about your business.  Some examples of management reports are:  what kind of customers are the most profitable? What is your break-even point? What is your inventory turnover rate?  What segments of my business are making money and which are not?  These are not reports your external accountant typically provides.

What can I expect from a Controller?
Your controller will be an integral part of your management team.  Controllers find designing new management reports and implementing new processes interesting and, yes, even fun.  Your controller will take responsibility over your financial reporting systems.  A good controller will help you make objective decisions to make sure you are taking the best possible actions for your company.   She'll take control of managing your cash flow and forecasting cash requirements and she'll take steps to ensure you're getting paid on time. 

Any controller, full or part-time, should have excellent and professional interpersonal skills to be able to work with all levels of employees and communicate with suppliers, shareholders, bankers, lawyers and accountants.

How much will a Part-time Controller Cost?
Full-time controller salaries range from $84,000 to $187,500 depending on experience and the size of your business (Robert Half 2016 Salary Guide, www.roberthalf.ca).  A part-time controller can be engaged on an as required basis for a fraction of this cost.  Your part-time controller should be flexible and able to work with your needs.  Accessibility and the ability to work remotely when there are issues that need to be dealt with immediately are also important.

What’s next?
Are you now convinced that you need to hire a part-time controller?  Confused about where to start?  I can help.  For more information, call me and let’s chat.
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