A controller is responsible for the accounting functions of a business or nonprofit. For a small-midsized organization, it may not be in the budget to hire a full time Controller even though it would be a major benefit.

A cost-effective alternative is to outsource the controller/senior accountant functions on a part-time basis.

Cost Benefit of a Part Time Controller

While salaries will vary depending on experience and location, here is a rough comparison for a seasoned Controller:

  • Full time = annual salary = $120,000 = $10,000 per month
  • Part time = 20 hours/month at $50/hr = 1,000 per month

Of course, a full time Controller can get a lot more done while a part time controller is a great initial step to have an accounting professional on your team while your organization is growing.

What Does a Controller Do?

A controller manages the accounting functions of a company or nonprofit including:

  • Provides timely and accurate financial data, reports and analysis in an understandable form that management can understand. E.g. a monthly profit and loss report.
  • A controller would provide management with cash flow projections–bills to be paid and income to collect. Heavy emphasis on income and collections.
  • Hires and trains a bookkeeper who does the day-to-day financial transactions including invoicing customers, collections, payroll, paying bills, sales tax returns and other functions.
  • Provides ongoing support and instruction of accounting staff. Develops policy and procedures to assist the bookkeeping staff.
  • Prepares year end audit reports and liaises with external CPA.
  • Develops and manages credit granting systems for the organization to manage cash flow and avoid bad debts.
  • Ensures all tax filings are done accurately and on time.
  • Recommends and installs accounting programs such as QuickBooks or Sage.
  • Transitions accounting systems to the cloud (web-based accounting).
  • For construction or manufacturing businesses, provides cost accounting systems and reporting. Cost accounting is a system of recording, analyzing and reporting all of a company’s costs related to the production of a product (manufacturing business) or individual jobs as in construction.

When Do You Need a Part Time Controller?

Every business needs accounting and tax filings done accurately and on time. For a startup, some of these functions may be done by the business owner or not done at all, then by a part-time Controller and with more growth and income a full-time controller.

When to hire a part-time controller:

  • You want timely and accurate financial reporting such as a monthly P & L (profit and loss). Only using the annual P & L for tax filing purposes is an invitation for disaster.
  • Owner is spending too much time on accounting functions leading to insufficient time for overall business management and new sales.
  • You want to ensure accurate tax compliance—provincial and federal.
  • Your bookkeeper needs ongoing help and training.
  • You want to improve your cash flow though expertise in management of inventory levels, customer billing and collections, creditor relations and evaluation of major asset purchases such as a new property or equipment.
  • In house bookkeepers and accounting staff play an invaluable role in the early stages of growing companies but eventually the organization will need more financial expertise.

How to Utilize an Outsourced or Part Time Controller

An outsourced or part time controller is a great option for a growing business or nonprofit organization. Here you get the benefit of an experienced professional without the cost burden of a full-time senior employee.

A controller is a key member of your management team and will ensure the accounting is both timely and accurate as well as providing understandable financial reports and analysis.

A good controller lets management know about all the important financial matters of the business or nonprofit with realistic recommendations to improve profits and cash flow.

A competent controller is typically very “hands on” especially keeping the business owner updated and aware of financial situations and opportunities.

Businesses and nonprofits that appreciate their controllers for the expertise that they can bring and will more likely be more successful in the long run.

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