What Does a Controller Do?


There’s an old joke that a Controller’s job is simple: to do everything the CEO doesn’t want to do. And there’s a lot of truth in that statement: one of the Controller’s main roles is to be an all-purpose troubleshooter who tackles any problems that come their way (accounting, operations, HR, etc.). 

But what, exactly, does a Controller do? If you’re the owner of a growing business and think you might need a Controller some time soon, here’s a list of the things you can expect that person to handle for you.

A controller can...

  • Design your company’s overall accounting system and workflows.
  • Close accounting periods and prepare accurate, timely financial reports.
  • Oversee bank accounts and manage cash flow to ensure that your business has the resources it needs to operate day-in and day-out.
  • Ensure that your company is meeting all of its tax obligations.
  • Help you adopt new tools and technologies that will enable the business to run more efficiently.
  • Analyze financial results and track Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to help you understand how your business is doing.
  • Design and maintain your company’s internal control environment.
  • Train and supervise your accounting staff.
  • Help you plan for the future and pursue larger goals like expanding your business, purchasing major assets, and applying for credit lines or bank loans.

Overall, we’d say that an effective controller needs to have a blend of skills: about 60% accountant, 30% information systems manager, and 10% jack-of-all-trades. To us, that’s the type of person who has the financial literacy and the nuts-and-bolts practicality to handle the controller role and take whatever you throw at them.

Legal stuff: This information is provided for educational purposes only and does not constitute advice for your specific situation.

William Keller