What Does a Controller Do?


Updated February 21, 2018

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 successfully day-in and day-out.
  • Ensure your company is meeting all of its tax obligations.
  • Help you adopt new technologies and apps that will enable your 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.
  • Help you plan for the future and pursue larger goals like expanding your business, purchasing major assets, or applying for a credit line or bank loan.

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