As your small business grows, your needs and regulatory requirements change. You have to have approved forward pricing rates and go through audits. These are things that may be best suited to be led by a controller working directly with your organization, rather than an external bookkeeper or accountant.
How to hire a controller
The first thing you need to determine before hiring a controller is which functions you actually want or need out of the position. Bookkeeping, accounts payable, accounts receivable, payroll, audit preparation, government rates submissions, pricing efforts…the list goes on.
You need to also consider the level of experience and the systems they are expected to know and understand. Are you doing a conversion from an older system to something like Deltek Costpoint? If so, you may need someone with that requisite experience, and that experience does come with a price tag attached.
Are they the lone ranger in their section or will they be managing staff, leading a team made up of payroll and AP personnel or even a junior bookkeeper?
How much experience does the controller need to have in your specific industry?
This is a tricky question in our GovCon industry. There are many requirements of us that the typical controller for a commercially-focused company may not know about or understand. Pricing and your direct/indirect rate structures are critical to your success and you want someone very familiar with these aspects.
What are important qualities to look for in a controller?
- CPA designation
- Trustworthiness – After all, these folks will have access to all your organization’s financial accounts and data
- Length of time at previous organizations – This is important because it takes some time for a controller to get acquainted with your organization and ways of doing business. You don’t want to get them up to speed and then have them leave quickly – likely to a competitor – with knowledge of your rates and practices. NDAs are needed but remember the NDA doesn’t erase their memory.
To find controller candidates, look to your network or colleagues, friends, and industry organizations, as well as previous controllers or accounting staff; also consider third-party sites, recruiters, and LinkedIn.
Here at TAPE we’ve just gone through the process of hiring our own new controller. We found the most important thing to do is to really define what you want before going out to look to fill a position. It’s also important to form a comfort level with that candidate. They will know all things financial about your organization. You have to be comfortable with that, and with them.