What Are CFOs and Controllers?
By Jon Orr, Managing Director, Optimas Financial & Accounting Solutions
A CFO is like the quarterback of a football team. The quarterback needs to not only call the plays, he also needs to be able to run, throw or handoff the ball, too. Likewise, you need a CFO who can not only pull together the right numbers, but who can understand the story behind the numbers and can explain that story to you.
In contrast, the Controller has a more limited role than the CFO. The Controller is a numbers expert, but not necessarily an analysis expert. The Controller will help make sure your business is tracking the right data correctly. This means the Controller handles everything from the setup of your accounting systems to the preparation of comprehensive balance sheets, income statements and cash flow statements. The Controller will prepare the data, but not interpret the data.
However, the Controller should not be confused with the bookkeeper. The bookkeeper may support the Controller by entering your financial data into an accounting system that the Controller has arranged. That system might even be sophisticated enough to allow the bookkeeper to press a button and run certain reports. But most bookkeepers will not know how to set up the system, and if your business changes over time, your bookkeeper won’t necessarily know how to adapt the system to keep in touch with your current business circumstances.
In short, the Controller makes sure you see the right numbers. The CFO helps you interpret those numbers and take action. Both functions work together to provide you with the information you need to help your business achieve its full potential.
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