If you’re going to be a great Controller, you have to understand the needs of the business. Whether you’re entering a new organization or looking to move up in your current organization, these tips can help you succeed.
Accounting teams who wait for information (such as signed revenue contracts, vendor bills, expense reports) and then merely analyze and process those transactions, will never be great. To stand out, an accountant must anticipate the needs of the business.
Meet with the legal and sales teams to influence the accounting impact on sales contracts. Collaborate within engineering to automate billing processes. Identify with human resources any new department structures, locations, employee hires, etc. Connect with business partners within the organization to be aware of new vendor spend, so there are no surprises at month end. If you can anticipate the business, you’ll be able to provide better service and help your company operate smoothly.
Additionally, Controllers that do well are the ones who frequently talk to people outside of accounting and finance. They build relationships and become a trusted business partner, and as a result, end up being included in early meetings related to new business ideas.
When joining a new company, you should immediately assess the health of the financial records, the strength of the team, the scale of your systems, and the effectiveness of your policies. You may not be able to address everything right away, but develop a plan to clean house. You may need to focus on recruiting a team, upgrading your ERP or AP software (are you growing internationally with multi currency or do you have complex revenue recognition?), or revising previously stated financials (revenue recognition, accruals, departmental coding, etc). Each company you join will have unique challenges, but be prepared to make calls quickly and move fast. If you have any doubts about a system, process, or team then it’s already too late. You will never be able to serve the company at your best when your own house is not in order.
Imagine you’re the head of sales or marketing. What things can you do to make it easier for these departments to succeed? Sales wants to hit their quotas, but have you created a deal desk process that is as painless as possible for the sales team, while still obtaining all of the required information for accounting? Marketing wants to know the effectiveness of their spend, but have you accounted for the expenses in the right period or structured the chart of accounts to provide this data accurately and efficiently? What can you do as an accounting or finance professional to make life easier for them?
World-class Controllers find and solve the pain points in the business. Then, as your company grows in size and complexity, you’re set up to scale intelligently and efficiently.
Good Controllers understand “how” but great Controllers understand “why”. Understand why your business makes key decisions and why they need certain information. Build your systems and processes to capture this data. Leverage the data that you have to make really good business decisions and you’ll always be an asset to your company.
Former Controller / VP Finance / Accounting Manager (Lime, Zenefits, Pinterest, Google)
Gappify, founded in 2016, is a cloud-based provider of accrual automation solutions for mid-market and enterprise accounting teams. The company is headquartered in Oakland, California, with offices in New York City, and Manila, Philippines.
Its team consists of accountants and CPA’s from Big Four accounting firms and software innovators. Gappify is also supported by strategic advisors from some of the world’s most recognized technology companies and is affiliated with the top companies & accounting organizations.
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