Your company is rapidly growing, your bookkeeper is stressed, or you are running into new and unusual transactions (new territories or products, acquiring a business, etc.). It may be time to bring in higher-level accounting and finance help. However, you may not be ready to invest in hiring a full-time Controller.
Virtual/Fractional and Interim Controller
What is a Controller? A Controller is a seasoned accounting professional that can oversee the financial statement close process, payroll, accounts payable, accounts receivable, etc. A Controller does not have ‘hands on’ responsibilities for any of these areas but, instead, ensures the accuracy and timeliness of the financial close through oversight and review. Also, a Controller is not the same as a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) who understands these items but is also well versed in corporate risks, strategy planning and forecasting, capital structure, etc.
So, you need a Controller (or possibly a CFO). What are the options besides hiring one full time? There are a few options that have emerged as viable options:
- Virtual/Fractional Controller – this is a shared, contracted resource model where many smaller companies use a single resource to provide services. The benefit: you get access to an experienced resource that many small companies couldn’t afford to bring in-house by themselves. While fractional controllers used to be more of an on-site resource, there is a strong trend towards a virtual Controller model where Controller services are provided remotely.
- Interim Controller – this is an in-house shared resource that provides full-time Controller services onsite. As the name implies, this is for a finite period and is most useful in periods of transition like rapid growth, large transactions, or employee turnover. Additionally, if you have a Controller who, for whatever reason, terminates their employment, an interim Controller can step in to fill the gap.
There is no ‘bright-line’ test for when to bring in a Controller; it depends on your company and situation. However, if you are feeling uncomfortable with your current accounting situation, it is most likely time to reach out to a qualified resource.