CFO, Controller, bookkeeper – are they not the just a rose by another name? If the objective is to retain a person by giving them status by granting them a title, then it doesn’t much matter what you call them. But, if you desire to employ a person with a specific skill set, then there is definitely a difference.
In order to keep things simple, lets limit our discussion to the roles of Chief Financial Officer and Controller. While there are a great many differences that could be explored, I two key distinctions encapsulate the difference between the two functions.
First, the CFO is the strategist, focusing on the long term future. The Controller is the doer whose attention is focused on the immediate past performance.
Second, the Chief Financial Officer’s efforts are directed at interpreting the financial story of the company for the decision makers within the company and for the lenders/investors from without. While the Controller may develop financial projections, primarily for budget purposes, he or she largely presents the numbers rather than interpreting the results. At the risk of over simplification, the Chief Financial Officer is future oriented and the Controller is concerned with the past.
Based on this characterization, would you say that a Chief Financial Officer and a Controller play different roles? Do you need a Chief Financial Officer, a Controller or both. The answer is – it depends . . . on you, the business owner.
Do you desire to build your company as a competitive force in your city, state or region or are you content to be a small but profitable company sufficient in size to provide for you and your family?
Is there value in Having a CFO? The CFO brings value to companies desiring to grow as they provide a strategic perspective of the financial position of the company and interprets this perspective for the companies decision makers.