Should I hire a CFO or Controller?

When it comes to managing the finances of a company, two roles that often come up are that of a controller and a chief financial officer (CFO). While these two positions may sound similar, they have distinct differences. They differ in terms of their responsibilities and the level of authority they hold within an organization. 

 The Role of a Controller

A controller is responsible for managing the day-to-day financial operations of a company. This includes overseeing the company’s accounting procedures, financial reporting, and budgeting. Controllers are often responsible for preparing financial statements. This includes things such as balance sheets and income statements, and ensuring that they are accurate and comply with accounting standards. 

 In addition to financial reporting, controllers are also responsible for managing the company’s cash flow, ensuring that bills are paid on time, and that cash is available for day-to-day operations. They may also be involved in making decisions related to pricing, inventory management, and other financial aspects of the business. 

 Controllers typically report to a CFO or another high-level executive, such as the chief operating officer (COO) or chief executive officer (CEO). They work closely with other departments within the company, such as sales and marketing. This ensures that financial goals are aligned with overall business objectives. 

The Role of a CFO

 While a controller is responsible for managing the day-to-day financial operations of a company, a CFO is responsible for the overall financial management of the company. This includes developing and implementing financial strategies, managing financial risks, and making financial decisions that impact the company’s long-term success. 

 CFOs are often involved in strategic planning and decision-making, and may work closely with the CEO or board of directors to develop and implement financial policies and procedures. They are responsible for overseeing financial reporting and compliance. As well as ensuring that the company is in compliance with all relevant regulations and laws. 

 CFOs are also responsible for managing relationships with banks and other financial institutions, and may be involved in raising capital for the company through debt or equity financing. They may also be responsible for managing mergers and acquisitions. Also for developing and implementing financial policies related to employee benefits, compensation, and retirement plans.  

How to Decide Which Position to Hire for Your Business

 When it comes to deciding whether to hire a controller or a CFO for your business, there are several factors to consider. One of the most important factors is the size and complexity of your organization. 

 If you are running a small business with a simple financial structure, a controller may be sufficient to manage your day-to-day financial operations. If your business is growing rapidly, or if you have complex financial needs, a CFO may be necessary. They offer strategic financial leadership and manage financial risks. 

 Another factor to consider is the level of financial expertise you require. Controllers typically have a strong background in accounting and financial management. Although they may not have the strategic skills necessary to manage complex financial decisions. CFOs, on the other hand, have a more strategic focus and are often required to have a broader range of financial skills. This includes experience in financial planning, analysis, and risk management. 

 You should also consider the level of financial risk your business faces. If your business is in a high-risk industry or if you have a significant amount of debt. A CFO may be necessary to help manage financial risks and ensure the long-term success of the company. 

 Finally, it’s important to consider your budget when deciding whether to hire a controller or a CFO. CFOs are typically more expensive than controllers, due to their higher level of responsibility and expertise. If you have limited resources, it may be more cost-effective to hire a controller initially. Then consider adding a CFO as your business grows. 


 In summary, while the roles of a controller and a CFO may sound similar, they have distinct differences in terms of their responsibilities and the level of authority they hold within an organization.  If you would like assistance in determining the correct role for your organization please reach out to our team here at Whittaker. Click the link below to get started.