Again in 2012, Ben Horowitz published an write-up titled “Great Merchandise Supervisor/ Poor Merchandise Supervisor.” We borrowed from his structure as we assessed a key job in a rapid-increasing company’s finance organization: the controller. (See our prior column, Great CFO/Poor CFO.) Special many thanks to Aman Kothari, Darko Socanski, and the Bessemer Venture Companions CFO Advisory Board for their contributions.
Obtaining the ideal company controller for the scale and phase of expansion for your organization is essential. If your organization is a compact, rapid-increasing organization, a “big company” controller may possibly be unable or unwilling to roll up their sleeves to lean in and assist deal with your most significant issues. If your organization is far more mature, an remarkable, fingers-on compact organization controller may possibly have problem developing a sturdy team and pondering and performing strategically.
The “goldilocks” controller has the ideal combine of capabilities and pursuits for your present-day worries with the means to scale the organization in the limited-to-medium phrase. As an organization scales it isn’t abnormal for the controller to both be upgraded or for a main accounting officer to be hired around them to assist bridge gaps.
No matter whether you need a far more nimble, fingers-on controller or a huge-image, strategic controller, right here are some common attributes to think about in the assortment and evaluation method.
A excellent controller can construct and direct a sturdy accounting team. He or she hires the ideal folks for the job and for the team and organization tradition. A negative controller is challenged on this front — he or she mis-hires and winds up performing all of the get the job done by themselves, then complains about it to all people who will hear.
A excellent controller organizes for results. He or she designs their organization in a way that optimally supports the organization now and that can be adaptable to meet up with changing limited-to-medium phrase requirements. A negative controller hires bodies to “get the career done” and doesn’t have time to think about what will come upcoming.
A excellent controller employs their innate comprehension of just about every team member’s aspirations and limits to get the very best out of them. A negative controller cannot tell the difference among excellent expertise and negative expertise. He or she is scared to improve the team because of the supplemental get the job done they’ll need to do all through the transition interval.
A excellent controller sets apparent anticipations with the team and follows up. He or she sets plans for by themselves and their team targeted on continuous method advancement. He or she asks lots of open-ended questions and learns from the solutions. A negative controller does items the way the past controller did them with no ever inquiring why. Poor controllers have no need to request questions as they currently know all of the solutions.
At a scaled-down organization, a excellent controller enjoys being fingers-on and is pleased with that as an ongoing aspect of their career, comfortably doing work the two as a preparer and a reviewer. A negative controller in this measurement organization resents possessing to do the depth get the job done by themselves and doesn’t hassle to evaluate the get the job done of subordinates.
A excellent controller “owns it.” He or she is prepared to do regardless of what it can take to get the career completed and will get the job done shoulder to shoulder with the team all through people very long shut or pre-audit evenings. The negative controller punches out after their 8 hrs irrespective of what is going on in the business office, leaving the team behind to fend for by themselves.
A excellent controller is rapid to distribute the credit and slow to distribute the blame. He or she can take satisfaction in the team’s successes and owns their failures. The very same mistake doesn’t transpire yet again because it becomes a instructing minute and a lesson is acquired. A negative controller can take credit for others’ successes and blames many others when items go completely wrong. There is no instructing and the very same errors transpire around and around yet again.
A excellent controller is super provider-oriented and ensures that the finance team provides remarkable provider to its consumers (the relaxation of the company). A negative controller doesn’t consider that finance has any consumers and ignores the requirements of the other departments.
A excellent controller communicates effectively, the two inside finance and to the broader organization, understanding that he or she is aspect of a collective team that only succeeds jointly. A negative controller works in a silo and doesn’t motivate collaboration.
A excellent controller understands processes, methods, and their underlying details and will get the job done closely with engineering and IT associates to get the very best out of their engineering equipment. A negative controller doesn’t put into action methods projects because he or she cannot obtain the time. Poor controllers hold up the migration from QuickBooks because they like the versatility to be ready to go back to edit closed durations.
A excellent controller makes correct economic statements on a predictable program and has a strategy to boost on their timeliness and comprehensiveness. He or she understands that obtaining to a faster monthly shut usually means that the team will have far more time just about every month for method advancement, generating the upcoming monthly shut even far better. In a larger private organization, the excellent controller has a strategy to lessen monthly shut to a public organization timeframe though also retaining the sanity of the team. The negative controller employs the whole month (or far more) to shut the books, leaving no time for method advancement and leaving the team perpetually in a point out of exhaustion and worry.
A excellent controller inherently understands and is fluent in the the vast majority of the operational and complex accounting principles appropriate to the organization. At a scaled-down organization, the controller could not have the very same depth of complex accounting know-how but he or she will nevertheless be fluent in the key principles so as to know when to request supplemental questions or flag issues. The negative controller assumes that the auditors will figure out all of the complex accounting issues in the audit so he or she minimizes their work expended on investigating them.
A excellent controller builds a sturdy and constructive doing work relationship with the audit companion and is unafraid to have interaction in genuine and open dialog all around essential interior issues. Good controllers converse often and share the common aim of “getting items right” and staying away from surprises. The negative controller dreads every discussion with the audit companion out of panic that his or her incompetence will be exposed.
A excellent controller is ethically and morally grounded and is unafraid to obstacle and have interaction with many others at all stages of the organization in conversations about moral issues. A negative controller life in panic for their career and therefore will hide from tough issues.
A excellent controller projects gravitas and can companion effectively with executives and many others throughout the organization. A negative controller is not comfortable when interacting with many others and it demonstrates.
A excellent controller seeks out mentorship and direction and is targeted on self-advancement. A negative controller just “does their job” as he or she doesn’t have the bandwidth to do any far more.
Adam Spiegel served as CFO for a sequence of public and private high expansion engineering businesses such as RPX and Glassdoor. Formerly he put in around a 10 years as an expense banker for the Credit history Suisse 1st Boston Engineering Group and Prudential Securities, completing transactions valued at around $8 billion. He now mentors CFOs and advises other executives of high expansion engineering businesses.
Jeff Epstein is an running companion at Bessemer Venture Companions and a lecturer at Stanford University. He specializes in marketplaces and organization-to-organization computer software businesses. He serves on the boards of administrators and audit committees of Kaiser Permanente, Twilio, Shutterstock, and a number of private businesses.