What are Controller Services & Why Can’t Your Bookkeeper Do It?

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By Tammy Hanson
October 25, 2023

Do you need controller services? Almost half (49%) of companies that outsource finance are looking to access new capabilities. It’s a new era in the war for talent that is shifting business strategy and redefining possibility.

A controller oversees bookkeeping activities and executes more complex accounting activities. It’s an operational role that ensures accuracy and completeness in historical financial records so that the data used for forward-looking strategy is available and reliable.

It’s an essential role that provides a necessary separation of duties between the person entering the data and the person validating the data.

What is a Controller?

A financial controller is responsible for maintaining a system of accounting records and producing timely financial reports. The day-to-day accounting operations team, including accounts payable, accounts receivable, payroll, cost accountants, financial analysts, and other positions, can work under the purview of the controller.

The job duties of a controller may include direct involvement or oversight of:

  • Financial Statement Production
  • Period End Closes (Monthly, Quarterly, Annually)
  • GAAP Compliance Controls
  • KPI Reporting
  • Cash Management
  • Tax and Regulatory Compliance
  • Accounting Insights for Strategic Planning
  • Communication with Internal & External Stakeholders

The Role of a Controller vs. a Bookkeeper

Many of the activities that a controller oversees or engages in are performed by a single bookkeeper or the owner/operator in smaller businesses. However, as businesses grow in revenue, headcount, and complexity, additional expertise and bandwidth become a necessity.

Here are a few reasons that you might consider controller services in addition to your bookkeeper.

1. Level of Expertise and Training

Bookkeepers may have an undergraduate degree in accounting, but most of their practical experience comes from day-to-day work recording transactions, managing payables, and maintaining the general ledger.

Controllers often have that experience and a level of advanced education or professional certification that equips them to handle implementation and oversight of more complex financial systems as well as a more analytical role with the organization’s finances.

2. Process & Duties

The work of a bookkeeper involves recording transactions. Their focus is on accuracy and completeness. By contrast, a controller is often more involved with the finalization and presentation of financial data. So, one job works with inputs and the other works with outputs.

3. Systems and Process Improvement

Bookkeepers work within systems, following rules to complete work with accuracy. Controllership involves designing, implementing, and maintaining those systems. When a company is small, the finances can be relatively straightforward. However, size adds complexity and drives a need for better-defined systems, procedures, and policies.

While a controller is more managerial and a bookkeeper is more task-oriented, both roles are necessary to achieve an appropriate separation of duties. In accounting, the practice of having two or more different roles or departments involved creates a system of checks and balances that ensures accuracy and credibility while also mitigating the risk of fraud.

When Should You Hire a Controller

So, it’s a good idea to have a controller that is separate from your bookkeeper, but how do you know when you are ready to add to your finance team? For many companies under $2M in annual revenue, the value of the controller role may not exceed the cost.

It depends on the industry, business model, and other factors that are unique to each business.

For companies between $2M and $10M in annual revenue, the need begins to develop, and many choose to leverage fractional services to meet varying needs. A full-time controller position may be more appropriate for a company in the $20M - $40M per year range.

kept.pro offers controllership services as part of our tailored approach to providing flexible accounting outsourcing solutions. With our business model, we can support companies with an annual revenue of up to $50M.

Outsourcing Controller Services

Innovation in technology–and specifically in data-driven business applications is adding complexity to the world of accounting operations. It’s a common theme across the entire executive suite.

As businesses have access to more data, there is more expectation to use it–and use it well. This trend is driving the need for more complex financial outsourcing services. For example, providers like kept.pro offer integrated services that provide access to different levels of support, like foundational bookkeeping services and higher-level technical oversight.

What is an Integrated Service

An integrated service model provides flexibility and scalability, filling out whatever level of service that you need with fractional commitments. With an integrated services provider, you don’t need to pick and choose between this or that–it’s not a choice between outsourcing either your accounting work or your controllership needs. You get access to a team that includes different levels of expertise to be exactly what you need.

How Outsourcing with an Integrated Service Provider Can Fuel Growth

A marketing agency with $5M in annual revenue was ready to grow to the next level. They needed better financial data quality to support FP&A activities, and they needed to free up the founders to focus on business development activities.

kept.pro’s integrated approach to outsourced accounting services was able to:

  • Rapidly identify and remediate issues driving poor financial data quality resulting in complete and accurate financial reporting
  • Complete ongoing accounting work for on-time financial reporting
  • Utilize their onshore team to follow up on aging receivables, freeing principals to focus on higher-value work

As a result, the agency achieved the visibility and bandwidth it needed to plan and execute a successful growth strategy without the commitment of an internal accounting team.

Controller Services are Designed for Size, Scale, and Complexity

A functional accounting team consists of different levels of talent assigned to different areas of responsibility. While a jack-of-all-trades-type of bookkeeper can help keep records in a smaller company, size and scale add complexity.

For companies operating with more than $2M in annual revenue, a financial controller can improve financial analysis and planning activities while ensuring that foundational accounting systems are established and adhered to.

Are you interested in engaging an integrated accounting team with controllership services? Contact our team at kept.pro today.

Headshot image of author Tammy Hanson

Tammy Hanson


Tammy Hanson, CPA, CGMA has over 25 years of experience in public accounting and consulting. With specific expertise in accounting operations and managerial accounting across a variety of industries, she is uniquely qualified to advise growing companies looking to scale and professionalize their accounting operations to support growth, capitalization, or sale. Tammy is a Certified Public Accountant, a Chartered Global Management Accountant, and received her BA in accounting and MBA from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.


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