When should I hire a controller or CFO?

When should I hire a controller or CFO?

In the world of business, it’s essential to have a firm grip on your financial management. As your business grows, you may find yourself wondering whether it’s time to hire a controller or a CFO. Understanding the roles and responsibilities of each position, assessing your business needs, considering the costs involved, and navigating the hiring process can all be daunting tasks. In this article, we will explore these aspects to help you make an informed decision that aligns with the growth and success of your business.

Understanding the Roles: Controller vs CFO

When navigating the complexities of financial management in a company, it’s essential to understand the distinct yet complementary roles of a controller and a CFO. This distinction often reminds us of the differences between a CEO and a Controller, as explored in our detailed analysis here.

A controller is primarily responsible for the day-to-day financial operations of a company. Their focus is on managing accounting, maintaining internal controls, ensuring accurate financial reporting, budgeting, forecasting, and managing cash flow. The controller’s role is foundational in maintaining smooth financial operations, ensuring accuracy in financial statements, and securing sufficient liquidity for the company’s needs.

Conversely, a CFO assumes a more strategic role. Expanding beyond the controller’s responsibilities, the CFO is crucial in shaping the company’s long-term financial strategy. This role involves analyzing financial data to guide business decisions, managing financial risks, and playing a key role in investor relations. The expertise of a CFO lies in leveraging financial insights to support the company’s strategic goals, mitigating financial risks, and building investor trust and confidence, which are essential for growth and success.

While the controller focuses on operational financial efficiency and accuracy, akin to the role differentiation discussed in our previous blog, the CFO is centered around strategic financial planning and decision-making. Together, they form an indispensable team propelling the company toward its financial aspirations.

Timing the Hire

Timing is crucial when it comes to bringing on board a controller or a CFO. Identifying the signs that indicate the need for additional financial expertise is essential.

Signs Your Business Needs a Controller
If you’re struggling with daily financial tasks like bookkeeping, managing payables, or running payroll, it’s time to consider hiring a controller. They are essential for streamlining financial processes and ensuring accurate reporting.

For a more adaptable approach, especially for small or growing businesses, a part-time controller could be the solution. Explore this flexible option in our article on A Flexible Solution: Part-Time Controllers.

Signs Your Business Needs a CFO
If you require strategic financial planning, need assistance with analysing financial data, or are planning for significant growth or strategic decisions like an IPO or an M&A, it may be the right time to bring in a CFO. They can provide valuable insights, drive business decisions, and help steer your company towards sustained success.

For a deeper understanding of how a CFO can transform your business, especially in a scaling phase, refer to our comprehensive article on the 5 Key Roles CFOs Play in Scale-ups. This piece explores in detail the multifaceted impact a CFO can have, underlining their importance in times of expansion and strategic evolution.

Cost Considerations

Financial considerations are an integral part of any hiring decision. Before bringing in a controller or a CFO, it’s crucial to assess the potential costs involved.

Budgeting for a Controller
A controller’s cost will depend on several factors, including their level of experience and the complexity of your operations. In addition to their salary, consider other expenses such as benefits and training opportunities. Creating an accurate budget will help you plan for the costs associated with hiring a controller.

Budgeting for a CFO
A CFO’s cost is typically higher due to their strategic role and extensive experience. Besides salary and benefits, consider other expenses such as potential bonuses and incentives. Understanding the financial implications will enable you to determine the feasibility of hiring a CFO.


Hiring a controller or a CFO is a significant decision that can have a profound impact on your business’s financial health and long-term success. By understanding the roles, evaluating your business needs, considering the costs, and navigating the hiring process, you can make a well-informed decision that aligns with your goals and aspirations. Remember, finding the right financial expertise not only allows you to stay on top of your finances but also positions your business for growth and prosperity.

© Copyright 2023, All Rights Reserved by EBITWISE

Download de Ebitwise brochure

Zet de stap naar financial peace of mind. Onze brochure vind je een gedetailleerd inzicht in onze unieke aanpak.