How to Find Fractional Controllers

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The first controller is a significant milestone for a startup, nonprofit or growing company, and a fractional controller could be the first one to fill the role. For a set number of hours per month, fractional controllers take the organization to the next level—a place where the financial information is timelier, more reliable, and integral to making sound decisions.

How to start the process of looking for a fractional controller? You’ll need to know what the role of the fractional controller entails and how a fractional controller company can tailor their services to the unique needs of your company.

What Is a Fractional Controller?

Consider the definition of a fractional controller: Fractional controllers manage the accounting and finance organization of startups, nonprofits and small and medium size companies for a set number of hours per month, for a fixed fee. A fractional controller is a cost-effective solution for introducing a particular level of expertise to the finance organization without having to hire a full-time controller before the time is right.

What Do Fractional Controllers Do?

While the full scope of responsibilities varies, a fractional controller’s responsibilities can, at a minimum, include overseeing the finance operations, ensuring bills get paid, handling the month end close, and producing standard financial statements. Depending on the agreement with the fractional controller consulting firm, fractional controllers may also be asked to prepare monthly financial reports, including reports for management, the board of directors and investors. Ensuring the company follows generally accepted accounting principles, fractional controllers may also oversee and manage the annual audit process.

The responsibilities can vary for a fractional controller—depending on your budget, the company may gradually begin relying on this role, by starting out with a fixed fee arrangement, and then revisit the range of responsibilities as the company grows.

When Do Companies Need a Fractional Controller?

For startups and growing organizations, the fractional controller role can fill an essential need as the organization outgrows being able to heavily rely on only bookkeeping services. A fractional controller accustomed to joining teams with little ramp-up time can adapt quickly to the culture of the organization and get it up to speed with best practices and proven processes that will provide leadership with timely, more reliable information.

The fractional controller can help the company decide when the time is right to revisit the parameters of the role and also consider the advice of a fractional CFO is needed.

When Startups Need Fractional Controller Services

The best fractional controller companies adapt their services to their clients. We recommend looking for proactive, pragmatic and highly experienced fractional controllers who will adapt to your company. Here’s why a fractional controller could be a fitting leader for your finance function:

It’s a cost-effective solution. Companies gain financial management expertise from a consulting professional who is experienced and ready to become a part of the team on day one, and they are not responsible for that person’s compensation or benefits.

It’s flexible to your company’s needs. As your company grows, the fractional controller could help you expand the finance organization or connect your company with resources for a full-time controller. Partnering with a resourceful consulting firm means you have access to all levels of the finance organization as needed, including CFO level guidance, technical accounting expertise and additional accountants for a particular project.

It’s likely overdue. Strategically and holistically minded, controllers bring a fresh perspective and finance leadership to small finance organizations bursting at the seams. Their sage advice ensures the company will make fully informed decisions going forward.

What to Expect from a Fractional Controller

Effective, insightful fractional controllers look out for the company’s best interests. Bringing their experience at organizations likes yours, fractional controllers are:

Future-focused: They are concerned not only with where the company has been, but also what’s really happening now and where it’s going.

Strong communicators: The best controllers help others understand what the numbers all mean, tell the story and use their knowledge to ensure the company stays informed and healthy.

Bridge builders: Controllers are master communicators—they know the right questions to ask to ensure the finance function is aligned with the rest of the organization’s needs.

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